An Experiment in Chick Sexing Methods

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    An Experiment in Chick Sexing Methods

    We’ve all heard them, those random methods for sexing chicks that sound too far-fetched to be true, the ones that any logical person would chuckle about and brush off. But so many swear by these methods that one has to wonder, could they possibly work? After all, why would they have such a following if they did not work?

    This year, I have hatched five chicks from my own flock, and I’m expecting 19 more straight run (unsexed) chicks later on in the spring. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to try out some of these old wives’ tales about sexing chicks. I will not know, at least not certainly, what the sex of each chick is when I perform these methods on them, and so I will not possibly be able to bias them toward one sex or the other to alter my results. But first, some ground rules.

    I decided before I started that I would NOT do any method that I believe may hurt or cause harm to any of these chicks. That means I will NOT be lifting them by their beaks, wings, heads, feet, or the backs of their necks, or doing any other method that sounds like it could be harmful to them. To me, enough people have tried these methods unsuccessfully that it is not worth me compromising the health or trust of my chicks just for this experiment. Beyond that, if it seems silly or far-fetched, or it’s very different than any of the other methods I’ve tried, I’m willing to give it a shot! I’m also open to suggestions, so if you have a method that is different than the ones already listed on this page, feel free to send it to me in a PM!

    I will be sorting this page by method, and tallying them all at the end. When my chicks come later on in the spring, I will edit this page and add their results in each section, along with a new section at the bottom to tally their results separately from the five chicks from my flock. Once I’m certain of the sex of each chick, I will add one last section with the final results. If I find any new methods, I will also add additional sections for those.

    Before I begin with the methods, here are our little test subjects:



    January Chicks


    [​IMG]
    Identification: Egg A, ‘Abie’
    Hatch Date: January 4, 2017
    Breed / Variety: Silkied Cochin bantam * (variety unknown; both parents are red)





    [​IMG]
    Identification: Egg Alpha, ‘Alphie’
    Hatch Date: January 5, 2017
    Breed / Variety: Red Silkied Cochin bantam *





    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Identification: Egg L, ‘Lucky’
    Hatch Date: January 5, 2017
    Breed / Variety: Silkied Cochin bantam * (variety unknown; both parents are red)





    [​IMG]
    Identification: Egg 1, ‘Onesie’
    Hatch Date: January 5, 2017
    Breed / Variety: Red Silkied Cochin bantam *





    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Identification: Egg Omega, ‘Omega’
    Hatch Date: January 5, 2017
    Breed / Variety: Silkied Cochin bantam * (variety unknown; both parents are red)



    * Just to be clear on their breed, they are PURE Cochin bantams that carry the Silkied feather gene.
    They are NOT mixes between a Silkie and a Cochin bantam. I don't know how relevant breed will be
    to the results of the experiment, but I wanted to be clear on it, just in case.





    Spring Chicks

    March 23, 2017: The spring chicks have been delayed. Hopefully, they'll come at the beginning of April, but I have no guarantees. Will update when they're finally here!

    April 5, 2017: After a bit of a delay, they're finally here! Hatch date is assumed to be April 3, 2017 for all of them. They are recovering from their trip, so I will start testing methods in a few days once they're a little stronger. I did check their wings, however, to make sure I didn't miss out on the window within which one must check for the difference according to the wing sexing method. I also marked them with non-toxic permanent marker in order to be certain I'm telling them all apart. There are quite a few, so I'm going to post them as groups rather than individually like I did for the January chicks. Here we go:


    [​IMG]
    Breed / Variety: Dark Dorkings
    Identification Key: Left to right in the picture: DD-Blue, DD-Green2 (a second spot was added after this picture due to difficulty telling that color apart from the other green), DD-Brown, DD-Green1, DD-Purple





    [​IMG]
    Breed / Variety: Red Dorkings
    Identification Key: Left to right in the picture: RD-X, RD-O, RD-Dot, RD-Line, RD-Z





    [​IMG]
    Breed / Variety: Black Copper Marans
    Identification Key: Left to right: BCM-Green, BCM-Blue, BCM-Purple





    [​IMG]
    Breed / Variety: Wheaten Marans
    Identification Key: This is the only chick of this breed and variety. To make things simpler, I will refer to this chick as WM in the results sections.






