7 Ways To Sex Baby Chicks: Are They Roosters Or Hens??

7 Ways To Sex Baby Chicks: Are They Roosters Or Hens??

A very common question I get is whether a chick is a rooster or a hen and how to sex baby chickenss. In this article, I’ll show you some ways you can tell when it comes to sexing chicks!

 

When it comes to getting chicks, one of the most exciting parts is waiting until your pullets grow up to be layers.

 

Buuutttt….it’s pretty much a given that at some point in your chicken keeping career, you’re going to wonder about the chicken sex: whether the chicks you picked up at the local farm store are REALLY pullets (which will grow up into hens), OR little roosters in disguise.

 

We’ve all been there – thinking our chicks will be great layers, only to find out 7 months later, it would take an act of God for them to lay eggs.

 

There ARE some ways you can tell if your chick is a rooster or hen and how to sex baby chickenss – they’re not 100% accurate but they’ll help you take a good guess.

 

Chicken sex: How do I tell whether my chick is a rooster or a hen? There’s a few ways:

  1. Check the vent
  2. Look at combs & wattles
  3. Watch feather growth
  4. Look at down color
  5. Examine behavior
  6. Listen for crowing

 

We’ll cover all of these in this article!
 

 

Check The Vent

Now, before I explain this one, let me state for the record that unless you’ve gone through extensive training to vent sex chickens to tell if your chick is a rooster or a hen, I suggest skipping this step.

 

Vent sexing involves squeezing out manure (if needed) then checking the vent for male or female “parts,” and it’s the only 100% surefire way to tell if your chick is a rooster or a hen.

 

However, as you can imagine, this is fairly invasive, and you could possibly permanently harm or kill your chick – so I would leave this method to the experts.

 

Professionals who sex chicks for a living go to school for years to learn how to do it properly.

 

Look at Combs & Wattles

While this is definitely not a 100% surefire way for how to tell a rooster from a hen (some roosters are pretty androgynous and some hens like to crow), I’ve found it to be pretty accurate.

 

The photos below are of 2 chicks from the same hatch – both California Whites, same age, purchased at the same time.

Wondering how to sex baby chicks? Here's answers!

Wondering how to sex baby chicks? Here's how!

 

At the time of these photos, these two chicks were about 2 weeks old.

 

The comb of one chick is more pronounced than the other chick. This is a fairly accurate indicator that the chick with the more pronounced comb is likely a rooster.

 

Another indicator is the wattles. In young roosters, the wattles grow longer faster, and are redder than pullets. So, if you start to notice your chicken’s wattles when they’re fairly young, it’s possible you got a rooster in your hatch!

 

Note this only works with breeds that grow regular combs – so pea comb breeds might not exhibit these characteristics at a young age.

 

Watch Feather Growth

Feather growth is another way you can try for how to sex baby chickens. Female chicks – aka pullets – grow feathers faster than males. Learn more about chicken feathers here.

 

This only works for about the first 3 days of life – after that, the feather growth on each chick will be about the same.

 

Pullets in some breeds grow their primary feathers faster, so their secondary feathers will be shorter. Young roosters will have feathers about all the same length.

 

You can see more in this video right here:

 

 

Feather sexing is also sometimes breed specific, so if you don’t notice that some chicks grow feathers faster than others, don’t worry, you still might have pullets!

 

Once the chicks are older – about 12 – 16 weeks, you’ll also start noticing young roosters develop saddle feathers – which hens won’t have. Here are more tips on caring for chicks from 7-16 weeks old.

 

Down Color

Some breeds will produce chicks with different color down or different markings based on their sex.

 

For example, Black Sex Link and Red Sex Link pullets will have different markings than roosters of the same breed. This is a characteristic selected for by breeders so they can tell the sex of the chicken right after it hatches.

One such match that will produce sex link chicks is crossing a Rhode Island Red rooster with a Barred Rock hen.

 

In this cross, male chicks will have a white dot on their head while female chicks will be solid black.

 

Sex link chickens don’t necessarily breed true – so if you cross a black sex link rooster with a black sex link hen, there’s no guarantee the resulting chicks will also be sex linked.

 

This is, again, breed specific – so it will only work with chicks of certain crosses.

