How to Sex Chickens: 5 Methods To Determine Hen Or Rooster

When I have a little brooder full of chicks, I love to know whether I have a little cockerel or pullet. It isn’t an easy task to determine the sex of chickens.

In fact, I have spent many years trying to find the best way to determine who is who in my young flocks.

It is advantageous to know which sex my peeps are if I decide to sell them, sort, or introduce them to my flock.

If I am going to sell, typically, a pullet will go for a few more dollars than a rooster, so rather than selling straight run, I like to tell new owners what they are getting.

Our Choice for All-In-One Automatic Chicken Coop Door

Happy Coop Door - Weatherproof Automatic Chicken Coop Door Open/Close with Timer/Light Sensor, Predator Resistant Self-Locking Gears, Protection Sensor
  • Plug and Play Design - Takes 10 minutes to install the door
  • Up to 6 Months of Power with AA batteries - You don't need an outlet for the door to work, it functions on 4 AA batteries or a 6V battery (adapter included)
  • Protection Sensor - Built-in sensor when closing to detect when there is an obstruction under the door to prevent injury to chickens
  • Protects Chickens From Predators - Due to it's design, the notches the gear uses to open and close the door act as a self locking mechanism that prevents predators from breaking into the chicken coop. With this your chickens are protected and you can enjoy fresh eggs in the morning
  • Door Will Open if Hell Freezes Over, Rain or Shine - Our weatherproof design has been tested to work during rainy weather as well as extreme cold temperatures as cold as 5°F

Our Choice of Treats for Our Chickens

HAPPY GRUBS - ULTIMATE MIXTURE OF WHOLE, HALF, AND POWDER OF BSFL FEED - CHICKEN FEED MIXTURE - 50X-80X More Calcium Than Meal Worms - NON-GMO, Molting Treatment, Great For Wild Birds, Reptiles, Ducks
  • Egg Armor For Your Girls Eggs - Mixture of whole, half, bits AND POWDER of black soldier fly larvae that you can mix in your chicken's feed. It increases the strength of your girls' eggshells.
  • Healthier Feathers - This product is better than bulk dried mealworms and helps keep your girls' feathers healthy and grow back quicker during molting season.
  • Laying More Eggs - Because of the nutrient dense profile of dried black soldier fly larva, your hen's egg production will increase!
  • Totally Safe for Reptiles and Other Birds - Happy Grubs is worm food that can also be enjoyed as bird food, reptile food, and turtles as a treat!
  • Easy-To-Use Scooper - Our bag comes with a scooper that makes our bsfl mixture and powder easy to pour into a bowl or add to your typical chicken feed. It also has a clip so you can clip it onto the resealable bag. You can use it for feeding your other pets too!

How to Sex Chickens

Buying straight run means purchasing a chicken without knowing its sex, male or female, rooster or hen.

I have noticed that when purchasing a straight run, you will most likely get a rooster, as the sexting process will gather the most pullets into the pullets pile where the straight run gets the rest.

Keep that in mind when you are sure you don’t want to deal with many roosters fighting for the pecking order crown!

Sometimes, as mentioned, I like to know early on to envision what my future flock will consist of.

There is nothing worse than having a brood of babes and imagining dozens of fresh eggs only to hear a bunch of teenage crows coming from the coop in a few months.

But if you do end up with the preferred ratio and you do end up with freshly laid eggs, then we recommend adding a chicken treat to supplement more nutrients to their diet.

