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Published on Jan. 12, 2021

Color sexing in day-old chicks

One of the most frequent asked questions is about the sexing of day-old chicks. We have already published an article on “feather sexing”, and in this article we will explain the principle of “color sexing”.

For color sexing, we make use of the principle of sex-link crosses. Sex-link crosses (hybrid chicken breeds) involve the crossing of two different breeds of chickens to get offspring that can be sexed at hatch by differences in down color. For example, mating Rhode Island Red males with Rhode Island White females. Their offspring will consist of yellow/white colored day-old male chicks, and brown colored day-old female chicks (as always, exceptions are there). Based on the color of the down, the day-old chicks can easily be sorted by sex.

The most common sex link crosses are the red sex link. Close to half of the global chicken population consists of red sex link chickens. Our common brown breeds (ISA Brown, Shaver Brown, Bovans Brown, Babcock Brown, Hisex Brown, Dekalb Brown and Warren) are all red sex link crossbreds.

Please note: this trait does not breed true and breeding two sex linked commercial chickens (hybrids) will not produce offspring that can be sexed at hatch.

Color sexing female day-old chicks

Female day-old chicks have uniformly brown colored down, or brown with a light stripe in the middle of the back.

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The following common exceptions can be found: female day-old chicks that have a broad yellow stripe with brown edging on a somewhat lighter background, or female day-old chicks that have a brown colored head with a lighter body.

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Color sexing male day-old chicks

Male day-old chicks are yellow/white or show slight brown stripes.

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Exceptions can be found: day-old male chicks that have distinct yellow/light stripes with brown borders, or day-old male chicks that have a dark brown stripe in the middle of their back.

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