The Cottage Smallholder

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Sexing the bantam eggs. An old wives’ tale?

lucky dip hatching eggsI stood in the bay window in Emma’s kitchen watching the bantams sunbathe like languid couples on a Greek island. I’d noticed that her bantams pairs tended to stick together whereas the Buff Orpingtons didn’t. In fact they couldn’t. There was just one Buff Orpington cockerel with a handful of pretty, plump wives.

“You couldn’t have six husbands and wives as the cockerels would fight. One always has to be the master of the flock. With the bantams it’s a bit different. They tend to stick to their breeds and we only have one pair of each breed.”
“But how do they know that they are the same breed without mirrors.”
“No idea. But they do.”

This was years before I started keeping chickens. I’d never really thought about the dynamics of a flock before.
“What happens if you get cockerels in a brood of chicks?”
“We try and find homes for them. It’s difficult as most people only want hens. Collecting eggs each day is fun. Cockerels used to be fattened up for the pot. Now people are a bit squeamish about eating their own stock. Especially if they have to kill them.”

She handed me a cup of coffee and added,
“My aunt keeps chickens, buys hatching eggs from breeders and has never had to deal with a cockerel for the last twenty years.”

I was intrigued. Emma explained that her aunt used a pendulum to discover the sex of the eggs. All supposed ˜male’ eggs were tossed in the bin.

When the box of hatching eggs arrived in the post from Eggmanellis, I thought that it would be fun to try this eccentric method of forecasting the sex of our chicks. I slung my amethyst ring on a length of cotton and worked out the parameters. If the ring followed a circular path above the egg the chick would be female. A simple, linear pendulum movement would indicate a male.

I closed the door to the rest of the cottage, opened the box of eggs and concentrated hard. The pendulum swung in a definite line over the Frizzle egg and moved in a circle above the other five. Good news, if it’s right. The Frizzle egg wasn’t tossed in the bin but put carefully under Mrs Boss with the rest of the eggs.

I’m on tenterhooks to see what we end up with when the chicks hatch out. Although it will be quite some time before we can accurately differentiate between pullets and young cockerels. I’ve checked the stats on using Old Wives’ methods – it’s 50:50.

If we do find that we have a cockerel or six, we can’t keep them and remain on speaking terms with our neighbours. A chirpy wake up call at the crack of dawn would not be welcome.

There appears to be no scientific method of sexing chicks in the egg. Meanwhile the standard methods of sexing day old chicks are outlined here.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Sonya

    Well only two chicks hatched. Both were supposed to be female and we got one male and one female. You can readabout it here

  2. Hi, I’m from far north Queensland in Australia and I also breed chooks. I use the pendulum on paw paw trees to determine male or female and it works. I have just started using it on my chicks but don’t know the results yet. I am dying to know what yours were. Please tell us!


  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mick

    Good luck. In London, bantam eggs sell at a premium as the yolks are so much bigger than the whites.

  4. Mick Lewis

    I am looking for somewhere to buy baantam eggs for eating. I am in Sussex.

  5. I’ve just discovered your site while trawling the internet for info to help me with my chicks which are in the process of hatching as we speak! have never done this before so i’ve spent all day watching them in the incubator trying to decide whether to help them out or not!! 1 has hatched so far, sadly 1 started hatching but died in the shell, 2 more have just pipped!! it’s so exciting!

  6. Debbie Mackay

    so what was the outcome of the pendent test on the eggs. Was it as predicted. Would love to know. I have searched through the site but can’t find the latest news on the outcome. Thanks Debbie.

  7. michelle sheets

    Hi Fiona,
    The “pendulum method” you describe has been known in my family for many years as “baby vodoo”. My mother performed this technique on people for many years, to tell them how many children they would have. She would take a needle and thread and poke it into the eraser end of a pencil, then suspend it over someones wrist. From a still state the pencil would start to spin, from there if the pencil swings one way its a boy, another way its a girl, with the spinning spans the space between children. When the pencil goes still, thats all the children someone is going to have.

    My mother tells the story about doing this for a woman at a party, and then the woman had my mother check her husband. He had the same result as his wife, then the pencil went into a spin and indicated 2 more children. They all laughed about it, but later the couple divorced, and he got remarried and had 2 more kids….

  8. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    A fascinating question!

    I’ve not come across the ‘pendulum’ method before but will try it next year, as I was recently given an exquisite amethyst pendulum which belonged to my dear-departed sister; don’t ask me how it works, but this exquisite work of vibrant, silken stone has already ‘rediscovered’ a (supposedly) long-lost & valuable document when we’d otherwise given up all hope of finding it.

    Meanwhile the only poultry-breeding success we’ve enjoyed so far this season, has been our Silkie hen’s positively Olympic record: she’s brooded, hatched & raised an amazing eleven cross-bred chicks – all of which are almost as big as she is already yet they still insist on snuggling beneath her generously ample wings, at bedtime.

    Despite our experience we’ve reecently neither bothered to vent-sex nor use the ‘pin-feather’ method on these decidedly cheeky chickens to determine who’s what; time will tell, after all – & regardless there are many delicious meals to be anticipated….with our happy hens enjoying a far better life than could otherwise ever be offered, in between.

  9. william

    just found your site by accident, for lizzy, i have found to much bread in their feed make droppings watery not sure if this will apply to you.

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