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The Lowdown on Red Sex Links

By Nutcase · Sep 3, 2013 · Updated Sep 14, 2013 · ·
  1. Nutcase

    The Lowdown on Red Sex Links

    Here is some information about Red Sex Links.

    There are many different laying breeds to choose from, but there is always the risk that you will end up with a rooster or two. Roosters can be hard to rehome, but this breed holds a simple solution and is perfect for people new to chicken keeping.

    The red sex link (also known as Red Stars) is more of a hybrid than a breed. It was created through crossbreeding Rhode Island Reds, Columbian Whites and other popular breeds. Adult hens are reddish-brown to reddish-gold and have white-tipped neck feathers. The roosters have white, gold and brown feathers, often with very large combs.







    The reason the red sex link is so popular is that newly hatched chicks can be immediately sexed by their colouring. Therefore, hens and roosters can be separated and the females sold as laying hens. The sexing results are about 97% accurate. Red sex links were also bred to produce a large amount of eggs until they are about two years old. They are widely used in egg farms and can be purchased from most sources. If handled from a young age, they will become friendly and tame towards humans.
    Red sex links require sufficient calcium in their diet, sometimes more than other breeds such as Orpingtons or Australorps. Their egg production slows dramatically after around two years but they will produce some eggs as they age.

    Also keep in mind that they can be very aggressive towards new additions to the flock and it can be virtually impossible to integrate new chickens. As with all chickens, sufficient space is important and overcrowded conditions can result in bullying.

    But all in all, this breed is a good choice for those new to chicken keeping. Enjoy your chicken experience!

    -Nutcase -

    Feel free to offer suggestions on how to improve this article. If you would like to edit it yourself then let me know.

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  1. remisophy
    My red Sex Link hen stopped eating scratch and I didn't notice she was getting thin until she started staying away from the rest of the chickens her crop filled with fluid when I was able to empty the fluid out of her it looked like mud water it was brown her crop is laid over and she has white stuff on her crop and her Waddell's
  2. Cerise1924
    I completely agree with what @abserbean said. I wish I had read this article! A couple of years ago, I was starting a flock and the available pullets locally were two RSLs and a RIR. They get along fine and have been super sweet to all humans, affectionate and funny and great layers. BUT... as soon as I brought new birds, the Red Stars showed their horribly aggressive side. The RIR is gentle and mellow with new additions, but the RSLs have now been nicknamed "The Red Devils." They are SO MEAN!! They have gone after the Silkies, the Brahmas, the BCM and even the peahen, who is afraid of them even though she is double their size. Today, one of them would have killed a new chick if I hadn't repeatedly intervened and made sure they couldn't get near her. That RSL had murder in her eyes, and tried to follow me into the house to get that chick. I love them and appreciate the eggs, but I won't get them again.
  3. Jack Speese
    In all of the poultry I've ever owned, the only bullying I've experienced is between male birds. If you have more than one rooster, it's almost inevitable that one will become dominant and bully the other(s), to the point that the weaker one will be forced to hide in a nesting box or some such place constantly and will be brutally attacked if it comes out to try to eat or drink. And once they are sexually mature, you can't keep more than one male ringneck pheasant together with hens; the dominant one will literally kill the subordinate one. I've had the same thing happen with Muscovy duck drakes. And the one breed of poultry that I don't like and will never raise again are Chinese geese. They are mean, not just to humans but to other birds as well. I hatched some under a Muscovy hen once and even though they were raised with them, as soon as they got older the goslings started killing the ducklings. Never had that problem with graylag breed geese. Although again if you have more than one gander, the weaker one may get bullied, especially during mating and breeding season.
  4. OKVet
    I have 16 of them for production specifically. I am not sure how old they are, they are laying pretty well. They are bully's for sure.
  5. Jack Speese
    I hear/read a lot of conflicting reports about RSLs; some say they are aggressive, others not, some say they are less adept at getting away from predators, ie, more suited to confinement, and others say they are less winter-hardy (fortunately not an issue for me in Georgia). I guess it all depends on the exact crosses/parent lines used, and evidently there are a great many. I am not sure what the exact parentage of mine are, even though a number of breeds can be used, the end results (ie., reddish buff hens with white underfeathers) generally look similar. Although I read that if a Delaware is used, the hens look identical to a purebred RIR or NHR. In fact my first flock was red sex links, and they looked just like purebred RIRs. So their mothers may have been Delawares. .
  6. Peep_Show
    The RSL's in my flock (RIR x SLW) are VERY aggressive. We had to give one away and the two remaining ones wear Peepers to keep them at the same attitude as the rest of the flock. Took the Peepers off one day as an experiment and they went caveman on the others. Oops! It took a good half year for them to lay Large rather than Small/Medium eggs, BUT they lay nearly every day which is great for those who sell eggs.

