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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

Isa Brown Chickens: The Perfect Breed for Beginners - A Comprehensive Guide

Isa Brown Chickens are renowned for being the best brown laying hen in the world. While they are a strong egg producer with a docile temperament, it's clear why they are popular in backyard and farmsteads around the world.

Isa Brown staring off to the left

Table of Contents

History

Isa Brown Chickens have a unique history compared to most heritage breeds. They were developed in 1978 in France with the purpose of being strong egg layers.


Isa stands "Institut de Selection Animale," or in other worlds Institute for Egglayer Selection.


The parent breeds that when crossbred produce Isa Browns are a closely guarded secret. But many speculate they are closely related to Rhode Island Reds.


Being a newer breed and a hybrid, Isa Browns have not been accepted to the American Poultry Association.


Heritage or Hybrid?

Isa Browns are a hybrid chicken breed.


Compared to most breeds of chickens they are rather new as many have roots back to the 1800's. Due to this and the closely guarded secret of the parent breeds they have not been accepted into the American Poultry Association as a purebred breed.


Appearance

Isa Browns can come in a variety of shades of red/brown including Chestnut, Honey, and Red. While their appearance varies, they do all have common features that unite the breed.


A few common features of this breed include:

  • Single comb

  • Comb is bright red

  • Medium bright red wattles

  • Red or white earlobes

  • Bare Legs

  • Tail

Isa Brown Broad Side

Weight

Roosters weigh around 6 pounds on average, hens are closer to 5 pounds on average. This makes them about an average sized chicken as the average rooster weighs 6 pounds and a hens weighs 5.7 pounds.


Lifespan

Isa Brown chickens have an average lifespan of 2 to 4 years in backyard confinement, which is below average as most chickens live between 3 and 7 years. In optimal conditions some homesteaders report that their Isa Browns live closer to 5 to 8 years.


Their short life expectancy is related to their high production of eggs as it takes a toll on their bodies and reproductive system.


Egg Color & Production

Egg production starts between 24 weeks and 26 weeks (6 to 6.5 months), which is a few weeks later than most breeds.


You can expect 6+ large light brown eggs a week. In their first year, they can produce up to 300 eggs with proper diet and care. Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.


Isa Browns have a similar egg production to the infamous white egg laying Leghorns or Golden Comets.


Breeding

Isa Brown chickens are not known for their broodiness and instinct to sit on a nest. However, in the proper environment they can become broody and be quite capable mothers.


The general rule of thumb is that heritage breeds are able to breed and yield the same breed of offspring, whereas hybrid breeds are not always able to. Even two hybrids of the same breed will likely produce a mixed breed chick. This is because each hybrid will provide genetics for one of their parent breeds.


The only way to do this is to breed the pure-bred rooster and hen.

Due to the fact that the breed was specifically designed to have certain characteristics, there are health issues that may come up with breeding your birds, leading to unhealthy chicks.

Isa Brown Turning Around to Stare At the Camera

Hardiness

Isa Browns are known for being cold hardy and are known for being able to adapt to their environment.


In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to clean water, and are not showing signs of frostbite on their combs, wattles, or feet. They likely will not require accommodations such as a heater or brooder in the winter unless there is extreme cold.

Additionally, Isa Browns are rather tolerant of the heat. It is important to provide shade on sunny days or with extreme heat.



Health Risks

Isa Browns stress their reproductive systems with their high egg production. Due to this, it is common for them to develop cancer, tumors, prolapses, and experience other reproductive health issues.


We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock.


We also offer free choice oyster shells as a source of grit and to strengthen the shells of eggs. If a chicken (especially a strong layer) is deficient in calcium, it can lead to severe health complications and a shortened lifespan.


Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.


Meat Production

As an average sized chicken, they are not considered good for an abundance meat production. Isa Browns are more commonly recognized for their egg laying abilities.


Noise Level

Isa Browns are considered a quiet breed as far as noise is concerned. This makes them a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods.


While the hen doesn't make an abundance of noise, roosters will crow and can be generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.


In our experience they make noise from time to time, but compared to some of our more vocal chickens like Barred Rocks they are quiet.

Isa Brown Broad Side with Ducks in the Background

Temperament

Friendly and docile are words often used to describe Isa Brown chickens.


In our experience, Isa Brown Hens have never been aggressive towards us. In fact they are a more affectionate breed that enjoys being held and cuddles.


With their calm disposition, they would do well around children.


While by nature the roosters are rarely aggressive, if the ratio of hens to roosters is not appropriate, they can be aggressive with each other roosters. An ideal rooster to hen ratio for this breed is 1 rooster to every 12 hens.


Housing Requirements

As an average sized breed Isa Browns require 4 square feet per bird in the coop. It is important to ensure your coop has adequate space and height to ensure your birds are comfortable.


Our coop is secure from predator's and limited drafts, but still is unheated. Isa Browns in our area did not have any issues during the winter, even on days it dipped to -22 (negative twenty-two) with wind-chill.

In an enclosed run, 8 to 10 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds.


During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.


Are They Right For You?

Isa Browns can be a suitable option for beginners due to their docile temperament, cold tolerance, and gentle personality.

Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Isa Browns produce an abundance of eggs per year once matured.


If you are looking for a strong production of large eggs, and a friendly breed, a chicken that does well in colder climates then Isa Browns may be for you!


On the other hand, if you are looking for a meat chicken or a breed you can safely breed yourself, it may be worth considering other breeds.


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