If you want to increase your egg production even further, and improve the strength of the eggshells, and help your hens through the molting process, here are some treats that we recommend:

How to Sex Chickens

Our Choice of Treats for Our Chickens

HAPPY GRUBS - ULTIMATE MIXTURE OF WHOLE, HALF, AND POWDER OF BSFL FEED - CHICKEN FEED MIXTURE - 50X-80X More Calcium Than Meal Worms - NON-GMO, Molting Treatment, Great For Wild Birds, Reptiles, Ducks
  • Egg Armor For Your Girls Eggs - Mixture of whole, half, bits AND POWDER of black soldier fly larvae that you can mix in your chicken's feed. It increases the strength of your girls' eggshells.
  • Healthier Feathers - This product is better than bulk dried mealworms and helps keep your girls' feathers healthy and grow back quicker during molting season.
  • Laying More Eggs - Because of the nutrient dense profile of dried black soldier fly larva, your hen's egg production will increase!
  • Totally Safe for Reptiles and Other Birds - Happy Grubs is worm food that can also be enjoyed as bird food, reptile food, and turtles as a treat!
  • Easy-To-Use Scooper - Our bag comes with a scooper that makes our bsfl mixture and powder easy to pour into a bowl or add to your typical chicken feed. It also has a clip so you can clip it onto the resealable bag. You can use it for feeding your other pets too!

Luckily, there are a handful of tried and true ways to determine the sex of chicks.

I’ve personally tried all of these, and while I have my favorite methods, I tend to use more than one.

Some veteran flock owners swear by one method, and others will consistently trust another.

When it comes down to it, accuracy is often determined by the handler’s skill level, familiarity with the breed, and the breed of the chicken itself.

Venting

The most accurate way to determine the sex of a young chick is undoubtedly by observing the chick’s vent.

This is known as “venting” or “vent sexing.”

It is not a simple task, and it requires skill and the ability to restrain a chick without harming it carefully.

Venting is the method that most hatcheries use before shipping chicks.

They take the time to hire professional chick sexers who are experienced and extremely accurate.

Some countries even have schools that focus on chicken sexing.

However, even the top hatcheries, with the best sexers, will not guarantee 100% accuracy.

While venting is one of the most accurate ways to sex chicks, this method can be just as difficult as simply eyeballing a brooder full of chicks without years of experience.

It isn’t for the faint of heart either, as it involves squeezing the baby chick until the feces are expelled, and you can see their inner parts.

Once the inner parts are visible, a small bulb will be visible within the cloaca if the chick is a male. Even the most experienced may miss this small bulb, so it certainly takes years of practice to get this method down.

If you are willing to try this method, a great video shows how to perform the venting and feathering methods. Be sure to watch till the end, where you can see the bulb clearly.

Feather Sexing

Feather sexing is another easy way to determine the gender of chicks. Surprisingly, female chicks typically have wing feathers before they hatch.

Young roosters do not begin to develop their wing feathers until a few days after they hatch.

I make it a habit to look for wing feathers as soon as I move my chicks from the incubator to the brooder because it won’t be long before the little roos start sprouting their wing feathers.

To check for wing feathers, I gently stretch a chick’s tiny wings and look for wing feather development signs.

Typically, a female’s wing feathers will not only be more visible, but they will also have a variety of lengths. The male counterpart’s wing feathers will appear to be about the same length from one feather to the next.

The odds are pretty good that if the wing feathers are present and vary in length, the chick will turn out to be a happy hen someday.

feather sexing a chick
Source: Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Comb Colors and Sizes

Determining a chick’s sex by studying their combs is a less invasive way of sexing a baby chick.

I prefer this method because I can observe the size and color of the wattle and come up with a fairly accurate guess.

If you want to learn more about types and varieties of chicken combs, go here.

This method works best if I have chicks of the same breed.

I’ve found it to be more difficult with a broader box of mixed breeds.

For example, if I have a box of rose-combed Dominiques mixed with single-combed Barred Rocks, I may go cross-eyed, trying to figure out the differences.

Cockerels will tend to have more pronounced combs than a hen, even as a young chick.

The comb will stand a tad bit taller, and in some cases, it may appear to be more full than a hen’s comb.

Besides, the color of the combs will appear to be brighter as they age.

This is a great determining factor when they are a month to two months of age.

chicken male or female
Barred Rock Example Of White Spot Large vs. Small

Behavior

If I have the luxury of waiting a few weeks to determine the sex of my chicks, I often opt to base the sex of my babies off of their behavior in the brooder.

