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.
COMB COLOUR SEXING
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.
BLACK BANDED CHICK (Hen)
She has lightly feathered shanks and those famous Ameraucana cheeks and beard. She looks like a dove in real life.
WHITE BANDED CHICK (Rooster)
DOT BANDED CHICK (Rooster)
TEAL BANDED CHICK (Rooster)
NON TAGGED CHICK (Hen)
MINT BANDED CHICK (Hen)
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.