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Is my chicken a pullet/hen or a cockerel/cock??

This is the age old question of most new comers and even some experienced chicken owners: is my chick/chicken a pullet/hen or a cockerel/cock? i will compile a few tips along with pics to try and help with the sexing of your chick/chicken.

 

~ I see/feel spur bumps does this mean my chick is a cockerel?

            The answer to this is that you can never ever use this as an indicator of gender for any type of chicken. all biddies and chickens have spur bumps and even some hens will develop spurs. the hens that tend to develop spurs more often are the game breeds but other breeds have also been known to grow spurs such as polish and Rhode island reds. also, not all cocks will have spurs, yes i know sounds odd but true, as i have a spur-less (well he has spur bumps) old english game rooster.

 

a hen with spurs:

 

my game cock with no spurs he is over a year old in this pic:

 

~ what gender is my silkie?

       This is a tough one as this breed is hard to sex at a young age but here are some tips that i find are helpful for sexing silkies:

        1) Look at the feathers on the chick's head. Males tend to have feathers that stand upright and curve towards the back, while the female head feathers tend to form in a rounded feather puff.

         2)Look at the comb when it develops within two to three weeks of the chick's birth. a male will have a larger comb than a female.

         3) Males are significantly larger than females, and this can be obvious a few days after hatching. This isn't considered a certain method of sexing though because you may just have a large female or a small male. It's also a poor method if you are trying to compare chicks from two different genetic lines.

          4) Listen for crowing. The chicks will start losing the fluffy baby feathers around four of five months. At that time a male silkie will start attempting to crow.

           5) Look at the saddle feathers just before the tail and the hackle feathers on the neck. These feathers will be long and sharp on a male and gently rounded on a female

            6) look for streamers coming out of the crest, these 99% of the time indicate a cockerel

(all pics were previously granted permission to use on facebook in a sexing note i did. user id is in bottom left corner on all pics)

 

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~ you can use feather development as a way to tell gender.

           When you chick is in the age range of 13-15 weeks of age a cockerel will start to develop the long slender pointed hackle (neck) and saddle (base of tail) feathers while on a pullet you will see no change really in these feathers, they stay fat and rounded and the saddles on a hen don't grow out like a cockerels will and they tend to also blend in with the rest of the body. there are also the sickle feathers on the tail. these are those two long curved tail feathers you see on roosters. hens do not develop these.

 

My old english game bantam:

 

 

my porcelain d'uccle:

 

 

~  you may also be able to sex you chick by color.

           Some colors, such as partridge, feather in different with males being one color while females are a different color. also there is a color difference on the wings (wing bow) that will also be noticeable in certain breeds, such as the buff orp. you also have the chickens that are barred such as barred Plymouth rocks. when these feather in the cockerels are usually "brighter" in a since while pullets look "dull". There is also those chickens that are sex linked with cockerels being one color and pullets another. this type of sexing is a one time cross meaning that you can not breed 2 sex links together to get more.

 

my oegb when he was young:

 

barred rock chicks the cockerel is in front and the pullet is in the back.

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a red sex link:

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~ leg width sexing

       there are times when you can tell the gender of a chicken by its leg width. a young cockerels legs will be a bit thicker than a pullets leg will be but i do not usually go by this as some pullets/hens have some thick legs as well.

 

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~  wing sexing

         with wing sexing it can only be done on certain breeds that have been breed for fast feathering and is done when the chick is 1-3 days old, this can not be done when older than that time frame however. Most chickens do not have these traits bred into them, and the chicks are identical to all but the skilled eye of the pro- chicken sex-er. with this the cockerels will have even primaries and coverts while a pullets will be uneven.

 

(i have yet to try this and have no pics of my own to but here is a feathersite pic to show the difference until i can get my own and if you have a good clean, clear shot of this please let me know if you are willing to let me use the pic. it will contain the same info as some of the above pics from a byc user, the silkies)

 

cockerel on left pullet on right

 

 

~ comb and wattle sexing

        This is one of the most common aspects used when sexing chicks. On cockerels these tend to develop quicker, are larger, and turn redder than a pullets at an early age. a pullets comb and wattles don't turn red till point of lay and usually stay small then have a growth spurt as they get closer to laying.

 

 

~ hen feathered breeds

         these breeds will have to be sexed via comb and wattle development as a pullet and cockerel look alike and the only real difference is in the comb and wattle development. an example of a hen feathered breed is the sebright.

 

 

~ sex linking sexing

        when a chick is sex linked this means that you should be able to tell the gender once the chick has hatched and dried off by the coloration and/or markings on the chick. with red sex links the cockerels will be lighter than the pullets. also with cockerels they may have the same markings as a pullet but they will still be lighter in coloration. you also have black sex links. these chicks are told apart by the white dot (or there lack of) on the heads. a white dot on the head of a black sex link means that that chick will be a cockerel, pullets should not have this white dot. sometimes this dots just a slight white marking on the head as well, pullets should have a solid black head. these are also a one time breeding meaning that you can not breed two sex links (red sex link to a red sex link) together to get more sex links.

 

red sex links:

 

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~ barred chick sexing (including cuckoo)

           time and time again you hear that these chicks can be sexed by the down color, head dot/spot size and dark legs. cockerels should have a large  irregularly shaped head spot while pullets are nice and uniformed. with the legs, it is said that cockerels will have yellow legs while pullets have a nice dark wash down the front of the legs. also as the feathers come in the pullets will look darker than the cockerels. this however is not 100% accurate as there are execptions. 

 

 

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these are just some tips/guidelines that can be used to help determine the gender of your chicken but do remember that each chicken is different and develops at different rates with some cockerels growing fast while others are slow to develop and can leave you guessing even when it's 6-8 months of age.

 

i hope everyone has enjoyed this and that it is helpful for many people and for many years to come smile.png if you have anything you would like to have added such as pics please do not hesitate to pm me.

Comments (32)

Great article, I'm sure it will help a lot of people. :)
Wow you did a great job with this article. Very nice!
thank you. i'm still adding different examples to it and will be adding some info on sex linking as there has been some mishaps with that as well
This is very useful, thank you!
Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
Thank you! Great reference!
Now, do Speckled Sussex. I have been looking all day for how to sex them. I have 20+ in the incubator and Buff Orpingtons!!
I AM going to try to wing sex them early. Will put a divider in the brooder and keep them separate and see if I get it right!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is fantastic!
Can anyone list exactly which breeds are able to be feather sexed? Nice article.
hdowden so glad this made front page! :)
I was told by the sex link experts that the half moon part under that BR cockerel's head dot is enough to signify male. Never knew that!
Great sexing tips!!
Thank you. I used the feather sexing when some of my chicks hatched out. I worked pretty good.
After they grow their first feathers, you'll notice that the lil' girls will have a cute tail which they carry high. The boys will not have tail at least not as pronounced as in the girls. This works 100%
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