August 14, 2011 7:45 pm
The job: Chick sexer
As told to Friederike Heine
John Loughlin, Broiler Breeders Australia
My job is to determine the sex of day-old chicks in order to split them into broilers for meat or layers for eggs, using a method known as vent sexing. The chick’s genital eminence is the size of a pin head – the bird must be held under a 200W light bulb to illuminate the genitalia. I then squeeze the anal vent, which allows me to see whether the chick has a small bump, indicating that it is a male.
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I normally sex 6,000-10,000 chicks a day – the average chick sexer will sex about 1m chicks per year. The most I ever sexed in one day was 14,200 and my record for one week was 53,000.
There are different types of sexers – so-called “colour” or “feather” sexers are able to determine the sex of chickens by external characteristics when the hatchlings are four to six weeks old. This sort of sexing does not require a lot of training, whereas “vent“ sexing is a lot more tricky.
I have worked in the industry for over 40 years, and it has changed a lot. Certain strands of sexing have died out completely because the process has become automated – many people now use machines. Apparently there is now even an influx of Indian sexers who are cheaper to hire. I may be quite costly, but my accuracy rate never fails me.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.