    Previously I had other RSL's from hatcheries that were very sweet. I will never do this custom cross again, though.
  7. Honey B
    I could only have a few chickens so RSL were and obvious choice to maximize my eggs. I have been very happy with them. Egg production is great personality is even better!
  8. Gallo2014
    I am into egg layers and in my flock of 55 or so hens 1/3 of them is RSL and another 1/8 is BSL. I really cannot tell the difference between the two hybrids in egg performance. IT is very unusually cold in central TX right now and for the most part the RSL are keeping production going on a regular basis. The BSL started molting in Nov. and are just now starting to look pretty good and should be producing again in about a month or so. Anyway just pitching in and saying that in my opinion, an egg laying small to medium operation would benefit from having the best hybrid combination in the market of the RSL or the BSL! You can either breed your own or buy them from a reputable hatchery!
  9. N F C
    Originally we included 3 RSL in our mixed flock for their egg-laying prowess but now, I would keep them just for their personalities. One of them is my special girl who follows me around like a dog and loves to be carried. All our girls are great birds but the RSL's are amazing!
  10. artsygirl
    Mine is Maddie, a joy and mostly friendly, the one that comes up to me most and will deal with being held. She is a doll. She and my Tetra Tint were laying at like 4-5 months old.
  11. tommysgirl
    I started to breed red sex links this spring using my New Hampshire rooster and a variety of hens incl. Dorking, Barred Rock and Delaware. The chicks are fabulous and I know from the get go who will be a part of a a laying flock and who is going to the freezer. The Dorking cross boys the best carcass. The only girl who is laying from this year's crop is a Del cross and she lays a beautiful dark brown egg about 6 days a week.
  12. ErniesFlock
    No kidding! So are these too "patented" like the ISA's? Or more like the Black Sexy links? I actually breed Blue Sexlinks with my Blue Copper Maran Roo and my Barred/Cuckoo hen of unknown breed origin. Simple boys come out barred and the girls come out blue or black its pretty 50/50 I have a picture of the hen posted maybe you can tell me what you think she may be or came from. I suspect Cuckoo Marans cause she has those white feet, with that said she also has 5 toes on each foot. We call her NWA - No Wattles At all. Anyways ya I love my 4 ISA Browns. I have been experimenting with reproducing them only to produce true to type (whatevr that may be its limited to only 2 of my rescued hens) and to lay one brown egg a day. My recent F2,s are 50%+ true to type meaning they look identical i am impressed with myself since I am new at the breeding game. Time will tell re eggs. My next project is to add a barring to my countries very own Chantecler... or Lavender :)
  13. Nutcase
    @ErniesFlock Well the two hybrids can be essentially categorised together, but no there are a few differences, although they do look quite similar don't they? I've kept Isa Browns and RSLs.
  14. ErniesFlock
    Are these not ISA Browns?
  15. Jack Speese
    Where I now have 6 of each (6 red stars and 6 black stars), I'm curious to see how they will compare. I don't know if the 6 black stars I now have are from the same hatchery as the ones I had 7 or so years ago, although both groups came from our local feedstore, but as I mentioned earlier one of those hens was the best setting hen I ever had... and they are a commercial hybrid and not supposed to go broody.
  16. The Yakima Kid
    BSLs also known as Black Stars tend to be calmer, friendlier, and less aggressive to other chickens. They lay a little less frequently than RSLs, but the eggs are larger. Both BSLs and RSLs are very good layers. The difference is more in egg size and temperament.
  17. Jack Speese
    Well, I was lucky with my 6 Hampshire Reds that I mentioned back in the spring...the sexers didn't make a mistake and they are all pullets. Very pretty chestnut red with some black in the tail feathers, make a neat contrast to my 6 red stars with white in their tail feathers. And fortunately the red stars weren't at all aggressive to the new gals when I let them run together for the first time. But they have a big pasture with plenty of things to do (that chickens like to do, that is)! They and the 6 black stars I got as well should start laying in a couple more weeks.
  18. Jack Speese
    Sorry you had such bad luck with your red stars, Phoenixx. I read somewhere else that someone (in New Jersey, I think) thought they weren't as winter hardy, nor as adept at getting away from predators, but I guess that depends a lot on the precise breeds and strains that were used to produce them. They are designed for commercial egg production, after all, and in some cases I'm sure they (or their parent lines) are bred with egg production in mind at the expense of qualities such as ability to free range and winter hardiness (after all they would be likely raised in confinement commercially). And some strains are bred to be smaller, closer in size to a white leghorn (and therefore require less feed), than most purebred brown egg layers. I guess you can get the feather color effects by crossing any strain of Rhode Island or New Hampshire Red rooster with any strain of the various and sundry breeds of white, Columbian, silver-laced, etc. hens used to produce red or buff sex links, but there's a big difference between commercial, production strains vs. heirloom or show strains in all these breeds. I had great luck with the Ideal Hatchery black stars, hopefully I will with the red stars as well. Oddly enough, the best setting hen I ever had was a black star...go figure! I guess it all depends on what strains were used to create them.
