When you choose your chicken breed, you might consider choosing a hybrid breed, such as the Hy-line.
The hybrid chicken is created by crossing two or more different pure breeds and sometimes crossing further after this. There are hybrid crosses that produce table birds or layers. More recently, breeders have been producing hybrids that have attractive egg colours.
These chicken breeds are developed through careful, scientific selection and genetic engineering in order to maximise traits that are desirable for commercial egg production.
Hybrids do not breed true. If a male and a female of the same hybrid breed mate, then the chicks do not grow up exactly the same as their parents.
There are a number of benefits of using hybrids instead of pure breeds. Since the blood lines are so different from the parents, the offspring are usually very fit and healthy. When crossing certain strains of birds, you can get ‘Hybrid Vigour’ where a chick is better than either of its parents.
The various versions of Hy-line are bred mostly for their laying abilities. The most popular in South Africa are the Hy-line Silver Brown and the Hy-line Brown. Other breeds are the Hy-line W-36, the W-80, the Hy-line Sonia and the Hy-line Pink.
The Silver Brown is known to be calm and adapts well to different conditions. She is robust and her mature body weight is 2.2kg.
The Silver Brown is billed as the world’s most prolific layer. She can start laying at 18 weeks and can produce 320 eggs a year. Her eggs are a uniform, dark brown, averaging at 63gms.
Because they have white feathers their skin is yellow, so they have a higher end of life carcass value.
The Brown Hy-line is popular as a free range breed, as it is robust, adaptable and has good feather retention. It has an inquisitive nature and mild temperament and smallholders with children will find that they are a good breed to have around.
The Brown Hy-line has excellent feed conversion rates and is also a prolific egg layer, with a persistent production to 80 weeks. The eggs are slightly heavier and noted for superior interior quality.
Both the Silver Brown and the Brown have good liveability rates, which means they have a relatively long life-span.
This is part of a series of articles to help you choose your chicken breed. To read more, click here.