Friday, March 26, 2010

Sexing Barred Rock Chicks

Since my chicks are now five weeks old I figure it's time to try and guess their sex. In New Zealand you can keep roosters in your back yard as long as they don't make any noise. Since I haven't discovered a humane way to keep my boys quiet I won't be able to keep them, so this is an important moment. I often joke that their first crow will be their last, but secretly I'm quite unhappy about the reality of that fact.

I've been going through a phase of believing that I have three boys and only one girl. This is largely based on the fact that one of my chicks looks distinctly different from the rest.

Look at the colour of the chick on the right, "she" is much darker than the other three which look like her friend in the picture there. No, she's not just sitting in a shadow there :) Also, she acts more feminine in my opinion. She's a bit shy, she's a bit more attractive and not as lanky as her boy friends.

So I've read posts on other websites that say you can tell a Barred Rock hen's sex even from their first week based on some distinctive markings. The females have a smaller more distinct yellow dot on their head, and darker trouser fronts. The males have a more smudged dot, with grey trouser fronts. Well looking at my photos I see a lot of smudgy dots which supports our theory that they are mainly boys.

BUT! Since they're a bit older now, there are other indicators starting to appear. One of our chicks is developing a distinctive boy's tail! Once he gets some plumage back there it will be fairly obvious which sex he hails from. Using this marker leads me to believe we have one male and three females, which is what I would have liked to believe from the start and would dearly like to be true!

So I shall wait and see what other signs develop before I draw my final conclusions... wish me luck!

Please leave a comment if you have some information about figuring this thing out that might help me.


  1. Me again!

    I've read some more of your blog that I didnt see the other day. I have just done barred rocks, and I can tell you that the blotch on the head thing is nowhere near as accurate as the stripes. From the time they get their wing feathers you can tell really, boys get stripes that look roughly even, and girls look more like thin white stripes on a black background. In the pic you have up, the boy is definitely in the forground, and the dark one at the back is definitely a girl. And if the others look like the one in the foreground they are boys.

  2. Oh, and the one in the pic beside the feet and jandals is a boy. :)

  3. Good to get some expertise, thanks... but what a shame, it sounds like I have 3 boys.

    What other breeds have you raised?

  4. I did some Rhode Island Reds lately, but never again, they are a nightmare to sex correctly. Orpingtons are easy, the boys get comb development early on. I have four of them running around at the moment, and am in the same boat, 3 boys, 1 girl.

    My next lot of eggs coming tues are orpingtons too. Incubator nice and steady this morning at 99.8. Will check it again later in the day when the actual air temp heats up a little and see if its still the same. Using a light bulb from a stove now, still 40w but very small. Seems to be working really well.

  5. That sounds good. I think with a bigger bulb you run the risk of heating the thermostat using radiant heat off the lightbulb rather than the ambient temperature of the incubator. If that happens then the thermostat is allowing the lightbulb to be on for a certain amount of time, rather than regulating a specific ambient temp.

    Everything I read said it's better to have the temperature too low than too high. It affects how fast the chicks hatch and you don't want them hatching early since that comes with a bunch of development problems.

    Why is sexing early important, do you get rid of the boys pretty quick? I figure I'll just wait til they start making the wrong noises, I'm not in a hurry because I strangely enjoy apologising to neighbours with cartons of eggs for the nuisance these little guys cause!

  6. Yeah I had a clutch of chicks hatch from a hen (her first time) and she was quite messy with them, never seemed to be sitting on all the eggs at once, and got a lot of chicks with unabsorbed yolks, which all died. ended up with 4 from 11 chicks.

    Temp is still getting a wee bit high still, before light goes off, so have turned down a bit. Will just focus on making sure it doesn't get too high, and not worry too, too, much about low.

    I advertise my roosters from age about 9 weeks, for not much, say $5 max each, but usually more like $3. People do still buy them if they're purebreds, but if I still have them beyond about 14 weeks I just fatten them. I haven't needed to fatten them much, mostly they do sell. They usually haven't started crowing and annoying the neighbours by the time the deed is done, and your eating roast chicken. And its not that I need to know really early on, its just that I like to!

  7. Loved reading your blog. I just bought 5 chicks from a tienda here in Mexico and think they may be barred rocks because they don't look like rhode island reds to me. What did your chickens sexes end up being?

  8. Thanks. Barred rocks are a great bird, very handsome boys and good looking hens too. Three of these were boys unfortunately so they had to be sent off in their teenage years.