Breeds

Expected laying
capabilities

Selection for
breeding pure

Mating up

Fertility

Broodies

Egg Production

Incubation

Natural Hatching

Artificial Hatching

Rearing

Sexing

Sexing

Some breeds can be sexed by colour at dayold such as Welsummers (females have better defined markings) or Marans (male has a larger white spot on top of his head) but this is only about 80% accurate. Vent-sexing is not really an option for the small breeder as there are no visible reproductive parts and professional chick sexers spend some five years learning how to do it. Some colours of breeds as they get their next plumage can be sexed, for instance the Silver Grey Dorking male has a black breast from about 7 weeks. Female chicks tend to grow their tail and wing feathers before the males during the first three weeks. Do not trust the comb development for sexing as the development is affected by many different factors and breeds differ in comb style and size.

The shape of chick feathers begins with both sexes’ being rounded. When chick feathers start to moult between 10 and 12 weeks, new, sharply pointed and shiny plumage can be noticed on the backs of the males between the shoulder blades. The females’ feathers remain rounded all their lives. Breeds vary in their speed of development, but the Silkie cannot be sexed by the plumage: 14 weeks is the earliest they can be distinguished by differences in combs, crests and size, so don’t be taken in by what looks like a pair and turns out to be an older and younger cockerel.

Sexing chickens by feather shape

At about 5 months old it is possible to grade young stock for colour and markings and other breed characteristics. Time now to separate the sexes with the cockerels removed to a house of their own and time to take stock and assess the worth of the season’s crop, giving that extra preferential treatment to those that look likely prize-winners or future breeders. Any males not good enough to keep can be fattened.