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Chickens - hybrids vs pure breeds

Posted: Wed May 14, 2008 11:29 am
by VM
Hi there
Wondered what experience people have had with hybrids and pure breeds in terms of how well they lay and for how long.

We're just embarking on keeping chickens at our allotment. Partner is building chicken house as I write! We plan to get 6-8 chickens which we will be sharing with people on neighbouring plot.

We're trying to work out what type of chickens would be best. Some people have said of course get hybrids for laying ability - but some of these I know go in for killing birds after year or two and starting again - and somehow I don't quite see us doing that (not quite sure what we will do with chickens when they reach old age - think about it later!).

My impression from reading is that hybrids lay most in first year but then tail off quite a bit - but I don't know how much and how quickly they tail off in quantity or quality of eggs. And don't know how much longer pure breeds might go on laying for.

Any experiences from others gratefully received.

Would like some nice-looking chickens but egg colour not a big issue at this point.

Good layers are the priority. I know we will look after chickens well and enjoy them - but good eggs of our own is the main reason for having them - all really into cooking and gestures towards self-sufficiency though live in the city.

Pure breeds suggested to me have been Light Sussex and Silver Sussex. Hybrids suggested so far : Warrens, Black Rocks, Goldline. Like pics I've seen of Silver Sussex and of Speckeldy & Goldline hybrids.

Posted: Wed May 14, 2008 7:37 pm
by Bluemoon
I'm not particularly experienced, but I started with three hybrids. They were great, easy to look after birds, very forgiving of a novice, but their egg laying numbers reduced rapidly after the first 18 months until they hardly laid at all. This would have been fine if I'd been more experienced or I'd had a larger number, but by this point they were like family members, I knew them as individuals and I could no more cull them than I could have harmed the family dog. As a result I had to wait until they passed away of natural causes - I'm a wuss, I know - I've recently re-stocked with half a dozen Rhode Island Reds, but I'm also thinking about a few hybrids too, despite the problems they were great fun and I learned a lot from them.

Like you we live in a city and as your neighbours will probably think you're completely insane for getting chickens it might be an idea to make sure you get one of the quieter breeds/hybrids so that no-one has anything to complain about. We keep ours on the allotment, but there is still housing nearby and it's as well to think about how other people will react. Hens are generally quiet, but when they decide to 'go off on one' as my daughter puts it, they can be heard a fair distance away and it's not a noise that's easily ignored. Permission to keep them on a lottie can be withdrawn if there are complaints and it might be impossible to re-home hens which are no longer in their first flush of youth, for this reason I'd also consider siting your house and run well away from anyone who might object to noise or smells (and it's amazing what people come to imagine that they can smell once they're aware that livestock are in the area) Be prepared to be blamed for every rat that shows its face within a three mile radius too.

Posted: Wed May 14, 2008 7:54 pm
by Meredith
I have hybrids at the moment and they are still laying well after three years. I started out with pure bred brown leghorn bantums which I wouldn't recommend, a six ft fence and clipped wings would not keep them in and they went broody at the first opportunity.

I would suggest that if it is purely for egg production, which is what I wanted, you go for hybrids. I have speckeldys and warrens, I had some black rock but they seemed to be a bit bad tempered and argumentative (with each other, not with me :lol: and the whole flock ended up half plucked). The speckeldys lay especially dark brown eggs, which although colour doesn't matter, they are always the one's my daughter chooses given the chance.

My neighbour looks down his nose at my chickens, he is a rare and pure breed enthusiast but each to their own.


Posted: Thu May 15, 2008 6:25 am
by Millymollymandy
My experience with hybrids is exactly the same as Bluemoon! They laid all the way through their first winter, tailed off a bit the 2nd winter (we actually had to buy a dozen eggs once!!!) then they just stopped laying after 2 years. So now they are pets. :lol:

If you do decide to get hybrids, get the red ones, because the black (or black and gold) ones tend to go broody very easily and often. :roll:

Posted: Thu May 15, 2008 11:23 am
by red
I was under the impression tha hybrids rarely went broody? I have also heard.. but it might be rubbish.. that their eggs wont necessarily fertilize, if you have a cockeral with them..

hybrids are lots cheaper than breeds, but dont last as long. If you just want eggs.. hybrids are prolly the way to go.. dont get attached.. make them into casserole when they stop laying and get some more!

I have breeds cos we always just had Isas when I was a kid and I always fancied having different coloured hens who laid different coloured eggs. It is handy as you can tell who is not laying and who is.! for example, our broody hen has done the mummy thing and gone back to laying. I knw cos she is the only one who lays white eggs.. and there it was.

traditional breeds are better if you want a broody to raise chicks.

Posted: Thu May 15, 2008 12:30 pm
by Millymollymandy
OK the black ones I'm talking about come from the French markets and everyone I know who has them say the black ones go broody!

My friend has mixed red ones and black 'n' gold ones and then they got a cockerel and successfully hatched one egg under a black broody, the result was female who is now happily laying even more eggs for them! So it can happen!

Now my white hen from the market I am sure is a Light Sussex rather than a hybrid, and as she went off lay for 5 months during her first winter and only lays say 5 to 6 a week on average and rather erratically, I'm hoping she will carry on laying for much longer than the hybrids did.

