Hybrid vs. Heritage Breed Chickens

What you talkin' 'bout Willis?

What you talkin’ ’bout Willis?

Before you run out to get your chicks, pullets or hens, it’s important to establish the reason you want chickens.  Are they primarily pets?  Is it important that the flock be colorful? Do you want standard or bantam sizes or both? How important is egg production? If you answered yes to any of the first 3 questions, I cannot offer much help.  The following sites may be a good starting point for you.  http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html  http://www.backyardchickens.com/products/category/chicken-breeds  http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/which-breed-is-right-for-me.aspx

If your primary purpose is egg production than Hybrid hens (Commercial Layers), is the way to go.  These hens (also called sex-links) are the best that you are going to get in the egg production department.

Heritage breeds lay on average 200 -250 eggs per year.  They also taper off or stop laying completely in the Winter because of diminished day light hours.  Hybrids, on the other hand, are not affected my seasonal changes and just keep laying. My 3 hens are ISA Browns.  They may also be called Red Sex-Links, Shaver Browns, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets or Red Stars depending on the specific breeds that were used in crossing. All 3 of my girls are egg laying machines!

Honda gettin' busy!

Honda gettin’ busy!

Honda started laying in her 18th week (July 2012) and has only MISSED 1 day of production in the last 20 weeks.  Swiffer was a late bloomer and she didn’t start laying until her 30th week, but she has only MISSED 2 days of production in the last 3 months.



Rosie (our newest addition) was purchased at 20 weeks old and has never missed a day of production since she became a part of City Boy Hens.

Rosie's first day at City Boy Hens

Rosie’s first day at City Boy Hens

All in all, we are getting around 21 eggs /week from our three girls.  My wife no longer buys eggs at the grocery store and we generally have some extras to give to the neighbors.

Another interesting characteristic about these hens is that they can be easily sexed at hatch.  Males hatch out white and can feather out to pure white or with some black feathering depending on the cross. Females hatch out buff or red, depending on the cross, and they feather out buff or red.

Swiffer's arrival at City Boy Hens

Swiffer at 1 week.

This is a great quality for those of us that want to raise our own chicks and ensure that we do not end up with roosters.

If you are interested in  detailed technical data on these hens, check out the following info from Hendrix Genetics who own the genetic patent on Isa Brown hens http://www.isapoultry.com/Products/ISA/~/media/Files/ISA/ISA%20product%20information/ISA/Commercials/201112%20ISA%20Brown%20FP%20product%20performance.ashx.            For more information on Sex-Link Hens   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_link

Finally, I can also tell you that these hens are EXTREMELY comfortable around people and are generally quiet unless you have something of interest for them to eat; they want privacy in order to lay an egg, or they are squawking like spoiled children because they see you in the backyard and want to get out of the run. DSCN3983They generally lay one large brown egg every day before 10am and they never go broody.  They also confine well and are winter-hardy.  Lastly, they have a great temperament around children and do not protest to being picked up.  I can’t say enough about these hens.  They are fantastic!


20 thoughts on “Hybrid vs. Heritage Breed Chickens

  1. Good information to know! We plan to start our flock next spring and I have been devouring any information I can get about choosing chickens and building coops. Thanks! Vickie

  2. I started raising chickens last year, and also have some ISA Browns. They are great layers. For some reason the last couple weeks, production is down. We have had quite a few changes in the coop, and I am hoping that once they are used to the changes, laying will go back to normal soon!

  3. Oh, I would love to have some chickens and wouldn’t know which ones to get for good egg-laying, so this is great info. I have no land, just a lot in a mobile home park,with no animals allowed, I am growing some vegetables and herbs. But my kids have “a farmette”, and have raised chickens and some animals for 4H. I will pass this valuable information to them. I loved your pictures and stories! Have a wonderful summer! Linda

  4. Our third chicken is a Red Star and she is certainly the ‘star’ of our group. So friendly, independent, funny and a champion egg layer.

  5. I’m not fond of the name but I agree with you on how awesome Red Sex-Link hens are. One of my favorites, Little Red (you know she is special around here when she gets a name!) is such a sweet hen that she has been elevated to Pet status, even though she is several years old and doesn’t lay many eggs any more. Great post!

  6. I’ve raised a variety of breeds mainly for eggs over the years -[ White Rock, Barred Rock, Amerecauna, Wellsumer, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island & Cinnamon Queens – you name it! As I took an interest in one breed I would buy chicks to add to my flock. . However, I have recently had a change of thinking and am selling my rainbow flock to concentrate on only one breed (two colors) – White and Silver Gray Dorkings. They are an old England breed brought to England by the Romans and one of poultry’s foundation breeds – of which many of the dual purpose breeds we now buy were developed. Without them (and a few other foundations) we would not have all the variety we now have to choose from. Think it is a worthwhile venture and although they can be challenging as they go broody so frequently, I am ready to begin. I think it is an important endeavor to raise heritage breeds and keep the pure bloodlines of the foundation breeds alive and well! There are so few hatcheries (less than 3) in the U.S. who handle the Dorking so it’s important to keep them going. They are used both for meat and eggs so expect I won’t be raising the Cornish crosses in the future for the freezer – just using the cull Dorkings.

  7. Found you on the Home Acre Hop. Thanks for the info! We are getting ready to purchase our hens and totally overwhelmed with the amount of breeds there are. This is a great way to start. Thanks!
    Lee from ladyleehome.com

  8. i chose sex-link chicks for the same reason you did. however, i still ended up with a surprise rooster:( he went to a farm to live, but his 4 sisters are close to 6 months old now. 3 of them started laying at 17 weeks, but we have one hold out. i was about to give up on her until i read your story. mine are “gold sex-link” but they look exactly like yours. i have 7 more that are 12 weeks old. i started raising chicks in april of 2011. they are so much fun!! and addictive!

    • Hi Shelly,
      Keep holding out. She’ll come through in time. Please drop me a line when that day arrives. Swiffer was 8 months before she started earning her keep & she hardly has taken a day off since!
      Thanks for your comments.

  9. Started raising egg layers about 8 yrs ago. I have had many different breeds; heritage as well as hybrid layers. I add to my flock every yr and cull out the older ones. By changing breeds each yr can keep track of age and production. By far, the best layers are the sex-link. Our chickens free range, spring, summer and fall with access to a natural layer ration and calcium. I really like the black stars for hardiness and people friendly. Red stars are a bit more flighty and not as hardy. I also find that a close runner-up are the Easter Eggers. Some folks look down on them but I think they are interesting in their variety and can be counted on to lay blue or olive eggs year round. Spring of last yr I tried Speckled Sussex. They are really attractive birds and real friendly. But like most heritage breeds they were late in starting to lay (7-8 mo). I don’t expect them to lay like the sex-links but they are a real eye catching addition to our flock along with the gold lace wyandottes i raised 2 yrs ago. We have 12-15 chickens here always and get enough eggs for us, our grown children households and sell the rest. There is always a demand for healthy free range eggs.

  10. Isa Browns are simply beautiful but not for pets as they die young around 3yo and have sooo many eggperitonitis problems you’ll live st the vet like me 😢

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