Originally Posted by WyattsChickens
I am planning on raising some chicks in the spring and am interested in knowing how to tell if a chick is a hen or a rooster at the young age. I understand that if I do end up with a rooster in the bunch (I hope to get all hens) he won't start making noise for a while. However my family, and our neighbors, wouldn't be too keen with a rooster waking us all up early in the morning. So, to try to save my self some sleep come spring, I'd like to study up and learn how to tell rooster from hen ASAP, so I could get the rooster on the BYC BST forum quickly. Thanks for your help and expertise!
Day old chicks can be sexed by two methods, depending on the type. Most breeds - let's use a Rhode Island Red in this example - can only be sexed at one day old via vent sexing. Vent sexing is a difficult task and the skill takes years to master. Even for those who have been practicing it for years it is only 90-95% accurate. The second method works only on Sex Linked or Autosexing chicks. This means the birds are bred to show specific traits that will present as soon as they hatch and make differentiating males and females as easy as looking at their color. Let's take Black Sex Links for example. The genetics are complicated so I won't get into the why of it, but imagine this - when you cross a Barred hen with a solid male (in this example let's say the male is Red), you will get Barred male offspring and non-Barred female offspring. When a bird is Barred, it will show as a day old chick as a white dot on the head. So at one day old you can differentiate males and females as males have the white dot and females do not. This is called Sex Linkage. Autosexing works in a similar way, except Autosexing birds breed true - you cross a bird of Breed A to a bird of Breed A and get offspring of Breed A, whereas in Sex Links you are hybrizing, or in other words, you are crossing a bird of Breed A to a bird of Breed B and the offspring become Breed C.
If your birds were not vent sexed at a hatchery as chicks, and they are not of Autosexing or Sex-Linked varieties, then you will have to wait until they are 8-12 weeks to sex. Some bantam breeds can be sexed much earlier, e.g. the Serama, but this window is the average for most breeds.
The characteristics you want to watch in your 8+ week olds are: Feet, Comb/Wattle, Posture, Personality, Voice, and Feathering.
- Males will often have substantially larger feet than females
- The males will grow a much larger comb and wattle, and it will turn bright red much earlier than hen's.
- Males will stand taller and hold their tails higher than females
- Males will be more bold and unafraid than most females
- Males will have a deeper, raspier voice
- Starting around 12 weeks, males will grow long, sharp, thin saddle feathers. Hens will continue to grow short, stubbly, completely rounded ones.