How To Distinguish Male Chicks From Female Chicks in 1 week old Cochins

 

sexing bantam chicks at day old  cochin brahma rock chickens chick sort gender rooster hen pullet cockerel male female

Above are my sketches of what I look for to determine pullets or cockerels in bantam cochins. The pullet sample drawing is on the left and the cockerel sample is on the right.  Most Asian, American, English, or other Heavy chicken breeds, as well as bantam versions derived from the same breeds generally follow similar growth patterns.

 

Now the hard part of raising bantam chicks begins: waiting to see which chicks are pullets and which are cockerels.  With bantam cochins, as well as other bantam chickens, they usually can’t be easily sexed for gender at hatch.  Vent sexing them can seriously injure or worse lead to the death of the tiny bantams, therefore, most hatcheries and breeders won’t do it.  Since I love Cochin bantams, Pekins as they are called in the U.K., I normally have to wait a few weeks to see how many girls or boys I got.  Based on numerous past clutches of bantam cochin chicks that we have raised over the years, I have slowly been getting better at making educated gender guesses fairly early in their development.  The best age to determine gender in my opinion, any earlier than six weeks, is between five days old to 14 days old.  In that age range, with most of the color varieties, it is possible to be accurate in about 80% to 90% of the chicks.

K across the street often asks me to come over and determine gender in her chicks for her too, mainly so she doesn’t get too attached to the boys.  My guesses are based on a combination of temperament, size, head shape, wing growth, tail feather growth, and sometimes slight color or marking variations in the different varieties. Between one day to 4 days old, and then again between two weeks to five weeks, it is much harder to tell, mainly because during that period both sexes look pretty much the same. Around 5 or 6 weeks old, the young roosters start to turn pink or red in the comb, if they haven’t already.  Their comb also changes shape a little, getting a tiny curve or bow to it, and growing slightly.  At the same age, the pullets’ combs remain straight and under developed.  By the time the chicks reach 6 to 8 weeks old, it is pretty clear again what their gender truly is.

If I was asked to guess today on the batch of chicks we have right now, which are 10 days old as I compose this, I would say these are what we have:

  • lavender cochin bantam cockerel
  • white frizzle cochin bantam pullet
  • white frizzle cochin bantam cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin cockerel
  • smooth feather white cochin pullet
  • buff brahma pullet* (this one ended up being a cockerel)
  • dark brahma pullet*
  • birchen cockerel* (this one ended up being a pullet)
  • birchen pullet*

*Note: I have no prior experience determining gender in Buff or Dark Brahmas and I have only had one male Birchen chick to date.  Those chicks are complete guesses for me at this point, but I am using the sexing same criteria to see if it applies to those chicks as well.

Updated on September, 2013: out of the group of chicks I mentioned above, I was correct on the gender of 7 of 9 the chicks.  Both Birchens turned out to be pullets and the Buff Brahma was a cockerel.

So what exactly am I looking in determining if a chick is a pullet or a cockerel?  In general, it is a combination of traits.  Please note, I do not compare different colors of cochins to one another.  Pullets grow feathers in the primary and secondary wings faster that the males.  The females wings often reach the end of their body by the end of the second week.  See my drawing above for what I am talking about.  Pullets get tail feathers a few days to a week before the males do.  Pullets are often calmer, quieter, and sometimes a little shy. If a pullet is flipped onto its back in the palm of my hand, it will only squirm a tiny bit for a second and then relax.  Pullets are sometimes slightly smaller and usually have more markings like stripes, warpaint, freckles, blemishes, and eyeliner.  Pullets have busier and more clearly defined chipmunk patterns in the laced, penciled, and partridge patterns.

Cockerels generally feather in slower than pullets.  Boys are usually the friendlier or more curious chicks.  If flipped on its back, a male will usually squirm and not want to relax.*  In my daughter’s science project, every chick that squirmed was a male.  However, a few males will also be calm during the flip procedure.  Basically, if you are trying to pick female chick at the feed store and it squirms in your hand, it is probably a male.  Pick a different one and your odds are more likely to be 75% or better to get a girl.  *This squirm test does not work as well on 1 to 3 day old chicks.  I have tried it on the first day or two shortly after they arrive, but I think the chicks are still stressed and tired at that point, and almost all of them will test out as pullets.  When I repeat the flip test on them a few days later, maybe day 4 or 5, it is more accurate.  Cockerels’ wings initially grow in an “L” shape, where just a few primaries stick out, and then little to no secondary feathers growing.  When the secondary feathers do start to slowly grow, the wing shape is more curved like a “C” while the female has a more triangular shape.  Cockerel coloring and patterns are plainer, any lines are a bit fuzzier, or where the female will have three color lines, a male will have just two colors.  Some male chicks’ combs will start to change from yellow to a dark pink color as early as 12 days.  I also look at color of the lines where their wattle will later grow.  If it is dark pink, any earlier than 4 weeks, those chicks are almost always males.

There are exceptions to these things I look for.  I have noticed, in a few of the varieties of cochins, both genders feather in at the same fast rate or both feather in really slow.  Silver Pencilled Cochin and Self Blue/ Lavendar Cochin are really slow to feather in, in both males and females and the pullets could easily fool the novice cochin chicken keeper.  On the other hand, Silver Laced Cochins, Partridge Cochins, and Gold Laced Cochins feather in fast in both genders, and they all look like pullets until about 6 weeks old.  At the six to eight week old point, the males will start to color up on their wattles and combs and/or the combs start to grow.  In addition, the more colorful feathers, like the iridescent greens or burgundy will start to grow out at that age in the males.  Regardless of what my initial guesses are, I don’t count on the fact I have pullets or cockerels any earlier than 6 weeks of any variety, well, unless it crows of course.

