If you’re thinking about expanding your flock or getting into backyard chickens for the first time, you will need to decide on what breed of chicken you desire. The easiest way to answer this question is to ask yourself why you want the chickens. Do you want them because you are interested in becoming more self-sufficient? Is a colorful flock or different colored eggs important to you? Is there a desire to help preserve a declining heritage breed, or……….is it simply the opportunity to get fresh daily eggs? For me, ……..it’s ALL ABOUT THE EGG and there’s no better egg producing hen than a sex-link chicken.
Now….before all you heritage breed enthusiasts send me out to the firing squad, let me say that I do applaud your desire to preserve some of these declining breeds. I think that’s great! Everyone should be passionate about something. It’s just that the Heritage breed “passion” is not for me. I simply want enough eggs on a daily basis for my family to eat and I find that my 3 sex-link chickens meet my expectations. We all know that the Heritage breeds lay less and generally take a break or slow down in the winter, but sex-links consistently lay way more eggs and continue throughout the entire year. For me, it’s kinda like the 1972 Oldsmobile that my father drove with its 455 V8 engine which sucked gas like there was no tomorrow. Fast track 40 years later and we’ve developed more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. Sure, it’s nice to see those old cars on the road from time to time, but I’m glad that the auto industry has made more fuel-efficient cars for us to drive today.
Now, sex-links aren’t a breed. In fact, they are a hybrid that has been crossed between 2 layer breeds. They may be called ISA Browns, Red Sex-Links, Shaver Browns, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets or Red Stars depending on the specific breeds that were used in crossing. They are all referred to as sex-links because each gender hatches out in a different color, making it very easy to determine the “boys” from the “girls”. This is a great attribute which rules out the possibility of getting a bunch of soon to be roosters when buying some straight-run chicks from the local hatchery. But best of all, these hens generally become EGG LAYING MACHINES at around 18-22 weeks of age! I’m not talking about 250 eggs per year like many heritage breed hens. My 3 hens each consistently laid one egg almost every single day in their first year of production. I know for a fact that I collected over 350 eggs that year from each of my hens. It didn’t matter if it was 80 degrees in August or frigid temps in January or February……3 eggs almost every day! (I do supply additional light in the Winter.) And I’m not taking about large eggs…these eggs are ginormous! I’ve weighed some of these eggs and a few have come in at a quarter pound! The only down side is that the eggs are soooooooo darn big that they can’t properly fit into the egg carton! Well……at least for 2 of my hens. If you’ve “followed” me before, you may remember that I do complain about the Ping-Pong size egg that Swifer lays most days.
Anyways, I’ve had these chickens for almost 2 years now and they still continue to provide us with at least 18 eggs/wk. They’ve all gone through a molt and it never really interrupted egg production for 2 of my hens. There were some “bumps” in the road during the molt like a few “softies”, but no major drop in egg production that had us running out to the grocery store to buy those “other ones”. As for temperament, these hens are pretty laid back as well. Dominance has never really been an issue. I can’t say I ‘ve ever seen any displays of aggression except when I introduced Rosie to the flock and Swifer gave her a good beatin’ for a few weeks. But overall, they generally get along well….even when they’re subjected to tight quarters like a 3 hour trip to the cottage. There also doesn’t seem to be much that throws them off their egg laying schedule. Usually the first snow fall of the season might set one of them back for a day, but other “disruptions” like a trip to the cottage doesn’t seem to throw them off their game. As for noise, they’re generally pretty quite. The egg song has been an issue occasionally, and they do squawk a bit in the warmer months when they want out of the run, but by no means would I say that the level was invasive to a neighbor. With regards to becoming broody, this has also never been an issue.
I can’t say enough good things about these ISA Brown Hens that I’ve had for the last 2 years. Did I just get lucky? Maybe, but I don’t think so because I have encouraged others to give these chickens a try and they always come back saying what great layers their new hens have become.
So………if you’re thinking about adding to the flock this Spring or just jumping in to backyard chickens for the first time, than I urge you to consider giving these chickens a try. What they may lack in appearance (Don’t worry girls, I think you’re all gorgeous!) they sure make up for in temperament and egg production.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, CLICK HERE for my page on Hybrid vs Heritage Breed Chickens.
