Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sexing chicks

We hatch our own chicken eggs from our Ameraucana/Easter Egger chickens and many people want to know the sex of the chicks. I don't blame them ... if you want hens and end up with a lot of roosters... well there is just so many roosters to have!

To be honest, as hubby Jim says - "I've got a 50-50 chance of getting it right.

So, regardless of what you have been told - it is NOT as reliable as you think, unless you've been doing it for 60 years like Hugh Grove (see The Joy of Sexing link below)

FEATHER SEXING: Feather sexing is based on feather characteristics that differ between male and female chicks. The method is very easy to learn by the poultryman, but the feather appearances are determined by specially selected genetic traits that must be present in the chick strain. Most strains (breeds) of chickens do not have these feather sexing characteristics and feathering of both sexes appear identical.

VENT SEXING: Vent sexing of chicks at hatching has complications that make it more difficult than sex determination of most other animals. The reason is that the sexual organs of birds are located within the body and are not easily distinguishable. The copulatory organ of chickens can be identified as male or female by shape, but there are over fifteen different different shapes to consider. Therefore, few people have experience with determining the sex of birds because of the difficult nature of the process. Most of these highly trained individuals are employed by large commercial hatcheries. The training to be a chick sexer is so difficult and lengthy that the average poultry owner finds it unjustifiable.
You can't wait more than a day or two in order to vent sex.

- Mississippi State University 

EGG SHAPE: Although J. Mulder and O. Wollan swear that they raised 23 pullets from 23 eggs by comparing the shape of their hen fruit (according to them, eggs that eventually hatch into pullets are more oval than the pointy eggs that eventually hatch out as cockerels) . . . other chicken raisers disagree — sometimes most emphatically — with this bit of barnyard wisdom. 

"The fact is," says Veronica Waters (of Wellton, Arizona), "that one hen will lay an egg of almost identical shape every day. This shape also differs from one breed to another. Therefore, the egg's form cannot indicate the sex of the chick it will produce. If it did, all the layings of a particular fowl—or of a particular breed or strain—would be of one sex. Common sense, or any familiarity with chickens, will tell you that this is not so." 

- Mother Earth News

Of course, if you can wait, after a few weeks you can sex you chicks by their comb (roosters are generally a teeny bit larger)

Here is  a chart to help you with some clues from Sage Hen Farm - " It is absolutely, positively guaranteed not to be 100 percent accurate. Please don't use this chart to compare chicks of different breeds, since they will not develop the same way or at the same rate. I have purposefully omitted reference to days or weeks when to expect to be able to observe difference since they will vary so widely by both breed and individual."

Clues for Sexing Chicks After a Few Weeks,
based on secondary sex characteristics

ait or Characteristic
Heavy Breeds
(Asian, American, English)
Mediterranean & Other Light Breeds
Comb & Wattles
Comb early to turn pink. Later comb and wattles noticably larger & redder
Comb early to turn pink. Later comb and wattles noticably larger & redder
Comb and wattles usually remains yellowmuch longer
Still mostly fluffy & downy
Fairly quick feather development
Quick feather development
Development slow and in patches. Some barenessat shoulders, back & wing bows
Development only slightly slower than pullets
Even development on back, chest, & thighs. Reaches complete feathering sooner
Development of long, pointed & shiny hackle and saddle feathers
Development of long, pointed & shiny hackle and saddle feathers
Feathers in hackle and saddle areas are oval & rounded
Stumpy, curved; slow to develop
Curved, but only slightly shorter and slower to develop than pullets
Long, straight; quick to develop
Long, sturdy; spurs developing
Long, sturdy; spurs developing
Short, delicate
Larger & more angular
Larger & more angular
Small & round
May be larger (perhaps shorter in length but stouter, more thickset) or becomes noticably larger
Becomes noticably larger eventually
Small, although may be longer
Upright & erect
Upright & erect
Lower set
May be more alert, aggressive, & noisy; will emit pre-crowing chirps before crowing
May be more alert, aggressive, & noisy; will emit pre-crowing chirps before crowing
May be more docile, but can also be aggressive & noisy

For more information, read: The Joy of Sexing 
                    Sixty years spent telling one newly hatched bird from the next

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