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If you have a rooster and a mixed flock of chickens, then it’s possible you might someday get a hybrid. Not long ago I wrote a post mentioning that hybrid chickens were some of the best egg layers. However, they’re also great for beginners. But just what does hybrid chicken mean?
Since a breed is something that produces offspring with similar characteristics, there are no hybrid chicken breeds. That’s because hybrids don’t breed true, meaning the traits they were bred for won’t be passed down. Also, hybrids have been around for quite some time. Although, before they were given their current appellation, they were called crossbreed, or worse, mongrel.
Originally poultry farmers would cross 2 or more purebred chickens, resulting in a crossbreed. And those same farmers discovered that some of those mongrels laid more eggs. Or they were better suited for meat production. Then, in 1936, Henry Wallace created Hy-Line poultry genetics in Iowa.
The breeds usually used in crossbreeding are Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, and Leghorns. While some of today’s hybrids can be composed of 3 or 4 breeds, sometimes the parents are also crossbred, going back generations. Thus a hybrid chicken may look slightly different from how it first began. Now it’s a well-oiled machine.
Typical Traits of a Hybrid Chicken
The following list is characteristic when buying hybrids from hatcheries or farm stores. Most hybrids
- mature fast
- can be sex-linked, so you know you’re getting hens
- lay ~ 260 to 320 eggs annually
- are easy going and docile
- have a short lifespan compared to pure breeds
- don’t go broody
- also can be dual purpose, for meat
- and egg quality and quantity of most hybrids deteriorates after ~ 3 to 4 years
Examples of Hybrids
- Meat hybrids
The companies that developed these birds initially used strains from birds like Cornish Game, Light Sussex, and White Plymouth Rocks.
- Red Sex Link
As the name implies, these birds can be sexed at hatch. Which means, feather color determines the sex. Therefore, generally, males at hatch will have pale or white feathers. And females will have buff or red tinted feathers.
Furthermore, Red Sex Links are the result of crossing Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red roosters with White Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island White, Silver Laced Wyandotte, or Delaware hens.
- Golden Comet
When crossing a RIR or New Hampshire Red rooster with a White Leghorn hen, the result is the Golden Comet, one example of a Red Sex Link.
- Cinnamon Queen
Breeding a RIR rooster with a Rhode Island White hen produces the Cinnamon Queen. And this hybrid resembles the one above, another Red Sex Link.
- Black Sex Link
Similar to the Red Sex Link is the Black Sex Link, because it is also sexed by the color of feathers at hatch. Male chicks at hatch will have a white spot on their heads, otherwise they’ll be black. And females will be all black.
Also, this chicken is the product of a Barred Rock hen crossed with a RIR or New Hampshire Red rooster.
Exceptions to Crossbreeding Mantra
However, there have been instances of crossbreeding at least 3 purebred chickens before and not getting a hybrid. Cream Legbar and Australorp are 2 examples that come to mind.
Around 1900, with the intent for better layers, Australorps were created by mixing Orpingtons with Minorcas, White Leghorns, and Langshans. Though Cream Legbars were developed after WWII. And the scientists involved with Cream Legbars wanted good egg layers that could also be auto-sexed. Thus, by crossing Brown Leghorns, Barred Rocks, and Araucanas, the result was the Cream Legbar.
But these two examples are considered breeds, not hybrids. And that’s because they produce offspring that share their traits. Therefore, it’s possible for you to dabble in chicken breeding, creating something unique as well. Although you would first need some breeds or pure breeds. Not hybrids, because that wouldn’t be something new.
Our Experiences with Hybrids
Some of you are familiar with how I got into chicken-keeping, so I’ll try to be quick. We were given our first chickens by someone who claimed they were Leghorns. But they were really broilers.
And once all of the broilers, except Natalie, were gone, it was apparently time for more chickens. My 2 youngest went to East Texas to visit their grandparents. However, while they were there, they picked up some chicks. For those wondering why I didn’t get any around me,
- I looked into it briefly, however my youngest got attacked by a different neighbor’s dog when I went to discuss chickens and where they got theirs.
