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Wing feather sexing, buff orpingtons, an old post resurrected

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Always nice to learn things and there has been some questions about wing feather sexing.  I thought I would retrieve an old post I made back in March of 2013, just for fun and for reading....It is rather long winded, but necessary for me to impart all information I wish to share.  So read, and enjoy if you will.  And have a most wonderful day, CynthiaM.

The post from some time ago:
Just thought I would make a quick post about observations of myself on buff Orpington chicks which have reached about the age of 4 weeks.  By this time, there are certain characteristics that are different with gender.

Please, as you read, do not take anything I had said as gospel.  These are only my observations and my points of view.  Do not depend on anything I have said, just take it all with that grain of salt.

At one point in time I had done some studying about wing feather development with chicks.  This really did not go very far, as it was faulty.  With some breeds of poultry, the fast and slow feathering gene can be used to ascertain gender when the chick is up to about 72 hours old.  This does absolutely work for a couple of breeds.  When I had light brahmas, absolutely, this wing feather sexing worked.  With the cochins, it works on the blue and splash, but did not work on the black.  Mistakes were made and I do not rely on wing feather sexing with cochins anymore, smiling.  According to how fast and slow feathering genes work, this method should have worked for the Orpington breed too.  Trust me, it does not.  It may be something I was doing wrong, but don’t think so, so in my mind, that blew that theory out of the water (I am speaking to buff orpingtons here).  If I had relied on this method of wing feather sexing, I would have thought I had no pullets.  Going back now almost two years, this memory is kind of foggy, but I know for a fact, it does not work on this breed, the Orpington.

So, no longer have light brahmas, but do have cochins.  I do not rely on wing feather sexing at an early age for these two breeds.  I look for signs that are very prevalent at about 4 weeks old, give or take.  Right now, I would say 4 weeks old, but that too could be temperature dependent.  This thread is kind of taking on a very disjointed manner, in my mind, so bear with me.

Most of the time, and I say most, because again, there have been mistakes made, but I would go as far as to say about 98% of the time, these visual cues with the two breeds I speak to here indicate gender to me, clearly enough that I feel pretty much confident of gender.  Did you get that though, “pretty much confident”.  Will never ever say 100% cause I think chicks can change gender at will, smiling.  I am kidding here, but gotta wonder.....

At the age of 4 weeks old, the little cockerels are showing very pretty little red wattles beginning (but hold it, I have also seen what turned out to be a female display this too, at this age).  The comb will be slightly longer and more red coloured (but hold it, I have seen this happen with what turned out to be a pullet too), so, for surely, not 100%. That is where the give or take of a percentage or two comes into place.  At the age of 4 weeks old, the females appear to have longer bodies, longer tail feathers, absolutely, and a nice cushion is beginning to be shown.  The head is differently shaped with females, more round (just like Jonny  Anvil had mentioned with his visuals on his birds, think he was speaking to orpingtons when he mentioned this in his thread, not sure though).  The females (for the most part) will not have a red comb at all, but very, very light in colour, actually quite discernable, the lack of colour and height of comb (but then I have seen females that have a bit bigger comb too at this tender age, again, that 2% give or take, smiling).

I watch my chicks lots.  And I mean lots.  I sit and look at them, looking for vigour, habit, eating, drinking, what the feathers look like, the size of feet and thickness of shank.  Males do tend to have bigger feet, this is very noticeable at 4 weeks of age, as are the thicker legs.

The most noticeable trait that seems to be 100% consistent with males about the age of 4 weeks, is the body and the length of the wing and tail feathers.  The tail feathers are not long and fluffy, as are the females, nor are the wing feathers.   The wing feathers at this age are very blunt looking, as is the tail feathers.  Very blunt.  Females(again, for the most part) have long, long, fluffy tailfeathers.  I will get some better pictures of another set of chicks soon and add to this thread, by the way.

So some simple observations that I have observed.  

Males, at the age of 4 weeks old, generally if you look below their face, there is the tell tale sign of a wattle developing and it is red as the apples on the tree.  The combs are not yet very red, not nearly as red as the developing wattles, but clearly developing.  The male has a blocky, kind of short looking body, as are the wing and tail feathers.  Most males will have much more large feet and thicker shanks than the female counterparts.  Well, for the most part, some males do not, and they are absolutely not even began to think of as something I would keep for a breeding aspect.  Thick legs, big feet.  That is what you want in a male – I speak to personal breeds I have, I do not know what others want.

The female does not show this red below their chin at this age, generally, the comb is either barely existent or slightly elevated comb, and certainly a very pale colour, not even pink I would say, more bordering beige.  The female will have long flight feathers and her tail will look long and fluffy, she will have a nice cushion developing.  The females legs and feet are smaller than the male counterpart.

So, as said, these are my observations that I will pass forward, to do with what you will.  And with that, have an awesome day, CynthiaM.

This was mamma who hatched out 3 out of 12 eggs, on January 12 of this year.  The 3rd chick was gone.  I thought maybe it died and she ate it, oops, but ya, tasty meat I am sure.  But upon moving the brooding box she was in, that little chick must have somehow got mixed up and squeezed in behind the box.  Of course that outcome was not good.  It was a little dehydrated and of course not alive.

Mamma took the babies outside at about a month old.  This picture was taken Feb 14, last, or so.  Only two chicks.  A male and a female.  Look closely at these following pictures.  The chick with the longer tail feathers is the female, the one with blunt is male.  Yes.  Almost 100% accurate.  Those two are now 8 weeks old and clear as clear can be the gender and hang out with the adult flock free ranging and they are awesome at roosting at night with the adults too.  Mamma abandoned them about 6 weeks of age and they basically were on their own.

Look closely at this picture.  The female is on the left, look at the long tailfeathers and the cushion developing.  The male is on the right, lacking many heavy tailfeathers and rather bare looking....

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Female on left, male on right

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Male on left, female on right

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Excellent post and observations. From all three pics you can definitely see the differences. With pic #1 I have noticed myself the backs of the birds in question and undoubtedly the lack of feathering indicated males to me and with other breeds, welsummers and barnevelders and to some degree even ameraucanas. Thank You

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