Such poultry can be very productive and useful for the backyard fancier but cannot be considered a breed. In other words, a breed breeds true. The advantage of pure breeds is that each generation of offspring can be counted on to look and perform in the same way as the previous generation. Join Backyard Poultry today and let us help you take the stress out of chick season.
With an All-Access Membership to Backyard Poultry , you can start reading tips and ideas from our experts right now! Breeds were often developed due to geographic isolation or for specific purposes. Each of these terms has some historic relevance worth knowing in order to help understand how they relate to pure breeds. The idea of purity in a genetic population has old roots, but was not widely applied to poultry until the s. Little thought was given to selective breeding.
The fact that purebred poultry could be relied upon to produce predictable results, generation after generation, and the fact that they were productive, by the standards of that time period, were the basis of profit that could be relied upon. Any chicken that was not a pure breed was referred to as a mongrel and the meaning was derogatory. Fast growth have them ready to harvest as fryers at six weeks of age.
Photo courtesy of Gail Damerow Crossing Breeds A crossbred chicken today often called the hybrid chicken is simply the result of crossing two or more purebred chickens. There is nothing new about crossing breeds. All throughout the late s and early s, some poultrymen would cross various pure breeds. This may have started as a curiosity, but a few of these crosses were found to produce faster growth, meatier bodies, or higher egg production.
During the early s, poultrymen supplying chickens for meat found these crosses advantageous, but popular opinion had already been formed against chickens that were not purebred. They also exhibited that same trait we find when we cross two breeds of almost any animal — vigor, a. Pure breeds were still the preference for the production of eggs. Meat Production and Sexlinks Back to meat production for a moment: Probably the most famous cross to produce fast growth and meaty chickens for market was the cross of the Cornish breed to the Plymouth Rock breed.
But other crosses were also very important. For many years New Hampshire Reds were crossed with Barred Plymouth Rocks — producing fast-growing, meaty and tasty market poultry.
From this cross, a few white spots were produced—and thus the Indian River or Delaware breed was born. Poultrymen noticed that these various crosses of breeds with different colors did produce pullets that laid very well. They also noticed something interesting—the chicks from these crosses often had easily noticed differences in down color, which made it easy to learn how to tell the sex of baby chicks for these crossbreeds. In other words, the color of the male and female offspring from these crosses were linked to the sex of the chick.
Breeds with large breasts, such as this Cornish, helped develop the Cornish Cross, being crossed with below the Plymouth Rock. But the disadvantage comes in that flocks of each of the two parent breeds must be maintained in order to have birds with which to make the cross to produce the sexlink chicks. This means that for those that wish to produce their own stock, sexlink chickens offer no advantage. Are They a Breed? Because sexlink chickens do not produce offspring that look and produce as well as they themselves do, they are not breeds.
They simply do not fit the definition of a breed. So what are they? Since they are the result of crossing two or more breeds, they may only be termed crossbreeds. So if you have a sexlink chicken and you wonder what breed it is—it is not a breed but a crossbreed. Poultry Color Before we talk about the various types of sexlinks available, let us talk a little about poultry color genetics.
In poultry, the males carry two full genes for color and the females carry the sex-determining gene and one gene for color. This is true in all avians and is the opposite of what we see in mammals and people. Different color genes are dominant or modify other color genes, for example; the barred color is the result of genes for black plus a gene for barring.
Since the males have two genes for barring and the females only one, we can see that in barred breeds the males have finer barring than the females. When we breed a barred hen to a solid color male, her daughters do not receive the barring gene but her sons do get one dose of barring. As day-old chicks, males carrying a barring gene will have white on their heads while their sisters without will be solid black.
Breeds with white color or some white color often carry what we call the silver gene. This is a dominant or partially dominant gene—meaning it only takes one dose to express itself. When a female with the silver gene is crossed to a solid colored male, her sons will be white and her daughters will be the color of their father though often with white undercolor. Male chicks will hatch with yellow down and females will be like their dad usually buff or red tinted.
When we breed a barred male to solid color females, his daughters get a normal and full dose of barring and his sons get only one gene, or half the normal dose, of barring. If the hen used was black, all the chicks will be barred. If the hen carries the silver gene, then the daughters will be barred and the sons white or white with barring.
As chicks, we would see yellow down on males and black down with white spots on females. Being able to sex birds at birth is one reason for the popularity of sex-link chickens, such as the Golden Comet sold by hatcheries. Photo courtesy of Cackle Hatchery The Sexlinks So what are the various types, or kinds, of sexlink chickens? We can divide these as either red sexlinks or black sexlinks. Popular names under which they are marketed include: Both sexes hatch out black, but the males have a white dot on their heads.
Pullets feather out black with some red in neck feathers. Males feather out with the Barred Rock pattern along with a few red feathers. Black Sexlinks are often referred to as Rock Reds. These two crosses are simply called Red Sexlinks.
Generally, red sexlink males hatch out white and, depending on the cross, feather out to pure white or with some red or black feathering. Females hatch out buff or red also depending on cross, and they feather out in one of three ways: While this Golden Comet will lay very well, if bred, her offspring are not likely to produce as well as their mother. Photo courtesy of Eugene A.
This cross produces red hens and roosters largely white in color. He wanted a breed of fowl that would dress out at four pounds—a little larger than a Leghorn— but lay white eggs. The sire carries the barring gene, and gives one barred gene to sons and one to daughters.
The dam carries the dominant white gene and gives this only to sons. So, in theory, the sons are white and the daughters are white with black mottling or barred in color. Both may have some black spots on bodies, but the males fewer and smaller spots. Conclusion While you may have a nice flock of sexlink chickens, producing many wonderful eggs, a breed they are not. But they will not breed true and that is the basic meaning of a breed. So be proud of your hens and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert.