What Are Sex Link Chickens? – A Comprehensive Guide

Sex link chicken looking for food

Sex link chickens are among the most popular breeds on the market today. They exhibit a wide range of characteristics that make them desirable for both commercial and backyard chicken farmers alike.

For starters, these fowls are much easier to sex than other breeds. They can be identified by their color at hatching, which makes it easier to separate males from females when they’re still chicks.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sex link chickens. You’ll learn what they are exactly, how they differ from other breeds, and how much they usually cost. Let’s start!

What Are Sex Link Chickens? What Does “Sex Link” Mean in Chickens?

Sex link chicken side profile

Sex link chickens are unique hybrid crosses from two different purebred lines. They allow for immediate gender identification upon hatching, which aids in efficient farming practices. Most of the time, they’re also designed to yield more eggs, grow faster, and showcase specific physical traits.

The term “sex link,” alternatively “sex-linked,” refers to the ability to discern the gender of a chick right after hatching based on evident dissimilarities.

For instance, the key characteristics of sex-linked chicks are the variance in feather growth rate and color patterns between genders.

To be specific, day-old males often exhibit slower feather growth and, in some crosses, may be identified by a white spot on their heads at birth.

On the other hand, female chicks demonstrate rapid feathering and lack the white head spot, which provides a clear and straightforward method for sex identification.

What’s the Purpose of Sex Link Chickens in Poultry Farming?

In poultry farming, a sex link chicken serves several key purposes. One primary advantage is the ease of management. With their distinctive feather traits, farmers can swiftly determine the gender of their chicks.

This efficiency is crucial, especially in large-scale operations where handling vast numbers of chickens is a daily routine.

Furthermore, these fowls are valuable for egg production. Many sex-linked breeds lay eggs prolifically. Additionally, some are favored for meat due to their rapid growth rates.

For instance, I’ve noticed that my Black Star chickens often mature faster than other breeds I’ve kept previously, resulting in a quicker turnaround for meat production.

Yet, beyond these practical benefits, breeding sex link chickens allows for producing offspring with specific traits in mind.

For one thing, keepers might aim for particular plumage colors, body shapes, or even behavioral characteristics; there’s no limit to what can be achieved through selective breeding.

Different Types of Sex Link Chickens

As crossbreeds, sex link chickens can be expected to come from many different pairings. For your convenience, here are some of their more common types:

Black Sex Link

Black Sex Link hen
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster or New Hampshire Red rooster crossed with a Barred Plymouth Rock hen
Purpose:Eggs and meat
Appearance:Large, predominantly black
Adult Weight:6–9 lbs (2.7–4 kg)
Egg Production:250–300 eggs per year
Temperament:Friendly, skittish, energetic

First on the list is the Black Sex Link, also known as the Black Star, Black Rock, or Rock Red. These birds result from crossing a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster with a Barred Plymouth Rock hen.

Appearance-wise, these chickens are easily sex-determined at birth, with cockerels displaying a distinctive white dot on their heads. Meanwhile, females have solid black down, as the barring gene only manifests in males.

Red Sex Link

Red Sex Link chicken in the yard side view
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a Delaware hen
Appearance:Males are mainly off-white, while females are salmon-red
Adult Weight:4–9 lbs (1.8–4.1 kg)
Egg Production:200–280 eggs per year
Temperament:Easygoing, calm, docile

The Red Sex Link, or the Red Star, is notable for its impressive egg-laying capabilities. These fowls produce up to 280 eggs a year. Their origin lies in the crossbreeding of a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Delaware hen.

Upon hatching, a clear distinction between the sexes is apparent; males primarily exhibit an off-white color, while females display a salmon-red shade.

Gold Sex Link

Gold Sex Link in the coop
Image credit: tiffanyweknow / Instagram
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a Rhode Island White hen
Appearance:Medium-sized, bronzy buff in color
Adult Weight:4–8 lbs (1.8–3.6 kg)
Egg Production:250–320 eggs per year
Temperament:Friendly, easygoing, docile

Also called the Gold Star, the Gold Sex Link is a popular breed known for its efficient egg production. These chickens result from breeding a Rhode Island Red rooster with a Rhode Island White hen.

One key feature of Gold Sex Link chickens is their easy gender distinction. Female chicks are bronzy buff in color with distinctive stripes, whereas male chicks appear light yellow.

Lohmann Brown

Two Lohmann Browns side by side
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a White Plymouth Rock hen
Appearance:Medium-sized, caramel-colored
Adult Weight:4.2–8.8 lbs (1.9–4 kg)
Egg Production:290–320 eggs per year
Temperament:Confident, calm, easygoing

Up next is the Lohmann Brown, a hybrid of the Rhode Island Red rooster and White Plymouth Rock hen. These chickens are prized for their prolific egg production, laying between 290 and 320 eggs annually.

On another note, distinguishing gender in Lohmann Brown chicks is straightforward. Cockerels display a pastel yellow color, while pullets sport a reddish-brown tinge.

ISA Brown

ISA Brown chicken in the yard
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a Rhode Island White hen.
Appearance:Medium-sized, chestnut-brown
Adult Weight:5–6 lbs (2.3–2.7 kg)
Egg Production:300–350 eggs per year
Temperament:Friendly, docile, gentle

Hailing from France, the ISA Brown is a renowned egg-laying chicken. These birds result from a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Rhode Island White hen, with possible contributions from two more breeds.