 

Examine Behavior

Now, this is just drawn from my own personal experience, but I believe you can also start to tell the sex of baby chicks based on behavior.

 

Naturally, this isn’t universal, and pullets might exhibit some of the behaviors we’ll discuss, but I’ve noticed over the years that roosters will do somethings that pullets naturally won’t.

 

These are:

  1. The stink eye
  2. Fighting

 

Now let me explain. The stink eye is when you look at a chick, and they look up at you, cock their head to one side, and stare you straight in the eye.

 

I’ve noticed that it’s typically roosters that are this bold. Pullet chicks tend to not be so aware of their surroundings, or look to other chicks for behavioral guidance and security.

 

I’ve noticed this in many different hatches over many different years, and it’s a clue I rely on to determine the sex of baby chicks.

 

You might also notice some chicks fighting earlier in their lives than others. For example, you might notice them flying up at each other, bumping chests like football players, then going back to their corners.

 

In my experience, these are young roosters testing their strength against other roosters.

 

Listen For Crowing

Something else you might notice is young chicks testing out their lungs. Young roosters will sometimes crow very early in life – as early as 4 weeks in some cases.

 

While there ARE hens that’ll crow, it’s not usual, so if you notice your chick trying to make a little baby crow (maybe succeeding, maybe not!), you might just have a young rooster on your hands.

 

While nothing will ever be 100% certain except vent sexing, hopefully now you no longer wonder how to sex baby chicks!

More Tips on Raising Chicks:


Chickens; Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock is my best selling book about raising healthy hens! You’ll learn how to handle sticky first aid situations, raise baby chicks with the week-by-week checklist, how to give the best care even in the worst weather, and more! Click here to learn more.


 

How To Care For Your Baby Chicks Weeks 7-16 [Podcast]

How To Care For Your Baby Chicks Weeks 7-16 [Podcast]

Last week we tackled your backyard chicken’s first 6 weeks, and in this episode we take on weeks 7-16!

 

(Want to listen to last week’s episode first? Click here!)

 

Weeks 7-16 are a little bit different then weeks 1-6 (especially weeks 11-16!) so we break down how you should care for your chicks each week so they grow into healthy layers.

 

You’ll learn:

  • What to feed,
  • How to introduce your chicks to your existing flock
  • How to keep them safe outside (in and out of the coop)
  • And more!

 

 

Links we discuss:

Manna Pro

Chickens: Naturally Raising The Sustainable Flock


Have a hen that loves herbs?(Who doesn’t?!)

nesting box herbs

Yes, my hens love herbs!

 


I’d like to hear from you!

Are you getting baby chicks this spring? What breeds? Leave a comment below!

How To Care For Baby Chicks Weeks 1-6 [Podcast]

How To Care For Baby Chicks Weeks 1-6 [Podcast]

Baby chicks require special care – that’s pretty much a fact.

 

And they’re fragile! Luckily, in this episode, we delve into the care they need week by week, as we explore the first 6 weeks of your new flock members’ lives.

 

(Want to learn about weeks 7-16? Click here for the next episode!)

You’ll learn:

 

  • What equipment & food you will need
  • How to make sure your chicks are healthy & the perfect temperature
  • When your chicks are ready to go outside

 

 

Links we discuss:

Manna Pro Poultry

Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock

 

Transcript (Main Ideas):

 

What do you need for chicks?

For baby chicks, there are certain things that you need to have before they arrive. You’ll need food, water, probiotics, a brooder, a digital thermometer, and a heat source.

 

I feed baby chicks medicated chick starter because in my experience, they do best with it. However, you can give them non-medicated starter if you like.

 

The difference between medicated and non-medicated is simple. Medicated chick starter has something called amprolium in it, which helps chicks develop a resistance to parasites that are naturally found in the soil. It’s not an antibiotic, since antibiotics don’t work against parasites.

 

When baby chicks are born and when they’re younger, they have very specific nutritional requirements, so it’s best to feed an 18 percent protein chick starter.

 

Probiotics

I always give chicks homemade organic apple cider vinegar, from the time that they’re born. We’ve been able to reduce our death rate by just providing homemade organic apple cider vinegar.

 

The reason is the beneficial bacteria will help them develop good gut flora in their digestive systems.  