For example, a young rooster may act more dominant in the brooder by rushing up to my hand instead of hiding in a corner like the young hens might do.

Right out of the egg, some roosters will show their ability to be dominant and protect their hens by puffing up and showing me who the boss is.

hen vs rooster chicks

The males will often “ruffle” their down feathers and stand erect when looking into the eyes of another young rooster.

I’ve often observed two little peeps acting like they will fight when they are only a week old. The pecking order is important to them from day one!

Young roosters are often the first to rush to the feed dish and make slight cooing sounds to alert the rest of the babes of the tasty findings.

This is a behavior that they carry with them throughout their entire lives. Roosters take their job of caring for their hens very seriously, and it is interesting to observe their instincts at such a young age.

As roosters develop and age, it becomes easier to observe the behavioral signs, but these little mannerisms are quite telling even as chicks.

Down Colors

If it is important to know the sex of my chicks early on, I make sure to order Sex Link chicks from my favorite hatchery.

You can determine the sex of this type of chick simply by observing the color of their down feathers.

It is important to note that this method’s only time to determine a chick’s sex is if the parents were not the same breed of chicken.

how to sex chickens
Baby Chicks With Different Feathers/Plumage

Vocalizations

While some people swear that hens can crow (and this may be true in rare cases), this is my go-to determining factor when sexing chickens.

If everything else fails while the chicks are in the brooder, a crow will check the box a few months down the line.

A rooster will start crowing at around 4-5 months of age. At this point, they probably already look like a rooster, so they won’t be too surprised when they start to grow.

One important observation I’ve made when keeping more than one rooster together is that the top rooster tends to mature faster and crow sooner than those on the lower end of the pecking order.

It is almost as if his growth is a bit stunted by the alpha rooster.

Never Count Your Roosters Before They Crow

Unless I have a professional chicken sexer on hand, I never count my roosters before they crow.

If I try to sex a breed that I am not as familiar with, I will most likely make a mistake when sexing until I am more familiar with how the breed develops.

It takes time to become familiar with the differences from breed to breed. Some rooster combs may look similar to a hen’s comb from a different breed at a young age.

If I end up having all roosters in my brooder box, it can become quite confusing because each chick looks the same, and there aren’t any hens to compare them to.

In cases where I have only 3 chicks in my brooder, I usually wait and watch for feather growth to decide about their sex. I’ll watch for hackle and sickle feathers to begin to develop.

pets and chickens
Introductions being made between kittens and chicks – different breeds have varying difficulty in sexing.

I also like to use baby chick bands to mark the chicks that I have identified as males to see how accurate my identification skills are from year to year.

I have only gotten better with practice.

Practice makes perfect—or close to it, at least.

Banding is a great way to distinguish one chick from another as they develop, but keeping up with their growth can be tricky, so I always make sure to change the band as they grow to prevent the chicken’s leg from growing around it.

How Not To Sex A Chicken

There are old wise tales on determining if your chick is a male or female, hen or rooster. These methods are not scientific and do not work.

  1. Egg Candling – If the egg is fertile, you cannot determine the sex of the chicken. Egg candling lets you determine only if the egg is fertile. The egg water test also will not determine the gender.
  2. The Shape Of The Egg – it used to be believed that a long and narrow egg is a male chick and a rounder egg is a female chick. The shape of the egg has not relation to the sex of the chicken.

It Ain’t Easy

Sexing chicks is no easy task, and it definitely took me a few years to feel comfortable with my guesstimates.

I enjoy knowing what I have in my brooder box because it makes it easier for me to plan my flock. At the end of the day, I use a combination of these methods to conclude who is within my flock.

