Whether they’re called ISAbrown, Hy-line, Hisex or Lohmann, the red plumaged commercial hybrids are fantastic layers that adapt well to backyards or the farm.
Hybrids are usually sold as point-of-lay pullets (14-18 weeks) and cost around $15. At this age they should have a medium red comb and wattles, and be close to laying their first egg. Buy them younger if possible, settling in won’t disrupt their hormones, which it does at point of lay and so they should produce their first egg. The term ‘pullets’ refers to young females in their first year of lay, which is when the most eggs are produced. After that, they’re called hens and their shell strength isn’t as good and the number of eggs laid per year drops. Specify ‘fully beaked’ when ordering or you may get debeaked birds that can’t fossick well outdoors.
Pullets need a predator-proof shed large enough for containment on wet days. Allow 0.37 square metres floor space per bird. One nest for three to four hens is adequate, sited in the darkest, coolest corner of the house. A perch is optional but shy fowls love being able to get up out of the mob.
Hybrids are medium-sized with plumage that varies from ginger to solid red, many displaying silver in their neck hackles and tail. Combs and wattles are medium-sized. It’s rare to see male hybrids as they are usually culled at hatching, but they’re similarly coloured.
Though they are quiet, placid and child-friendly, these hybrids are bossy, even aggressive, with fowls of other breeds. They’re not a good addition to a mixed chook shed at all!
You can breed from hybrids but their offspring will be mediocre layers as the system used for producing hybrids is a jealously guarded secret. Don’t expect them to go broody – it has been bred out, making them virtually everyday layers. The occasional broody one is unreliable for setting on eggs.
Top performing hybrids are the athletes of the avian world, and they need high-protein, nutritional food. Layer pellets (with a minimum of 15% protein) or a free range grain mix should be offered in a self-feeder. Clean water and shell grit should be available at all times. Treats like cake and fruit are safe to be occasionally given but don’t offer meat scraps. Give chopped greens if pullets are not able to get outdoors for a scratch around. Expect each pullet to eat 130g of ration daily and ingest at least half a litre of water.
Health & lifespan
Hybrids generally come fully vaccinated and are tough, hardy birds. Lifespan is five to seven years. A tendency to lay extra-large eggs can lead to a bird becoming egg bound or suffering prolapse, the main causes of early death.
• Easy to obtain and care for.
• Fabulous large brown eggs almost every day.
• Less attractive looking than many purebreds.
• Inclined to bully and feather peck non-hybrid flock mates.