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Monday, April 9, 2012

DIY Girls vs. Boys: Early Signs In Chicks

When you hatch your own chicken eggs, or buy straight run chicks (chicks that have not been sexed), you end up wondering and watching and waiting to see how many males and females you have. While the end all sign is either crowing (which can start anywhere from 2-16 weeks of age) or laying an egg (20+ weeks), there are many other signs you may pick up along the way that might possibly clue you in on what you have.

Aggressive playing (chest bumping, jumping), "challenging" other chicks, and a regular upright stance when something gets its attention (photo above) are all possible early rooster signs. And while you'll see these behaviors randomly in most all chicks, it's the ones who continuously do them that are you best chances at being roosters.

However since very dominate females can also show these early signs regularly, I find it is best to also watch for some of the more subtle clues like physical changes. Some resources mention measuring and comparing wing feather length when the chicks are 2 days old, with females growing longer flight feathers first, but as we've found from experience, your eggs can hatch for several days leaving you with a batch of chicks that could include 4-5 days of age difference (which is A LOT when you're dealing with something that grows so fast).

After a few weeks, sometimes fast maturing roos will start showing a blushing color in their combs and waddles, which will continue to increase as the bird matures (females may temporarily blush with activity or temperature change, but they see the most color increase right before they are going to start laying). In the photo above of 10 day old chicks, you can see some blushing in the lower right side chick (a fast maturing White Leghorn) who did end up being a boy. This blushing change can start as early as one week, but in some birds may not be seen for several weeks.

One of the more reliable traits I have found is leg size, with males quickly becoming much thicker than the daintier legs of females. As you can see in the photo above of two 2-week old Black Copper Marans chicks, the one on the left has noticeably thicker legs than the one on the right.

Above are the same two chicks on the same sides. There is a big difference in the lower halves of their legs when held side by side. I hatched these chicks and they have the same set of parents, so I know I have a fair comparison here and not two different gene pools. But still, in general, you can usually start picking out thicker legs in the first month.

Sexing chicks can't be done on just one trait so make sure you observe and calculate the total picture. When you think you are seeing rooster traits in a chick, go ahead and make note of it. Possibly even tag the chick (we leg band them) so you can track and add up the traits over a period of time. With careful observation and making notes, you have a good chance of figuring out a good portion of who's who in your baby flock before they even leave the brooder.


  1. Great post, thanks for the info. We currently have a hen setting and tomorrow is the "hatch date". Will see if we notice a difference in their leg sizes.
    best regards,

    1. Thanks!! Sorry in the response delay, how did your hatch go?


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