Living Center Oregon

Sustainable Living Center Oregon

How to Determine the Sex of a Chicken


A problem with raising chickens, is what do you do with a chick that turns out to be a rooster.  Whether you buy them from the feed store, order them online, or hatch them yourself, you will get roosters.

You feed them and then they start to crow.  Now what do you do with them?  

You could have saved on your feed bill, if you had known sooner.

There are 3 common methods that are used to sex day old chicks and two of the ways involve sex linked traits. There are color sexing, feather sexing and vent sexing. Vent sexing is exactly what it sounds like.

Before the vent is opened, the feces in the chick must be expelled by gently squeezing the abdomen. The chicks vent is then opened and examined to determine if the chick is a male or a female. The copulatory organ (penis) of the male is a different shape and much larger than that of the females clitoris. The problem with vent sexing is that there are over fifteen different shapes associated with the copulatory organs and most people do not want to look into the cloaca or vent of a chick. The problem is how to determine the gender of a chicken.  Experts “vent sexing” baby chicks. Vent sexing means they look at tiny differences in the birds’ cloaca, that’s a fancy word for “bird butt.   It’s considered more of an art than a science.

If you want to see “vent sexing” in action  Chick Here for Mike Rowe doing Dirty Jobs

 You may be able to determine the sex of your chicks by reading the following.

With some chickens, the males and females hatch out different colors.

  • red-star-chicks-300x239-1Golden Buff (Red Star),Red Stars, Red Star Comets, Golden Comet, Golden Sex Link, Isa Brown,Red Sex Link
    – The females are a reddish-gold while the males are a buttery color.
  • marans_sexMarans – You can get an idea of the sex of a cuckoo marans nearly from the day it hatches.  At the fluff stage, males tend to be light silver colored while females are almost black.  The males also usually have a a larger yellow spot on their heads than the females
  • Black Stars both males and females hatch out black, but males have a distinctive white spot on their head.
  • Cream Legbars – females are dark, and males are paler with a head spot.
  • Barred Plymouth Rocks – produce chicks that are easy to sex at hatching (they’re black with yellow or white spots). With this breed, the males have yellow spots on their heads.
  • Rhode Island Red – Male chicks have a white spot on the down over the wing web. This spot is lost when the chick down is shed and replaced with feathers.
  • New Hampshire or Buff Orpington – the male chicks will have off-white streaks on their wings while the females will often have brown lines down their backs and/or dark spots on their heads.

Dominique – A cockerel (male) chick has yellow toes and leg shanks.  A pullet chick (female) has darker (shadowy black or gray) toes and leg shanks.  As they grow older the leg color differences become less.  Usually the toe/leg color is accurate but some strains of Dominique do not show this tendency as much as other strains. For some strains using the head color discussed below is more accurate.


Male hatchlings usually have a clearer (yellow) beak than females (less black on the beak). And as they get older, the beaks of males become even clearer. Of course, it depends on the strain of bird.








Cockerels have light and scattered, diffused spot(s) of yellow on top of the head. The male spot is usually larger than the female spot. As they grow older, all chicks (male and female) lose their yellow spots.
The roosters will start to develop combs at around 1 1/2 months in most breeds. It will start to redden in the males; the females will still be yellow.  The comb size varies by breed and even individual. For instance, a hen can have a larger comb than any of her sisters of the same breed, and a larger comb than any of my roosters, too.

  • Look at their size – Roosters are usually bigger by just a few weeks old. What’s more, Roosters have angular (and often larger) heads, while the pullets have smaller, round ones.
  • Spurs – Roosters usually have longer legs, too (look for spur development).
  • Consider temperament –Go into your hen house and sneeze. The roosters will probably stay put and the pullets will scatter!

Feather Sexing

Feather sexing is another way to tell the difference between males and females. In certain breeds, the primary wing feathers are shorter on newly-hatched males than they are on females of the same breed. But this only works in some strains of some breeds–and only in newly hatched baby chicks. It will not normally work at home–not unless you have the right breed, the right strain, and you hatched them yourself, anyway.


Look at their feathers –Female chicks (pullets) get their feathers quite quickly — in the first week or so. Roosters’ feather growth doesn’t grow nearly as quickly. However, at 2-3 months you will see the long and pointed hackle feathers developing on the males.

Down Color Sorting

 A variety of crossbreeds can be sorted out by the color and markings of their down. In these cases, the juvenile coloring is a sex-linked characteristic . . . that is, the pullets’ coloration is determined by mama’s gene, the cockerels’ by pa’s. The most important factor to remember about these pairings is that the method doesn’t hold if the breeds of hen and rooster are switched.

  • Gold breed roosters mated to silver and penciled breed hens produce buff or red females and cream, white or smoky males. Either sex may or may not show narrow striping. Gold breed roosters include Rhode Island Reds and the buff varieties of the following breeds: Leghorn, Minorca, Wyandotte, Plymouth Rock and Cochin.
  • Silver and penciled hens include; White Wyandotte, Columbian Wyandotte, Silver-laced Wyandotte, Silver-penciled Wyandotte, Columbian Plymouth Rock, Silver-penciled Plymouth Rock, Light Sussex, Light Brahma and Dark Brahma.
  • Brown Leghorn, Partridge Wyandotte, Partridge Plymouth Rock and Golden-laced Wyandotte roosters can be crossed with Columbian Wyandotte, Columbian Plymouth Rock, Light Sussex and Light Brahma hens to produce chicks with the same sex-linked distinctions.
  • Barred Rock hens crossed with any brown-head rooster, or with any black or buff variety, produce black males with white head spots and yellow beaks, shanks and toes. The female chicks are all black above with dark beaks, shanks and toes. The same offspring results from the crossing of a Barred Rock hen and any recessive white rooster —White Wyandotte, Langshan, Minorca or Dorking—with the exception of the recessive White Plymouth Rock.

 What it worth department

We have never read about this technique but we have heard about it, but it seemed to work on the 3-6 day old chicks from several different breeds.  Hold the chicks up by the scruff of the neck, like you’d hold a baby kitten, and let their feet dangle. Males will pull their legs up while the females will always leave their legs dangling.  Check it out and email results us.

If you know of another way to tell a chicks gender, please email and we will add to our list.

What to do with a rooster when you find you have one?

If you have a chicken that is less than 8 weeks old, you can turn it into a capon.

The younger the roosters, the easier is on the bird..  It helps to determine which chicks are a rooster before you name.

capon is a male chicken that is neutered, at a young age, and then fed a rich diet until it reaches 6 to 12 pounds, between the age of 5 and 6 months. The flesh is very white and, unlike that of other chickens, marbled with fat.

A capon is larger than a chicken, a bit smaller than a turkey, but more flavorful, capons are full breasted with tender, juicy, flavorful meat that is well suited to roasting.

For more information contact:


Sustainable Living Center

82 Siletz Hwy


Lincoln City, OR 97267


This entry was posted on December 6, 2019 by .