    Now, without any further ado, the methods!




    Wing Sexing

    This is a classic method that is used by big hatcheries, but the thing that people don’t take into account is that it is a trait that must be bred for—not every chick from every source will be accurately sexed using this method! The reason I chose to add this one to the experiment is because so many people spread it as a 100% true sexing method for all chicks. In wing sexing, when the chicks are only a few days old at most, males have a short, even row of pin feathers on their wings, and females have a staggered row of short and long pin feathers on their wings. The picture below (from this thread) shows the difference.


    [​IMG]



    Results: January Chicks

    All 5 of the January chicks had the staggered wing pins, meaning all five would be female if this method worked universally.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    All of the Red Dorkings, along with WM, BCM-Purple, and DDs Purple, Blue, and Green1 had staggered wing pins, meaning that they would all be female if this method worked universally.

    DDs Brown and Green2, and BCMs Blue and Green had even wing pins, meaning they would be male if this method worked universally.






    Tail Feather Method

    I believe this is an extension of the above method, but I figured it was worth mentioning. In this method, females get their tail feathers in sooner than males.



    Results: January Chicks

    All 5 of the January chicks got their tail feathers in at the same time, meaning all five would be females by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Tail Tap Method

    By this method, when tapping the chicks on the tail, only males chirp in response and females are silent.



    Results: January Chicks

    Abie, Lucky, and Omega were silent, meaning that they would be females by this method.

    Onesie and Alphie chirped, meaning by this method they would be males.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    DDs Brown, Blue, and Green1, RDs Z, Dot, Line, and Circle, and BCMs Green and Purple were silent, meaning that they would all be female by this method.

    DDs Green2 and Purple, RD-X, and BCM-Blue chirped, meaning they would be males by this method.

    WM was not tested; I'll update with his or her results when I get them.





    Tail Pull Method

    In this method, you gently pull on the chicks’ tails. If they are male, they chirp in response, while if they are female, they are silent.



    Results: January Chicks

    Abie, Alphie, Lucky, and Onesie all chirped, meaning that they are all four male by this method.

    Only Omega was silent, meaning ‘she’ is female by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    DDs Blue, Green1, Green2, and Purple, RDs Z, Dot, Line, and Circle, and BCM-Purple were silent, meaning that by this method they would be female.

    DD-Brown, RD-X, and BCM-Blue chirped, meaning by this method they would be male.

    BCM-Green interchangeably chirped or was silent each time, and so this test was inconclusive on this chick.

    WM was not tested; I'll update with his or her results when I get them.





    Needle and Thread Pendulum Method

    This is a method that many, MANY people swear by, both for sexing chicks and unborn human babies, too! In this method, you hang a needle from a thread above the chick. If it moves back and forth in a straight line, the chick is male. If it makes a little circle with its swing, the chick is female.



    Results: January Chicks

    The needle swung in a straight line over Lucky and Omega, meaning that they are males by this method.

    The needle swung in circles over Abie and Onesie, meaning they are females by this method.

    The needle swung interchangeably between circles and straight lines with Alphie, and so it was inconclusive on that chick.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Lay on Back Method

    In this method, you carefully lay the chick on its back in your hand. If it struggles to right itself, it is male. If it relaxes and just lays there, it is female.



    Results: January Chicks

    All five chicks, within seconds, were on their feet after being laid on their backs, and so all five are male by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    DDs Brown, Blue, and Green1 were the only chicks that didn't struggle, meaning by this method they would be female.

    DDs Green2 and Purple, along with all RDs and BCMs struggled, meaning by this method they would be male.

