As commercial farming has progressed hybrids became the necessity to keep up with demand in the shops and food processing factories. Hybrids chicken breeds started to become normal stock for Australian farms during the 1950s. But can you identify a hybrid from a pure breed?
Hybrid chickens are really a genetic modification, resulting from the crossing of two or more breeds for commercial value. However, the breeding techniques to create a hybrid is usually done at the expense of their health. Whereas traditional breeding is a selection process to get an overall healthy bird, hybrids are specifically chosen for their meat or egg output alone.
If hybrids are bred with hybrids, the genetic stock becomes weaker and more problematic with time. To ensure healthy hybrid stock, it is best to breed from the mix of pure breeds.
* POL = Point of Lay
** = equal positive and negative traits
A commercial-developed strain of bird
A heritage or old breed
Hybrid Chicken Breeds
On a personal note, as a farmer I recall we kept a Australorp x (possibly Leghorn) commercial breed of chickens for eggs, varying between the whites and blacks according to output and consumer fashions. Egg producing farmers are reliant on purchasing the chicks from a hatchery rather than breeding chicks from eggs on their own farms.
- Broiler (meat only bird)
- Cornish Game Bird
- Cream Legbar
- Daisy Belle
- Easter Egger
- ISA Brown
- Lohmann Brown
- Red Sex Link (aka Golden Comet)
- Black Sex Link
Hybrid Welfare and Health
Today's faster growing hybrid poultry are higher in calories than ever before, with much higher levels of fat than protein.
If these hens are given a genuine free-range (field/yard roaming) lifestyle that includes sunlight and fresh grasses, their life expectancy and quality can be dramatically improved. Their natural instinct to scratch and peck for bugs, seeds and grasses increases their overall health, meat and egg quality.
Buying organic free-range eggs and meat is truly far healthier for both you and the hens.
Hybrids are also known for moulting, becoming quite naturally bald in spots (which differs from baldness caused by lice and mites). Don't be put off by the moulting of the older hybrid hens as they can still be excellent layers for many years.