Lesson 509 – Sexing a day old chick by its wings

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?

Boy or girl?



Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Roosters

14 responses to “Lesson 509 – Sexing a day old chick by its wings

  1. OMG! I just looked at my ping backs and it followed me to here. What a dummy I am, I reversed the technique. Same length feathers is a male, one row longer is a female. Guess I was in too much in a hurry to help and I just made it worse! I’m sorry. I did try this method on my Polish chicks, at two days old the wings on all 5 of my chicks were exactly the same length – I ended up with two males. ? I have to research more on the exhibition breeds, not sure if it’s different for them or if it was me.

    • Wendy Thomas

      Ah, I didn’t even catch that, I just now went and edited the post to read correctly (at least it was demonstrated correctly in the video) The way I’m now remembering this? The boys’ have feathers the same length, the girls have longer “eyelash feathers” that poke out.

      There, you’ll never get them mixed up again.

      Thanks for picking that up.


  2. Floyd Noe

    I use this method to sex the chicks that I hatch an it works.. I hatch big stock brown eggers, Barred Rocks, White Rocks, Buffs an Black Giants.. Happy hatching,, LOL

  3. Tanya

    It only works on certain breeds though.

  4. Stephanie Lenihan

    Chick sexing; very informative. Cant wait to sex my vhicks once they hatch

    • Stephanie Lenihan

      Chick sexing; very informative. Cant wait to sex my chicks once they hatch. Contrary to belief it indicates all female chicks have ,2 rows of feathers. Via film one row /cockrel vs 2 rows pullet

      • kerry

        they both have two rows. the primaries and the coverts. They just grow at different rates. if the ‘top’ row of feathers is shorter thats female. every other one will be male. (for only those types of birds that are able to be feathersexed.

  5. Antje Helfrich

    Hi, as the explanation tells, this only works on hybrids with the slow feathering gene K. It might also work on any breed that has that gene though not as good as on the hybrids. It will not work on breeds that don´t have the slow feathering gene. Greetings from Germany, this is a great blog. Antje

  6. Just watching that video made me want to puke. They were treating them as if they were even alive, nonetheless just hatched babies!

    • Amanda Wilson

      I totally agree, the way they treat the babies is atrocious,…but that’s big business. the males are then sent through the meat grinder while alive! Females get their beaks chopped off,…..so they can pack them into cages so tight that any rational animal would fight for space! We humans are very inhumane.

  7. Pingback: How chicken are ‘made’ in factories. (23/04/2013) | Redwood Rare Breeds Blog

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