Sex-links, hybrids, etc. Laying problems? Eggbound. Prolapse.


11 Years
Jul 28, 2008
I've had chickens, but never a new sex-link or an ISA Brown or anything that was meant to lay at a production level. Always dual purpose old-fashioned chickens, etc.

If you have had "production birds," including sex links, hybrid leghorns, hybrid crosses (Red Star, Black Star, Cinnamon Queen), I hope you have time to answer a couple of questions based on what I've "heard" people say about these birds, forgive me for insulting the birds, I'm asking based on hearsay so that I can get answers from experienced folks in a backyard setting.

I've heard that these birds are bred to lay and that their organs work so hard for so long that they just lay themselves to death. Total burn out. True?

Is it true that production just drops off after the second summer? Wouldn't the extra care backyarders put into their birds off set this?

Have any of your hens been egg bound?

Have any had prolapse?

About what percentage of your egg shells from older hens get bad and when? How are the eggs shells bad?

Are the problems worth the trade off of more eggs?

Or are there just not that many problems?

Do they really have a short life expectancy because of being susceptible to disease?

I'm beginning to think that the supposed problems with "hybrid production" or "high production" birds are possibly over blown in my mind.

As the belt tightening continues, I wonder if I should add a few 300-eggs-per-year birds into the flock this spring just to test them out for myself. Not sure. We haven't had any prolapse or egg binding with any of our heritage type or dual purpose birds and I really don't want to deal with that problem. That would be so sad.

Thanks in advance for any help as I try to figure this out.
Not a lot of experience here with PRs (production reds), but I'll try to answer.

I got 6 Golden Buff production started hens from Meyer Hatchery in May 2009. Only one survived the first winter. The others dropped over dead, and I didn't find any diagnosable sickness related to it. My BOs, BAs, and Langshans survived the winter fine. I sold the remaining hen. I didn't open them up to check for egg binding. But I never did get giant eggs from them or other problematic eggs.

Got 6 more PR chicks from TSC, and only have 2 left for various reasons, though they have survived this winter. They are running with a variety of heritage hens, so I can't really tell you how well they lay.

I have a farmer friend who keeps a flock of PRs. Each spring she gets started pullets and one roo from an Amish man who calls them Buckeye Beauties (or something like that). Then each November she sells them off as she doesn't find the production high enough to afford keeping them through winter. Not sure her method is the most economical, but it works for her.

I don't plan to get anymore PRs. I'm sticking to heritage breeds with dual use for meat. Rhode Island Reds might be a good bet for you.
Thanks, Becca.

Wish I could get more input. I hear both sides and I'm wondering if maybe it's just really a toss up between lots of eggs with an hybrid (275/year) and moderate (180/year) with heritage birds.

Maybe this isn't an egg-laying question and I put it in the wrong section?
I have kept ISA Browns and Black SexLinks (Barred Rock cross) from Townline and Golden Buffs (a production type red) from Meyer for the last few years. Perhaps 60? hens over that period. Not a single case of prolapse. Laying for the ISA is over 320 eggs a year. The Golden Buffs will likely also crack 300, while the Barred Rock cross BSL, I would peg laying at 260-280 per year.

There are lots and lots folks making and selling "sex links". This is merely breeding the right parents to achieve color sexing at birth.
The commercial layers would not employ layers that did not have a liveability rate of 90% as their profits are razor thin. Loss of hens due to prolapse issues can happen with any hen, at any time, but the poultry science breeders are serious about not breeding hens that have that propensity. Read all you want here:

more traditional, heritage type hen is viewed as a "good" layer at 200 per year and an "excellent" layer at 250 per year, while few actually achieve the latter. This comes down to what the flock keeper needs and desires. Both types of hen serves a purpose.
To answer a few more of your questions, perhaps, to assist you in your decision.

The good personality of the Red Sex links are almost universally acclaimed here at BYC. I agree. Friendly to a fault. Delightful, really. The ISA is a good, hardy bird. Takes confinement well, yet free ranges well too. What really makes these small 4 lb commercial red/brown birds like the Bovan, ISA, Shaver, DeKalb so special is their feed conversion. They outlay a traditional bird by 50% yet they do it consuming 1/3 less feed. It's all about body weight. They are much like a brown egg version of the Leghorn without the flightiness.

The Black Sex Links are based on the Barred Rock. They inherit the quiet nature, the larger size and breast of the Rock, but also eat more. They have to. They are simply larger. The also lay slightly less as well. I liken the BSL to a middle of the pack or compromise bird. Not as prolific a layer as the red/brown sex links, but far better than a regular bird.

The typical red/brown layer is best allowed to lay full out for one year, molt, and then allowed to lay the second year, and it will, very, very well. Typically, production will drop off at the end of the second year and commercial folks typically replace them at that time.
Thanks, Fred's Hens, that helps, too.

Maybe I should try some hybrids for myself and see what happens.