Basically, identifying ISA Browns is simple. Day-old females display a consistent chestnut brown color from head to tail. In contrast, males feature brown plumage with white streaks from the chest downwards.

Golden Comet

Golden Comet chicken up close
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a White Rock hen
Appearance:Small-sized, golden-brown
Adult Weight:4–8 lbs (1.8–3.6 kg)
Egg Production:250–320 eggs per year
Temperament:Friendly, docile, curious

Originating from the United States, the Golden Comet is another sex-linked chicken breed created from a Rhode Island Red rooster and a White Rock hen.

When it comes to appearance, these chickens have distinct gender colors at birth. Female Golden Comets are golden-brown, while males are either white or yellow.

Cinnamon Queen

Cinnamon Queen isolated on the grasslands
Parentage:Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a Silver Laced Wyandotte hen
Purpose:Meat and eggs
Appearance:Medium-sized, sand-colored
Adult Weight:4.5–7.5 lbs (2–3.4 kg)
Egg Production:250–320 eggs per year
Temperament:Friendly, docile, assertive

The Cinnamon Queen is a dual-purpose breed, ideal for meat and egg production. These chickens are a mix of a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Silver-laced Wyandotte hen.

Upon birth, female chicks present with an orange-red hue and characteristic chipmunk-like stripes on their backs. Contrastingly, males are predominantly white.

Watch this clip to see what adult Cinnamon Queen hens look like in action:

Cinnamon Queen egg layers hens chickens

Autosex vs. Sex Link Chickens

Autosex chickens differ significantly from sex link varieties. In particular, autosex birds are purebreds, meaning they come from a single chicken breed and exhibit consistent features across generations.

In contrast, sex links result from a cross between two different purebred lines. Due to this, they don’t breed true, which implies their offspring won’t consistently display the same sex-linked traits.

Breeding Sex Link Chickens

Sex link chicken while eating

Sex link chicken breeding is a complex yet fascinating process. First, you should take note that chickens have a total of 78 chromosomes. However, unlike those of humans, their sex chromosomes are labeled “Z” and “W.”

Simply put, in this setup, males possess ZZ genes, while females have a combination of ZW.

Then, to achieve sex link chicks, breeders should cross two heritage breeds with distinct phenotypes for each gender. Still, although this sounds complex, the actual breeding method mirrors typical chicken mating.

A popular example is the Black Sex Link. It’s produced by mating a barred hen, like a Barred Plymouth Rock, with a non-barred rooster, often a Rhode Island Red. Other notable pairings include:

  • Rhode Island Red rooster X White Rock hen
  • Rhode Island Red rooster X Silver-laced Wyandotte hen
  • Rhode Island Red rooster X Delaware hen

Yet, it’s essential to remember: mating two sex link chickens doesn’t yield more sex link offspring. Only the first generation (F1) will produce such birds.

Are Sex Link Chickens Good Egg Layers?

Sex link chickens are generally excellent egg layers. They can produce around 200 to 350 eggs annually. To add to that, they also start laying earlier than many heritage breeds, sometimes as young as four months.

Moreover, with their low broodiness levels, these fowls don’t waste time sitting on eggs until they hatch — they’re laying throughout their lives.

However, it’s worth noting that their egg production tends to decrease after the first two years, making them less reliable in the long term.

How Much Does a Sex Link Chicken Cost? 

Young sex link chicken

The cost of sex link chickens varies based on breed, demand, and geographic location, typically ranging from $2 to $6 per chick.

For your reference, below is a table of prices for different sex link breeds:

Black Star/Black Sex Link$2–$5 per chick
Gold Star/Gold Sex Link$3–$6 per chick
Red Star/Red Sex Link$3–$5 per chick
Lohmann Brown$3–$5 per chick
ISA Brown$3–$5 per chick
Golden Comet$2–$6 per chick
Cinnamon Queen$2–$5 per chick

Because these chickens are a hybrid, they may not be as common in poultry farms. So, a search for specialized hatcheries might be necessary to find them.

Fortunately, joining Facebook groups focused on sex-linked chickens can aid in locating sellers and providing additional purchase options.

Pros and Cons of Sex Link Chickens

In weighing the decision to raise sex link chickens, it’s crucial to consider both their positive and negative aspects. To get you started, here are a few of their pros:

  • Prolific egg layers: Sex link chickens are regarded for their egg-laying abilities, often producing between 200 and 350 eggs annually.
  • Low broodiness level: Sex link chickens exhibit a low level of broodiness, which means they’re more inclined to keep laying eggs rather than taking breaks to hatch them.
  • Sexual dimorphism: Thanks to the distinct feathering of sex-linked chickens, distinguishing between male and female chicks is straightforward.

Meanwhile, the following are some of the cons of sex link chickens:

  • Don’t breed true: One drawback of sex link chickens is that they don’t breed true. This means that when two Golden Comets are mated together, their offspring may not be sex-linked.
  • Decreased egg production: While sex link chickens are known for their excellent egg-laying abilities, their production tends to decline after the first couple of years.
  • Prone to egg yolk peritonitis: Sex link chickens, particularly those prolific in egg-laying, are susceptible to egg yolk peritonitis. It’s a condition where egg material gets deposited in the abdomen, which can lead to inflammation and potential fatality.

By understanding these pros and cons, farmers and poultry enthusiasts can make an informed decision on whether sex link chickens are the right choice for their flock.

Ultimately, it’s clear that sex link chickens are an exciting and beneficial choice for many poultry enthusiasts. For any questions or experiences with sex link chickens, feel free to leave a comment below!

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