When you are a beginner backyard chicken owner, some terms may confuse you. And just when you think you have all your bases covered, a name like sex link is thrown out there. What are sex link chickens? And are they the best option for your flock?
What Are Sex Link Chickens?
In short, a sex link chicken is one that hatches a specific color according to gender. For example, some chicks might hatch brown to indicate they are female. These sex link chickens are used in hatcheries to guarantee the gender of their chicks for sale.
Buying a sex link chicken definitely has it’s advantages when you are starting. The most significant advantage of sex link chickens is that you will never end up with a rooster when you need a female flock.
But don’t be confused. Sex linked chickens are not their own breed but actually a hybrid. These chickens are formed by crossing two chickens that have distinct color differences in gender. And there are many different hybrid chickens considered to be sex links. Let’s look at a few.
Common Types Of Sex Link Chickens
Since sex linked chickens are a hybrid breed and have many possible varieties. While most hatcheries simply label theirs as “commercial layer hens,” you can create your own. Here are a few of the most common hybrids.
Golden Sex Link
The Golden sex link chicken is the most common. These beautiful birds are a cross between the Rhode Island Red hen and a Rhode Island White rooster. When a Golden sex link hatches, the females will have light red tinting to their feathers. This dull red looks almost golden, which is where they get their names. Males, on the other hand, will hatch with all white feathers.
The Golden sex link chicken is known most for its large brown eggs. On average, you can expect 300 eggs per year, and that includes through the winter. While they don’t make the best meat producers, they are a fantastic addition to any flock.
Red Sex Link
Another great hen is the Red Sex Link Chicken. These chicks are one of the White Leghorn cross breeds. Using a White Leghorn hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster, you get yellow males and brown females.
These sex links are dual-purpose chicken breeds. These chickens are amazing meat producers and excellent eggers. With around 280 eggs per year, you will never run out. But how long do red sex links lay eggs? Their peak laying is at two years old with a steady decrease until about 5. After five years, your red sex link won’t produce as many eggs and might stop altogether.
As the name entails, these sex link chickens produce a red cinnamon-colored hen. Roosters are bright, beautiful white. These gorgeous birds are created by crossing a Silver Laced Wyandotte hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster.
These hybrid chickens are a modern take on the red sex link. They are some of the best dual purpose chicken breeds. Not only will they give you large meaty birds, but you will also get plenty of eggs. With 300 lush brown eggs, you won’t want another chicken.
Black Sex Link Chicken
Another great option is the Black sex link. These are a mixture of the Barred Rock hen and the Rhode Island Red rooster. These chicks are born all black when female and black with a white spot on males’ heads. And black sex links are fair dual-purpose chickens.
You can expect up to 300 eggs per year with these babies. And they don’t decrease in production throughout the winter. So that is great for people who sell eggs all year round.
The ISA Brown hen is very popular among hatcheries. But they are a trademarked breed that is only available through licensed vendors. The exact combination of breeds used in this hybrid is a closely guarded secret. We know that they are mostly Rhode Island Reds and Whites, with many other species in between. These hens are fantastic egg layers and can be dual purpose as well.
Pros And Cons Of Sex Link Chickens
What are sex link chickens? Only some of the best eggers in the business. Let’s look at a few pros and cons of these excellent hens.
- The best pro to a sex link is that they are a guaranteed gender. How many times have you bought chicks and found a few roosters in the bunch? Purchasing a sex link prevents all mistakes and misgendering from the day they hatch.
- Sex links are also known to have the best temperaments. They are docile and blend into your flock without any issues. It isn’t typical for these breeds to be aggressive or cause problems. They even make lovely pets. So if you want to add a few sex links into your existing flock, there is nothing to worry about.
- Eggs, eggs, eggs. Most sex link chickens are the perfect blend of the best egg-producing hens. These chickens lay 280 eggs or more a year and don’t slow down. Rain, snow, or shine, you can rely on your hens to keep on producing. What’s even better is that most of these hens continue to lay consistently for three or more years. After about five, they might retire from laying eggs permanently.
- If you want dual-purpose chickens, most sex links can do that for you too. Most of these chickens produce a decent amount of meat that makes butchering worth your while.
- Sex link chicken eggs can vary depending on what mix they are. Most produce large to extra large brown eggs. But it is also possible to get blue or olive eggs depending on the hybrid.
- And finally, it keeps your flock population under control. If you don’t want to risk getting a rooster, sex links are the guarantee you need. Your flock can be purely for eggs without any accidents, or questionable pullets turned roo.
- If you are trying to create your own sex linked chickens, the process can get confusing. Since these hybrids are complicated and delicate, it is easy to do it wrong. But buying from a hatchery, they will do all the hard work for you.
- Sex link chickens might be amazing eggers, but they don’t go broody often. Now, this can be a positive thing for some people. But if you are trying to breed chickens and none of your flock goes broody, it means you need a backup.
As you can see, there aren’t many cons to owning sex link chickens. All you need to do is figure out which breed works best for your needs.
Can You Breed Sex Links Yourself?
It is possible to breed your own sex link chickens if you know enough about the subject. To produce the best sex links, you want to look for a few characteristics in your mating pair. These characteristics are what make the gender color differences more pronounced.
For example, you will need to make sure that all mating pairs are purebred and have vibrant colorings. If they don’t have dominant genetics for their color, the chicks won’t inherit the genes to make them sex linked.
So How Does Sex Linking Work?
This next section will get a little technical, but we will summarize it without boring you. Remember back to high school biology when we learned that males carry XY chromosomes and females XX? For chickens, it is a little backward.
For starters, the chromosomes used for chickens are Z and W. The Z chromosome is the color deciding gene, and W determines the gender. Roosters are ZZ, giving them two color chromosomes. Females are ZW, which offers them the female gender and only half the color.
This is how all genetics work for all birds. It is also why male birds are always brightly colored. When you are breeding a sex link chicken, you look for breeds that produce the most vibrant male coloring.
Can You Breed Two Sex link Chickens?
In short, breeding two sex link chickens will only give you a muddled gene pool. None of the chicks hatched from this cross will have the sex link gene.
The reason for this goes back to what we previously said above. If the goal is to breed for roosters to have bright colors, breeding sex links won’t work. A sex link rooster has two color genes, but the female only has one. All of the chicks from this clutch would turn out as the same color.
What Is The Difference Between Sex Link and Autosex?
The biggest difference is that an auto sex chicken is not a hybrid. An auto sex is any breed that producing color variation based on gender. Some examples of these are the Cream Legbar and Rhodebar. Both of these chickens are purebred, and chicks have different colors from day one. These chickens’ benefits are the same as sex link hens, but they are easier to breed since they aren’t hybrids.
What Do You Think?
What are sex link chickens? The best chickens for any backyard owner. We think that these chickens are not only easy for beginners, but they also hold so many benefits. Sex links will fit right into your flock in no time.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!