“Is it a hen or a rooster?” this is the first question that everyone asks when it comes to the chickens.
It is sometimes very easy to identify the sex of your chicks as your rooster will crow & strut all day across your backyard & your hens will be calmer than the male.
But this identification process can be a struggling one in case of your just hatched soft fluffy balls. In this article, you will learn about the ways to identify whether your chicken is a rooster or a hen.
Why Do We Need to Know Chicken’s Gender?
It is not really necessary to know the gender of the chicks as you will be raising all of your chicks together in the same way whether they are roosters or hens.
If you specifically want to have a rooster or some hens then go to a renowned hatchery & buy what you want. But if you are hatching your chickens from the eggs then their sex identification is not so important.
You are not supposed to discriminate between a boy & girl. You have hatched them & you will raise them all together in the same method anyhow!
In this case, the gender identification is just like a fun game. It’s a curiosity about is it Mr. Roo or Miss Hen & it’s like a really fun guessing game.
Methods of Identifying Sex of Your Baby Chicks
It is very difficult to determine the gender of a young chicken. Until your chickens are 2-3 months old you can’t really identify whether it’s a pullet or a cockerel.
The time period for identifying the sex of your chicken maybe even longer for some specific chicken breeds (Example: silkies). Here are some methods often followed by the farm owners to identify whether the chick is Mr. Rooster or Miss. Hen.
Vent sexing is the most common form of identifying the sex of your chick. This method is done by personnel who are very expert & highly trained.
In this method, the personnel look inside the tiny vent of your chick opening and notice the difference in the cloaca of the baby chicks. If this method is not done correctly then it can even kill a chick.
As this method is performed by highly trained people, the rate of accuracy of this method is high. But it’s not appropriate for you if you are not trained & have expertise in this method because a little mistake can result in the death of your fluff balls.
And that’s why most of the backyard chick breeders don’t attempt this one.
The only places where you will be able to buy vent sexed chickens are hatcheries where they have knowledgeable, skilled & trained personnel to do this. However, the prediction of these hatcheries is like 90% correct.
So, I would recommend not to try this method for your backyard chicks & get them from a very well renowned hatchery.
A lots of intellectual poultry people are using this sex links method to identify the sex of their chicks a long time before the term ‘sex link’ became popular.
It is said by the experts that a certain combination of rooster over hen gives new hatchling a definite mark for a boy or girl.
As an example, for a black sex link – a solid colored rooster over a barred hen will give you cockerels with white dots on their heads.
This method of identifying the gender of your chick only works on the first-generation sex links.
If you mate a sex link to another sex link then it will be quite difficult to identify the sex of the chicks. That means if you are mixing the sex-linked breeds that might have different results.
3. Feather or Wing Sexing
Many people often say that they can identify their chick’s gender only by looking at the feathers of their wings. It is really possible in some chicken breeds to identify whether they are male or female just by their wing feathers. However, this method doesn’t work on all the chicken breeds out there!
4. Old Wives Tales
There are some arcane methods of predicting the sex of your chicks followed by people is quite arcane. These methods include placing a needle on a string, tying a ring to a cotton thread, or even by seeing the shape of the egg.
These methods are not scientifically proved for sex identification of your chickens. These are just guessing people make! The chances of this method being correct are 50-50.
Even after following all these methods, when your chickens are too young it becomes quite an impossible task to determine whether it is a rooster or a hen.
Method of Identifying Whether Your Chick is a Cockerel or Pullet
Cockerels are the male young rooster who has not been castrated & pullets are the young female chicks who have not laid an egg yet. We eagerly wait to see if your chickens are male or female. But most people who raise the chickens often say that it’s tough to identify before they start to crow or lay eggs.
Usually, a maturing rooster will start crowing anywhere from 12-30 weeks of age. You might have some breeds who start to crow very early (Example: silkie). It’s a really a fun process to observe the little changes in your chickens and see them transforming to a cockerel & pullet to a rooster or hen.
Note that these methods can’t always predict your chicken’s sex accurately. We had a very cute little pretty chicken in our backyard. She was very calm & shy so we named her Sarah. We assumed it as a girl& after like 12-13 weeks she started crowing! Then we named him Mr. Trump!
We had another baby chick who showed very aggressive behavior, was very brave & used to puff chest more often. We assumed it as a boy & after some period found that it was a girl! So, it shouldn’t be thought that roosters will always be aggressive & hens will always be shy & calm. Of course, we have brave girls & calm boys in the flock!
When your chickens are typically 3-6 months of age you can look for some characteristics to identify their sex. These characteristics are noted below:
1. Comb and Wattles
The comb means the crest or crown on top of your rooster’s or chicken’s head. As your chickens begin to mature, they will have large, dark & bright colored comb growing on top of their head. Your cockerels will have brighter &larger combs than your pullets.
The same thing applies in case of your chicken’s wattle. Chicken wattle is the fleshy skin hanging underneath the neck or beak of your chicken. A rooster is more likely to have brighter & larger wattles than a hen.
If you see any of your chicken is growing a lager comb & wattle than others, then you may assume it as a clue that he is a cockerel who will transform into a rooster soon.
Neck feathers of your maturing chickens are also called hackle feathers. neck or hackle feathers of a hen are short & round. On the other hand, hackle feathers of a rooster are long & pointed.
There is also a type of feathers that grow on the rooster’s back down toward their tail. These feathers are called saddle feathers and only found on the boys. Once a cockerel starts to transform into a rooster these saddle feathers become the fairy.
To remember the difference between hackle feathers & saddle feathers, you need to think of the saddle of a horse that goes on a horse’s back. You need to also look for the tail feathers of your chicken. The tail feathers of a cockerel will be flowing, colorful, long and it will attract others to look at him. Tail feathers of a pullet are not that much showier.
Other Ways to Identify the Sex of Your Chickens:
If your chicken is a cockerel who will become a rooster, he will stand taller than the pullets & they will always puff out their chest.
Try to notice the behavior of your small chicks. If they are rooster then they will be bolder than others in the flock.
Usually, roosters show an aggressive & dominant behavior in the flock. Even if he is a cockerel, you will see him behaving dominantly over others in the flock. So, if you notice any of your chicks is bold and brave than others then you may assume it’s a cockerel & others are pullets.
Maturing roosters will challenge each other in the flock and by this time they will raise their hackle feathers. But this behavior can’t predict the right answer always. Sometimes hens also challenge one another occasionally. So, don’t depend solely on their behavior to determine their gender.
3.Size of legs
Roosters have thicker legs than hens. This one is a characteristic often suggested by the owners of the chicken farm for sexing the chicks.
There is a bony growth that grows from the inside of a chicken’s legs. This bony growth is called spurs.
Your cockerel will develop spurs as they grow mature. Roosters use their spurs as a defense weapon against the predators. The spurs of roosters are longer and dangerous than the spurs of hens. If you notice the spurs of any of your chicken is longer than the others, then it’s a rooster.
There is no method that can surely identify whether your chicken is a rooster or a hen. A day when you get up at dawn listening to a sweet voice (only if you feel like that) crowing as your alarm clock is the day you get confirmed who is the rooster among your chickens!
Also, the day when you will find any of your chicken laid beautiful eggs for you to eat at dining is the day you get confirmed who is the hen in the chicken flock!
All the methods, characteristics & ways above are like clues & these are fun ways to observe your chickens as they grow younger. It is really enjoyable to guess the gender of your fluffy munchkins.
Though their identification doesn’t create any differentiation between them, I feel like it’s a curiosity that can’t be controlled! Hope this article helps you the next time you go for identifying the gender of your chicks!