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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sex and the Chicken: Girls & Boys

I was chatting with my friend Maya Reynolds the other day and she always asks me a ton of questions about the chickens. Our last conversation was about sex and how to tell the boys from the girls.

In many birds you can't tell gender until they mature. And in some breeds, like emu and rhea, not even then.

In our younger days we used to raise rhea and emu and became the local experts, even earning a bit of celebrity in tv and newspapers. In a roundabout way, it also launched my writing career. Who knew fondling a big bird's peas and carrots would turn me into a writer? Life is very strange sometimes.

So for all of your prurient pleasure, here's the lowdown. It's called vent-sexing, and yes, it's just like it sounds. You take the bird in question and with your fingers, spread the vent until something pops out. If it's a boy rhea or emu, a long, whitish penis furls out. 

It looks hideous. There's just no other way to say it. I would've posted pictures, but I don't want to be accused of bird porn.

Besides, what does it say about you if you want to see such things? LOL. So trust me. It's gross.

Even though we sexed and banded our rheas and emu when they were young birds, we always had to re-sex them to assure the buyer of what he was getting. I'd make the buyer crouch down with me so he could inspect the bird while Greg held the beast down.

Let me tell you, the person who holds the big bird has to be incredibly strong and must like you a lot. If he lets go, the person at the other end (moi) would be placed in serious danger. 

Ratites (rhea, emu, ostrich) are ALL legs, and they're powerful kickers. There are stories where people have been gutted by an adult ostrich. You do not take chances with an animal sporting claws sharp enough to split you open.

I learned to be quick and realized Greg must really like me because I never once got hurt while he was holding them down.

If anyone asks me if I trust my husband with my life, I'd say yes. He's proved it dozens of times over.

We do not vent-sex chicken chicks. In the first place, you'll find out what they are in a few months anyway. And in the second place, clumsy handling could kill a young chick. Unless you're an expert (and there are very few) the next best way to sex a (chicken) chick is by feather-sexing. 

A few hours after hatching, the chicks will have dried off. Females will have staggered short and long layers of feathers at the tip of their wings. The wingtips of the males will be all the same length. After a few days you won't be able to tell the difference, so you'll want to feather-sex them within the first couple of days.

A few breeds of chickens, called sex-link chickens, display gender at hatching--but I don't have any of those. For us, it doesn't matter. If they're girls, we keep them. If they're boys...well, let's just say only a few boys get to sow their oats. But we'll talk about that in a future post.

During my upcoming blog tour some unlucky host is going to get my Sex and the Chicken: the Randy Rooster post. I haven't decided who's getting that one yet. I promise, it'll have something to do with Apocalypse Rising.

Is there anything special you want to know about chicken porn--I mean sex? 


Darke Conteur said...

Lol...eeewwwwww! Too funny! Now I have to ask, what is the reaction to the answer, from people who ask that question?

Liz Fichera said...

Oh.My.God. I'm totally bookmarking this post. It's one of the most interesting I've read in weeks. Chicken porn?! Must remember that one...

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: LOL. If they're not raising birds, usually it's a 'ewwwww' reaction. If they are raising them, the men puff out their chests with that 'of course' look (like they always knew this. ha!) and women nod their heads and take notes.

Liz: Ha! Glad you liked it, Liz. The animal world never ceases to fascinate me.

Sherri said...

All I never wanted to know...


LOL, I think Maya gets the follow up post!

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: LOL. I'd rather read about chicken sex than Charlie Sheen's sexcapades.

Mason Canyon said...

Sometimes in the animal world we take for granted. Interesting.

Thoughts in Progress

Angela Felsted said...

This is one of the most entertaining posts I have read all morning. Love it.

Maria Zannini said...

Mason: One of my childhood dreams would have been to work in a zoo. I got as far as a veterinary anesthesiologist--then life put me on another path.

