A reader (amy elizabeth of tbn ranch) yesterday left a comment on my rooster blog about sexing day old chicks based on their wing feathers. I had heard of this technique but by the time I got around to looking at Charlie’s wings, she was much too old for this to be considered a valid indicator. Although I have never had a chance to use this technique, amy elizabeth claims that it works consistently.
I plan to make a visit to our local feed store to take pictures of little chick wings to see if I can capture this technique. In the meantime, I’ll pass on the information but like the pendulum at a baby shower – I must caution you to use it at your own risk (in other words, don’t come crying to me if you get a rooster.)
amy elizabeth wrote:
I thought I’d pass on a little trick I learned a few years back that might help you… a lot. Sexing day old chicks is easy if you just look at the wing.
Spread the wing and you’ll find 2 rows of feathers, the two rows of feathers are the same length on males, on females one row is longer. I re-posted a sexing chicks video on my blog – maybe it will help understand the technique.
The video she references on her blog tbnranch.com is called “Sexing Chicks” and the link is here.
The youtube link is here.
It’s a 5 minute video that, although a bit old, is actually very informative and shows how eggs are incubated and then hatched at large production companies. There is a warning that the first day of a chick’s life is pretty bumpy but there is no slaughtering of the baby roosters (at least on film.) It also explains how eggs are vaccinated, something I’d always wondered about.
I would suggest that any one who has chickens take a look at the video.
The feather part is only a small section of the film but it certainly appears to be as clear as day. HOWEVER, this technique is not guaranteed for any chick that is older than 2 days. The scientific explanation for the difference in feathers is explained by this:
Slow feathering is caused by a qualitative sex-linked dominant gene K. Rapid feathering is associated with the recessive allele k.
The difference in feathering can be easily observed between one to three days from hatching.
At hatching the primary wing feathers are short and the coverts are as long as in the slow feathering male bred to be Kk.
Primary feathers of the rapid growing k – females are longer than the slow feathering males and the coverts are shorter than the primaries.
My only question about this technique is whether it works for all chickens or just those commercial breeds. I’m assuming it’s fairly reliable for the standard chicks but wonder about the bantams and some of the more exotic chickens.
If anyone has used this technique could you please let us know how it turned out?