What Is a Sex Link Chicken and Why Would I Want One?

Despite the name, a sex link chicken isn’t going to strut around your garden, making come hither eyes at you. They are pretty sexy, as far as chickens go, but the benefits they bring to the homestead are of a very different and more practical nature. 

You know how, when you order a flock of 40 hatchlings, 38 of them turn out to be male?

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Well, that’s why you want sex links instead. 

When a sex link chicken hatches, the females will be a different color to the males, making figuring out who’s who in the zoo delightfully easy.

No more guesswork!

Where Do Sex Link Chickens Come From?

As magical as they are, sex link chickens don’t just fall from the sky – they are a carefully bred hybrid chicken breed. 

Their fast growth and high egg production have made them popular with homesteaders and backyard chicken keepers alike.

The popularity of the sex link chicken means it seems to be cropping up all over the place, and you can easily pick up a couple of red or black sex link chicks from virtually any feed store if you want to give your flock a headstart.

Isa Browns and Golden Comets are two of the most popular red sex link varieties around.

While not ideal for breeding, either variety will produce a glut of eggs for you.

Did you know that Tractor Supply sells Isa Browns and Golden Comets? They sell baby chicks and 4-week old pullets!

What Are Red Sex Links, and How Do You Breed Them?

Rhode island red rooster
Rhode island red rooster

To get a flock of red sex-linked chickens, most breeders cross a Rhode Island Red rooster with a White Plymouth Rock, Delaware, or a Rhode Island White hen

Such hybrids will produce male chicks with distinct white markings and predominantly red hens. 

One of the problems with this combination is that it can result in a mixed bag of offspring, with some displaying the calm, friendly nature of the Delaware and others the territorial aggression of the Rhode Island Red.

Did You Know?

Female Delaware chickens lay roughly 240 eggs per year – plenty for you, your family, and your entire homestead! Read more about the best egg-layers here.

More Sex Link Chicken Varieties

  • Other types of red sex-linked crosses include the previously mentioned Golden Comet, produced by crossing a Rhode Island Red with a White Leghorn chicken. 
  • There’s also the Isa Brown which comes, primarily, from breeding Rhode Island Whites with Rhode Island Reds
  • If you’re looking for red sex links to breed with, the Cinnamon Queen is a better option than either the Golden Comet or the ISA brown. 
  • The Cinnamon Queen sex link cross comes from using a Silver Wyandotte chicken and a Rhode Island Red rooster. The result should be a selection of red or brown female offspring and males with distinctive white feathers.
Hoover’s Hatchery Cinnamon Queen Chickens

Hoover’s Hatchery Cinnamon Queen Chickens, 10 Count Baby Chicks [More]

By the way…

Female Cinnamon Queens lay about 260 eggs per year. Perfect if you want an egg-producing flock! Here’s where to buy Cinnamon Queen chicks.

How Do You Breed a Flock of Black Sex Link Chicks? 

Black sex link chickens, also known as Black Stars, are the product of a barred hen crossed with a non-barred rooster.

For the perfect offspring, you should use only heritage chicken breeds because crosses often contain genetic anomalies that disrupt the sex link properties, making it difficult to sex the chicks when they hatch.

When it comes to producing black sex-linked crosses, the most popular breeds of hen include Barred Plymouth Rocks – and dual-purpose birds like Cuckoo Marans

The rooster is most commonly either a Rhode Island Red or a New Hampshire.

To make sexing your baby chick offspring easier, select a rooster with dark-colored feathers and red earlobes. If the rooster has any white spots, this can interfere with the appearance of the offspring, making it more difficult to distinguish males from females. 

Hoover’s Hatchery Barred Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red Assortment

Hoover’s Hatchery Barred Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red Assortment, 10 Count [More]

Barred Plymouth Rocks make for an excellent choice if you desire black sex-linked crosses.

5 Benefits Sex Link Chickens Bring to the Homestead

plymouth-rock-chicken
Composite of a Plymouth Rock hen gazing out from a hen house

# 1 Egg production

The number one reason sex-link chicken breeds have become so popular is that they’re excellent layers.

Both black and red sex-link hens lay lots of eggs, usually producing 250-300 large, brown eggs a year.

They reach their peak at around two years of age, at which point, they will reliably give you five to six eggs a week, regardless of the weather.

# 2 They’re Color Sexable

That may seem like an obvious statement but, if you’ve ever tried vent-sexing a newly hatched chick, you’ll appreciate just how delightful it is to have sex-linked crosses that you can identify the sex of through their physical characteristics. 

