Thursday, April 7, 2016

Winging it: Sexing Chicks

The other day a customer noticed a chick in the "wrong tank" and decided to help us by moving it into the right tank.  Well, it was a cockerel that we were keeping separated from all the pullets of the same breed so we could have an easier time of giving customers what they actually ordered.  It is hard enough when people sell turkeys and guineas as chickens, and we have already had customers complaining about receiving cockerels instead of pullets from a tank full of pullets--this is entirely possible, by the way, because basically there is no 100% guarantee.  Basically a wizened old dude wakes up early in the morning and stares at chick holes all day.  Most of the time he gets it right.  Without that kind of experience, and none of us have it, we have to rely on other methods which are fallible.

One method I have seen, yet sadly neglected to capture on camera, is dowsing.  This lady came in and picked up all the pullets in a tank one at a time, and held a string  with a needle tied to it over them.  She muttered something about getting hens this time and refused to trust in the wizened old dude; well, us too for that matter, which is actually understandable.

A much more interesting method a couple of sane customers shared involved inspecting the wing feathers.  Pullets will have much more developed or uneven wing feathers than cockerels at the same age.

Now, if you are not dealing with day old chicks, you can observe behavior.  For example, the customer that tossed the cockerel in with the pullets was fairly easy to find because he had a different posture than the other pullets--but this is only because he was a little older than the pullets.  If you watch day old chicks, they all pretty much act the same, but it does not take notice male behavior, such as strutting and other postures.

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