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How To Tell If A Chicken Is A Pullet Or Cockerel?

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Bringing home your baby chicks for the first time can be an exciting time. You have your ideal flock in mind and feel confident in your breeder’s ability to gender chicks. But you always hear of people who get a clutch and have misgendered roosters in the bunch. How can you prevent this from happening? The best way is to learn how to tell if a chicken is a pullet or young cockerel yourself. There are several ways to do this, and we are going to teach them all. Before long, you will be the expert in sexing chickens. 

At What Age Can You Tell If A Chick Is A Rooster? 

Before talking about how to tell if a chicken is a pullet or cockerel, we need to know when the differences start. There are many methods used how to tell if a chicken is a pullet or cockerel. Some ways are as early as the day of hatch. However, even if you don’t actively try to sex your chickens, you will know by ten weeks of age who is who. By ten weeks old, your chicks have entered into the teenage years. And along with that comes all of the hormones. 

Is Cockerel A Chicken? 

Most people use the term chicken to mean a female hen. So asking how do you tell if it’s a chicken or rooster isn’t always wrong. But in truth, a chicken can be either male or female because it is a bird species. A cockerel is a young rooster who is a male chicken. And pullets are female chickens under a year of age. No matter if they are cockerels, roosters, pullets, or hens, they are all chickens. 

How Can You Tell A Cockerel? 

Now let’s talk about how to sex chickens. Cockerels and pullets have so many distinguishing features. You can use any combination of gendering and should get the same results every time. So let’s take a look at the most noticeable features of cockerels. 

Body Size

In most chickens, the male is larger and bulks up faster than their female counterparts. Most cockerels start looking more prominent than hens well before that teenage phase. So this is an excellent way at noticing signs of a roo in the flock before puberty hits. Roosters have larger bodies and thicker legs than hens, and for a good reason. Since the rooster’s job is to protect the flock, they need size on their side. 

Hackle Feathers

Another way to tell your males from females is to look at the hackle feathers. These are the feathers around the neck of your chickens.

For a male bird, these feathers are pointed and longer than females. They will also look fuller to give your rooster the appearance of a thicker neck. The downside to this method is that you have to wait until most adult feathers have come in. 

Tail Feathers

Cockerels also start to grow longer tail feathers and pointy front of the tail compared to pullets. These feathers are called sickle feathers and will have an elongated, curved shape to them. And the feathers at the front and sides of the tail are called saddle feathers. Pullets will keep their short tail and saddle feathers with no curve or length. Most chicken keepers notice these differences starting around three months old, so it’s an earlier indicator than most. 

No Egg Production

And let’s not forget the easiest way to tell roosters from hens, eggs. Most chickens will lay eggs as early as four months old. So if you don’t see an egg from a particular chicken, it’s safe to say he’s a boy. 

Do Roosters Have Bigger Combs?

When most people picture a rooster, they imagine a tall, proud roo with a larger comb and wattle size. But this is only true for some chicken breeds. Some roosters will have a tall upright comb, while hens will have small or flopped combs. But there are plenty of breeds with small combs naturally, so it’s harder to tell in young chicks. 

But no matter what comb size your chicken has, there is a sign you can still look for. A comb that turns bright red before the others is a good sign of a male. Your males will start to get that bright red comb and wattle, no matter the breed, weeks before a pullet. Most pullets combs don’t even begin to redden until after they have laid their first egg. So keep a lookout for the comb color and not size. 

Does Crowing Indicate A Rooster? 

Everyone knows that roosters crow all the time. That is why most people automatically assume that if your chicken starts to crow, it is always a rooster. But this isn’t always the case. While it is a good indicator, there is some breed of chicken where both genders crow equally. There are also rare cases where young female chickens might start taking on male qualities without a rooster around. 

Your pullet will start to crow, and some will begin to develop the physical characteristics of a rooster. These hens will also stop laying eggs, but they are not technically male. These gender transitions are only in appearances, and they won’t reproduce with your other hens. 

How Can You Tell If A Chicken Is A Rooster At 1 Week?

Now we will talk about the earliest ways how to tell if a chicken is a pullet or cockerel. So far, we have spoken about adult birds, but what about baby chicks? These methods are very popular but not always the most reliable. But knowing the sex of your chickens at a younger age can help prevent unwanted roosters in the future. 

Wing Feathers

Most breeders use the wing feathers as a way to sex chicks as young as a day old. Your local feed store will also use this method. A boy’s wing feathers will all be the same length, and the feathers will come to a point at the tip compared to girls. Female chicks will have a double layer of wing feathers that are all different lengths. These different lengths give the wing a rounded look when compared to males. 

While wing feathers are the most common way to sex young chicks, it can be wrong. With such tiny wings, it is easy to misread the feathers. And not every breed can be sexed like this, especially if they are hybrids. So if you are relying on wing feathers alone, you might want to double-check with another method. In fact, most places that use the wing feathers to tell the sex of the chick are the most likely to get it wrong. 

Vent Sexing 

Another way to tell the gender of baby chickens is to check their vents for sex organs. Vent sexing takes a lot of practice and patience because a baby chick’s anatomy is so tiny. But the process is simple once you get the hang of it.

First, you pick up your chick and locate the vent on the underside. Gently place a finger on either side of the vent and give it a slight squeeze. Your chick will empty its vent of feces after pressure. Clean this away with a bit of paper towel, and look at the vent while keeping pressure. In the exposed vent, you will see a slight bump for males and nothing for females. 

These small bumps are hard to see at first and will take a lot of training. So don’t feel bad if you still can’t see the difference. It can take years of doing this to get it down right. But once you become an expert, this is the most reliable way to sex day-old chicks. 

Sex-Link Chickens

And of course, there are sex-linked chicks that are different colors at birth to indicate their gender. If you want to be 100% sure of the baby chick’s gender before bringing it home, we recommend going this route. 

There are so many excellent sex link chickens out there. Some of them might give you red first feathers for females and white males. Or the chicks will have a white spot on their heads for boys. No matter how these chickens are sex-linked, they guarantee that a chick is a gender you want. 

Can You Tell The Gender Before The Chick Hatches? 

How do you know if a chick is male or female before it hatches? There are many old wives’ tales around this, but there is no truth behind any of them. The biggest fable is that the shape of the egg will tell you the baby chick’s gender. Some breeders swear that pointy eggs are always male, and if it’s rounded, it’s female. But this is not a reliable method and holds no real truth. 

Chickens tend to lay the same shape egg all the time. The only exception to this is if your hen is sick or not getting enough calcium. The sex of your chicks is entirely random, although most chicken breeds naturally produce more girls than boys. 

Did That Clear Things Up?

Now you know how to tell if a chicken is a pullet or cockerel. You don’t need to have professional chicken sexers. All you need is a few tips and tricks to keep your ideal backyard flock. 

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!

How To Tell If A Chicken Is A Pullet Or Cockerel?

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