Sexing a chicken yourself is usually about as reliable as doing your own taxes. I mean, you can take a guess and hope for the best but in the end you don’t really know if you screwed up until it’s too late.  In the case of your taxes, you get the dreaded “audit” call.  In the case of chickens you get the dreaded 5:00 a.m. rooster call.

But when my chicks hatched almost 2 months ago I decided I was going to put a few of the common sexing methods to the test and document it all.

To do that, the first thing I had to do was put leg bands on all of my chicks, otherwise I’d never be able to tell them apart unless one of them developed a quirk, like a limp. Or spoke with an accent.



The chicks all got their own colour coded leg bands which I have to cut off and switch out every couple of weeks as their legs grow. We’re on set number 4 right now.

They’re really just the smallest zip ties you can find at the hardware store painted with different coloured nail polishes.

I had chicks Black, White, Dot, Teal, No Tag and Mint.

By day 2 I was ready to start sexing.

According to some, you can “feather” sex a chicken within the first 3 days.  A girl chicken will have 2 different lengths of wing feathers and a boy chicken will have wing feathers that are all the same length.  This ONLY works on breeds where the father was a fast feathering breed and the mother was a slow feathering breed. I had NO idea what the parents of my chicks were in terms of their feathering but I gave it a shot anyway.  In the name of science.  And blogging.  And curiosity.


Black: 2 Length feathers (female)

White – 1 Length feathers (male)

Dot – 1 Length feathers (male)

Teal – 1 Length feathers (male)

No Tag – 2 Length feathers (female)

Mint – 2 Length feathers ( female)

According to the feather sexing theory which may or may not apply to my chickens, I had my hands on 3 roosters and 3 hens.

Another method I read about years ago was tail development.  The chicks who develop tail feathers first are female.









According to tail sexing, I also had 3 roosters and 3 hens on my hands.  Even more strangely … this method gave me the same results as the wing feather sexing method.

Black: Tail feathers (female)

White – No tail feathers (male)

Dot – No tail feathers (male)

Teal – No tail feathers (male)

No Tag – Tail feathers (female)

Mint – Tail feathers ( female)

This is not something I expected.  That either one of these methods would work with any sort of accuracy.  But it still might not be true.  It might be a fluke.  Fluke’s happen.  Like that time I prepared my own tax return and it was apparently accurate.  I saw that as the fluke it was and have used an accountant ever since.

The most reliable way to tell if a chicken is a boy or a girl is to wait until they’re a bit older and to look at their combs and wattles.  Combs are this …



And wattles are this …


Just because they’re big and glooby or long or droopy means nothing.  The chicken above with the huge wattles was Walnut, a hen.

BUT roosters combs turn red earlier than a hens do.  They’re born with cute little yellow combs and no wattles at all.

By the time a rooster starts to get past a month old, their combs turn red while the hens stay yellow.






And look at this same one from the side. THAT is what  a rooster looks like.  Large, red comb, and definite red wattles forming.



Black: Yellow comb (female)

White – Red comb (male)

Dot – Red comb (male)

Teal – Red comb (male)

No Tag – Yellow comb (female)

Mint – Yellow comb ( female)

In case you weren’t paying attention because this is all sciencey and stuff, here’s what the results across all 3 sexing methods were.

Black – Female (according to all methods)

White – Male ( according to all methods)

Dot – Male (according to all methods)

Teal – Male (according to all methods)

No Tag – Female (according to all methods)

Mint – Female (according to all methods)

Shocking but true.  These sorts of things NEVER work out.

So now it appears (unless The Great Chicken King of Canada is playing a trick on me) that I have 3 roosters to sell and 3 hens to … well I’m not sure about them yet.

I planned to only keep one hen but I don’t know if that’s the best decision based on their extreme cuteness level.

I *do* know if I only keep one it will be this first one, initially dubbed The Black Banded Chick.



She has lightly feathered shanks and those famous Ameraucana cheeks and beard. She looks like a dove in real life.



















This experiment has been SUCH a great success and so completely accurate that I’m ready to take the big plunge.  Next year … I’m going to try to feather sex my accountant.



  1. Grace says:

    Did you need up being right?