    WM was not tested; I'll update with his or her results when I get them.





    Leg Stretching Method

    In this method, you carefully lay the chick on its back in your hand. If it stretches its legs out, it is male, while if it keeps its legs tucked in, it is female.



    Results: January Chicks

    This method was not tested on the January chicks.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    DD-Green2, RD-Z, and BCM-Purple were the only chicks to hold their feet out, meaning by this method, they would be male.

    DD-Blue, RDs X, Dot, Line, and Circle, and BCM-Green were the only chicks to hold their feet in, meaning by this method they would be female.

    DDs Brown, Green1, and Purple, and BCM-Blue held one foot in and one foot out, and so this test was inconclusive on them.

    WM was not tested; I'll update with his or her results when I get them.





    Pick Up Method

    By this method, when picking a chick up around its body from above and allowing its feet to dangle, a female will pull its feet up and a male will just let its feet dangle.



    Results: January Chicks

    All 5 chicks let their feet dangle, meaning that all five are males by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Surprise Method

    In this method, you surprise the chicks in one way or another and gauge how they react. Many people suggest throwing a hat into the brooder, but one can also make a loud noise, BRIEFLY flap a flag or cloth over the brooder, or any other method that might surprise the chicks. If a chick stands up or stays where it’s standing, it is male. If a chick ducks down or runs for cover, it is female. For this experiment, I made a loud noise.



    Results: January Chicks

    Abie, Lucky, and Onesie stood their ground, and so they are male by this method.

    Omega crouched down, and so ‘she’ is female by this method.

    Alphie ran and hid, and so ‘she’ is female by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    String Peck Method

    In this method, you dangle a piece of string in the brooder. If a chick pecks it more than twice, it is male. If it pecks the string only once or is disinterested, it is female.



    Results: January Chicks

    Alphie pecked the string only once, and so by this method, ‘she’ is female.

    Abie, Lucky, Onesie, and Omega were disinterested in the string, and so by this method they are also female.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Pick Up Chirp Method

    By this method, when picking up a chick, only the males chirp indignantly. Females remain silent.



    Results: January Chicks

    All 5 chicks chirped when being picked up, and so all five are male by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Tail Fan Method

    For this method, you must wait until the chicks have tail feathers. When holding them, if you tip them forward suddenly, only females fan their tail feathers. Males don’t move their tails.



    Results: January Chicks

    Lucky, Onesie, and Omega fanned their tails when tipped forward, and so they are females by this method.

    Abie and Alphie hesitated, but still fanned their tails, and so they are also females by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Penny Toss Method

    For this method, you rub a penny on the back of the chick in question, and then flip the coin. If it lands on heads, the chick is male, and if it lands on tails, the chick is female.



    Results: January Chicks

    When performing this test, I was aware that Onesie was male. See the 'Final Results' section at the bottom of the page.

    Abie, Alphie, and Lucky's coin landed heads up, and so they are males by this method.

    Onesie and Omega's coin landed tails up, and so they are female by this method.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress







    Vinegar Water Method

    According to this method, when offered a dish of plain water beside a dish of white vinegar water (at the rate of 1 tablespoon white vinegar per 8 ounces of water), males will prefer plain water and females will prefer vinegar water. To make sure the water was the only thing the chicks were deciding on, I used identical dishes with identical amounts of fluid in them.



    Results: January Chicks

    When performing this test, I was aware that Onesie was male. See the 'Final Results' section at the bottom of the page.

    All chicks sampled both dishes of water.

    Abie, Alphie, Lucky, and Onesie rejected the vinegar water and drank from the plain water, and so they are male by this method.

    Only Omega did not mind the vinegar water, but drank equally from both the plain and vinegar water dishes, and so this method was inconclusive on that chick.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Vent Shape Method

    According to this method, male and female chicks have different vent opening shapes. This is not the same as vent sexing, which requires one to know the difference between the internal part of the vent, but is instead simply looking at the shape of the vent from the outside. Males have small, round vent openings and females have wider, oval-shaped vent openings.



