Sexing Orpington chickens, how to tell the boys from the girls.

A trio of white Orpingtons clearly showing the difference in the sexes.

There are only two accurate ways to sex Orpington chickens, the first is vent sexing and the second is DNA testing. Single laced Orpingtons can be eye line sexed as chicks and Partridge Orpingtons can be sexed as the males have a solid colour breast and the females have lacing.

All other types of Orpington chicks have to be sexed by their behaviour and secondary sexual characteristics.

Below: My partridge Orpington with chicks.

Orpingtons can be notoriously difficult to tell sex, I have some white Orpington growers that are nearly 10 weeks old now and I still can not tell definitively which are males and which are females.

How soon can you tell the sex of Orpington chickens?

You can tell the sex of an Orpington chicken by the time they are 8 to ten weeks of age. This is when they begin to develop their secondary characteristics that enable them to be sexed accurately.

Below: A fully grown buff Orpington cockerel. You can see the large red comb and the pointed hackle feathers.

It can take as long as 16 weeks to be 100% certain. I have had a 26 week old buff Orpington that I was 100% sure was a hen, until (s)he started to crow.

Orpington chicken hen vs rooster:

Table of the differences between male and female Orpingtons:

Characteristics Male (cockerel)Female (hen)
  • Boys generally feather up really really slowly and have bald patches.
  • Cockerels have more pointed feather tips.
  • Cockerels have shorter primary and secondary feathers as growers.
  • Older birds get pointier hackle feathers.
  • Pullets usually get their wing and tail feathers before cockerels.
  • Girls feathers are neater and more even.
  • Pullets have longer wing feathers as growers.
  • Older pullets have rounded hackle feathers.
Size.Cockerels are usually bigger. weight the chicks from 1 week of age.The hens will grow lighter than the males over time.
Head.Cockerels have a larger, more angular head.Hens have a smaller, rounder head.
Comb and wattles.The comb and wattles begin to grow earlier in the males and redden faster.The comb and wattles of the hens grow much more slowly and only redden at point of lay.
Legs. Cockerel have longer, thicker legs.Hens have shorter, more petite legs.
Stance.Cockerels stand more upright.Hens have a flatter posture.
Attitude. Cockerels are more aggressive.Hens tend to be submissive and more calm.

Spur growth only happens in much older birds and is not much help in sexing Orpingtron.

Can you feather sex Orpington chicks?

Orpingtons are not a feather sexable breed of chicken.

Determining the gender of a chicken by feather growth pattern is a trait that must be bred for by crossing a slow feathering breed with a fast one. 

It is not applicable to very many breeds at all and is mostly used in high production commercial hybrid lines so that poultry farms could quickly discard males and not waste money feeding them. 

Below: Orpingtons have not been bred to be feather sexed.

Orpingtons are not one of these commercial breeds and if you are able to feather sex them then are not a pure bred line.

What does a Orpington rooster look like?

The males are bigger and have larger features and pointed neck and back feathers. The hackle feathers are darker in most types but this does not develop until they are much older.

The males are 15% heavier than the hens and this can be measured as they grow.

 Below: A close up of a Buff Orpington cockerel.

What does an Orpington hen look like?

The hens are quieter and more calm. The females lack the pointed streamer feathers on the neck and back. The combs and wattles are noticeably smaller.

Below: A video of a Jubilee Orpington hen.

Breed specific ways to sex Orpingtons:

Sexing buff Orpingtons is made a little easier by the colour. There are subtle variations in down in the day-old chick can let you know your Buff Orpington's gender.

Both sexes have buff coloured down but the males have pale, whitish streaks in their down at the upper wing joints and females show faint brown lines on their backs and may have a brownish spot on their heads. 

Male buff Orpingtons also have darker feathers, especially around the hackles and females buffs are lighter in colour.

Laced Orpington chickens can be eye-line sexed as day old chicks.

Partridge Orpington chickens can be sexed as they feather because the males get a solid colour chest and the hens have lacing.