Sexing Norfolk Grey
by Alison Jones
are few things in the world more fulfilling than watching your very own chicks
hatch – from selecting the eggs to set in your incubator and then candling them
until the miracle happens your very own chicks emerge. However the newly
arrived fluffy chicks will soon start you wondering, what are they? Have I got
lots of cockerels or are there any pullets, this age old question has bothered the
seasoned chicken keeper as well as those first embarking on rearing their own
chickens. Unfortunately unless you have chosen an auto sexing breed there is no
certainty on what sex your chicks will be, but there are a few methods which
poultry keepers have used as a guide to determine the sex – I can't guarantee
that the method will work for you but it may help and will prove good fun.
are many methods used to help sex chicks and a quick internet search will
illustrate many different ways, some more successful than others but for the
purpose of this article we will look at feather sexing. This method uses the
chicken's genes which determine how fast feathers will grow. The father of the
chicks has two alleles for recessive fast feathering and it is this gene he
will pass onto all his offspring in comparison a hen will only carry one copy
of the dominant slow feathering gene which she will only give to her male
offspring resulting in the cockerel chicks been slow to feather. The pullets
will only inherit the fast feathering gene from their father (the cockerel) but
they will not be given any gene from their mother (the hen) resulting in the
pullets been fast feathering.
In practice the difference
between cockerels and pullets can be easily observed between one to three days
after the chicks have hatched. The female chicks will have primary wing
feathers that are longer than the covert feathers and the male chicks will have
short primaries the same length as their coverts.
The illustration below shows the
wing on a chick highlighting the location of the coverts and primaries.
It is this section of the wing we use for feather sexing
Sexing the Pullet
The primary feathers
are longer than the coverts.
Wing development of the pullet at 10 days old
Picture courtesy of
Wing development on my own pullet chick
Picture Courtesy of
Sexing the Cockerel
Primaries are smaller
than the pullet's wing and are the same size as the coverts.
Wing development of the cockerel at 10 days old
Picture courtesy of Gina Upex
One of my young cockerel chicks at about 5 days old.
Picture courtesy of Alison Jones
the past twelve months I have used the feather sexing method on my own Norfolk
Greys looking at the chicks at a day old and then leg ringing the chicks to
follow the development to ensure the method is working. Another breeder has
kept notes on her strain and we have both enjoyed good results, but there is
always an exception to the rule so there are no guarantees any method is not
completely fool proof. However between feather sexing, comb development and
looking at the thickness of the legs all help to find which youngsters are