As a chicken owner, how to tell the gender of your baby chickens is quite a challenge. These little fluffy birds look the same physically, proving it difficult to distinguish between males and females. That is why large commercial hatcheries hire chick sexers to help them identify males from females. What happens if you don’t have access to sexers? Do you just let everything fall in place regardless of the outcome? Of course, the answer is no.
So, can I tell if a baby chicken is a male or female? Yes, you can tell the difference among your little chickens after they are hatched. This process needs you to have the right knowledge and relevant skills to accomplish it.
It is extremely difficult for you to determine the sex of your baby chickens at hatching. Usually, it takes between 6 and 8 weeks for chicks to start showing their physical differences. At this time, they will develop wattles and combs if they are male.
Also, these two features will look bigger with a deep red color compared to those of females. Their legs will also look different. For male chicks, they will be chunkier than females.
At 12 weeks after hatching, the males might start crowing, although this can come later in their lives. Differences in behavior is another factor that will help you tell them apart. For instance, male chicks will start strutting with their chests held out and headed in the air at an early age.
However, some chickens are very difficult to sex until they are adults. If you have silkies in your backyard, you may not be able to know their sex at an early age. Unless they’re mature enough to start crowing or laying eggs, these chicken breeds remain elusive in terms of sexing them.
But you can not wait for your chicks to grow to determine their gender. So, how do you go about it? Let’s look at the procedure that will help you tell if your baby chicken is male or female.
How Do You Sex Your Chicks?
The need to know the gender of your baby chickens is of paramount importance for many reasons. Key among these reasons is to find out the exact number of hens and roosters in your growing flock. This is usually the case, especially in areas where roosters are not allowed in the neighborhood.
Sexing is also crucial before male chicks are taken to the butcher or female chicks are shipped to the egg production factories. Some chicken owners decide to sex their chicks in order only to keep egg layers or raise a few roosters at a time.
Determining the sex of your chicks is not an easy task. It requires the right skills and a great deal of time to get everything right, and even professional baby chicken sexers are only accurate 75% of the time. That said, check out steps below to help you determine your young chickens’ gender.
1. Look Out for the ‘Bump’
Get hold of your little chick and gently turn it upside down. Make sure that your girl is at least a day old. Hold its entire body in your hand with the head pointing towards your chest. Then squeeze its body gently with the help of your fingers.
While squeezing it, make sure to hold it firmly in one position. Using your free hand, exert some pressure on the chick’s vent in a manner that imitates a rolling action.
Take great care not to injure the chick or break its bones. Remember that at this age, baby chickens have delicate bones that can break easily in case of an accident.
In your case, you must be on the lookout all the time when handling this little fluffy bird. This is because it might expel its fecal matter via the vent due to tension.
Observe its vent closely and look out for a small bump similar to a pimple. If you spot this feature around the vent, just know that this is a male chick. But if there is no bump, then it is female. Sizes of the bumps can vary from one breed to another. But the bottom line is that female chicks will not have them.
2. Check the Sex-Linked Color Traits
This technique involves the studying of sex-linked color traits found in different breeds of chickens. These traits can help you determine the sex of your little chicks. While using this method, you must understand that several chicken breeds produce baby chicks whose first feathering helps in identifying their gender.
A good example is the Barred hens. These chickens are widely known for their white and black striped feathers that make them stand out from the rest. When mated with non-barred roosters with no such feather pattern, the resulting chicks will adopt traits from both parents.
This is to say that their chicks will have opposite color patterns to their parents. Some will inherit traits from barred hens, while others will adopt a few physical characteristics of the non-barred roosters. In this case, there will be non-barred female chickens and barred male chicks. Sadly this method only works well with a few chicken breeds.
3. Observe the Baby Chicks as they Grow
Another easy way to sex your baby chickens is to observe them as they grow. If you’re keen enough, you will differentiate physical appearance between male and female chicks at their early stages of growth.
Your male baby chickens will gradually start showing rooster characteristics. Their chirp will become deeper and deeper as they grow. Eventually, it will turn into a crow rather than just a typical bird’s chirp. They will sound as though they are being strangled while struggling to use their newly-acquired voice.
Observation of secondary sex characteristics in baby chickens is a method used by the vast majority of chicken owners. This technique helps in making early gender predictions in most backyard flocks.
At the age of three weeks, your little fluffy friends will start displaying distinguishable physical features that tell them apart. So if you are planning to use this method, there are features you need to look out for to be sure of your findings.
These physical features include the following:
- The size of the comb and wattle
- Hackle feathers
- Saddle feathers
- Size of feet and legs
- Tail feathers
- Submissive squat
All the features mentioned above will most likely give you accurate results when sexing your chicks. However, this method is not reliable when determining the gender of your baby chicks immediately after hatching.
4. Observe the Feathers
There is more to a chicken’s feathers than just their beauty. This physical attribute can help you sex your baby chickens at a certain stage of their development.
Look closely at how each type of feather grows to replace the baby chicks’ downy fuzz. In this regard, the male chicks’ feathers will look narrower and less rounded.
Furthermore, they will appear glistened more than those for female chicks when you hold them before the light. Feathers on their backs and necks will look pointy compared to the females which will appear oval.
5. Look Out For Other Physical Features
Take your time to look at the baby chickens’ heads as they grow. A close look will reveal specific changes in their combs and wattle. For male chicks, this part will start developing rapidly during their growth. On average, combs start developing at around four weeks after hatching. So this will help you determine their gender easily.
From the combs and wattle, look down to the feet of your chicks. Male chicks will be the first ones to start showing some features on their feet. In the fourth week of their growth, they will have sharp toenails or spurs. But hens will not have sharp spurs even at four weeks.
At five weeks, you should consider evaluating your baby chickens’ growth. It is obvious that at this age, the male chicks will have slightly larger bodies than females.
There are numerous sexing methods that can only work in some cases. These methods include:
- Color sexing purebreds
- Color sexing hybrids
- Wing feather sexing
- DNA testing
Why is baby chicken sexing important to breeders and commercial hatcheries?
For breeders and commercial hatcheries, determining the sex of chicks is critical for their investments. Keep in mind that these are businesses, and everything needs to be done right. This includes the gender of chicks they want to raise. Female chicks are the most preferred because they are profitable in the long run compared to male baby chickens.
Which methods of sexing chicks are inaccurate?
There are inaccurate sexing methods that people have been using for quite some time. Some of these methods involve looking at the shape of an egg, holding chickens upside down, and using two fingers to hold the same chicks by their necks. All these methods are unreliable and extremely dangerous for baby chickens.
There are many ways to tell the gender of your baby chickens. The most common methods entail observing their physical changes as they grow. Although these techniques may not be 100% accurate, they can help you separate male chicks from the female.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!