Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Key Developments
Chick Sexing – The industry’s greatest advance

January 1934

October 12, 2012
By Fred W Beeson


At least half my correspondence these days is related to chick sexing.  Letters are coming in from the United States, England and from all parts of Canada.  Poultrymen the world over cannot help but he intensely interested in this new development.  Few are there who do not see the economy in being able to separate the sexes of pure bred chicks at one day old.  The majority, it would seem from the correspondence, doubt their ability to master the art.

Japanese Only

Here is a sample of the queries that arrive by nearly every mail: “We have been informed that this method of sexing pure bred day old chicks is only applicable to a limited number of Japanese with, what one may call for want of a better term ‘an extra sense of the power of deduction.’  We shall be pleased if you will kindly inform us if this is correct or if it is possible for a normal person, with practice, to become qualified.”

The above is a very general type of inquiry.  Mainly because of my interest in the subject but also of necessity in answering intelligently these letters, I have made time to study the subject.  It will be well to remark that at this season of the yea it is difficult to obtain chicks to work with, without a plentiful supply of which, progress must necessarily be slow.

The Genital Eminence

At the outset I would emphatically state that it is not possible to lean to sex chicks by the Japanese method by just reading the book, “Sexing Baby Chicks.”  A supply of chicks is imperative. Again, it would be equally unreasonable to try to learn without the aid of the book.  Only by comparing the photographs with the live chick and by diligently following the text in the book. Can one hope to make rapid headway.  The Japanese have made the important discovery that up to the twelfth day of incubation both sexes have an equal development of the genital eminence.  After that time the eminence in the female begins to recede, until at the time of hatching in the majority of cases it has gone.  However, in some 40 per cent of cases the female still has a perceptible eminence at time of hatching, the shape of which varies considerably.  I found that with two weeks very intermittent practice I was able to sex chicks with an accuracy of about 80 per cent.  This percentage is considered easy to acquire because about that number in every hundred are of relatively easy types.  There are, however, six types of males and four of females and, whilst most of these occur in only small percentages, they must be thoroughly learned to acquire efficiency in make the test of commercial value.  I am quite satisfied that, as soon as the opportunity presents itself for further practice, I shall be able to go on increasing the percentage of accuracy to the point where the standard for first class experts has been reached.

Doubtless there will be thousands of young people take up the study as a profession and many more thousands will learn to sex accurately for their own needs.  Their success will be measured by the diligence of their application to the task.  Nothing as useful as this can be learned in a day, or a week, but from my own observations of the Japanese method and the text book there is not a reason in the world why the science cannot be acquired by ordinary, normal people.  There is no mystery to it.

Japanese Magic

Two young men from Cloverdale, B.C., both keenly interested in check sexing and both well on the road to proficiency, have written me the following letter: “There exists in the minds of many interested people as idea that the new profession of Chick Sexing is some kind of Japanese mysticism or magic, or a doubt that proficiency can be acquired by races other than the Japanese.  We, the first two in this country to become successful in this line of endeavor, wish to state emphatically that, in our opinion, persons possessing the necessary requisites can become proficient, for we have, within the past months, attained an accuracy of between 80 and 90 per cent.  The necessary requirements we would list as follows: Good eyesight, nimble fingers, a natural like for this type of work and an insatiable desire to practice as often as opportunity permits.

“We believe that guidance under qualified experts is very desirable throughout the whole course of study and that attainment to proficiency is greatly hastened by constant reference to the text book, “Sexing Baby Chicks.”  In fact, without the book it would be extremely difficult for the student to correctly classify the various formations.  We have no hesitation in endorsing this very useful volume for we know it will prove invaluable to anyone undertaking this line of study.”

Norman Whitehead and Quinton Moffett, writers of the above letter, have had many enquiries as to the genuineness of the Japanese method and it is interesting to have their ideas coinciding with mine in most particulars.  Just to what extent the nimbleness of one’s fingers counts is, in my mind, questionable.  I have large hands and large fingers, the very opposite to the Japanese, and yet, after taking a few days to overcome awkwardness, I have been able to manipulate the chick as laid down in the book.

It will be noted that they mention the prevailing idea that the Japanese use extraordinary powers.  This idea is readily understandable.  Erroneous as it may be, the Occidental regards the Oriental as a mystic.  The impression has been handed down to us for generations but a perusal of the modern Japanese magazine, with page after page devoted to sport, baseball particularly, leaves one with the conviction that the Japanese mind of today is definitely western.  It has been a pleasure to meet Mr. Takahashi, publisher of the Japan Poultry Journal; Mr. Yamaguch, assistant editor of the same journal, and Mr Yogo, the expert now demonstrating and teaching in Canada and the Pacific States.  Talking with these gentlemen leaves one with the impression that their problems are ours and they show intense interest in the welfare of the industry internationally and are eager to compare notes.  They are tremendously proud of the fact that from their country has come a discovery of world economic importance.

Injury to chicks

“Is the chick injured by the examination?” is a question constantly cropping up.  An expert handling the chicks positively does them no injury.  A beginner might possible hold the chick so tightly at first that it suffocates, but anyone used to handling chicks at this stage quickly adjusts the pressure to the chick’s comfort.  Inverting the cloaca is likely to cause a rupture of the internal organs if not done correctly but observations on chicks handled twenty or thirty times by beginners and subsequently put into batteries would seem to indicate that they are not even then affected.  When the cloaca is opened properly the chick does not seem to suffer any more than being toe-punched – and that is not at all.  The best age seems to be from 12 to 30 hours from leaving the incubator.  Good strong chicks are more easily determined than culls.

How to Commence

Now, as to the use of the text book.  When you first look over the text and study illustration you may think it looks very complicated.  You will be interested in the first two chapters but the real study commences at Chapter Three.  Read this very carefully, study the photographs and memorize just how to pick up the chicks.  You can go no further now without live chicks and having a supply of these, even if only half a dozen, spend several hours picking them up and holding them in the position necessary for the examination of the cloaca.  Don’t try to determine the sex.  Learn to open the cloaca without suffocating the chick.  Until the cloaca is opened properly, no matter how good the eyesight, the genital eminence cannot be observed.  The Japanese say “learn to see with your fingers,” which means that on the manipulation of the fingers rests the ability to see the formations of the cloaca.  Finger manipulation must be perfected before accurate deductions are possible.  At this stage it is wise to leave the book alone except the text concerning this one phase.

After becoming thoroughly familiar with opening the cloaca is time enough to look for the genital eminence.  Some of the males will be very easy to determine and for the next several days look for the males, never mind the females.  Day by day you will be able to see more and more of the formations of the folds, where at first you can see nothing.  Gradually you will be able to differentiate between one type and another and between the sexes, comparing what you see in the chick with what the book describes and illustrates.  Steady practice alone will take you on from this stage.  There are no short cuts.

A Breeder’s Problem

In a study of the different types of eminences the thought has been expressed that it might develop into a breeders’ problem inasmuch as the various types maybe inherited, to be fixed by breeding.  If such should be the case much good would be accomplished by selecting those chicks that are most easily determined.

The next few months will teach us a lot.  Chick sexing has definitely arrived and in the near future it will, in all likelihood, be everyday practice in hatcheries and breeding establishments to separate the sexes at time of hatching.