    Results: January Chicks

    When performing this test, I was aware that Onesie was male. These chicks were also older than ideal at about 3 weeks old. See the 'Final Results' section at the bottom of the page.

    Abie, Alphie, and Onesie all had wider vent openings, meaning by this method they are female.

    Lucky and Omega had smaller, round vent openings, meaning by this method they are male.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    Work in progress





    Comb Length Method

    This method states that chicks whose combs end at or past the front edge of their nostrils are male, and chicks whose combs end before there are female. See this thread for more details: Comb Sexing Chicks.



    Results: January Chicks

    When performing this test, I was aware of all the correct sexes of the January chicks. Due to learning about this test later on, I performed this test by looking at pictures of these chicks at or less than a week old.

    All five chicks' combs ended before the end of their nostrils, meaning that by this method, all five chicks should be female.




    Results: Spring Chicks

    DDs Blue and Green2 are the only chicks whose combs ended at the end of their nostrils, meaning by this method they are male.

    DD-Brown has a rose comb that ends at the end of the nostrils, and so by this method he would be male.

    DD-Purple, RDs X, Z, Line, and Circle, and BCM-Green had combs that end far before the end of their nostrils, meaning by this method they are female.

    DD-Green1, RD-Dot, and BCMs Blue and Purple have combs that are hard to determine. I will update once I have the chance to look more closely at them.

    WM was not tested; I'll update with his or her results when I get them.





    Egg Shape Method

    I am putting this one last because I will not be able to use this method on the chicks coming later in the spring. By this method, males hatch out of narrow, pointy eggs, and females hatch out of shorter, rounder eggs.



    Results: January Chicks

    All 5 January chicks hatched out of round eggs, meaning all five are females by this method.





    Totals: January Chicks

    The below table shows each individual chick and how they reacted to each method. I have included the number of correct predictions (and the percent accuracy of each test) as well, now that the identities of these chicks are known.


    [​IMG]



    The below graph shows the number of male and female results of each test by chick, both including and not including those tests where all chicks had the same result.


    [​IMG]



    This graph simply shows the spread of male to female predictions from each method. I will update this to include all of the chicks' responses later on, once I have finished performing tests on all of them.


    [​IMG]



    Interesting Notes:
    • In 9 of the 16 tests, all of the chicks reacted in the exact same way or otherwise had the exact same result.
    • Omega had the most votes for female, both with and without including those tests where all chicks had the same result. Omega was also the last chick to hatch.
    • Lucky has the most votes for male. If tests where all chicks had the same result are ignored, Lucky still has the most male results, overwhelmingly voted as male.
    • Alphie and Omega have both had an inconclusive test result. While Omega, as mentioned before, has the most votes for female, Alphie has more votes for female when considering all tests, and has more votes for male without including tests where all chicks had the same result.





    Totals: Spring Chicks

    The below table shows each chick individually and how they have reacted so far to the tests I've performed:


    [​IMG]



    This graph shows the male and female predictions by chick. Since there haven't been any tests yet where each chick had the same response, there's only one graph for these chicks!


    [​IMG]



    I am very busy as the semester winds down here, but will continue updating as I can!





    Final Results: January Chicks



    Update January 19, 2017: Today, I am beyond a doubt sure Onesie is male at exactly 2 weeks of age, thanks to the pair of pinkish wattles he sprouted overnight:


    [​IMG]

    This means that wing sexing, tail feather arrival time, the needle and thread pendulum, string peck method, tail fanning, and egg shape method have all failed to predict the sex of this chick, and the penny toss method was incorrect about him after the fact.

    I will make note of the fact that I'm aware of his sex on any tests I perform after this point.

    Though I am not 100% certain on any of the rest of the chicks, my tentative guesses as of today are that Omega and Lucky are also boys, and Alphie and Abie are girls. This is based on a comparison of their comb sizes to one another.