Angela: Oh, wait until I tell you about their mating rituals. LOL.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i love these posts. Honestly, i would have really enjoyed pictures as well.
What did you raise the rhea (rheas? I'm actually unsure of the pluralization of rhea...) for? Meat? I've just never heard of anyone raising rhea. Ostriches and emus, sure.
Also, i'd love to know if you slaughter your own rooster for meat? Though i'm sure you'll talk about that in the upcoming post you hinted at

Angelina Rain said...

Wow, cool post, but I have to thank you for not posting pictures. Bird porn is not for me. The feather thing is interesting. Now I wish I could find a new-hatched chick to see if I could spot the difference.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Wow, sounds dangerous!
We see emus or rheas (not sure which) sometimes where we go motorcycle riding. They're so cool to see because they're so unusual looking.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Wait a minute. Couldn't you have just shown the birds a little birdie porn and wait for the icky white penis to pop out on it's own? I mean, it's got to happen sometime or there would be no baby birds, right?

(Absolutely every other comment that lept to my mind would have gotten us thrown off Blogger for life. *grin*)

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: The rhea, emu and ostrich were raised for the meat market. And yes, we always do our own butchering, then and now.

PS The plural of rhea is rheas.

Angelina: I'll try to remember to take pictures of feather-sexing.

Amanda: I should've posted a picture of an emu. You can easily see the difference. Rheas look like female ostriches. Emus have a punk look with a fly-away 'hair' look.

Linda: Hey, I run a clean shop. Besides they have no problem getting in the mood. It's the hens that need convincing.

Joanne said...

Is there anything more fascinating than Mother Nature? What is it they say ... Fact is stranger than fiction ...

Cathy in AK said...

You post brings back some fond memories : ) When I was a wildlife biology/management student in North Dakota, we had to sex and band ducks several times, taking extra care with the smaller species (teals, buffleheads) so we wouldn't hurt them. Though not as large as rheas and emus (thank goodness), ducks that have had a net shot over their heads, get scooped up by college students, then flipped upside down, placed between human legs and "vented" are not happy critters. But at least they didn't have sharp claws that can gut you : P

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: You never stop learning either. There's always something new.

Cathy: The quacking must have been deafening. LOL. I'll bet you got pretty good at it too. :)

Ellie said...

Oh, my. After that I don't think I ever want to read about chicken sex/porn again. Hehehe...even that now sounds pornographic.

Sarah Allen said...

This is so hilarious :) Great pictures too.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: Can you imagine all the Google searches I'll get now for chicken porn? :sigh:

Sarah: Hi Sarah, and welcome. I am amusing on occasion--but almost always by accident. :o)

Nas Dean said...

This was funny but informative. Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

BTW, I'm hosting Roland D Yeomans today, who self-published his book THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS and is sharing his journey with us as well as a four book giveaway!

L'Aussie said...

Gee Maria I picked a good day to come by and say hi, long time...Now I get an eyeful of chick porn. Egad. I've had such an education. I used to keep chooks when I lived on a hobby farm but I managed to stay innocent lol.

I read your previous post too about guest blogging. I'd be happy to host you any, I'd be happy to host anyone anytime I think.


Jenny Schwartz said...

Humour and terror -- goes down high on my list of "Jobs I do not want".

Maria Zannini said...

Nas: Thanks for stopping by.

L'Aussie: Thanks, Denise! Maybe for the next book.

Ref: I used to keep chooks when I lived on a hobby farm but I managed to stay innocent lol.

I tried to stay innocent--obviously I drifted. :)

Jenny: Come on, Jenny. Where's your sense of adventure?

Mike Keyton said...

The question is whether 'bird-porn' will ever take over from 'chick-lit'. Great post, Maria. I never realised I wanted to know so much about chickens. The venting business reminded me of an obscure obscenity found in the Beatles 'Penny Lane'. But that's how my poor sad mind works.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I'm going to have to listen to Penny Lane again. I don't remember an obscenity--or maybe I wasn't looking for one.

Mike Keyton said...

It's one peculiar to Liverpool and made every schoolboy choke

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Just that chicken porn has now been added to my lexicon. Also, that whole venting thing gives me science fiction alternate species ideas...

Heh, chicken porn.