Pullet or Cockerel? How to Know

Pullet or Cockerel? How to Know You wanted to raise chickens for eggs and bought some hatching eggs. Or you couldn’t resist the fluffy little munchki...
Author: Noel Hall
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Pullet or Cockerel? How to Know

You wanted to raise chickens for eggs and bought some hatching eggs. Or you couldn’t resist the fluffy little munchkins at the feed store this spring. In any event you now have chickens growing up in your backyard. You are feeding them and caring for their every need. So what’s the problem? Some of the chicks are starting to look different than the others. One or two in particular seem, odd. They better hadn’t be roosters! You aren’t allowed to keep roosters in your neighborhood. How do you know? Can you tell the difference between pullets and cockerels when they are still growing?

Pullet or Cockerel – How to Know

the Difference

There are a few ways to sex chicks and maturing chickens. At hatching the first way that has been used for generations is called vent sexing or the Japanese method. Using this method, you would look inside the tiny vent opening and notice the difference in the cloaca. I have not seen this done but hatcheries use this method with 85 to 90 % accuracy.

Another method is wing feather sexing.

Using this method you

look at the wing feathers of a chick on the first or second day after hatching. Cockerel’s wing feathers would be all the same length. Pullets wing feathers would be in two layers of different length. A cautionary note on this method. It does not work on all breeds of chickens. Certain breeds such as leghorns have the genetic trait that allows this method to be used.

Not all breeds have this trait.

Sex Linked Traits – For certain genetic pairings, a predictable and identifiable appearance gives a fool proof method of determining sex of the chick. For this method you need to understand that the hen contributes genetic material to the cockerels and the rooster contributes genetic material to the pullets. Any sex linked characteristics will be passed on in this way. Color is one of the sex linked traits. Knowing this, if you mate a hen that carries a sex linked color trait with a rooster that does not carry the trait, the cockerels will have the trait. This makes it easy to separate the pullets at hatching. There are some popular hybrid breeds that utilize this method. Black Stars or Black Sex links are the result of a Barred Rock Hen crossed with a Rhode Island

Red Rooster. The cockerels have a white spot on their heads. Red Stars and Golden Comets are two other breeds that are bred for this reason and for increased egg production.

Black Star or Black Sex Link Hen If you absolutely cannot have a rooster or don’t want to deal with one, buying sex linked breed pullets is your most fool proof method of obtaining pullets.

Developing chicks

As your chicks develop, you may begin to notice some differences in the growth and characteristics showing up. The cockerels will often hold themselves differently, in a more upright stance. Their feathers will be pointy as compared to the more rounded feather ends of the pullets. The combs and legs will also begin to look different. Combs on a developing cockerel will be darker colored, and larger than the pullets of the same breed. By ten weeks of age, it is fairly certain if you have a developing rooster in the flock.

The Crowing and the Egg

Of course the final answer to the question comes when you find the egg. Or the morning noon and night crowing that is hard to dispute. Although, hens of some breeds, in the absence of a rooster may take up crowing. One last anecdotal test. I have found that my roosters are often the chicks that were the most easily handled and didn’t mind being cuddled. It doesn’t last though! Somewhere around 8 months to a year, the hormones fully kick in and the rooster is no longer so cuddly.

This post appeared first on Backyard Poultry Magazine.com

Questions Farming




This week we have questions about hens crowing, raising goats, best starter breeds of chickens and keeping the chicken coop clean. How about if we join the Coffee Break and the Q&A together in one segment! You can grab your favorite beverage, take a short

break and read through these questions and my ever so brilliant responses. Feel free to join in the conversation by using the comment section below. Ready? lets get started with this week’s

Questions and Answers on Farming.

One of the most frequent questions I get in my email concerns breeds of chickens, like this question from Sue in Maryland.

What Breeds of Chickens Should I Buy? “I am looking to get some hens next spring. We want them for eggs. What breed did you start with and what breed do you recommend for new chicken owners.” Great question, Sue. We started with two little fluffy chicks that turned out to be white leghorns. They weren’t even mine. Two of my employees at the time fell in love with the chicks at the feed store and I said we would keep the chicks for them. Two chicks quickly became 6 and that quickly became 12 because if we were going to take care of two well we might as well….. Some of my recommendations for chicken breeds to start with are, Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, Silver laced or Gold Laced Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex. These are breeds we have had a lot of success with here at Timber Creek Farm. There are always the ever popular Buff Orpingtons too, a gentle, docile chicken that is favored by people with small children. The production breeds, like the Gold Star, Red and Black Sex links, and Production Reds are great layers, but their laying years are shorter than some of the purebred breeds or heritage breeds.

Smelly Chicken Coop? From Jillian I have 11 laying hens, some of which are in molt. I coop them at night and morning and let them out to free range in the afternoon. How often should I clean the coop? Last year I used the deep liter method but now the coop seems to need cleaning every week. I’m using a lot of straw…ideas? Jillian, I hope that your question has a simple answer. I also use the deep litter method but I find that it is only feasible

during the winter. In our area, the weather most of the year is too humid and I find I need to strip out the coop about once every three or four weeks and to re bed the roost areas and nesting areas every week. I would recommend that you start with a bale of dry pine shavings under the straw when getting started with the deep litter coop system. I find that starting with a lot of very dry bedding helps the odor dissipate faster and allows the deep litter method to work. Remember, whenever there is an odor, its because moisture is accumulating somewhere. Check the waterers to make sure nothing is leaking, check for leaks in the roof, and any other potential moisture accumulating.

How to Get Started with Goats From Beth, a question on goat care. I would like more info on goats…..best kind to have, tips on taking care of them, milk

goats vs goats to have for their hair ie shearing and selling, etc. Thanks for asking about the goats Beth. We raise Pygora’s. They are a recognized breed developed from careful breeding of pygoras and angoras. They are a medium sized breed about 50 to 80 pounds and raised for the soft fiber fleece they grow. We harvest the fiber twice a year by shearing. Other than that, they are just like other goats. They love grain but shouldn’t have too much of it. Goats will eat in a way called foraging. They don’t need high quality pasture because they will eat leaves, twigs, brambles, poison ivy and other weeds. One hard thing about goat keeping can be containing them where you want them to stay. They are good at breaking out of fenced areas, although when ours do escape they usually stay near the barn area. We do not let them free forage when we aren’t at the barns, so we also feed low quality weedy hay. If you are more interested in milking goats, the Nubian, Toggenbergs, and Nigerian Dwarf are some good breeds to look into. One special note that is often overlooked concerning the Pygora breed. Goats need copper as an essential mineral in their diets. Copper is toxic to sheep and Pygoras! We raise our Pygoras on the same feed that our sheep get. Just something to be aware of as you research the breeds. Goats are a lot of fun, loving, and adventurous, and a great addition to a homestead or farm. Here are a couple of links to other posts on goat care. Goat Care and Maintenance Raising Fiber Animals

Crowing Hens? Cinda asks: I have a hen that crows every morning like a rooster and this morning she decided to start at 2am she is my only layer right now. I got up one morning and watched her. Is she just confused. I asked my lady at feed store she said she never heard of this before. I have a one of a kind. While it is strange, Cinda, it can and does happen! This can happen as a dominant hen takes on more and more of the roles that a rooster would be responsible for if you had a rooster. They even start to crow in many instances. This is not the same as a physiological change due to hormone problems or infections. I also found this link to a similar situation. Crowing Hen.

That wraps up our first edition of Questions and Coffee Break. I will be looking for your next questions to come in. You can always leave them here in the comments area, or post them on our Facebook page or send an email to [email protected] So come on, send in those questions! Until next time, don’t forget to take a coffee break!