    Update January 26, 2017: (Well, okay, I'm posting it on the 28th, but it was meant to be posted a couple days ago--I've been busy!)

    I'm growing more confident in my guesses from last week. If it turns out to be true, that would mean that not a single method was even close to 100% accurate in sexing these chicks. This would mean that the most accurate methods (tied between the Needle and Thread Pendulum, Surprise, Pick Up, Pick Up Chirp, and Lay on Back methods, although the Pick Up, Pick Up Chirp, and Lay on Back methods had the same result (male) for all 5 chicks) only worked 60% of the time on these chicks. Since this was such a small number of chicks, this percentage will most likely skew once they are tested on the rest of the chicks in a couple months.

    Edit: I've been informed of another method, sexing by vent shape, which will have been correct on all but one of the chicks if my predictions of their actual sexes is correct, making it the most accurate at 80%. Once the spring chicks come, we'll see how accurate it proves to be on them.


    Updated pictures (click to see them larger) :


    Abie (left) and Alphie (right) - both appear to be female at this point
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Lucky (left) and Omega (right) - both appear to be male at this point
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Onesie, already confirmed to be male. He is now known as Ramsay. :)
    [​IMG]




    Update January 30, 2017: I am now 100% sure that Lucky and Omega are male, as both of them now have red wattles and combs. Abie and Alphie still appear to be female, but I hesitate to be certain on them only because I know that things can change rapidly at this age.


    Update February 16, 2017: At 6 weeks old, I think it's pretty safe to say that Abie and Alphie are female. That means that no method was 100% accurate on these chicks, and the most accurate was correct on 4 of the 5 chicks. I will eventually get some numbers up for each test (and finish updating the tables and things to include all the tests...), but the majority of tests were either 40 or 60 percent accurate. I'm expecting these percentages to change a lot with the next group of chicks, which are due to arrive in about 3 weeks now!


    Updated pictures of the January chicks:


    Abie (left) and Alphie (right), the two females:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Lucky (left), Onesie (center), and Omega (right), the three boys--as you can probably tell, Lucky and Omega are pretty difficult to tell apart now!
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Update March 5, 2017: Numbers have been updated in the Totals section, and here is a shiny graph showing the numbers and percentages of correct predictions by chick:


    [​IMG]


    I still find it interesting that the last to hatch, Omega, had the fewest correct predictions. He is definitely male, but had more predictions of female. Perhaps the results have more to do with timing of hatch than sex? More male predictions occurred in the first three chicks hatched, although Abie and Onesie both had the exact same ratio of male to female predictions. I will not know the hatching order in the next batch of chicks, but it should be interesting to see how their results modify these numbers.





    More results to come!





    UPDATE: Things got busy and I was not able to perform all tests on the Spring Chicks, unfortunately. I will eventually get all the data I did collect added to the page. I also have some cleanup to do on this page from the conversion, so bear with me! Also, sorry for the GIANT PICTURES. :oops:



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  1. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    WM was having some trouble recovering from shipping, and I didn't want to mess with him a whole lot while he was recovering. I simply haven't had time to perform tests on these chicks now that he's up and going.
  2. Minnowey
    What is up with WM?
  3. Jack Speese
    My Delawares and Hamps are now 1 month old. I have 1 Hamp that's a little larger than the others but still has distinctly more down. Don't know whether "she" is just slow feathering or whether "she" is actually a "he". Also got 2 blue cochin pullets yesterday, not that I need more but I couldn't resist. And they were a good deal, the feed store must get some kind of break because they are a lot less expensive than ordering from the hatchery and plus I could get 2 blue ones, whereas if you order them there's no guarantee that they'll actually be blue rather than black, silver, or splash.
  4. Jack Speese
    After having had chickens most of my life and a year's "hiatus" of not having any because of a move, I'll be getting my chicks tomorrow (can't wait!). Delawares, New Hampshire Reds, maybe some Australorps or Comets as well. Hope the sexers did their jobs right, as I really don't want any roosters since we have close neighbors and my new coop is closer to our house. Of course you can't go wrong with sexing Comets, but the other breeds have to be vent sexed. I guess that's still the most reliable way (at least for most breeds), but apparently it does take skill and practice.
  5. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    Phew, lots of comments! Glad many are enjoying all this stuff!

