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Sexing of day-old chicks

Sexing day-old chicks can be accomplished by one of two methods: 1) vent sexing or 2) feather sexing. Each method has difficulties that make it unsuitable for use by the small flock owner. Vent sexing relys on the visual identification of sex based on appearance of sexual organs. Feather sexing is based on differences in feather characteristics at hatch time. A brief explanation of each method is as follows.

Vent sexing of chicks at hatching has complications that make it more difficult than sex determination of most other animals. The reason is that the sexual organs of birds are located within the body and are not easily distinguishable. The copulatory organ of chickens can be identified as male or female by shape, but there are over fifteen different different shapes to consider. Therefore, few people have experience with determining the sex of birds because of the difficult nature of the process. Most of these highly trained individuals are employed by large commercial hatcheries. The training to be a chick sexer is so difficult and lengthy that the average poultry owner finds it unjustifiable.

Feather sexing is based on feather characteristics that differ between male and female chicks. The method is very easy to learn by the poultryman, but the feather appearances are determined by specially selected genetic traits that must be present in the chick strain. Most strains (breeds) of chickens do not have these feather sexing characteristics and feathering of both sexes appear identical.

The most convenient method of sexing chickens by the small flock owner is to care for the birds until they begin showing the natural secondary characteristics of their sex. In males, the combs and wattles will become larger than those on females and the head will become more angular and masculine looking. The female will remain smaller than the male and is more refined or feminine looking. In some varieties the feathers of each sex will develop a characteristic color pattern that identifies it. These varieties of birds are similar to the feather-sex strains of chickens discussed above. Sexing based on secondary sex characteristics can usually be performed after chicks attain 4 to 6 weeks of age.

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Dressed in a pink T-shirt and blue jeans, broiler grower Teresa Dyess stands next to two wagon wheels in front of a barn on her family farm.
Filed Under: Women for Agriculture, Poultry October 20, 2017

In three days, Teresa Dyess shifted her business focus from produce to poultry.

The change began two years ago with an offhand remark from her husband, Joe Dyess.

 “He told a broiler grower in Wayne County we wouldn’t mind building pullet houses because we wanted to diversify our farm,” she said. “We didn’t think any more about it, and then the next day a poultry processor called and offered us a contract. A banker came the next day, and everything fell into place.”

Lanette Crocker, coordinator for the MSU Extension Service in Wayne County, said Teresa Dyess’ adaptability has helped her maintain success through the farm’s transition.

Hen flock inventories grew after the poultry industry recovered from the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, increasing the number of eggs on the market and driving down the price. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Poultry August 4, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Mississippi's poultry industry remains healthy with a strong demand for broilers and a positive outlook for the remainder of 2017.

Filed Under: Avian Flu March 30, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- All Mississippians who raise any species of poultry are being urged to follow strict biosecurity practices and review new requirements regarding sales and exhibitions.

Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said that while avian influenza is not a threat to human health or food safety, an outbreak would endanger backyard flocks and the state’s nearly $3 billion commercial poultry industry.

Choosing the right breed of chickens for a backyard flock is an important decision. From left, Tripp, Luna and Charlie Sanders examine chicks for sale March 8, 2017, in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Poultry March 16, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Families willing to host a flock of feathered friends reap the benefits of fresh eggs delivered daily just outside the door.

What started several years ago as an underground "urban chicken" movement has become much more common and widely accepted. Today, raising backyard chickens has gained popularity nationwide, boosted by interest in locally grown foods that avoid the energy use and carbon emissions typically associated with transporting food.

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