© 2013 – 2014, .


Comments

How To Distinguish Male Chicks From Female Chicks in 1 week old Cochins — 10 Comments

    • Hi Elaine,

      I do have all bantams now. I only kept large fowl for the first year and a half I had chickens. Originally, I had believed all the breed generalizations that bantams laid tiny eggs and infrequently. That is true of some bantams, especially old english and sebrights, but cochins/ pekins are productive medium sized chickens, especially the ones from hatcheries, not breeders. Most of mine have weighed between 28 oz and 2 1/2 lbs.

      I did end up with a surprise easter egger pullet in one batch of assorted bantams a couple of years ago, but due to her large size, she went to live a family in Fullerton when she was around 9 months old. I prefer keeping bantams because I can keep twice as many, it costs about 1/2 as much to feed the flock, and we get a better feed to egg conversion ratio.

      I have let the hens hatch eggs three times, but I prefer to get the chicks from the hatchery. That is because it is much less expensive overall to order the chicks vaccinated at the hatchery, than it is to buy eggs, have them shipped, and purchase vaccine. The shipping of fertile eggs is usually about $12 to $16 and one vial of vaccine for Mareks Disease with shipping is about $33 (which has to be used within a few days of opening or discarded.) That does not take into account, the cost of the eggs and the possibility of a poor hatch rate.

      Feed stores around L.A. and Orange County don’t carry bantams as regularly as large breeds, but most of them do get them at least once or twice each year. Just ask. Some will add you to a wait list, and once they meet a 25 or 30 chick size order, they will order. The local feed stores within about 30 miles of me charge between $7 and $12 per straight run bantam chick. I have ordered from Welp and Ideal instead. However, next time I might try Cackle, just to see what their Cochins are like. I haven’t considered My Pet Chicken, only because they don’t vaccinate bantams.

      Part of the reason I like to know which ones are the boys early on is so I don’t get attached to them. In the past, the roosters we raise have ended up with folks that live in rooster friendly cities, like Los Angeles, Norco, inland San Diego County, Antelope Valley, or Riverside Co. A few have gone to folks a lot closer that said they planned to grow them out to process them when they are big enough. A male cochin dresses out to about the same size as a cornish game hen, like the specialty mini fryer you would see at the grocery store. I am fine with people using roosters for food since I am not a vegetarian; I just haven’t bothered to process one myself, nor kept one much older than 8 weeks. I do make sure they go to chicken folks that will treat them humanely while they are alive, all except the one bad day when they end up in a freezer. I am extra careful to make sure they don’t end up with folks that might use them for cock fighting or animal baiting. None have ever ended up in shelters.

        • I currently have been getting my chicks from Ideal Poultry.

          In general, I don’t worry about predators any more with my bantams than I did with big girls. There is always the risk with any size chicken free ranging and a predator getting them. Fortunately, I have a giant Chinese Elm tree and lots of shrubs that provide safe cover and a secure 6″ block wall and gate to enclose the yard. I haven’t lost any bantams to predators, nor any other reason. The coop is built like fort knox. It does have some claw marks on the steel screening (for fly and mosquito prevention over the hardware cloth.) It looks like a raccoon tried to get in one night. If not, a cat did it. That was fun to find one morning.
          Nevertheless, I did have a Red Tail Hawk kill my first LF Easter Egger hen back in 2009. She was a big girl, so the hawk ate her in the yard, rahter than carry her off. I came home and caught the hawk in the act. Shortly after that is when I stopped free ranging the chickens without supervision. My bantams usually only are out for an hour or two at most, and normally the Dog and I are out there with them when I let the chickens out.

          • The only thing I have noticed in the yard was a cat. I sent my chihuahua after it and it never came back. She is a great guard dogs for the chickens and seem to like each other. She won’t even let wild birds land in the yard.

  1. Would this work for standard and bantam Araucanas too? Ours are 10 days old and by this method they mostly look like girls??

    • We have only used these characteristics to guess on Cochins, and they aren’t fool proof. I don’t know if the tips can work on Ameraucana, either bantam or large fowl. However, the male easter egger i had, did show dramatic comb growth by about 5 weeks.

  2. This is a fantastic diagram of the feathering of males vs. females … I can see similarities with my flock of 46 white Leghorn chicks – now 10 days old. I hope it holds true for them! Thank you!!

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  4. I had such a job obtaining Pekin bantams as rare here as ash trays on a motorbike. I am expat from England here builing an estate in rural Latvia. I eventually had to go to Germany and had top buff Pekin bantam winner Gerrit Bosch give me ten eggs for hatching. In UK these bantams are readily available but to my deight what hatched out is pure aristocrisy and so beauiful that the trial was worth all effort. A small flock now run my gardens and like a fire brand across the lawns is a morning glory. They do no damage and help with the insect removal.I builta real Chinese two level temple for them all insulated and with observation platforms for garden views as they are let out of the cabin each morning at sun up. Latvian summers are hot and soon my birds find shelter under the pond side plantings. Afternoon they drift to the orchard and then kitchen gardens back to be feed outside thier abode. They must walk two Roman miles every day and thier eggs make great cakes. More feathered and ball like than the British version these German breed bantams look more like film stars and have nearly as many admires here being photographed by every visitor to our gardened acres. I have enough to enable me to breed them next year we hope.

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