    @Fowl Explorer I agree 100% that if any of these actually worked, the pros would be using these methods. I'm mostly just having some fun with old wives' tales with no expectations beyond that. : )

    @bobhoke, my next batch of chicks are of Dorkings and Marans, not more Cochins. I plan to try this with any future chicks I get as well. I hope that eventually this page will have a variety of breeds listed on it to eliminate any uncertainty based on how tests affect different breeds. : )

    @ChickNanny13, yes, you should be comparing the roundness or pointiness of eggs from the same hen. The five eggs I hatched in January were from the same hen. She lays varying pointy and round eggs, but I just happened to collect the eggs to hatch during a period where she was laying all round eggs. Each egg was so identical in shape that there was no visually distinguishable differences in them. I regret that I didn't take measurements to be sure, but when compared to other eggs laid by the same hen, these eggs were all definitely round. Unfortunately, my next batch of chicks will not be hatched here, so I won't be able to go further with the egg shape method this year, but perhaps I'll hatch more in the future and cover that method more thoroughly!

    Yes, in birds, the female determines the sex of the offspring, the opposite of mammals. Birds have a ZW chromsome sex-determination system, where females have 'mis-matched' ZW chromosomes and males have matching ZZ chromosomes. This is in contrast to mammals, within which males have the 'mis-matched' chromosomes (XY) and females have the matching chromosomes (XX). The 'mis-matched' individual determines the offspring's sex because whichever of those two chromosomes is thrown will decide what the sex of said offspring will be. Obviously, the individual with matching chromosomes can only throw one thing, and so they have no say in that determination! I have heard that some hens tend to throw more males or more females, but that would definitely cause some exponential flock growth to find out, haha!
  6. Jack Speese
    Hi ChickNanny, I believe that you are right, that in birds and reptiles it is the female that determines the sex of the offspring, whereas in mammals (and other animals) it is the other way around, the male determines the sex of the offspring. And there are probably other mechanisms out there as well.
  7. ChickNanny13
    2x WOW! You did put alot of work into this very interesting project and the record keeping very impressive.
    Awaiting your next hatch, curious about the "egg shape" theory....I understood eggs collected should be from one hen to be compared or am I wrong? I also read that the hen determines male vs female chick and that some hens are "prone" to more males/females? This is very interesting but sure too increase a persons flock [​IMG][​IMG] Wish I could join but living conditions won't allow me to [​IMG] Thank you for taking the time to post your experiment and results!
  8. Jack Speese
    The sex-linked black stars, red stars, and rapid featherers, but they are 1st generation crosses rather than breeds and the color/rapid feather growth sexing only works for that generation. Once they actually get their adult plumage, you can sex barred chicks fairly accurately. The cockerels have lighter barring than the pullets. Only this doesn't become evident until the chicks are about a month old. The only breed that I've read about (never raised any) that autosexes as newly hatched chicks is the Legbar. There may be others.
  9. cambriagardener
    I really enjoyed your article. I love these kinds of experiments. I'll try to put a link to it from my "Backyard Hencam" site to show people how difficult it is to sex a chick. Thanks for your work and for sharing.
  10. bobhoke
    I wish a large hatchery would release their techniques for the gazillion other breeds of birds out there. I see this is for Silkie Bantams only, which we all don't raise. It's interesting to know the techniques though - never really got into this yet. Perhaps it's safe to assume some of these techniques are consistent for other breeds, which would be good to know. The article / test should be named silkie bantam sexing test, or something along those lines. Does anyone know a breed(s) that have proven sexing techniques? Thanks!
    - Newby

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