 

Put one tablespoon of vinegar in one gallon of water and feed once every two or three days just to make sure that they still have it in their system as they grow up.

 

You can put it in their feed, but the waterer is best because chicks get dirty very easily with wet feed, and then they have a hard time staying warm.

 

Heat source

The next thing that you’re going to have to worry about is heat. Baby chicks have down, not feathers, on them, and they can’t control their body temperature as easily as an adult chicken.

 

You should follow basic temperature requirements and use a digital thermometer so it’s simple to tell whether the brooder is too hot or too cold.

 

Ideally when the chicks are born, for the first week, you want the brooder temperature to be 90 to 95 degrees. I have gone less than that and been OK, but for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to stick with the rule of thumb, which is 90 to 95 degrees the first week.

 

Then you can decrease by five degrees every week after that. So week 2, the temp should be 85 to 90 degrees, week three is 80 to 85 degrees and so on.

 

You’ll want to do this until the brooder is 75 degrees or until they’re fully feathered. I personally put a digital thermometer in the brooder to make sure the temperature is correct.

 

If you see them huddling together, then they’re cold. If they’re cold, they’re not going to eat or drink. . If they’re happily walking around, looking for food and interacting, then they’re warm enough.

 

If they are scattered all over the place, or if they’re laying down and a panting, then they’re too hot.

 

Regarding heat lamps, I’m not a fan, and we have not had good luck with them, and almost burdened our house down a couple of times.

 

Personally, I wait until it’s May or June, and I can be reasonably assured the temperatures will remain high enough for the chicks for their first few weeks of life.

 

We’ve also used heating pads and those worked out very well. You just put the heating pad on the bottom of the brooder, and the chicks can get off and on as they please.

 

Brooders

You will also need a brooder. You can buy a brooder, or you can make one. We use big plastic bins because they’re easy to transport and clean

 

Make sure your brooder has a top on it because by about week five or six, your chicks are going to start trying to fly out of the brooder.

 

The other advantage to that is if you use a heat lamp, you can just rest the heat lamp on the top of the brooder, assuming the top is something like hardware cloth.

 

When it comes to the amount of chicks in the brooder, I don’t put more than 10 chicks at a time. The reason is the higher numbers of chicks, the more likely some will get squashed or suffocate.

 

One common question whether you can house chicks and ducklings together in a brooder. Yes, but I don’t recommend it.

 

Ducklings are very, very messy, and chicks – which have down, not feathers –  have a hard time regulating their bodies, and as ducks splash water, they also splash shavings and particles of food on the chicks, and the chicks can’t stay warm.

 

When can chicks go outside?

If it’s above 80 degrees, the chicks can go out at any time in their life. If it’s under eighty degrees, we only put them outside when they’re fully feathered just to make sure that they’ll be OK.

 

We always make sure that they’re in a very, very safe tractor. We don’t want older chickens picking on them or a hawk to pick them off.

 

They can still eat grass and bugs and lay in the sun, but they’re safe. Make sure you provide them with food and water at all times.  Make sure they have shade.

 

When do you introduce everybody?

We introduce chicks to the hen coop when they’re about 12 to 16 weeks so the chicks are big enough to fend for themselves and so they’re not too intimidated by a hen.

 

There likely will squawking and fighting as they sort out the pecking order disputes.If it goes on for days or if somebody is getting hurt, then it’s  an issue. But if they’re just pecking at each other, and you hear squawking and some feathers flying, don’t worry about it.

 

If you do have roosters, my recommendation is to wait until the chicks are 16 weeks old. We’ve had issues with roosters killing chicks when they’re not old enough to defend themselves. So at this point, we never introduce a chick to a coop with a rooster until the chicks are 16 weeks old.

Treats For Your Chickens To Make Them Go WILD!

Treats For Your Chickens To Make Them Go WILD!

Got chickens that love treats? Me too.

 

Often, I can’t walk into the coop without practically being mauled, and if I have dried insect treats, it’s over.

 


This article is inspired by my new book, Cluck Cakes, which shows you how to make 11 gourmet treats for your hens! They’re organic, all natural, and hens LOVE them! Get your copy here!


