Can you breed hybrid chickens?
It is possible to breed both from your own hybrid chickens and to produce your own hybrids. The big problem with producing backyard flock hybrids is getting hold of the Cockerels they produce the hens with in the first place. So you won't be able to produce exactly the same birds as the big commercial producers do but they will look and perform much the same.
Below: A modern hybrid chicken from my flock.
So yes you can breed from hybrids you have bought and you can breed your own mix genetically speaking but you may end up with a few odd coloured birds. Like breeds like however and there will likely be considerable resemblance to your starting stock.
What is a hybrid hen?
A Hybrid hen is a commercially produced chicken that was bred to lay 300 or more eggs a year or more and be docile and easy to keep in confinement. Work on Hybrids began after the second world war as there was a great need to produce food for the continent of Europe.
Below: A flock of home bred hybrid chickens.
Hybrids are cheap to produce and buy and are hatched in astounding numbers every year. They are not often broody although they do so occasionally. They are light chickens that convert feed to eggs well and have normally been vaccinated. Hybrids are sexable at hatching and do not breed true.
Meat or broiler chickens were also subject to the hybrid treatment to produce bigger and quicker growing meat chickens.
Can hybrid chickens reproduce?
All hybrid chickens can reproduce as long as they produce fertile eggs and are of breeding age. It isn't possible to reproduce the exact same hybrid as you buy from large producers but like breeds like and if you get a suitable cockerel you should be able to get something similar.
I have often used bought hybrids in the production of my own laying birds. I have used a Rhode Island Red cockerel to breed with my hybrids. The Rhode island was used in the make up of most of the plain brown chickens used commercially these days.
These days there are many more hybrids coming onto the market produced especially for colourful eggs aqnd their suitability to the backyard.
Why breed hybrids?
- They can often be sexed as day old chicks easily.
- They have good fertility and hatch rates.
- They grow fast and mature quickly.
- They produce a lot of eggs.
- They have hybrid vigour which makes them sturdy chickens.
- They convert a lot of the food they consume to eggs or meat.
- They are happy in large flocks. this is how they are raised.
Commercial hybrids have been selected over the years to be easy to handle
Can you produce meat hybrids or broilers?
Yes. Again as long as you select the parents carefully you can produce your own meat hybrids. I have a chicken keeping friend who bought some Ross Cobbs (a commercial meat birds here in the UK) and kept the hens for breeding with a Cornish Male. This has enabled him to sustainably produce a steady supply of meat birds without having to buy new stock all the time.
By producing a hybrid like this it means he can take advantage of the both the quick growing nature of the commercial bird and the heritage characteristics of the Cornish.
Do hybrid chickens go broody?
All chickens can go broody and I have had quite a few hybrids over the years that have gone broody on me.
Below: A broody hybrid with her chicks.
There are a few differences in the way hybrids and heritage breeds go broody. I don't think I have ever had one go broody in its first year and they rarely go broody as a type.
With hybrids I would say that only about 5% Turn broody but when they do they make just as good sitters and mothers as any other hen. Compare this to my Barnevelders of which about a third go broody in any one year and my Silkies which almost always go broody at some stage.
Is it OK to cross breed chickens?
Yes, it is fine to cross-breed and hybridise chickens to your own needs. If you just want chickens then it is a good way to get birds cheaply.
As long as you are choosing your parents properly and following the guidelines for feeding breeding birds properly then there is no reason that your cross-breeds could be just a good and productive as anything you can buy.
What are the problems with breeding hybrid chickens?
You don't know what parents were used to create the birds you have which could be a problem.
You might get into trouble if you sell the birds you breed. Commercial hybrids are often protected by the company that created them, for example. Black rocks here in the UK are a trade name and protected and you could end up in court if you sell them without a licence. The law often protects these chickens so you are not allowed to breed them for commercial gain.
Below: Black Rock chickens. Lovely nature, very friendly and kids think its hilarious when she takes food out their hands. Black rock is a trade name.
They are short lived as a rule and lay themselves out within 2 or three years. Commercially they are spent hens at 80 weeks old and while they may last a few months longer in the backyard environment they will not live to the same age as heritage breeds.