I’ve never heard of them being referred to as sex-link chickens! There you go, you learn something new everyday! I have 5 chooks – 2 x Hy-lines, 1 x Isa Brown, 1 x Wyandotte and 1 x Orpington. My Wyandotte is my best layer. Okay, she does occasionally go broody for 2-3 days, but then back to laying. Some of her eggs are 100grams and she is a bantam! On the other hand, our “sex-link” hens don’t lay nearly as much. They are all nearly 2 years old except for the Orpington who is 15months.
Thanks for your comments. I’m surprised your sex-links aren’t great egg producers. Yahoo for your Wyandotte and the bantam who wants to be a “big girl”.
I started out with sex-link chickens, but I’ll never go back. They’re selectively breed for one year of amazing production, and then they’re replaced by the next generation. Within the second year, many of the hens began laying soft, sometimes absent shells. All my other breeds consistently lay wonderful thick eggs, albeit not as often.
Just something to take into consideration. I was amazed at the amount of great eggs they could produce for that first year, but my values lie more with keeping a more natural, hearty, consistent layer that I can at least get 3 years out of.
I have not experienced this in their second year of lay. They are all around 6 months into their second “egg laying” year and continue to lay daily hard shell eggs.
Thanks for your comments.
If you chickens lay soft shelled eggs, they are low in calcium. Save your egg shells and crush them up and feed them back to the chickens. That should help improve the hardness of the shells.
Though it is true than calcium deficiency is associated with “softies”, it can also make an appearance during a molt. During this time, the hen is “firing up” her reproductive system once again and sometimes the egg gets “rushed” along and doesn’t get as much calcium as needed. If the “softies” continue, than you are correct……the hen may not be getting all the calcium she needs. Thanks for your comments.
Yep, I agree with Erik, I choose my heritage breeds, not because they were pretty or rare, but because they are better foragers (which reduced my feed costs), better at avoiding predators like hawks because they haven’t had all their wild instincts breed out of them (this is important for any chicken that is free ranging and foraging on their own), and they lay for many more years. The breeder I bought my chickens from said that he regularly has chickens laying for 8 -10 years. I’d much rather have a chicken that lays every other day but can do that for a nearly a decade than a chicken that lays every day for one or two years.
Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts. How long have you had your hens? What breed? How’s production?
i would like to know where you get your chickens…
Your local feed store should sell them this Spring. Give them a call and I’m sure they will help.
I’m totally new to this but have 1 Gold Sex Link. She’s my favorite (the others are 1 Barred Rock, 1 Black Australorp, 1 Black English Orpington, and 1 Silver Lacey Wyandotte. My Gold Sex Link is my friendliest and funniest. And she just started laying a few weeks ago and has hardly missed a day.
Thanks for your comments. I find them to be very friendly as well. Best of successs with your flock.
I loved my sex-link chickens. They were all the things you said about them. I had a couple of my girls for nearly two years and never saw a decrease in production or the quality of their eggs. I had to sell the girls are we are getting ready to move, but once we get moved, I plan to buy more of them.
Thanks for your comments on the “girls”. Best of success when you jump back in with chickens.
Thanks for this article. I have Buff Orpingtons, and Austrolorps. I may give these a try next spring. ~Deborah
Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for the great article. I do enjoy reading about your girls’ escapades, especially Swiffer! My husband and I have had chickens since last summer: 1 Wyandotte, 1 Light Brahma, 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks and 2 Cinnamon Queens (named Twist and Toast). Despite it being winter, they are all laying like gangbusters…4 to 6 eggs per day, usually 6 and we do not supplement with light. We are in the southeastern US so we have more daylight hours than you do. Although my initial interest was for eggs I had no idea the girls would be so entertaining! I had been curious about how far your trips to the cottage were and see from this piece that they are a 3 hour trip. We are looking at a vacation spot about 4 hours away. We would like to take the girls for week long trips but don’t want to stress them.
