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Feather Sexing Buckeye Chicks

Written By: Julie - Nov• 04•13

Buckeye ChicksFeather sexing Buckeye chicks is easier than I expected. I don’t have a lot of experience with sexing baby chicks. In the past I have raised mostly pullets and was occasionally surprised by a pullet “turning” into a rooster. This year I have raised several batches of straight-run chicks (straight-run means as they hatch, not selected for pullets as most of the chicks in feed stores tend to be. So, I have learned a lot this year about telling the boys from the girls. Sometimes waiting it out and looking at secondary characteristics at 4-6 weeks works, but this method is easier!

Guessing at the gender of chicks is a maddening hobby for many chicken owners. Just look at the number of “pullet or cockerel” questions on any chicken forum. For some breeds it is easy to feather-sex by looking at the wings of day-old chicks. This works pretty well if you know what to look for, have a breed that is easy to feather-sex, and happen to have day-old chicks. But if your chicks are older, or from a hard to sex breed such as Black Copper Marans – you are out of luck.

An experienced Buckeye breeder shared a tip with me that helped me accurately pick out the boys and girls in my first batch of Buckeye chicks. Buckeye pullets grow out their tail feathers much faster than the cockerels. When I received this batch they were 2 weeks old.

As you can see in the photo above, some have basically no tail feathers. The chicks with just fuzzy behinds are all cockerels. The chicks with an inch of tail feathers are all pullets. I banded them at 4 weeks old with pink and blue zip ties. If you use zip ties for banding, be sure to keep a close eye on them so you can remove and upsize before they get too tight. By that point the girls had nearly 2 inch tails and the boys still had basically none. You can see the chicks at 12 o’clock, and between 5 and 6 in the photo are all girls. The chicks at 11, 11:30 and 1 are all boys.

Now that they are 10 weeks old it is very clear who the cockerels are. The bands are 100% accurate. Again, I don’t know yet if this holds true for all strains of the Buckeyes but I have been told it is true for at least two strains.

From my research it does not work with all breeds, but I was thrilled to find it works pretty well for Speckled Sussex and American Bresse chicks as well. I have three Sussex chicks and the wing sexing is consistent with the tail length so far. Of my two Bresse chicks, one has a longer tail and one has a larger comb at 5 weeks old. I am reserving final judgement on them until I can be sure, but so far it seems to be working. My sample size is small, so I don’t know if it works across the board for those breeds.

If you own Buckeyes, I’d love to find out if this method works for you or what has worked well in sexing Buckeye chicks.

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