What do you need to do to verify the gender of chicks? Not much, other than follow our clear explanations of the various testing methods. Just keep in mind that no method is foolproof. Even the biggest hatcheries with the best sexers sometimes get chick gender wrong.
Venting (or vent sexing) works best on chicks as young as one day old. In this method, you gently press on a chick's lower abdomen so that it relieves itself. When you remove the feces from the vent, you can take a good look at the internal parts of the cloaca. In a cockerel (male), you will notice a small globule.
This is the most reliable method of discovering chick gender, but the sex organs of such a young animal are very similar. Even the most experienced sexer can miss this globule, and it takes years of practice to master the method.
Moreover, this is not a simple task. It requires skill and you must be able to hold a chick and perform the procedure without hurting it. If you do it wrong, you can irreparably damage the genitals or even fatally injure the chick.
View the wing feathers
Female chicks often develop wing feathers even before they hatch. Young cockerels don’t have wing feathers until a few days later. In addition, the wing feathers of hens and roosters look remarkably different. Female chicks have alternating feather lengths on their wings: a long feather next to a short one, then another long one, and so on. The wing feathers of male chicks are all the same length.
After a week, the males catch up and the difference in feather length and shape becomes too small. Carefully stretch out the small wings of a chick to check if the wing feathers are already developing.
Shape and color of the comb and wattles
When the chicks are about 6 weeks old, the roosters will begin to develop wattles. These wattles will turn pink in color. In the hen, comb and wattles will remain small and yellowish in colour for a longer period. Almost always, the comb of a male chick is also much brighter than that of a female chick. You’ll best notice the difference from the age of about four to six weeks. This chick gender method gives the best results when your chicks are all the same breed, as you can compare them more easily.
If you can wait a few weeks, it doesn't take much to be able to pick out the roosters. Then you'll recognize them in no time, based on their behavior alone. Roosters, after all, take their role as defenders of the roost seriously from a very young age. They behave more dominantly, make themselves big, rush to the feeding trough and make it clear to their female nest mates by cooing to indicate they find something tasty.
Sometimes breeders make it look easy. Certain hybrid chicken breeds are bred so that a male chick has a different colour than a hen. For example, the Red Star breed has gender-specific colour characteristics. Roosters are yellow-gold, while hens are reddish gold. These colours do not apply to all breeds. Be sure to inquire with the breeder!
There was (and still is) a lot of old wives' tales circulating about all kinds of ways to find out the gender of a chick. Many have no scientific basis whatsoever and are unreliable.
To name but a few that do not yield accurate results: looking at the shape of the egg, grabbing a chick by the neck skin or holding a chick upside down. This last method is downright dangerous: you can seriously hurt the chick and it provides no information whatsoever.
Chicken or the egg...
The age at which one can clearly start to see the differences between rooster and hen is different for each breed and can therefore also be far later than 6 weeks! In addition, for some breeds the differences may be different, anomalous, or less obvious.