I think I'll stay away form the Black Stars.

??? I just checked and one of the local feed stores is getting 500 Black Stars and all of 100 Red Stars all season long. Their focus is definitely purebreds or whatever you call non-hybrid chickens. So I bet I miss my chance on those because I bet they'll go fast. I'll have to see what the other feed stores will be having. I don't really need 15 - 25 birds so I'm not going to order from a hatchery. I guess mypetchicken has some available on April 18.

Please, please if anyone else wants to add their view, I'd love to hear it. I'm surprised that Fred's Hens haven't once had prolapse or binding. We never had it with our heritage birds either. (knock on wood)

Am I the only one who's heard the story about hybrid chickens burning themselves out laying at around 15 months? Where did I hear that? Wish I could remember. I just filed it away in the "must be true" folder in my brain and now I'd like confirmation that could possibly happen.
I don't have large numbers or anything... but I bought 3 point of lay black sex links and 3 point of lay Silver laced Wyandottes.
The sex links lay extra large eggs close to every day and have never had a problem. They are 2 year olds now.

The SLW, laid a slightly smaller egg mostly every day but not as reliably as the sexlinks.
But I lost 2 of the Wyandottes last summer that were egg bound. I don't know if that's a common thing with this breed or not.

None of these birds are real friendly. I've had them for a year and they still haven't warmed up to me, but will eat bread from my hand. I don't know if it's because the person I got them from didn't keep them as pets or handle them or if that's how these breeds are or why they are like this. All my other chickens (Cochins, BC Marans and silkies) are very friendly.
Thanks, Sue, for your input. Sorry about your Wyandottes. So heritage breeds can get egg bound, too. Oh, dear. I thought I was avoiding that by staying away from the hybrids which are sometimes called "egg-laying machines." I guess there's really no one out there doing stats on which type of birds have more laying problems Hybrid/Sexlinks VS Heritage. So me figuring this out any time soon (maybe ever) isn't likely. Thanks, again.
I've lost an RIR to eggbinding in the past. I currently have ISA's and am very happy with them. My DH is not very involved with my chickens but always comments on how friendly they are when he goes into the run. They are almost friendly to a fault as mine tend to be under foot quite a bit if anyone is in the run. They are great egglayers, good with other breeds in the flock (although all chicken flocks have a pecking order), cheap to feed. If you want info about when production drops off you can go to the site listed above and Hendrix (holds the patent for the ISA breed) has all sorts of data available there to look at. You can see everything from how to raise them week by week, what/when to feed them, weekly production by age, housing, ...anything you can imagine about raising their breed.

We have the ISA's because we sell our excess eggs and have quite a few customers. So we only keep them for about 18 months and then sell them.
Hi, I've had a variety of layers over the years. Always a mixed flock eating the same layer ration and access to shell and grit and free ranged also and in two states; Alaska and Hawaii.

And, yes, I threw a lot of eggs away from the Production Reds and Comets (red sex link) because of cracks and mishappen, also full-size soft-shelled eggs. They did lay well and laid big eggs, but when the thin shells broke in the nest, it made all the chickens think of eating the eggs. About four or five times the egg was about 4 full size eggs cobbled together into a softball size round egg and was very fragile. My others laid green or cream or white eggs so I could tell which breed laid the thin shells.

To prevent egg eating is one good reason I won't have anymore. And I loved the Comets personality - when visiting children came over, I could sit them down and put a Comet in their laps and both the kid and the chicken loved it. The other Comets would even fly up on the kids shoulders, which the kids also loved.

My Easter Eggers laid six days a week reliably and the shells were tough on the same rations as the other hens. I've had the ones from Ideal and another hatchery, both great. The other hatchery strain laid extra large eggs - I couldln't close the carton. So, 365 days minus 52 days = 313 eggs a year.

I'm also looking for other good layers with good shell quality that lay large to extra large eggs on reasonable food intake also. Am considering California WHites and Delaware. I would like to know on what you decide to try.

I like the mix of green, olive, blue, white, cream, brown, and dark brown eggs.

I liked the Buff Orpingtons and Light Brahmas, but they eat a lot and the egg is medium size. My Barred Rocks, SLW and Columbian Wyndottes also laid a medium egg. The Columbian Wyndotte was a good broody.

The Andalusian and the Jaerhon always laid, but I onlly had one of each, not enough to tell. But the small Jaerhons look like they would make a flock that wouldn't eat as much. They insisted on free ranging all day too. The roos were gentlemen and not so big.

When the RIR types are laying good eggs, they are very good eggs. So the other solution I might try is just cull right away any Rhode Island type whose egg is not of good shell quality. The problem is they look alike, and I haven't yet figured out how to identify the one laying the problem eggs. Separate pens is a lot of fencing and work. I don't like the idea of capture nests trapping them in with their egg so theyll eat it, or it might make them hesitant to use nests that might lock them up for hours.

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