- And my mother-in-law has been involved with chickens for over 15 years, maybe more. So I trust her judgment and where she’s gotten her birds.
So when my daughters returned from East Texas, they brought home 2 Silver-Laced Wyandotte chicks, 3 brown red Ameraucana chicks, and 2 Black Sex links.
Then, as we learned more about backyard chickens, we thought we would sell eggs. Hence, we purchased 6 more black sex link chicks, but this time, locally.
Since I don’t have a ton of experience with meat chickens, I won’t get into those. However, sex links don’t tend to lay beyond 3 years, from what I’ve seen. While some can have health issues, it’s not across the board. We still have Sunshine, who is 6 years old.
My Other Crossbreeding Examples: Cream Legbar Mix
During the time we had our Cream Legbar rooster and the remaining preliminary members of our little flock, we incubated some eggs only once. And the eggs which hatched with the best results were the Ameraucana chicken eggs. Since Ameraucana and Araucana chickens are related, it makes sense.
We have one hen that looks like a purebred Cream Legbar hen, though she isn’t. And we have another one that comes close, but she has a rose comb. Plus, we have one that’s shaped like a Cream Legbar, with the head tuft, and yet, she’s all black. She hatched last year, and is a cross of Megatron and one of the Cream Legbar crossbreeds. While the one with the rose comb lays brown eggs, the other two lay baby blue eggs. But I’m not claiming we created a new breed. Though it would be fascinating to find out if Sunday (the black one) has offspring similar to herself.
Traits from our Cream Legbar Crossbreeds:
- They matured fast
The boys were crowing at 1 month old. And they were chasing the adult hens, trying to get a free ride. Not to mention, the girls were laying eggs no later than 4 months old.
- Life expectancy similar to purebred chickens
We still have 3 of the first crossbred Cream Legbar hens we hatched. And they are ~6 years old.
They have been healthy and still lay eggs today. Although I wouldn’t say that they lay an inordinate amount of eggs like typical hybrids.
- Go broody
The first chicken we ever had go broody was Cody, one of our Cream Legbar/Ameraucana mixes. And Plo has been a repeat co-parent on a number of occasions. Additionally, Sunday has also gone broody.
- Friendly and docile
Perhaps it’s since we’ve had these birds for so long that they’re friendly. I don’t know. But they’re calm and trusting around us.
Even though our original Cream Legbar crossbreeds resembled chipmunks, I couldn’t say whether they could be auto-sexed or not at the time. That’s because I was still a novice and wasn’t aware our rooster was even a Cream Legbar, or what auto-sexing meant. I thought the pattern on our chicks was a result of their mixed heritage.
My initial reason for raising chickens changed from that of eggs to eggs. Instead of having chickens to sell or eat eggs, I now want chickens for esthetics: Of the birds and eggs. Therefore, that’s how I’m trying to manage my flock. Thus, I prefer Ameraucana and Maran chickens, since they complement each other. And if the birds crossbreed, they still make pretty birds. And they can be sexed, depending on the eggshells they hatch from.
But everything is a learning experience. And sometimes my husband likes to get involved and doesn’t pay attention to which eggs he takes to incubate. Hence there are more hybrids than before. And a lot more brown layers than before.
Traits of my Easter Eggers:
- Sex linked
Since the barring gene is dominant, and we have a Black Ameraucana rooster, I can sex link the chicks that hatch from the Cuckoo Maran eggs.
- Matured at a normal rate
Our Easter Eggers have all developed around 4-6 months. And sometimes that depends on whether we use a heat lamp the whole time. Because, if it’s warm enough, we don’t utilize one.
Similar to our Cream Legbar crossbreeds, we’ve had a few of our Easter Eggers go broody as well.
Not only are they jumpy, but they fly over the fence for greener pastures, often endangering themselves. However, with a little time, food, and consistency, I’ve won them over.
- And healthy
So far they have been healthy.
Hybrid chickens were initially created by chicken enthusiasts, like you and me. And the results were more eggs and better meat. But there is often conflicting information about hybrids. However they make wonderful backyard additions.
Have you had hybrid chickens? If so, which ones? Do you still have any?
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