Thanks for your comments. Congrats on all the eggs! You are correct, the “girls” provide lots of enjoyment and some great writing opportunities. With regards to the trip, I can only tell you it has never been an issue for my hens. In fact, I think they enjoy the cottage because it provides greater free ranging opportunities. You just may need to consider how to house them at your vacation spot so that they remain safe. I use a chicken ark that I built for these times away.
Oh, we sure have not seen any eggs that large, wow!
They don’t come that often. I’m sure the “girls” are thankful for that!
I’ve never heard of them being called that. I have a few friends that have chickens, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
Thanks for the opportunity.
I have a group of five hens. All different. One is a red sex-link Her name is Copper and she was the first to start laying eggs. She’s only been laying for about 2 months but she is the one who is always consistent on her egg laying. This surprised me since it’s winter time. But eventually they all started laying and lay almost everyday. I think the red sex-links are beautiful. I so enjoy your blog. You’re so informative on so many things and you really can tell a story in a very interesting and comical way. p.s. I can’t believe how big those eggs are!
I’m glad you are getting lots of eggs. Thanks for your kind words regarding my blog. I hope you’ll drop by again.
Thanks for sharing with us at The HomeAcre Hop!
Please join us again Thursday at:
thanks for the opportunity.
Sorry to so forcefully disagree, but I see your blog post as being severely misguided. When you promote the purchase of sex-linked hybrids you are, in essence, promoting the financial support of an industrial agricultural system that makes humans obese, crams chickens into millions of small cages without regard to their welfare, and drives into extinctions the heritage chicken breeds that have nobly served humankind for thousands of years. Playing it off as just another trivial personal choice obscures the moral dimensions of this decision. I strongly disagree with your premise in this blog. You are in effect shilling for the poultry equivalent of buying Monsanto seeds.
Thanks for your respectful comments. Though I do not agree with all that you wrote, I do applaud your conviction.
And thanks for your respectful reply. Great looking blog by the way.
Hope you’ll drop by again.
I have two (2 years old this spring) that I was told were called ‘Golden Sex Links’ – I guess born golden in color, but now are beautiful redheads 🙂 They have been good egg layers, though this winter they have slowed down a little. I’m in Texas where it is not a horrid winter, but we have had some real cold snaps. Everyone slowed down, but when I get eggs, they’re most likely from these two girls. I’ve read that they can be prone to health issues, but mine (knock on wood) haven’t seemed to. I’ve also read that they can be quirky in their behavior – that is definitely true – I sometimes find them sleeping in the dust bath in the coop instead of up on the perch. I got worried the first couple times that happened, and picked them up to check them out – they squawked and flew up to the perch. Later when I checked them again, they were back in the dust, lol. I guess they wanted a change of pace or something. I enjoy your blog – thanks so much for sharing your chicken experiences 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to write your comments and provide feedback for my blog. I’m glad you are enjoying your chickens. They sure are a blast.
Well I’m glad we haven’t purchased any chickens yet, this seems like just what we are seeking. Thanks for sharing again on Tuesdays With a Twist.
You’re welcome. Thanks for the opportunity.
I started my 1st flock with a red and gold sexlink, for me they weren’t very hardy to disease. I found for best egg production, and low feed requirements nothing beats the Rhode Island Red. Nice, great laying, even in winter, long life span, low feed. I had 2 hampshire reds, big mistake! Eat tons of food, and no bigger eggs… lesson learned…
Thanks for your comments. Hopefully my post and other folks’ comments will help readers to make an educated decision regarding chick selection. Thanks for your RIR “shout out”.
I agree! I have two red sexlinks and they are fabulous, laying about a dozen eggs per week for my family. Love them!
I’m choosing this blog post to feature at the From the Farm blog Hop tomorrow. Don’t forget to stop by and see, and link up again with us! 😀
Thanks for the “feature”. See you tomorrow!
I grew up on a farm where my aunt had 250 to 300 egg laying white leghorns. My dad is 90 this year, and he still remembers buffing the eggs to take to town (as do I), and tells me when he was a kid, they also kept only white leghorns since they would produce an egg most every day, summer or frigid winter. I now have one pearl white leghorn, and she has been the earliest & MOST consistent layer, only stopping during a short molt. I have one golden sexlink, and she is laying a huge brown egg almost every day, as is the Rhode Island Red hen! I also keep heritage breed hens, and have a wonderful bowl full of colorful eggs every day (some of the Americanas are now 5 years old and older, still laying eggs). We enjoy various shades of green, pink, brown, speckled brown, blue, and white eggs.