  19. Nutcase
    @Jack Speese Mine are almost 5 years old and are starting to slow down a lot although they're still in good health. Their food consumption is much lower though, so it's not so bad even if they don't earn their keep like they used to.
  20. Jack Speese
    I hope mine do as well! It's been my experience that if they are not pushed like they are in commercial production, most hens will continue laying for several years. An egg every other day for 5 year old hens sounds pretty good, and for a hobby flock, who's trying to duplicate commercial production anyway? I do notice older hens tend to focus their laying in the spring and may stop during the winter, but for a hobby flock I think most breeds will keep producing something for several years. But I guess there eventually comes a point where old hens become "boarders" (i.e., eating) rather than producers "earning their keep", or just pets.
  21. sheeshshe
    Mine are 5 years old and still laying about every other day. They're the cinnamon queen variety. I'm in Maine, so they are cold hardy too. they've outlived all my other chickens!
  22. Jack Speese
    I too like my red stars. I have 6 from Ideal (actually from our local feed store, but Ideal was where they were originally from). Don't know what the exact cross is as there are several possibilities, but even though they are a commercial breed I think they are quite attractive and they are friendly, come right up to you. And since they are bred for commercial egg production I can see why feed and calcium are more critical for them than for other breeds. This spring I got 6 black star chicks and 6 Hampshire red chicks (all pullets, hopefully). But I realize "mistakes" happen with non-sex-linked chicks, I have a RIR rooster several years old from a batch of 12 supposedly all pullet RIR chicks.
  23. Cluckysnap123
    But I do have chickens!
  24. Cluckysnap123
    I'm gonna stay away from having these in my yard as I don't want eggs, I don't eat eggs.
  25. dwgov
    And to Phoenixxx, I'm in Jersey & this has been a brutal winter. My RSL's have been fine. No heat or insulation in the coop & the continue to lay great!
  26. dwgov
    I have 4 RS's in my flock with 3 EE (being a Roo) 4 BO's & 4 BS's. 15 total after I swore I'd keep it to 8. Oh well, I love them all, but the RS's were my 1st & still my favorites...
  27. sonderah
    I have 3 RSLs. They are very good and friendly. 2 will actually sit in my lap when I'm sitting outside in the warm weather. The 3rd is smaller and pretty skittish, but still very sweet. I hatched some chicks from them last year, and 6 of the 7 are also very friendly. One of the roosters likes to try to eat you. Lol I am actually considering starting to breed my BO's some, but I can't bring myself to get rid of my RSL's to make enough room. I get eggs everyday from them all, with an occasional skip from one here and there. One of them follows me instead of the rooster. They did used to be bullies to the babies though, but my guineas are mean to them, so they calmed down a lot.
  28. Phoenixxx
    Never again. They're not a great "winter chicken" and i had loads of health problems with them. (Mine were acquired "secondhand".) I have three left (out of seventeen a year-and-a-half ago), one of which still - miraculously - lays like crazy even though her sisters quit a year ago. They have no meat to speak of so when they quit laying, then what? I now have two hens taking up space and food simply because the amount of work to process and cook them isn't worth the tiny scrap of meat they contain.
  29. abserbean
    I love my RSL, she has always been friendly and is the best layer I have. I do wish I had read this article before trying to integrate a new hen though. My sweet little RSL hen became the biggest bully to the newcomer, almost killed her, and now I have two flocks instead of one! In the future I will always get chicks and raise them together.
  30. cstronks
    I have a red sex link who is very friendly and by far the best layer of the flock.
  31. Nutcase
    Mine used to be excellent layers, but they're starting to slow down with age. It's a matter of keeping up their protein and calcium intake.
  32. Math
    My red sex links are great layers. I don't think they miss a day laying.
  33. Nutcase
    Great combination, Hagar3! I've always wanted Australorps but you can't beat RSLs for personality! :)
  34. Highcotton
    I have Black Australorps, White Leghorns and Red Sex Links. The Red Sex Links are the friendliest I have.
  35. piggirl19
    How can u tell the difference between the male and female chicks and wat do they look like at 2 weeks old?
  36. Nutcase
    Sorry to hear about Stella. I lost one of my red star pullets to a neighbour's cat, and since then we've had to fence the remaining birds in a run to keep them safe. You're really lucky to have had a hen like her! :)
  37. lizgarf
    I love my red star, Stella, whom I tragically lost to a neighbor's dog last week. I got her from a family who had rescued her after someone had dumped her in a college student's yard during a party. They sold me Stella at the same time they sold me 4 pullets, so I could have eggs while waiting for the youngins' to mature. Stella was awesome - she was nice to the younger birds, laid lots of beautiful big brown eggs, and was very friendly. I miss her a lot and would happily have another red star in my flock.
  38. ClucksAndPeeps
    Great!!! I want to get some. I Pmed you some questions.

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