 

I might as well get out the riot gear, she loves them that much, and gets everyone else riled up.

 

Giving that hen a treat is one of the highlights of my day. She’s not my favorite hen, but she’s the most amusing.

 

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking me about this very topic. It seems I’m not the only one who wants to give treats to my favorite hen!

 

Luckily, treats for your chickens are easy to come by – some are already in your garden!

 

Here’s some suggestions that make my chickens go crazy.

 

In this article, I use the word “treat” liberally – some of these treats you can give them every day (and probably should), while others are a “once in a while” treat.

 

Homemade chicken treats are super simple with these chicken treats DIY ideas. Your hens will come running!

Bugs from the garden

I get a lot of questions about bugs and chickens. What’s this bug? Can my hen eat it?

 

While I’m not a bug expert, I regularly collect grubs, worms, and whatever tasty (to a chicken) goodies I find when working in the garden.

 

Lots of protein makes nice eggs!

 

Grubs and plant-munching caterpillars are favorites in my flock.

 

I do try to avoid giving them worms from the garden because I want the worms for my soil, but occasionally one does slip through to them.

 

My hen, Floppy Head (so named because her comb flops over) is partial to a big clump of dirt (for example, when I’ve begun to dig up a new bed) because she can dig and scratch through for whatever goodies she can find.

 

Floppy Head is a rescue from a big-industry chicken farm, so I like to think the hen is having the time of her life, for the first time in her life.

 

Give your chickens any bugs you find, and know you’re helping them do their job. To us, they’re gross bugs, but to a chicken they’re a tasty treat!

 

 

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are a great treat to give your chickens, since they’re high in protein. This year, we’re growing a large garden of sunflowers so we can grow seeds for our chickens.

 

We have about a half-acre plot in front of a wooded area that we’re devoting to sunflowers, and I can’t wait to get started. We’re focusing on black oil sunflower seeds since we can also make cooking oil from them.

 

For now, until the seeds come in, we buy sunflower seeds from a feed store, and our chickens thank us with crazy and amusing antics.

Egg shells

Egg shells should be a regular part of your hens’ diet because of their calcium content.

 

When I started giving my big-industry rescue hen, Floppy Head, the extra boost in calcium, she started laying regularly again.

 

If you want to see hens riot, come to my place when I give them eggshells. Between Floppy Head and Big Red, I pretty much need riot gear.

 

Even the young roosters get in on it (though my rooster, Leedle, could hardly be expected to act so undignified).

 

I can’t tell you why they love them so much, but I love that the calcium in the shells makes good eggs with strong shells!

 

Scrambled Eggs

It seems backwards (and I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who’ve wondered if giving a hen eggs to eat is cannibalism), but eggs are a treat my chickens love. 

 

You can give them eggs alone, or include the shells along with the scrambled eggs. Your chickens can pick through to eat whichever they want.

 

When my chickens see I have eggs for them, they come running (I’ve even gotten bit a few times by an over eager hen or two!)

 

Mealworms

Just like bugs, my chickens go nuts for mealworms. You can feed them mealworms that are either dried or alive.

 

There’s folks out there with mealworm farms, and they’re easy to start and maintain, requiring little work. Mealworms eat oatmeal and vegetables, such as carrots.

 

You don’t need much room to start a mealworm farm, making it an easy choice for suburban homesteads that want to be a little more self-sufficient.

 

Your neighbors will never know there’s mealworms in plastic bin. I won’t tell. I promise.

Watermelon

It’s not quite watermelon this season, but this summer, consider giving your girls half a watermelon to pick at. Some chickens don’t do well in heat, so a watermelon is a good way to avoid overheating.

 

They’ll love it, and the watermelon juice will keep them hydrated and busy.

 

If you have chickens that live in an enclosed area, I’m sure boredom can be a factor, and something like a watermelon can deter boredom (and picking on each other).

 

I used to have a hen that didn’t do so well in the heat, and watermelon cheered her up!

 

 

Is there something you feed your chickens that they go wild over? Leave me a comment!

We tried an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop & Here’s What Happened.

We tried an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop & Here’s What Happened.

This article is sponsored by Omlet. In exchange for an Eglu Cube and run, we agreed to review the coop. However, this review is our objective opinion and honest thoughts about our experience with the Eglu Cube.

