Monday, June 25, 2012

Determining the gender of young chickens: are those chicks hens or roosters?

As I write this, the chicks are now 10 weeks old and fully feathered  (see post about incubating eggs).  For a while now its been possible to tell the difference between the pullets (females) and roosters (males), but the crazy little things won't stay still long enough for me to count them!  Finally I had a chance to catch each one and put them in two different cages, one for boys and one for girls, so I could count up.  Of the 16 that hatched, one died early on, and now I think we have 8 roosters and 7 pullets.  Two of the three white leghorns are roosters, it will be hard to decide which one to keep, they are so beautiful.  Anyway, I've noticed that chicken sexing can be difficult for people who buy un-sexed chicks and need to decide to get rid of roosters before they start crowing, so I've taken some photos so you can see the difference, at least for Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.

If you showed me any of these chickens on their own, I wouldn't know if they were roosters or pullets, but when you see them next to each other, its easy to pick the difference.  The hens have less developed crown and wattles compared to the roosters, they are also slightly smaller, this is apparent at a few weeks of age, as soon as they start developing crowns.  If you can't see any difference between your chicks, you may have all of one sex, which does make things difficult and you have to start looking at tail shape to figure out the sex.

We don't always get it right and sometimes add a rooster into the pullets (just over-optimistic at the number of layers I think), so we will just keep an eye on them now and see if I counted correctly :)

A young Rhode Is Red rooster
And a Rhode Island Red pullet at the same age
A young White Leghorn rooster
And a White Leghorn pullet at the same age
How do you tell your baby chickens apart?

By the way, my chicken tractor ebook is now available if you want to know more about designing and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at}

What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor

Chris from Gully Grove


  1. I have had the occasional rooster that has a comb like a pullet when young. Not sure how that happens but they eventually start looking like roosters and do rooster things. But what you say works for normal birds.

  2. If you aren't breeding pure breeds you can do sex-linked breeding where the hens are a different colour to the roosters at hatching, saves a lot of guessing.

  3. our latest lot are almost 5 weeks and you can see at the top of their beaks that the roosters are more reddish than the girls

  4. thanks for the comments everyone. Its not a fool-proof method, but it works ok. We have one rooster who keeps going back to the pullet's tractor anyway....

  5. i've had a pullet turn into a rooster, so it's not uncommon either (Rhonda gets it every time she buys new chooks too) so, now, i have a pure bred silver lace wyndotte rooster. have decided to keep him for now, see how he works out plus i think i would like to breed my own in the near future
    very informative & easy to do too
    thanx for sharing


Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at


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