How to Identify Male & Female Chicks

There are several methods to identify male and female chicks.
There are several methods to identify male and female chicks. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Commercial poultry hatcheries employ highly trained chick sexers to identify male and female chicks to determine where they will be sent, often within a day of their birth. Female chicks are shipped to egg production factories, while males, or roosters, are often sent to butchers. The sex organs of birds are located inside their bodies, making it more difficult to identify their gender. Further, there are 15 differently shaped sex organs to consider. Hobby farmers may wait until chicks are older to determine sex, as the cost to hire chick sexers is high. Chick sexing takes a great deal of practice.

Things You'll Need

  • Baby chicks
  • Rubber gloves
  • Antibacterial soap

Put on rubber gloves and hold the chick upside down in the palm of one hand. Apply pressure to both sides of the chick's vent with your other hand, being careful not to squeeze the body too hard. If the genital organ appears in the vent, resembling a pimple, the chick is a male. Size varies, but female chicks will not have a pimple-like bump.

Study sex-linked color traits in the breed of chickens used to produce the chicks. The feathering of some breeds will be identifiable upon birth. Barred hens with black and white striped feathers can be mated with non-barred males. This combination results in male chicks with barred feathers and female chicks with non-barred feathers. Only a few breeds can be identified this way.

Note differences between color and pattern of feathers, known as feather sexing. Male feathers may grow more narrow, pointed and shiny. Female chicks retain the rounded feathers found at birth. This is not always accurate, as most breeds don't display the genetic traits that distinguish feather sexing characteristics and feathering appears identical in both sexes.

Wait until chicks are four to six weeks old and start showing secondary characteristics of their sex. Males will grow larger than females, often with larger combs and heads.

Look at the bird's feet for spurs, a sharp outgrowth of the leg bone used for protection. Spurs will develop in four to six weeks after birth in males. Females do not have spurs.

Tips & Warnings

  • There is no foolproof way to identify male and female chicks at a very young age. Professional chick sexers are accurate 95 percent of the time.
  • Handle chicks with care as they can suffer internal damage from rough handling. Always wear gloves when handling and wash hands to prevent bacterial infection.

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