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

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  1. hdowden
    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:
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    my game cock with no spurs he is over a year old in this pic:
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    ~ 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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    ~ Crested breeds
    These can sometimes be tricky but can be done with a little practice. When your chick starts to develop its crest take a look at it from the side. If it has a swept back appreance then it is a cockerel. Cockerels may also look spiky. Pullets will have nice rounded crest that look clean. As always this is not 100% gurentee gender idendtifiry and some birds can be harder to tell than others. The more developed the crest the easier it should become telling. Some cockerels may even have a nice looking crest like a pullet but are still swept back.

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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:
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    my porcelain d'uccle:
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    My rosecomb
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    ~ 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 cockerels when they were young:
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    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 share 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

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    ~ 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.

    Cockerels

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    Pullets
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    ~ 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 [​IMG] if you have anything you would like to have added such as pics please do not hesitate to pm me.

    Further recommended reading:

    - What Breed Or Gender is This? (Forum section)
    - https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/chick-sexing-project.567356/
    - https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/sex-linked-information.261208/

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    MappaM, TexasLisa and Mahyatt like this.

Comments

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  1. carrierose
    Thanks for the article. There is one method I have found that has been about 90 -100% accurate that was not mentioned here and that is by the tail. I have found that when the chicks are about 7 -10 days old the pullets tails are larger than those of the cockerels. I have not had any problems sexing my chicks this way. For some reason a pullet's tail feathers seem to come faster than those of the cockerels.
  2. MappaM
    Thank you, it's so confusing sometimes.
      whizbdawn likes this.
  3. shearches
    Love the pic examples! Thanks
  4. Isabella F
  5. puffypoo22
    amazing article. This is going to be really helpful to all the newbies!
  6. hdowden
    For some reason pics where removed. I have gone through replaced them and added some. Not all of the orginal pics could be replaced as I could nit find them all.
  7. Cluckcluck1215
  8. LoveThemBirds
    YES!My barred rocks are hens!
  9. jbkirk
    @Kusanar I can't see most of them either.
  10. Kusanar
    Judging from the other comments, it looks like I might be the odd one out, but a lot of the pics aren't showing up for me.
  11. Chickenlovers6
    Awesome article!
  12. TeaChick
    Quite informative. TFS. =)
      yomaggy likes this.
  13. Donnah23
    thank you big help.
  14. Donnah23
    hi, i have 12 all together. 6 were suppose to b hens? three r black giants?the next 3 i got were unone? . moe, larry, curley.now i know that moe is a roo,heard him starting to make the rooster call. hes much better at it now. then we heard a second one? could it b? curly? the one i thought was a hen. i saw him making the noise? roo. now i am thinking one of my r.i.r? is also? could it b? another roo?
  15. RedJungleFowl
    Hey I was wondering what is the breed of the first chicken at u show? B/C I had a oegb pullet with that same color too but I still couldn't find it's breed.
  16. cackleberrycam
    Awesome article!
  17. Mountain Peeps
  18. nana74331
    This has helped me as I am hatching my first eggs. They are from a Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red hens, so I know what to watch for on the sexes. Only four eggs and my luck they will be roos.
  19. bboyd1
    Wonderful article! Dosn't help me much since I need to sex some chicks that are a fairly new breed. LOL. But, the more I learn, the more comfortable I'll be when it comes to adding new kinds of chickens to my flock. Thanks so much!!
  20. hdowden
    tweetynpetey that is a barred rock chick
  21. hdowden
    thank you and your welcome
  22. TweetyNPetey
  23. Cam-n-Sara
    Thanks for the helpful article. Been wondering about the how to on sexing my ladies. Good concise info and the pictures are an awesome reference.
  24. zookyla
    Great article! This really helped answer a lot of my questions. Thank You!
  25. Amb3r
    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%
  26. JacobMaxwell
    Very helpful!
  27. sunnyvera
    Thank you. I used the feather sexing when some of my chicks hatched out. I worked pretty good.
  28. Sally Sunshine
  29. delisha
    Great sexing tips!!
  30. aoxa
    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!
  31. aoxa
    hdowden so glad this made front page! :)
  32. rarebear
    Can anyone list exactly which breeds are able to be feather sexed? Nice article.
  33. Scooter&Suzie
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is fantastic!
  34. bburn
    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!!
  35. bburn
    Now, do Speckled Sussex. I have been looking all day for how to sex them. I have 20+ in the incubator and Buff Orpingtons!!
  36. creative14215
    Thank you! Great reference!
  37. hdowden
    thank you :)
  38. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
  39. willowbranchfarm
    Great Article.
  40. my sunwolf
    This is very useful, thank you!
  41. hdowden
    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
  42. ChickensAreSweet
    Wow you did a great job with this article. Very nice!
  43. Marty1876
    Nice article.
  44. MsBagawkbagawk
    Great article, I'm sure it will help a lot of people. :)

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