Our Choice for All-In-One Automatic Chicken Coop Door

Happy Coop Door - Weatherproof Automatic Chicken Coop Door Open/Close with Timer/Light Sensor, Predator Resistant Self-Locking Gears, Protection Sensor
  • Plug and Play Design - Takes 10 minutes to install the door
  • Up to 6 Months of Power with AA batteries - You don't need an outlet for the door to work, it functions on 4 AA batteries or a 6V battery (adapter included)
  • Protection Sensor - Built-in sensor when closing to detect when there is an obstruction under the door to prevent injury to chickens
  • Protects Chickens From Predators - Due to it's design, the notches the gear uses to open and close the door act as a self locking mechanism that prevents predators from breaking into the chicken coop. With this your chickens are protected and you can enjoy fresh eggs in the morning
  • Door Will Open if Hell Freezes Over, Rain or Shine - Our weatherproof design has been tested to work during rainy weather as well as extreme cold temperatures as cold as 5°F

Our Choice of Treats for Our Chickens

HAPPY GRUBS - ULTIMATE MIXTURE OF WHOLE, HALF, AND POWDER OF BSFL FEED - CHICKEN FEED MIXTURE - 50X-80X More Calcium Than Meal Worms - NON-GMO, Molting Treatment, Great For Wild Birds, Reptiles, Ducks
  • Egg Armor For Your Girls Eggs - Mixture of whole, half, bits AND POWDER of black soldier fly larvae that you can mix in your chicken's feed. It increases the strength of your girls' eggshells.
  • Healthier Feathers - This product is better than bulk dried mealworms and helps keep your girls' feathers healthy and grow back quicker during molting season.
  • Laying More Eggs - Because of the nutrient dense profile of dried black soldier fly larva, your hen's egg production will increase!
  • Totally Safe for Reptiles and Other Birds - Happy Grubs is worm food that can also be enjoyed as bird food, reptile food, and turtles as a treat!
  • Easy-To-Use Scooper - Our bag comes with a scooper that makes our bsfl mixture and powder easy to pour into a bowl or add to your typical chicken feed. It also has a clip so you can clip it onto the resealable bag. You can use it for feeding your other pets too!

how-to-sex-chickens


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28 thoughts on “How to Sex Chickens: 5 Methods To Determine Hen Or Rooster

  1. When I got started in the chicken business, I bought one Rooster and a friend gave me a (same breed) Hen. She went broody on 13 eggs and hatched 11. Would you like to guess the male/female ratio I ended up with? LOL 8/3 ~ just 3 little girls! That’s my luck!!

    1. Your off a solid start with 11 hatches, is this her first brooding/hatching cycle?
      Claire

      1. i meant my mom hatched some chicks 13 hatched 2 eggs did not at least not now 2 days later both had hatched and i got a male/female ratio of 1/13 just one Rooster LOL

  2. I have 4, 3-day old chicks in the brooder right now. One of them rushes up to my hand when I lower it in there, and has a more ‘upright’ posture than the others. My intuition said, I’ll bet that one’s a rooster! And your article just confirmed my hunch, I believe. Thank You! Gee, wouldn’t it be terrific if the other 3 were pullets?? (Crossing fingers 🙂 Great article.

  3. Very few breeds or crossings of breeds can be wing sexed. That method is part truth and part myth. One has to know ahead of time if their breed is a fast or slow feathering type, and which type to cross together to get the type of wing feather growth that allows for sexing. There will be mostly very disappointed people out there, or culling he wrong sex of chicks if they try use that method.

    1. I think you’re dead right on that point.
      My life has been miserable for the past 3-4 weeks not knowing which ones are male and which ones are female.
      I crossed a Rhode Island red rooster with 6 ISA brown hens, incubated the eggs with 36 chicks hatching.
      At first I was “over the moon” so to speak because I could wing sex them and know which is which.
      So I pasture raised the the “cockerels” for culling and separated the “pullets” for egg production.
      I am in week 10 now and am no closer to identifying the pullets from the cockerels. The so called “cockerels” have no comb-wattle formation and the so called “pullets” share many traits of a rooster-to-be.
      I live in a suburban setting and once the boys start crowing from all corners of the yard I’m up ship creek.
      If ANYONE could help me with this matter it would be genuinely appreciated
      many thanks in advance
      Yunus
      yunusemre404@gmail.com

      1. Crow collars work well until they’re a year old. Maybe collar them all at 3 months just to be safe & go from there. I keep a collared roo & I live in the city. Also, don’t buy collars, they’re just a piece of 2 sided Velcro with a V cut down the middle to creat straps. $10 for the roll or up to $30 ea for ready made.

