Determining the gender of young chickens: are those chicks hens or roosters?
by Elizabeth Beavis
It can be very difficult to tell the gender of young chicks when they are very small, but when they get to about 10 weeks I am now pretty good at telling them apart. Back in 2012 I took some photos of our chicks to help with this common problem.
As I write this, the chicks are now 10 weeks old and fully feathered. For a while now its been possible to tell the difference between the pullets (females) and roosters (males), but the crazy little things won't stay still long enough for me to count them! Finally I had a chance to catch each one and put them in two different cages, one for boys and one for girls, so I could count up. Of the 16 that hatched, one died early on, and now I think we have 8 roosters and 7 pullets. Two of the three white leghorns are roosters, it will be hard to decide which one to keep, they are so beautiful. Anyway, I've noticed that chicken sexing can be difficult for people who buy un-sexed chicks and need to decide to get rid of roosters before they start crowing, so I've taken some photos so you can see the difference, at least for Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.
If you showed me any of these chickens on their own, I wouldn't know if they were roosters or pullets, but when you see them next to each other, its easy to pick the difference. The hens have less developed crown and wattles compared to the roosters, they are also slightly smaller, this is apparent at a few weeks of age, as soon as they start developing crowns. If you can't see any difference between your chicks, you may have all of one sex, which does make things difficult and you have to start looking at tail shape to figure out the sex.
We don't always get it right and sometimes add a rooster into the pullets (just over-optimistic at the number of layers I think), so we will just keep an eye on them now and see if I counted correctly :)