 

Testing out Omlet’s Eglu Cube

We tested the Eglu Cube with 5 young chickens – 3 pullets and 2 young roosters. We had been eyeing it for a while, and thought it would be perfect for our latest crop of Brahmas, Speckled Sussex, and Jersey Giant chickens.

 

We’re very excited about this coop – it’s beautifully designed for any backyard farm, and we were thrilled to give it a test run and review it.

 

During the 2 weeks we tested it before writing this review, our flock was very happy – every day they got fresh grass (aka new bugs to eat!) and happily spent a few hours every morning eating nutritious greens in addition to their grower feed.

 

The first night, they didn’t understand they could go up the ladder and spend the night in the coop area – we had to put them inside it. However, the second night, they surprised us – they went into it themselves. So, clearly they felt happy and secure in it.

 

(If you want to buy the Eglu Cube, go here and use the coupon code FRUGALCHICKEN – you’ll save $90 on this exact set up).

 

What’s the Eglu Cube look like?

Here’s a full video walk through:

Why you need the Eglu Cube in your life right now.

Posted by I Love Backyard Chickens on Tuesday, September 12, 2017

 

The coop arrives in the mail in several boxes – it was easy to put together though. No special tools were needed, and the manual was easy to follow. Our chickens were able to go inside their new home in just a couple hours!

 

The Good

The Eglu Cube has several features that make it a great choice for your flock. The design is attractive – it will fit easily into any backyard and your neighbors will love how it looks.

 

It’s also important to note that this is a tractor, and not a permanent structure – this is an important distinction since many areas have laws about building structures in your backyard.  You might be able to slide around those laws with the Eglu Cube.

 

The entire coop is secure – predators will have a hard time getting into the run, and as long as the doors are all closed, they don’t stand a chance against the safety features. To open the main coop door, you have to pull up on the knob and twist.

 

The backdoor and the door to the nesting box are also twist and pull – no predator will be able to figure it out.

 

Ever try an eglu cube?

 

The run has wire safety features that make it difficult for digging predators, such as dogs, to dig under the coop to get at your chickens. It’s also hard to knock over (we did test it!), so a dog can’t just pounce on it to get at your birds.

 

Ever try an eglu cube?

 

The coop also comes with wheel attachments, and it’s easy to push the tractor to move it to a different area of your yard. The advantage, besides getting green grass, is your chickens aren’t living on their own feces – this could potentially reduce illness because their not reinfecting themselves with bacteria or inhaling their urine.

 

The coop is also easy to clean. It’s made of durable plastic, so we were able to just wipe it down with all-natural cleaners. There’s also a drop tray to collect manure, so your chickens aren’t sitting on their own poop. It also makes composting their manure very easy.

 

Ever try an eglu cube?

The Bad

There’s nothing really bad about this coop – I truly love it and think it would make a good home for your chickens. There ARE some things to think about though.

 

The run is well constructed and will keep your chickens safe from predators, but the top will have to be covered in the rain, snow, and sleet and in heavy winds to keep your hens out of the elements. In the daytime, they’re unlikely to go into the coop themselves.  

 

However, because the Eglu Cube can be rolled, you can bring it under a barn or other structure. Another option is to tarp the run in really bad weather and then remove it when the weather is better.

 

Another consideration are the locks for the double doors. The doors are secure – it’ll be hard for predators like raccoons to open it. But if you have small children or other curious parties (like nosey neighbors), you’ll want to consider adding an extra clasp as a double lock entry. Our 3 year old daughter learned quickly how to open the doors, and let our small flock run free several times!

 

Finally, we realized that we will have to modify one of the doors in the summer with a screened area – because our summers are so hot and humid (it can be well into the 90s with high humidity at night), the coop area will be too hot for them in peak summer. However, this is an easy adjustment, and doesn’t diminish the quality of the coop – any coop we used would need SOME sort of customization.

 

Final thoughts

The Eglu Cube is a great investment, and perfect for your small flock. We love it, and will not hesitate to buy another one for our chickens!

 

(If you want to buy the Eglu Cube, go here and use the coupon code FRUGALCHICKEN – you’ll save $90 on this exact set up).