Posted: Thu May 15, 2008 1:04 pm
by tim&fatima
red wrote: I have breeds cos we always just had Isas when I was a kid and I always fancied having different coloured hens who laid different coloured eggs. It is handy as you can tell who is not laying and who is
traditional breeds are better if you want a broody to raise chicks.
I agree.

We only have pure breeds at the moment, we have a french copper black maran, an english cuckcoo maran, an old english game bantam, and we recently aquired 2 white sussex, we know exactly who is laying and when, the old eng game, is not a very good layer, but the white sussex are fantastic. aroud 5/6 eggs each a week, they don't seem to stop!
apparently some hybrid birds pretty much stop laying after a couple of years. Pure breeds don't seem to have the high produce in the first 2 years, but they are consistant, and will be laying well for years.

And life's a marathon not a sprint.

Posted: Thu May 15, 2008 1:58 pm
by marshlander
I agree with tim&fatima.

I started out with warrens easy but bred to lay eggs 'til they drop.

We've some cream legbars now - love 'em.

btw, our black rocks are bad tempered too! didn't realise it is a breed trait.

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 9:31 am
by VM
Thank you very much everyone for all of this - not been back for a few days so just seen all replies.

I'm inclining towards pure breeds because of longer laying life - not sure that I've got the stomach to turn them into soup when they get to 2 years and run out of eggs - though I can see it's a perfectly sensible thing to do and I like chicken soup...

Are Whilte Sussex the same as Light Sussex, by the way, or another Sussex variation?

Light Sussex have been suggested to me a few times as good consistent layers.

And I was definitely thinking of Black Rock for hybrids - so interesting to know about their temper problems!!

I like the look of Speckledys - any views on how much better they lay than real Marans?

We're lucky, Bluemoon, in our allotment site, in that it's big and sorrounded by lots of space - only has houses near it on one side - playing fields, cemetery and big main road on other three. A couple of people at our end of the site have kept chickens for a while and I really don't think anyone's near enough to hear them, whatever they do.

Rats are an issue, as they are already a problem on the site - the Council come to lay traps round the perimeter quite often - but I think we just need to be very careful with the feed or they might think we are making the problem worse.

thanks again all

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:49 am
by Millymollymandy
No, if you are going to get some hybrids get the red ones!

The black ones go broody so often (I already told you that), so you won't get so many eggs. They'll be off lay on and off all their first summer with gaps of 3-4 weeks with no eggs, and hogging all the nest boxes!

Posted: Thu May 22, 2008 4:07 pm
by tim&fatima
Have a look at the link below.
tells you a bit more about the different types of sussex.

Posted: Tue May 27, 2008 8:54 pm
by Thurston Garden
Over the years we have kept:

Pure ISA Browns (hybrid)- fantastic layers. Lasted 2 years then prolapsed. Ugly.

Fake ISA Browns (like most are!) fantastic layers but only lasted just over a year.

Spekeldy (hybrid) - sheer waste of feed. Susceptible to every thing going and keeled over at the drop of a hat.

Light Sussex (pure bred) - reasonable layers. Never got to see how long they lasted 'cos the fox got em.

Black Rocks (hybrid) - healthy hens, lay prolifically (not as good as ISA's though). One is broody now but I need her to be a Mum! We have a mix of birds bought at point of lay and some from an organic farm which were a year old and the guy wanted rid.

We have some home reared Sasso/Black Rock crosses who seem to be laying well but they are not bonny birds being a mix of breeds.

The outcome? If I was looking to get maximum eggs to sell, it would be ISA's all the way. I have no qualms about dispatching them though. Long term eggs for our own use with some to sell/give away? Black Rocks every time.

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:59 am
by VM
Looking at this again, I don't seem to have said thank you again for all the advice and information.

We were all set to get some Black Rocks, but then a couple of people said they had a tendency to bully other birds in a mixed flock and also the place I was going to get them from didn't have any of the pure breeds I wanted at the same time.

So, after all my research and dithering, went to see some very nice people near Blackburn yesterday and have put our names on 1 RIR, 2 Cream Legbars and 2 that are Welsumer/Legbar crosses - goodness knows what colour the eggs will be!

Then in the autumn getting a couple more which are Barnevelder/Light Sussex crosses. Hybrids seem to have gone by the wayside... But I think we are going to have enough chickens for the eggs we need. Probably more than enough!!

Very excited

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:04 pm
by oldfella
Millymollymandy wrote:No, if you are going to get some hybrids get the red ones!

The black ones go broody so often (I already told you that), so you won't get so many eggs. They'll be off lay on and off all their first summer with gaps of 3-4 weeks with no eggs, and hogging all the nest boxes!
I agree with you MMM , we started with the black hybrids, and after two years ate the the lot, and got the big reds and they are still going strong four eggs a day from 5 chooks and we've had them 2.5 years. ( Umm maybe fried chicken time again)

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 7:53 pm
by greenbean
I think you've chosen well. I have 2 cream legbars, a RIR bantam and a silkie bantam, all very good layers, the RIR has a great character, the legbars are standoffish but fine, the silkie is a broody nightmare. Good luck and enjoy your chickens