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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

Raising Sex-Link Chickens: Complete Guide to Breeding, Eggs, and More

Sex Link Chickens are well known hybrids that produce an abundance of eggs and tend to be tolerant to heat and cold weather. These are just a few reasons why this breed has become increasingly popular.

Broad Side Black Sex Link Rooster

Table of Contents

History

The origin of Sex Links is not entirely clear, and information tends to be conflicting. This hybrid was created in the late 1800's to mid-1900's.


As sex-links males and females can be identified and separated immediately after hatching. Other commonly known sex-links are Golden Comets.


While there are numerous varieties of Sex Links, the most popular are Black and Red.


Black Sex Links are a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and Barred Rock hen with a specific set of genes.


Red Sex Links are a cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and a White Rock (Golden Comet), Silver Laced Wyandotte, Rhode Island White, or Delaware Hen.


Sex Links are not accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection as they are a hybrid.


Heritage or Hybrid?

Sex Links are hybrids as they can be crossbred from a variety of different breeds.


This breed was created to be strong egg layers, as well as other desirable traits including a docile temperament, cold hardy, heat tolerant, etc.


Appearance

Sex Link chickens can come in a variety of colors of colors but are most commonly black or red, but they can also be blue or white.


As a hybrid their appearance varies, however they do all have common features that stay true regardless of color or variety.


A few common features of this breed include:

  • Single comb

  • Red Comb

  • Bare Legs

Weight

Roosters weigh around 8-9 (eight to nine) pounds on average, hens are closer to 6-7 (six to seven) pounds on average. This makes them larger than average sized chicken. On average roosters weigh 6 pounds and hens weigh 5.7 pounds.

Broad Side Black Sex Link Hen

Lifespan

Sex Links typically have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years in backyard confinement, which is less average as most chickens live between 3 and 7 years.


In optimal conditions some homesteaders report that their chickens live even longer lifespans of 8 to 10 years.


Sex Links mature faster than most breeds and due to their high egg production they age substantially quicker, similar to Isa Browns.


Egg Color & Production

Egg production starts bat around 20 weeks (5 months), which is early for most breeds.


You can expect 5+ eggs a week from these birds. In their first year, they can produce up to 350 eggs with proper diet and care.


The parent breeds of this hybrid will greatly affect their egg production as some of these crossbreeds produce closer to 200- 250 eggs annually.


Similarly, the parent breeds impact the egg color, typically these eggs are brown, but could also be blue or green in rare cases.


Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.


Breeding

Sex Links are not known for being broody.


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.


This often occurs in hybrid breeds including the popular Isa Browns.


Hardiness

Sex Links are well known for being a cold hardy and heat tolerant. However, their tolerance to heat depends greatly on the size of their comb.


Chickens with larger combs and wattles allow their body temperature to cool down when exposed to the air as it circulates through their system.


It is important to know how to keep your chickens cool in hot weather, view our complete guide for more tips and tricks.


In the winter it is important to ensure they 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.


Health Risks

Sex Links tend to have strong immune systems and are resilient to many illnesses and diseases.


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 large sized chickens they are considered to be a good meat birds as they grow quickly compared to other breeds like Jersey Giants.


However, most homesteads utilize them for their optimal egg production.


Noise Level

Sex Links are known for being a noisier and more vocal breed. This makes them a good candidate for more rural farms rather than urban.


While the hens don't make an abundance of noise, the roosters consistently crow and are generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.


Temperament

Sweet and friendly are words often used to describe Sex Links temperament. Many consider them to be even sweeter than Orpingtons.


In our experience, Sex Link hens have never been aggressive towards us. However, a homestead in our area has a rooster that is assertive from time to time.


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


While by nature the roosters are seldom 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 8 hens.


Housing Requirements

Black Sex Link Hen perched on top of the coop

As a larger than average sized breed Sex Links 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. Sex Links 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?

Sex Links can be a suitable option for beginners due to their ability to be dual-purpose, cold tolerance, heat tolerance, and resistance to illnesses and diseases.

Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Sex Link chickens produces more than the average eggs per year, and can even be processed for meat as a dual purpose bird.


On the other hand, if you are looking for birds with a long-life expectancy, it may be worth considering other breeds.


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