  2. B says:

    Just wondering what type of chicks these r? They look just like one i have.

  3. Hi Karen,
    Love all the pics you take, makes me ‘broody’ for baby chickens again!

    Some chickens (our own Norwegian Jaerhons included) are able to be “auto-sexed” which means the boys and girls look different on day one (different colours on the head etc.).

    This means you can buy the Jaerhons relaxed in the certainty you’re gonna get hens, phew. Not like the Light Sussex chicks we bought which turned out to be nearly all lads πŸ™
    Those guys developed as you noticed with yours, plus you can also see from your pics that the legs develop bigger and taller too on the boys.

    Other auto-sex breeds include… Amrock, Ancobar, Barnebar, Bielefelder Kennhuhn, Brockbar, Brussbar, Buffbar, Cambar, Cobar, Cream Legbar, Dorbar, Gold Legbar, Hambar, Niederrheiner, Norske Jaerhon, Oklabar, Polbar, Rhodebar, Welbar, Whealbar, and Wybar.
    (Okay, okay, I admit, I googled that bit… https://poultrykeeper.com/poultry-breeding/autosexing-poultry/).

    Enjoy your chicken therapy Karen, I can’t imagine a life without hens pecking around my feet outdoors, the perfect antidote to time spent on this machine πŸ˜‰

  4. Jamieson says:

    When have you ever worn MINT nail polish?? [Do not include plunging your hands into a St Patrick’s Day cake.]

  5. Marna says:

    LOL! Loved it all, even the comments had me ROFL! I love the girlies! πŸ™‚

  6. Heather (mtl) says:

    OMG, My face would never leave that fluff alone. Too adorable, all of them!

  7. Elaine says:

    Obviously, this is a question from a city girl who would love to have chickens. Don’t the breeders or suppliers that sell the chicks, determine the chicks prior to sale? I saw a “Dirty Jobs” episode where Mike Rowe was taught how to determine the sex of chicks and separate them based on gender.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elaine! Only certain breeds of chickens can be sexed by looking at them day one. Chickens that are basically bred to be able to be sexed. These chickens are called “Sex Links”. There are also other methods like “venting” which a professional chicken does to sex a chick. But no, most people can’t sex chicks, especially ones that are cross bred like mine. Not even experienced breeders can do it. So most people buy chicks as “straight run” which means a bunch of chicks and you have NO idea if they’re boys or girls until they grow up. (Oh … and also, I bought these as fertilized eggs so there really isn’t any telling what’s going to develop inside.) ~ karen!

  8. Stephanie Hobson says:

    I really have nothing to add to this conversation other than you should definitely keep No Band based solely on her 6 week “yellow comb” photo.

  9. j says:

    OK Karen-fun-est blog yet!

    Please share the % increase in readers you get immediately—

  10. Joe Danford says:

    Regarding the feathering of your accountant: Pictures of cape and shoulders I can take, but I draw the line at the fluff.
    Happy Trails

  11. FarmKid Marti says:

    A bit lost among all the pictures of cute and tasty chickens.
    Did you determine that in fact these are accurate genders that you have applied to these birds?
    Or just throwing dirt clods at the fence here?

    • Karen says:

      Ha! No. They are as I state. The only one that I thought might be iffy was the no tag. I considered she may be a boy but I’m 99% sure she’s a girl. ~ k!

  12. Renee says:

    Just wondered if they have developed a distinct personalities. ALso seems like the boys are the ones with black specks on them! I especially like the feathers on dot. Bet ya keep all the girlies!

  13. Barbie says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! I love this one! Very interesting! I love the one you choose too! They are adorable.

  14. Agnes says:

    Wow how unexpectedly consistent! So you decided not to sex them by a) holding them upside down and seeing which ones struggle, b) a ring on a string or c) what shape the egg was. (or maybe d) tossing a coin, about as accurate…)
    I have three. One we were sure was a rooster on day one – just by ‘his’ attitude! Sure enough, huge red comb and wattles very early, his ‘sisters’ still have yellow combs at 10 weeks.

  15. Karin in NC says:

    Does your accountant read your blog? I hope not – imagine his/her surprise!

    The chicks are cute as they can be, btw.

