Categories: Articles, Livestock and gamePublished On: 21st August 2023

Chicken breeds part 2: Layer hens

By 7 min read

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Why are hybrid chicken layer breeds so popular among farmers? This article will seek to provide the answers. The creation of hybrid chickens requires the mating of two or more pure chicken breeds, with additional matings possible in the future. In some cases of hybridisation, meat or egg-laying birds are produced.

In recent years, breeders have been able to produce hybrids with eggs in more desirable colours, more eggs per year, or increased size, or yolk per egg. These chicken breeds are developed through careful, scientific selection and genetic engineering to maximise traits useful for commercial egg production. Genetically pure offspring cannot be produced from a hybrid parent. Chickens bred from a male and female of certain breeds will produce offspring that are a unique mix of characteristics from both parents.

The use of hybrids, as opposed to pure breeds, offers numerous benefits. Because their blood lines are so different from their parents, the offspring tend to be extremely healthy and physically fit. The term “hybrid vigour” is used to describe the phenomenon that occurs when two different bird breeds are mated. The resulting offspring is superior to both of its parents.

Amberlink

Amberlink chickens have beautiful neck and wing patterns of creamcoloured feathers with reddish overtones. (Source: sasmallholder.co.za)

Mixed offspring of a male Light Sussex and a female Rhode Island Red resulted in the Amberlink chicken breed. The cream-coloured feathers of an Amberlink chicken have reddish overtones, and they form beautiful patterns not only on the neck but also on the wings.

This type of hen is highly sought after because of her calm nature and her ability to lay about 280 eggs per year. If you are looking for an attractive and productive backyard chicken, the Amberlink is a sensible choice. These birds should be considered a part of your backyard poultry flock if you want to get the most out of them with the least amount of work.

Amberlink chickens are quite active and prefer a free-range feeding system, despite the fact that an adult male can weigh up to 2,7 kilogrammes and a female up to 2,3 kilogrammes. The free-range system meets their nutritional requirements without confining the birds to a cage. Instinctively foraging, Amberlink chickens thrive when allowed to roam freely in the grass and find their own food.

The Amberlink chicken is a resilient breed that can thrive in many environments. They are able to regulate their body temperature and lay eggs continuously throughout the year, making them well suited to colder climates. An Amberlink hen typically lays around 280 brown eggs per year. The eggs can be any size between medium and large, but tend to be on the larger side. Many factors, including the chickens’ diet and environment, can influence their ability to lay eggs. A purebred hen or breeder hen will stop laying quality eggs between the ages of six and eight years of age.

Hy-line

Hy-line chickens come in a wide range of colours, from white to brown. (Source: zootecnicainternational.com)

Another variety of hybrid laying hens is the Hy-line. They can be found in a wide array of colours, from white to brown. The two most common colours in Africa are Hy-line Brown and Hy-line Silver Brown. Hy-line chickens are favoured for their submissive demeanour and low maintenance requirements in the backyard coop. Despite hens weighing only 2,2 kilogrammes, they are extremely strong.

Some breeders claim that the Silver Brown is the most common layer in the world. She can start laying at 18 weeks of age and produce 320 eggs annually. Her eggs consistently weigh 63 grammes and have a uniform brown colour. The Brown Hy-line hens lay eggs reliably until the age of 80 weeks, and has a high feed conversion rate. The eggs are heavier and have a slightly better internal quality. Due to their resilience, adaptability, and high degree of feather retention, the Brown Hy-line is a popular breed for free-range environments. Both the Silver Brown and the Brown have a lengthy lifespan.

Lohmann Brown

The eggs laid by Lohmann Brown hens are considered among the highest quality in the industry. (Source: desobry.co)

The Lohmann Brown is a cross between the Rhode Island Red and the White Rock chickens. Lohmann Brown hens are known for producing some of the best eggs in the industry at a rapid pace. This hybrid breed can thrive in a wide range of environments. Lohmann Brown chickens have a reputation for being of superior quality. They can start laying eggs at 19 weeks, and produce 360 eggs over the course of a year.

Each of their brown eggs can weigh 65 grammes. The improved laying capacity of chickens can be traced back to Lohmann breeders. The Lohmann Brown matures quickly and can lay eggs for up to 72 weeks of age Lohmann Browns are known for their slim build and light bone structure. Adult roosters can grow to 3 to 4 kilogrammes in body weight, making them significantly heavier than hens. In their prime, hens can weigh up to 2,2 kilogrammes. The docile and social nature of Lohmann chickens makes them ideal for backyard flocks. These chickens are bred for their commercial viability and raised on large-scale egg farms. In addition to their commercial use, Lohmann chickens do well on smaller, more environmentally conscious farms.

Boschveld

The feathers of a Boschveld chicken feature a spotted pattern in shades of black, brown, and white. (Source: Facebook by Tshepo Tshambani)

The Boschveld chicken is a unique cross between three native southern African chicken breeds, namely Venda, Matabele and Ovambo. The bird’s feathers are a mottled, spotted pattern of black, brown, and white. The Boschveld chicken, while not the largest breed, is known for its strength and muscularity. Its long, slender neck is held high, adding to its already distinctive posture. This breed is popular with hobbyists and small-scale farmers because they are hardy and adaptable.

They are claimed to be fantastic at finding food and assisting with pest management in fields and gardens. It is possible to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by employing their use in gardens. These chickens are resilient and rarely fall ill, even in the harshest environments. Boschveld chickens are economical because they require little in the way of care from humans. Despite their homely appearance, Boschveld hens are excellent layers, laying 200 eggs per year on average. Hens start laying eggs at about 24 weeks of age. When the hen is young, she lays small eggs, but as she matures, her eggs are larger. The yellow yolks are delicious and visually appealing. The Boschveld is a rare and practical breed that offers its owners many benefits.

Potchefstroom Cuckoo

The Potchefstroom Cuckoo’s tolerance of the dry climate of Southern Africa is due to its distinct genetic makeup.

The Potchefstroom Cuckoo is a cross between the Black Australorp, the White Leghorn and the Barred Plymouth Rock. The Potchefstroom Cuckoo’s unique genetic composition makes it resistant to the dry climate of Southern Africa. The ability of the Potchefstroom chickens to adapt to both hot and cold climates makes them a popular choice for local farmers. The Potchefstroom Cuckoo is well-known for its hardiness.

The breed’s resistance to disease and stress allows it to survive and even thrive where other chickens perish. This is why the Potchefstroom Cuckoo is so important in the South African agricultural economy. The Potchefstroom Cuckoo is selectively bred for its large, light brown eggs, which average 56 grammes in weight. One Cuckoo hen lays between 200 and 250 eggs per year.

References

Azeem, S. (2022) Chicken breeds. ZPoultry. Available at: https://zpoultry.com/category/chickenbreeds/

Staff Reporter. (2021). Choose your chicken. SA Smallholder. Available at: https://sasmallholder.co.za/2021/05/01/choose-yourchicken/

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