  4. I have a hen brooding. She had 2 chicks yesterday and today they’re no where in sight! And I found her in another nest that has 2 chicks in it along with the mother hen. Will hens eat their chicks?

    1. Yes this can happen. If she is an egg eater she will find a way to eat the others’ eggs. It could be helpful to put her away from the others. If she is sitting in other hens nests then you may need to create another nesting box.
      Claire

  5. I have nine chicks that I hatched – 5 black crossbred (barren red and some other black chicken), 4 week old Barren Red chicks,can someone find an easy way to sex the Barren Reds. The wing sexing thing didn’t work because I didn’t do it soon enough, the thing about the base of the come didn’t work because their fluf is almost the same as their skin. I haven’t tried vent sexing, I haven’t learned to do that yet but I heared it’s the most acurate way to tell whick is which. I need help please!!!

  6. I’ve got a 16 week old Brown leghorn. I’m getting different feedback if it’s a hen or roo. It has a beautiful comb & waddles. I don’t see spurs. All along we thought we had a hen but the difference in the comb compared to the comb on the white leghorm (same age) is completely different. Any other ways I can tell if we have a roo? Help

  7. I have eggs in the incubator now . They are on their 10 th day now . I been wanting to be able to sex my chicks so I would know what to expect. I will be trying these methods to see how well they work. the vent method seems to be the best , but it may take a while to get good at doing it that way. I’ll give it a try in about another 10 to 12 days and see how it goes.

      1. I read somewhere that if the eggs are cooled somewhat for a certain period of time during the first few days of incubation, that will sway the sexes of the chicks toward female. I don’t remember the specifics but have you ever heard of anything along these lines ? I also read that this works because the sex of the egg has not been determined at the time the egg is laid. The sex correlates more with the temperature variants during incubation. This might make for some interesting reading !

  8. My hen just hatched out 7 chicks which are not hers and they are a mix w an Amaracauna as the Dad. I have no idea what their genders are but I’m looking forward to finding out!

  9. I’m old school going back now about 100 years. I’m 70
    My mother long gone showed how to sex the eggs before trying to incubate or even in the hens nest.
    The more pointy the egg was, it was sure to be a rooster. Pullets were in the more rounded egg. Its worked for us, 95% of the time.

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  11. By the way- wing/feather sexing only works on certain breeds/crosses. Unless you’re an experienced vent sexer, telling females from males can be nearly impossible until they’re fully feathered. Once your chickens are fully feathered, all you need to do it look at the saddles (tail feathers) and hackles (neck feathers). On cockerels, these feathers will be pointed, and on hens, they will be rounded. Like anything, there are some exceptions, but this is generally the easiest way to tell. Some people (I used to) make the mistake of thinking that unless a bird has sweeping, iridescent tail feathers and crows, it’s a hen. Some roos are remarkably good at looking like hens, with similar feather coloring and combs/wattles, and roos often won’t crow if there is a more dominant rooster in the flock. Just my two cents 🙂

  12. I read somewhere that if the eggs are cooled somewhat for a certain period of time during the first few days of incubation, that will sway the sexes of the chicks toward female. I don’t remember the specifics but have you ever heard of anything along these lines ? I also read that this works because the sex of the egg has not been determined at the time the egg is laid. The sex correlates more with the temperature variants during incubation. This might make for some interesting reading !

  13. Re: hens crowing, I have a hen who’s a little older than two years and she started crowing last week. She does it every morning now, loud and clear as a rooster. I have no idea what changed, but… There you have it.

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