  16. Ev Wilcox says:

    Well, if your accountant reads your posts he is either going to drop you as a client or is eagerly awaiting next tax season! Be sure to let us know what happens. Hey, you might even soon answer a knock at the door and find him there with flowers and chocolates! Congrats on successfully sexing your newest chickens!

  17. Linda in Illinois says:

    ROFL!! Great blog…

  18. Mary W says:

    I bought sexed chicks when I got my first batch. Then I got some more and they were Rhode Island Red chick – not sexed. They all developed so nice (and quick) that soon I had a wonderful large red rooster we named Rodney (for Dangerfield since he “got no respect”). He soon became a menace with his sharp leg claw and chased us when we came for eggs. During the day they all ran free and he even scared our pit bulls! Finally his turn came for potluck dinner and we discovered a 3″ long stick had been in his leg which probably explained his personality. Now to the point of this – once he was gone another chicken developed into a rooster. I can only say its’ hormones hadn’t developed due to Rodney – what other explanation could it be? I loved to hear him crow.

  19. Thandi says:

    I am assisting at my university while I work on my PhD, and I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes at 19 year olds and their drunken, oversexed pub conversations (obviously academia drives you to drink). So with first year lads in mind, I was HORRIFIED at your post title until I realised that, duh, it was Karen. She may not be completely respectable, but she is not looking for ways to pick up women on the Internet.
    I probably need a lot more coffee…

  20. Cheryl says:

    I burst out laughing on that last line.

    Which I rarely do. That was a really really good one. Lol

  21. Donna Horne says:

    Don’t have chickens but found this very interesting–cute chicks !

  22. KariMcD says:

    I love that you used an abbreviated Scientific Method for this. As a mom who has been through one too many science fairs, this would be an awesome experiment for a kid to present. Curious as to what you “thought” you had going in to this and what your hypothesis was.

    • Karen says:

      I had no thoughts Kari, lol. I’ve learned with chicks it’s best that way. πŸ˜‰ But I figured it would be 50/50 based on odds and sure enough … 50/50. ~ karen!

  23. Paula says:

    The results of your experiment make me want to find a chicken farm and try out all of the methods again! Don’t forget me if you choose to sell a chicken!

  24. Peggy says:

    I think Miss No Tag is quite photogenic. You must keep her for future chicken post photos.

  25. Grammy says:

    I’m pretty sure no one has ever wanted to feather sex my tax accountant, but I guess I could be wrong.

  26. Shirley Curtis says:

    My dear- you seriously never fail to crack me up! Your accountant better be ready for you next year!

  27. Isabella says:

    When you sex your tax man please include pictures. What color will you choose for his band? Will you keep him if he’s a layer?

  28. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Chickens sexting…there’s something you don’t see every day…Hummm…very interesting Karen..really…

  29. Stephbo says:

    I kept reading “sexing” as “sexting.” That would be a completely different type of post. Lol!

  30. Kathleen says:

    LOL at your parting shot.

    Those babies are too cute. Don’t how you are going to let go of them.

  31. Ardith says:

    Loved the entire post, but you really got me with the final statement. I did not see that coming. Thank you for that. Cheers, Ardith

  32. Alison says:

    Girl, you are going to get some confused and disappointed search hits, based on that title! Lol!! I love to think of the people searching some of those terms, and landing on your chicken page!

  33. Bobbles says:

    Fascinating! I read something (was it you?) about setting them by squeezing their poor little bums until they pooped and was instantly turned off. I’m glad your methods are more gentle!

    • Karen says:

      That’s called venting Bobbles and it should only be done by someone who really, really knows what they’re doing. You could easy squish their guts doing it. You can only do it on the first day they’re born and you’re looking for the little roosting penis to pop out basically. It’s almost impossible for someone inexperienced to do it successfully. πŸ™‚ ~ karen!

  34. Cynthia Jones says:

    Karen said “Next year … I’m going to try to feather sex my accountant.”

    Nah, just check out his wattles.

    Wont tell you much about him, but sure will liven up the meeting and make his day.

  35. Mark says:

    If you do keep all those roosters, make sure to keep a good supply of shoes (or what not) to throw at them at 4am…

    Fantastic closing quip, btw!!!

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