What to Look for in Determining Gender in Young Chickens

by Meghan H

Published March 19, 2018

Well, your Meyer Hatchery chicks have arrived quite a few weeks ago, are growing and have moved into their permanent coop.  You’re well on your way to tasting those first eggs from your little backyard flock soon.  But wait, what was that you may have just heard?  A crow, NO!

Many times, the presence or absence of crowing is the first indication that you may have a rooster. But did you know that occasionally a hen can crow? It’s true! A hen can mimic a rooster’s crowing, especially if there is not a rooster present and a dominant hen decides she will be the flock leader. For this reason, even the witness of a crow is not a 100% certain way to determine the gender of young chickens. 

Although many breeds can be gender identified by the different size combs, feathering, color patterns and other differences between cockerels and pullets; the one defining difference that is the most accurate in determining gender across most of the chicken breeds is the absence or presence of the male’s hackles, saddles, and sickle feathers. We have collected a few pictures to help you see what we look for when determining the gender of young chickens.

Let’s first begin by looking at some 10-12 week old roosters. At this young age, we can barely begin to see the hackles around the neck and the saddle feathers developing over the back at the base of the tail. This first picture is a 12 week old Black Copper Marans and he’s just beginning to show enough feathering to tell that it’s a cockerel.

Young Rooster hackle and saddle feathers to determine gender

These two roosters below are an Olive Egger (left) and an Easter Egger (right) who are both 14 weeks of age. Notice that the Olive Egger is not clearly showing the feathering, but the Easter Egger has developed some saddle feathers already. Frequently, we need to check back in another couple of weeks for more feather development to take place before a definite gender identification can be made.

Easter Egger Young Rooster Meyer Hatchery Hackle feathers

This final photo is the same Olive Egger shown above, but now he’s 4 weeks older. At 18 weeks, he clearly shows the hackles and saddles that we suspected were developing when he was younger.

Young Rooster Saddle and Hackle Feathers to determine gender

We hope this picture tutorial will help you in determining how to tell the gender of young chickens as your chickens grow and develop into adults. Remember, if you have questions or need help, give us a call, chat or email. Our Meyer Hatchery team is ready and willing to help!

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