Sexing Day-Old Chicks: How to Identify Pullets and Cockerels

Depending on the breed of your chicks, there are four ways to reliably separate the males from the females.

  • Chicken and Chicks
    Sort your baby chickens based on wing feathers, sprout patterns, genetic markers in down coloring or vent sorting.
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    TOP. Open vent. The interior border is rolled back and genitalia is exposed. Chick is a pullet (no bulb protrudes at lower brim). ABOVE: Whoops! Chick defecates as author spreads vent.
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    TOP: The hand scoop. Chick is picked up with left hand . . . its head between 3rd and 4th fingers, legs between 4th and 5th. Rump ducktails up. ABOVE LEFT. Evacuating the chick. Left thumb pushes on lower abdomen. ABOVE RIGHT: The vent spread. Left thumb presses left edge of vent up and over so that interior border is turned towards chick's back. Right thumb and finger are ready to pinch back right edge of vent.

  • Chicken and Chicks
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  • 027-060-01-image1m

Although J. Mulder and O. Wollan (January/February 1974) 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." 

So there you have it: both sides of The Controversy. Some say that you can sex chickens by the shape of the eggs from which they'll hatch . . . some say you can't. 

Beth Bosk, on the other hand, says, "To heck with the whole argument. The only way to really sex chickens is to let them hatch first . . . and then sort the males from the females." 

There are several ways to do this picking and choosing (some are considered by professional chicken sexers to be closely guarded trade secrets) . . . and Beth has doen a sterling job of ferreting them out. As nearly as we can make out, some of the information in the following article has never appeared in print in a general interest magazine — or even a specialized trade publication — before. 

Vent Sorting

Lyle Scheline is a professional chicken sexer, an expert of 22 years' experience. On hatch days he shows up at the A & M Hatchery, rolls up his white shirt sleeves and stands at a wood table under a suspended light.

1/21/2018 1:18:13 PM

This is the FIRST article that has written anything about vent sorting. And the other sorting techniques are much better explained than I have seen. Thank you so much - I had to re-home 4 cockerels last year because my flock is too small to keep a young rooster busy and happy. Now, I'm armed with knowledge and I have a better chance of getting pullets!



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