The shape of a chicken egg can indicate the sex of a potential chick.
ILLUSTRATION: J MULDER AND O. WOLLAN
“Don't count your chickens before they're hatched,” the old saving goes. True, you can't be sure any given egg will produce a live chick, but you can make a pretty good guess at the hypothetical bird's sex before the smallest crack appears in its shell. When you're buying fertilized chicken eggs or choosing which eggs to hatch from your own flock, there's just one simple method to keep in mind. It's quick, easy, works for all breeds and is so reliable that we raised 23 pullets from 23 carefully chosen eggs!
Here's the secret: If you want your brood to be mostly female, select and incubate only the most nearly oval eggs. Those with a noticeably pointed end produce cockerels. Many of the chicks-to-be you examine, of course (especially the first time you try this idea), will fall into an indeterminate range, so pick only the most clearly oval shapes if you want to hatch future layers.
Commercial breeders cull and hatch their "female" eggs because pullets bring a higher price. Therefore, a fertile batch of "straight-run" eggs bought from a big dealer is likely to contain mostly indeterminate and pointed discards and give you considerably less than a 50/50 chance of hatching female chicks. To improve the odds, choose from your own hens' layings or ask a local chicken raiser to save his most obviously oval finds for you.
Sound hard to believe? The first time I heard of this trick, I thought someone was pulling my only-recently-rural leg. But try it — it works!