Sexing Chicks

I know, the title begs to be made fun of…especially if you are a teenage boy.  But, this is a serious business.  The art of sexing chicks is no joke and it’s far from simple.


From what I’ve gathered so far, the best and most accurate way to sex a chick is by peering inside it’s vent.  I tried this last year when I had my first ducklings and it was a disaster.  YouTube videos made it look easy but I imagine that was because they pointed out the specifics of what you were looking at.  When you are on your own, it’s a totally different story.

The concept is pretty simple.  The vent is the opening in which fecal matter is expelled and through which the hen lays her egg.  When spread open, if the vent resembles an O then most likely it is a female.  If it resembles an O with a bump in the middle it’s likely to be a male.  Getting a good visual of this anatomy takes practice and if you are a novice like me you’ll quickly find it frustrating.  Sadly, it is not easy to take a photo of the process and handle a chick at the same time but good videos do exist if you Google it.

With my current batch of chicks I’ve peered at their privates more times that they are comfortable with.  I’ve made guesses but I am far from being 100% certain of what ratio of roos to hens I will have.  This lead me to do a little research on other ways to tell what sex my chicks may be and here is what I found.


Down color sexing can prove to be very difficult unless you are well schooled in the art of chicken breeding.  For a novice, this is not any easy way to determine the sex of your chicks.  The process involves closely controlling the reproduction of specific breeds of chickens.  This can result in the chicks coloring following that of the mother or the father and accordingly, so does their sex.  In other cases, it results in small color markings or variations which again are dependent upon the breed of the mother and the father.  This type of sexing is best left to those with more experience or only after plenty of research has been made.  Typically, a well controlled breeding environment with clearly defined or identified stock for known male to female fertilization is required.


Feather sexing can be determined early on, within 1-2 days of the hatch. Some may argue that this type of sexing can only be done with certain breeds but it could be a viable option for one to use besides vent sexing. In pullets (the females) the wing feather tips can be seen alternating in length; long-short-long variation. In cockerels (the males) the feather tips have no variation in length and tend to be less developed than the female. From day 3 onward, it becomes more difficult to see these variations as the chicks mature and grow.  

If your chicks are currently 1-2 weeks of age, never fear, another variation of feather sexing may still work for you.  By comparing feather patterns of the newly developing plumage you can get an accurate idea whether the chick is male or female.  Generally, females mature more quickly in the first 2 weeks of life, hence their feathers start to develop sooner.  Those who display the first appearance of tail feathers and have elongated wings are typically female.  

As shown in the photo below, I’m certain this chick is a pullet as the wing feathers are elongated and well developed, tail pins are just barely starting to show at the end of the first week and feather sprigs are coming in on the shoulders between the wings.  In the next few days, most of my chicks will be well into their second week of life and feather growth will be more apparent.  By using this method of feather sexing in conjunction with vent sexing I hope to have better confirmation of my male to female totals.


This type of chick sexing can not occur until approximately week 5.  As with any pullet prior to laying eggs a female’s comb will be fairly light in color, ranging from yellow to very pale pink.  A cockerel ‘s comb on the other hand will develop a stronger pink hue and will grow with a slight curvature down towards the beak.  Early on, it can be a difficult and less accurate way to determine the sex but as the week’s progress there will be a marked difference in comb maturity.

In the photo below you will see my rooster Benny in the forefront.  As compared to his pullet companions his comb had a slightly pinker tinge to it and although it seems small, he ended up developing a pea comb instead of the large fan single comb we are used to seeing in the stereotypical rooster.  The second rooster photo, also taken at the same time, shows the single fan comb in my other rooster Spaz.  His comb is strikingly more developed than the same black and white striped breed of the barred rock pullet shown in the first photo.


This one might seem obvious but as the chicks grow, eventually the cockerel growth will surpass the pullet growth.  Roosters grow much larger than their female counterparts.  By week 8-10 this will be even more evident as young roosters begin strutting their stuff.  They walk more upright, some may try to crow and exhibit dominance.  At this stage, you should know for certain what the sex of your chicks are.


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