As for soft shells, I do not recommend feeding back egg shells, unless you bake them first. Better still, is to put your eggshells into the garden soil by your tomato plants, and purchase oyster shell to sprinkle in the feed for your hens. Feeding eggshells can promote egg eating, a difficult habit to break in your hen house.
Thanks for your input regarding the sex link hens.
Hi Horse Granny,
Thanks for sharing your childhood memories. It’s great that your Americanas are still laying. I hope I have that success with my “girls”. Hope you’ll drop by again.
I found out I didn’t like any other bird than an Isa Brown too! They are the best layers. They are also very hardy for our Michigan winters. We will be getting them again this Spring!
Another great “shout out” for ISA Browns!
This was a encouraging article, I have 3 red sexlinks and 2 Plymouth Bars (the marble colored ones??) 16 weeks, wasn’t sure what I was getting, I wanted eggs and the guy said these were the ones.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised by week #18-20.
I’m going into my 4th year of having chickens. I started out with over twenty birds only to lose have the flock to coons and possums! So, I did two things…One, I got a coon dog for the coons and secondly I bought a trap for the possums.Guess what… I have not lost a bird since and I am getting 5 eggs a day from nine hens.
My replacement is six Golden Sex chicks which I bought from TSC 3 weeks ago. Wish me luck.
By the way, I haven’t seen a coon since I got the dog and I killed seven possums with the trap in just a month.
Enjoying your blogs!
Old farm-raised American boy (now in my 60s) just getting back into the world of barnyard antics. Being a product of agriculture going citified… I’m really looking forward to starting a backyard flock. I’m trying to protect the heritage by starting with 1 Plymouth Barred, 1 RIR and just to prove I’m “modern” 1 Gold Sex Link.
We’ll see how 3 super-layers compare on an even playing field.
I’d like any input or thoughts of how these or other breeds do with harassment. I know my two labs will have to go through some “adjustment training” but in the interim….. chickens will be harassed. I won’t even attempt free-range for the first 3 months.
I love that you take them to your cottage. I have a cottage I never use because of my chickens needing to be fed, tucked in, and let out in the morning. Right now, I have over 25. Perhaps if I downsized a bit later on, I could build or get them a trailer to go to the lake in. It might seem odd to the neighbors, but it would work for me.
Hey guys! Obviously I’m like, a couple years behind on finding this article, lol… but I’m glad to find it! We just started our flock this year, and by sheer providence/dumb luck the local garden store had golden sex links in when I went to go buy. Didn’t know anything about them when I bought them, and have discovered it’s hard to find much specific info about them online, especially about when they are ‘supposed’ to start laying. So thank you for the article! My girliebirds are almost 17 weeks, and I noticed one of them hiding in the grass and acting all weird today… I think she’s getting ready! question: are there any tricks to help ‘teach’ them to use their nesting boxes? They seem to have like, zero interest in them so far. Thanks!
You can help them along by putting a “decoy” plastic egg in the nest box, but I’d just wait it out and see if they figure it out on their own. You should be getting eggs any time soon.
If eggs are what you are after than you picked the right breed. I also got 6 sex-link chicks and they started laying right at 17 weeks old.
thanks! I can’t wait! Eighteen weeks tomorrow, woohoo!
Just moved to the country a year ago. Some great friends gave me Polish chickens, four Hans and five roosters. The neighbors traded four of my roosters for one Rhode Island red and one Americana. Two weeks ago I purchased for red sex link, for gold sex link, for black sex link, and three cinnamon Queens. Three of the four black sex link died the first night. The feed store replaced them. I replace the dead ones with one black sex link and two black Australops, I didn’t trust getting more black sex links. I’ve been reading up on the breeds and came across your blog. I’ve learned a lot from your blog, and I’m excited to see what happens in June when they start laying.