So have you ever wondered which hybrid chicken to choose, or even if you should use them? Or maybe you are wondering if you would want to try a hybrid chicken...
I will start off by giving you some of the hybrid egg layers commonly found:
(Male X Female)
Black Star/Black Sex Link
Rhode Island Red (RIR) X Barred Plymouth Rock or New Hampshire X Barred Rock
Red Star/Red Sex Link
RIR X White Leghorn
RIR X New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire X Silver Laced Whyandotte
New Hampshire X White Rock
Red Sex Link
RIR X Rhode Island White or Production Red X Delaware
RIR X White Rock
Hybrids used for meat use:
White Rock X Cornish
Silver Barred Hybrid
Barred Rock X White Rock
So which ones are best?
Much of it is really up to you and what you want. As you probably noticed most of the high production egg layer hybrids are bred to be sex link (the sex of the chick can be determined at birth based on the color). This gives you 100% accuracy sexing without having to do that very invasive sexing done at hatcheries. I have looked up how to do it, but I think I will leave it to the pros, plus there are many physical characteristics that quickly appear, allowing for determination of sex.
I personally like to buy for the most part my purebred chickens and breed all my hybrid chickens, that keeps my breeding stock fresh. For my own breeding of purebreds I will also mix different strains of the breed to make them healthier and more productive.
So when you look at the hybrid layers, you will probably notice there are two main groups, red sex link and black sex link, the red sex link is easier to clean if you butcher you own birds once they are finished with their laying career, but the black sex links tend to have a longer laying career. I personally have bred more black sex links because I like them better.
Black Sex Link
The roosters will look like a barred rock, with a slight tint of red when full grown and black with a white dot on their heads when babies. The females will look all black as chicks and black with a red/brown breast when full grown. These guys tend to lay larger eggs for an extended period of time.
Red Sex Link
The males look white as chicks and when full grown look white with some odd colored feathers mixed in. The females hatch out buff/red and their adult feathers either look buff or red or some color in between, it really depends on the cross you used because as you can see there are quite a few to choose from, since all you have to do is cross a reddish and a white chicken.
Why does the crossing work?
Many chickens are inbred. If you are familiar with inbred animals, you will notice that they are weak and less productive. This same concept is true for chickens, when you cross the breeds, it introduces new genetics and if they line up just right (called nicking in the horse world), you will end up with an exceptional animal. The crosses listed above are some common crosses that hatcheries sell, they seem to line up the genetics just right to make a good producing chicken, but I am sure there are other crosses that turn out good too. You however should not use the offspring of the hybrid chickens for breeding, the reason being you will end up with bad traits showing up, the first generation is always the healthiest. It is entirely different story when you are developing a new breed though.
Which ones can I breed on my own, and which ones should I buy from the hatchery?
Most of the egg laying breeds are easy for the common poultry owner to breed, in fact since many of us pay attention to the production of our poultry you may end up with an even better chicken than you could buy at the hatchery. With any one of those I would say GO FOR IT! It is fun and rewarding to grow your own chickens, especially when they are good producers.
The Cornish Crosses on the other hand I would not recomend breeding, the reason being they really have the genetics stacked on the birds they breed. If the average poultry owner was to try to breed these, it would be highly unlikely they would be the fast growers you could buy at the hatchery. But to look on the positive side, Cornish Cross birds tend to be the cheapest birds in the whole hatchery because of the large quantities they are bought and sold in. Often times these hatcheries do not breed these birds on there own, but instead buy the eggs from some other company and then distribute them to us.
Note--When you breed a male and female sex link to each other, their offspring will not be sex linked, it just has to do with the genetics. Because apparently a female chicken tends to take their characteristics from the rooster, and vise versa. This does not always work, but does in the case of the sex links, I do not have a scientific answer to this one, but if I find one, I will post it.
Here are some interesting hybrids that I found someone selling on the internet once, they are a play on some more rare breeds, making them lay better:
Based off the RIR, they did not specify what it is crossed with, but it is red colored, so not quite as dark, sounds something like the production red.
Based on the Cuckoo Maran (prised for their really dark eggs), color is blue/grey and has a cream striped/speckled plumage, once again they do not give away what they crossed them with.
Like the Nova Ranger, but instead is based on the Rhode Island White. Weighs slightly more than the RIR.
No breed origins disclosed, all they say is it is one of the most popular and has a blue plumage.
RIR X Barred Rock, Basically a Black Sex Link.
BAsed off the Resh Copper Black Maran (must be a relative of the Cuckoo Maran but solid black rather than barred).
Cross with the Light Sussex.
Based off the utility Leghorn.
Like the Sussex Nova, but instead based off the Silver Sussex.
Based off the Cream Crested Legbar (blue egg laying chicken, an established breed that I believe is a spin off of the Aracauna, like the Amaraucana is but they are sex linked naturally, always)
Leave a comment talking about what you have done for hybrids, or with your questions. Everyone's feedback is appreciated!
To learn more about egg color genetics read this article I wrote today.