How can I tell if my chicken is male or female?
It is difficult to sex young chickens, and there are a number of different ways requiring varying amounts of skill and expertise, and often equally varying amounts of success. There are very many Henrys that became Henriettas and even more Gertrudes that became Gordons.
The most popular and least invasive way is to observe the size and colour of the wattle, and this will give a fairly accurate guess. Male growers will have a slightly more pronounced or taller and possibly a little fuller comb and wattle. As they grow the combs will appear to be brighter in males than females and can be observed from about 1-2 months of age. Female chickens can often hatch with their wing feathers, whereas male chickens do not begin to develop wing feathers until a few days after they hatch.
You need good eyesight and chicks of the same breeding to compare with each other – a mixed batch of chicks will be very difficult to sex this way. Additionally the feather shape on the neck can give a good indication with more rounded feathers on females and pointier ones on males. As they mature feather colours will start to differentiate with duller colours on the females and more exciting colours appearing on the males.
If you have the luxury of time and can wait a few weeks to determine the sex of the chicks, behaviour can also be a good indicator of sex. Cockerels are often more dominant even from an early age, although this method is not fool proof! If you observe one standing erect and ruffling their downy feathers, rushing first to the feed dish and making small cooing sounds to alert the others that they’ve found food can be good indicators of a cockerel.
With some breeds the males will have larger spurs and a more upright posture and this will become more pronounced as they grow. Vocalisation is nearly always the mark of a male and they will start crowing at around 4-5 months. Whilst there are reports of hens crowing this is quite rare and a crowing bird is almost always going to be male. By this age the visual difference should be fairly obvious so the vocalisation probably won’t come as much of a surprise!