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

    Hi The Organic Viking,

    It will be interesting to see how it all turns out in the end!

    Hi Pamela

    That treatment of the chicks sounds nasty.

    I’ve tried candling the eggs, watch this space!

    Hi Pat

    I so want Mrs Boss to have a family that she can keep! Fingers crossed.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I’m hoping that it works. Interesting and fun though. Ideally we’d like all hens as we’ve decided that we are going to grit our teeth and eat any cockerels.

    Hi Marianne

    Blue eggs are beautiful – I can see the attraction.

    If my prediction is correct yours might not be – I reckon that it’s a 50:50 gamble.

    Hi Lizzy

    I’m sorry but I don’t know the answer to your question. She might be slightly allergic to something in your feed. But what can you do about that? If she is happy, bright eyed and alert I wouldn™t worry. If she becomes listless and is loosing condition ring your vet for advice.

    Make sure that the lock have fresh water every day, are free of lice and worms (there are treatments for these, available from your vet) and have access to oyster shells and grit. Give the feeder and water fountain a good scrub each week and clean your hen house weekly.

    On the one hand chickens are easy. However, sometimes I reckon that they are complex creatures and caring for them is not as straightforward as some people suggest.

    Hi Debbie

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I have a great smoky crystal pendulum but have mislaid it!

    Great to hear that the method had worked well for you.

    Hi Rebecca

    It™s hard. We hoped that Carol was female and were so relieved when we discovered that she was a pullet. Hope that the ones that you like turn out to be hens!

    Hi Jennifer

    This is the 64,000 dollar question what ever post it appears on!

    I only post recipes that I think work well so our ten minute soup recipes may be worth looking at re spices.

    I research my dishes through our cookbooks and the internet. I chose a spice such as coriander and read widely about the herbs and spices that combine well over a couple of days. Then I try a combination the next week. A fresh approach with digested knowledge seems to work for me. Although I™m no expert.

    Why not try keeping the herbs and spices down to two or three and work with the flavour of the vegetables and stock as well. If you have a great home made stock you can refine down to just one spice or herb.

    Depth of flavour in a ten minute soup has to come from the stock. Now we are onto a territory that is so big that I reckon I will never find the edges.

    Why not get back to basics. Simple clear flavours that sing. Then gradually build up the depth and structure of flavours.

  2. Jennifer

    This comment doesn’t technically fit here but oh well. I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed myself so far. But I have a question about your quick soup recipes…I can make ten minutes soups out of whatever is in the fridge or cupboard but I am having trouble seasoning. Somehow I have fallen into this complexity rut where I use five to ten spices, pastes, etc but then often find my soups either too overpowering or colorful and pungent yet bland. Do you have any advice on how to build simple but strong flavors? Thanks!

  3. Rebecca

    We have the same problem. We now have 8 little chicks running around in the coop, with no way of telling if they are hens or cockerels. As we only plan to keep two of them, I’m hoping that my favourites turn out to be hens!

  4. Hello, I have used the pendulum method for years and it has always worked…altho I used an actual crystal pendulum and not an amethyst ring on a string…it is one of life’s great mysteries.

  5. Can anyone help! we have 5 hens, 2 goldlines (Princess Layer and Nugget) and a babcock (Anikhen) which we hatched and are now 14 wks old, and 2 amber pol pullets (Roastie & Paxo). My question is that the babcock (Anikhen)has always had very noisy!!! watery droppings, she is healthy and bright and we dont know whether this is just how she is or if she has a problem?
    We are still very new to all this and want to get it right.

  6. Marianne

    I would love to get some hatching eggs, great education for the children. I would love some blue egg laying hens. Will wait and see if your are correct first.

  7. Kate(uk)

    We sex unborn family babies with the pendulum method- 100% accurate thus far.Possibly less reliable on chickens than with humans…

  8. Ohhhhh can’t wait to see if your method works!! Also waiting here in eager anticipation. And finding out how Mrs. Boss gets on with her new little family. 🙂

  9. Hello Fiona

    I clicked on the link at the end and found myself in a way too much information situation there! I much prefer the idea of the pendulum technique. I saw a programme once where someone was sexing day old chicks which involved making the chicks poop. I was most upset about how the chicks were literally being thrown around. Are you going to wait and see if they hatch or will you check before to see if the eggs are fertilised?

  10. The Organic Viking

    I wait with eager anticipation…

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