Chicken FAQ: How to Magically Select Pullet Chicks at the Feed Store

Sure, you want to buy baby chicks this year, but what if you only want pullet chicks? None of those nasty crowing roosters? If so, you’re like a lot of people. Corvallis, for example, has an ordinance forbidding roosters in town, but hens are okay.

The problem is that the feed stores normally have straight-run chicks. That is, boys and girls together. What do do? Time’s a’wasting, since the baby chicks will hit the stores in a couple of weeks.

Learning chick sexing is difficult and disgusting. See this video from Dirty Jobs if you don’t believe me!


Chipmunk Stripes = Pullet Chicks

Well, that was fun, but what does it have to do with do-it-yourself chick sexing at the feed store? I’ll tell you. The feed store will have at least one of these breeds for sale:

  • Rhode Island Reds
  • New Hampshire Reds
  • Production Reds

All these breeds have something in common: The chicks with chipmunk stripes on their backs are females! Well, maybe not all, but at least 95%. And if you pick only the ones with well-defined chipmunk strips, it’s more like 100%.

Most people don’t know this, so the chicks aren’t likely to have been picked over by other customers. Just make the feed store clerk pick out the ones with the racing stripes because “they’re pretty,” and don’t take no for an answer. Voila! Sexed chicks at straight-run prices!

(People have asked me, “What do you mean, ‘chipmunk stripes’?” You’ll know ’em when you see em. Most of the chicks won’t have any stripes down their backs at all. On some, the stripes on their backs will be faint, and others, they’ll be clear. Get the ones with the most clearly defined stripes.

White Head Spots = Male Chicks

On barred rocks, the cockerels tend to have big, solid white spots on the tops of their heads, and yellow feet. Pullets tend to have smaller, more uneven spots and dark feet. Select the most pullet-y of the chicks and you won’t go wrong.

Plenty More Tips Where Those Came From

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And if you think that’s clever, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s one of the least useful facts in my book, Success With Baby Chicks. Just by reading this book, you become a chick-rearing expert. Imagine how much more pleasure you’ll get when you’re completely successful every time.

I read hundreds of poultry books, extension bulletins, research papers, and magazine articles when researching this book, stretching from 100 years ago to the present day. I discovered many useful facts and techniques that have been forgotten, like the chipmunk-stripe trick. And it’s all been reduced to 155 clear and straightforward pages. You will reap the rewards of my years of work in a couple of hours!

Buy the book before you get your chicks, so you know what to do, not what you should have done.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

6 thoughts on “Chicken FAQ: How to Magically Select Pullet Chicks at the Feed Store”

  1. Robert, your blog posts are excellent. For this one it occurred to me though that I dont know the difference between a “well defined chipmunk stripe” and one that’s not so much. A picture of a good one and a bad one would sure help. But, of course, we all have unlimited time for such things….

  2. Great tip. My local feed stores do get all-pullet chicks in several popular laying breeds, as well as a few straight run batches. Bantams though come not only S/R but also all breeds mixed together!

  3. As soon as you can see the beginnings of pin feathers on wings (even on bantams this rule works), if the coverts sit directly on top of the primaries, they are roosters. If the coverts are layered in between the primaries, they are hens.
    I haven’t tried it, but was told this on a plane. The guy next to me owns a company that sexes chicks (his dad was brought over by Tyson in the 50’s from Japan to do this). I hope I have the top and nestled sex part right. I’d hate to have it backward.

  4. I’m trying to remember … well, that’s not working, so I’m looking in up in “Genetics of the Fowl” ( The males come out with white down and the females darker.

    One advantage of buying sex-linked crosses from hatcheries is that they can’t get away with putting in so many males “by mistake,” so you actually get the pullets you’re paying for. In the feed store, of course, you can tell the genders apart easily and select what you want.

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