Hands holding day-old chicks©KeystoneUSA-ZUMA/Rex

The unique – and fairly obscure – chick-sexing profession has been thrust into the spotlight recently, with a lack of willing workers creating a headache for hatchery owners.

A shortage of “chick sexers”, which determine the gender of day-old chicks at a rate of about 1,000/hour, has enjoyed coverage in The Times, The Daily Mail and The Independent newspapers.

See also: Read more poultry news

The high salary, lack of new entrants and phrase “chick sexing” all appear to have captured the attention of news editors across the world.

The problem has grown so acute that the British Poultry Council called on the government to have the job listed as one with a “chronic staff shortage”.

This status, which was not granted, would have allowed the poultry industry to recruit from abroad more easily.

Andrew Large, chief executive of the BPC, toldThe Times that even a £40,000/year salary was not enough to attract new entrants.

He reportedly said: “I think the problem is the job itself. You are spending hours every day staring at the backside of a chick.

“That is not seen as being attractive. In South East Asia a chick sexer is a high-status job. In the UK it is more likely to be the butt of humour.”

He added there were between 100 and 150 chick sexers in the UK, and a shortage of workers is resulting in export markets being lost.

It takes three years to train fully for the role, which requires high levels of dexterity and good eyesight.