When you buy a purebred chicken breed, you almost always end up with one or two roosters in the mix, which is a problem if you live in an urban environment where roosters are banned.

Of course, you could eat the males, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and there aren’t many rescue centers around for unwanted roosters. Getting sex-linked chicks means you’ll only get girls and won’t have to face slaughtering dear old Henrietta when it turns out she’s actually a he. 

# 3 – Temperament

By and large, these hybrid hens are docile birds with friendly personalities and a laidback approach to a free-range life.

They thrive as backyard poultry, enjoying the space and freedom to forage.

# 4 – Dual-Purpose Potential

A dual-purpose breed is many homesteaders’ vision of the ideal backyard flock. Not only are they reliable egg layers, but they’re also big enough to breed for meat.

If you’re lucky, a hybrid hen may reach 6-7 pounds. A rooster, 8-9 pounds.

Although not all sex link hybrids fit into this category, those with parent lines including a Brown Sussex, Rhode Island Red, or Plymouth Rock make excellent dual-purpose chickens.

Some sex link hybrids, like the Cinnamon Queens or Golden Comets, for instance, “have been bred so much for egg production that they have lost some of their size, which makes them less suitable when it comes to meat production.

# 5 – Lack of Broodiness

Having a broody hen may not be the end of the world, but it generally is the end of her egg production for at least a week or two. 

Sex link hens don’t tend to want to sit on their eggs so much as the selective breeding process has emphasized high egg production to such an extent that the broodiness gene is all but extinct.

This lack of broodiness is excellent news for backyard owners who want lots of eggs but no baby chickens – and for a hen that wants to maintain its condition.

3 Ways Sex Link Chickens Could Drive You Crazy

chicken-hen-backyard-party

# 1 – Difficult to Breed

Sex link breeding is not for the faint-hearted and, if you’re looking to breed chickens that stand a chance of competing at the next American Poultry Association (APA) show, sex-link hybrids aren’t for you. 

For one, these breeds go unrecognized by the APA

For another, they don’t breed true, meaning that you’ll end up with a mixed bag of offspring that isn’t sex-linked. 

Furthermore, it will be virtually impossible to predict how big they’ll get or what their egg production might be.

# 2 – You Want Broilers

Although sex-linked chicks mature quickly, they don’t grow particularly fast, nor do they reach the standard sizes of popular broiler chicken breeds. 

Hoover’s Hatchery Cornish Cross Broiler Chickens

Hoover’s Hatchery Cornish Cross Broiler Chickens, 10 Count Baby Chicks [More]

Before we forget…

If you’re looking for an excellent broiler chicken breed? Check out Cornish Cross Broiler Chickens from Hoover’s Hatchery!

# 3 – They Can Be Noisy

Homesteaders and backyard poultry enthusiasts say that, while friendly, some red sex-linked crosses are much noisier than your average backyard-type chicken.

When laying, they make enough cackles and squawks to wake the dead so, if you’ve got difficult or suspicious neighbors, you may want to consider a heritage breed instead.

# 4 – Short Lifespan

Your average backyard bird has a lifespan of around 5 to 10 years, but the red and black sex link hybrids live for less than half that. 

Although they mature early, they also age faster, living for just two to three years

If like me, you hate seeing your animals get old, you’re better off with the heritage chicken breeds, like the Wyandotte or one of the other American breeds which can live for up to 12 years.

Is a Sex Link Chicken for You?

Hybrid sex link chickens are becoming increasingly popular, with some fearing they may take over all the coops in North America. 

While I doubt it will come to that, there are some excellent reasons why backyard chicken owners are turning their backs on the pure breeds and seeking the benefits of the hybrids.

Hardy and friendly, sex link crosses are excellent layers and have above-average feed efficiency, making them ideal beginner birds. You won’t end up with any unwanted roosters, as you would buying purebred chickens, which means less hassle and more eggs all around!

While your sex link hybrids won’t live very long, they’ll lay for you consistently (and noisily) throughout their lives. You may even be grateful to see the back of them if they really are as noisy as other backyard chicken keepers say they are!

Buying Chickens Online – Safely and Without Breaking the Bank

If you want to buy chickens online – and if you seek red sex-linked chickens, then check out Tractor Supply’s inventory of baby chicks!

If you get a chance to visit Tractor Supply in store, you’ll crack a massive smile as you see the flock of adorable chicks eagerly clucking and looking for a new home!

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