chickens; chick; chicks

Poultry production: How to determine the sex of chickens

Question: Can chickens be sexed after hatching, and if so can I do it?

It’s not easy to sex chicks, but two main methods are used, depending on the breed of chicken:

  • Feather sexing is possible in fast-feathering breeds. The length of the primary wing feathers is compared in order to differentiate between male and female.
  • Vent sexing is the method most often used. It’s a specialised operation, and exponents are trained for two to three years. People qualified in this field are sought after in the poultry industry.

Broiler chicks aren’t usually sexed because the males grow faster and this enables you – by the time the chicks are 2 weeks old – to differentiate between the sexes to a certain extent.

Commercial layer chicks are sexed at the hatchery and the pullets are sold to growers. It’s important to note that errors of up to 2% can occur when chicks are sexed.

  • This article was written by Dr. Mick Versfeld and first appeared in Farming SA.

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