Isa Browns: A Comprehensive Guide

by Kassandra Smith August 24, 2014

No backyard chicken flock is complete without an ISA Brown or two! ISA Browns are known for being a low maintenance and friendly breed, and famed for their plentiful supply of big, brown eggs! This all-rounder breed is great for first time chicken keepers, especially those who are after an eggs-traordinary layer, but will also make a wonderful addition to a more experienced chicken keepers flock.

Healthy Isa Brown hens scratching and foraging in the backyard

Lifespan

Unfortunately, ISA Browns do have a significantly reduced life expectancy compared to most healthy pure-breed chickens, which is directly related to their high egg production. As they are bred to continue laying through most of the year (ie. winter), their reproductive systems aren’t given a rest, and so sheer exhaustion can set in and in some cases cause an early death.

Most will live between 2-3 years, however there are many reports where ISA Browns have lived a more fulfilling 5-8 years. Just like with all chickens (and animals), the standard of care given to them will ultimately determine how long they live. So, give them the love and care that they need, and you should have your lovely ISA Browns around for plenty of years to come!

Class

The ISA Brown is a hybrid type of sex link chicken, and is only available in standard sizing- there is not a bantam variety.

Rarity

The ISA Brown is quite a common breed, and so you should be able to find some of these sweet chickens from a local breeder or hatchery quite easily.

Origin

The ISA Brown hails from America.

History

Many may not know this, but ISA Brown is not actually this breed's name, but more of a brand. ISA stands for ‘Institut de Selection Animale’- the name of the company which developed the hybrid breed in 1978 for optimum egg production. Now days, Biada Poultry have the Australian rights to market the name ‘ISA Browns’.

Current Uses/Purpose

The ISA Brown is so popular among all backyard chicken keepers because of its prolific egg laying abilities- it was what they were bred for after all! Apart from supplying your kitchen with an abundance of fantastic fresh eggs, ISA Browns also make great family pets, as they take to humans very well- even the littlies as they aren’t easily spooked or stressed.

A friendly Isa Brown chicken standing in the garden

Personality & Temperament

We have come to know ISA Browns as being very friendly and affectionate, who love a bit of human attention- these beautiful birds are definitely not adverse to a bit of a pat and a cuddle (especially when treats are involved!). Because they do get along with humans so well, they tend not to get flighty, making them a great breed choice for families with small children. It won’t be long before your ISA Browns are doting on your little ones, and following them around the garden with glee!

However, it must be noted that some ISA Browns are known to ‘ruffle a few feathers’, and be quite brutal to newcomers when introducing them into the flock. This can be overcome by employing a few tactics from our Introducing New Flock Members article, and peace will be restored in the chicken coop once again.

Incubating, Hatching & Breeding

If in the right environment, ISA Browns can become broody, and are actually capable of being great mothers. However, they do not have a reputation for being broody, so if you are wanting to incubate their eggs, it is probably best to do so yourself with an incubator.

In saying this, it is advised that you do not breed your ISA Brown hen, this is simply because they are a hybrid breed (meaning they are specifically bred for a sole purpose- in this case egg laying), and so to make ISA Brown chicks, they need to be bred from a pure bred rooster and hen.

Because they are a hybrid, when breeding, they will generally lose all the things that make them a great all-rounder, and will often pass on their genetic faults to their chicks- which can put their health in jeopardy.

As ISA Browns are such prolific layers, their egg laying career is only short- around 2 years, and so it can be incredibly difficult to find an ample time for them to breed which won’t interrupt their peak laying period. If they are bred too early, their shells are often too dense, making it difficult for the developing chick to breathe. But if bred too late, their shells often become thin and quite brittle, and so will not produce healthy chicks.

As sad as it is, and as great as it would be to have a dozen baby ISA Browns greeting you in the morning, it’s really not worth it. If you’re wanting to add lots of lovely ISA Browns to your flock, it’s best to buy from a trustworthy breeder.

Egg Behaviour

If egg laying is the sole purpose of your chicken keeping, you have certainly come to the right breed! ISA Browns are prolific egg layers and are known to provide you in excess of 300 large, brown eggs annually- thats a whole lot of frittatas!

They are also bred to begin laying much earlier than pure breed chickens- you can expect eggs from around 20-22 weeks of age. While egg laying may cease a little during the cooler months, many ISA Brown’s have been known to still produce a steady stream of eggs throughout this time- what generous chicks!

Unfortunately, there is a downside to all this abundant laying, and that is it only lasts for around two years- you may still get a suprise egg every now and then after that! Because their body works over time for two years to supply a bounty of eggs, their lifespan is also significantly reduced compared to other chicken breeds- sad, but true.

Appearance

ISA Browns, while they don’t possess an standout features, are still quite an attractive medium sized bird. They are generally a lovely chestnut brown colour, and will often have white tail feathers, and have a single comb. Roosters however are white with brown flecks, and can be quite stocky and broad when compared to their hen counterparts. While they may not be quite as exciting to look at as a Silkie, don’t let this put you off- they are a wonderful bird and will lay thrice the amount of eggs a Silkie will!

Care

ISA Browns, like all chickens and animals alike, require a certain amount of care to keep them fit and healthy. However, these brilliant birds are considered a very low maintenance breed, and caring for them will be a breeze!

Grooming

Because of their short and non profuse plumage, grooming for ISA Browns is easy as! They will dust bathe regularly to keep themselves looking fabulous and fresh, just be sure to check them over regularly for parasites such as lice and mites, as you don’t want an outbreak of these nasties in your flock!

Isa Brown chickens foraging in the lawn

Diet

Being the epic egg layers that they are, in addition to their usual diet, your girls may require a supplemental protein. This is because their bodies are busy converting the protein from their feed into egg producing fuel, and so their feathers need a little extra protein to stay looking and feeling fabulous! A small amount of live culture yoghurt or some meal worms once or twice a week is also great to help boost their calcium and protein levels to keep them fighting fit.

Housing

With so much egg laying to do, the ISA Brown needs a place to call home that can cater for all of their egg laying needs- as well as keep them out of harms way and safe from the elements! The perfect home for ISA Browns should have plenty of nesting boxes that are in a private and draft-free area, so your girls can get down to business comfortably. The chicken coop should also have plenty of roosting space- they will be eggs-hausted after all that egg laying after all! And should be constructed with a sturdy timber and fitted galvanised wire mesh to keep them and their precious produce safe from unwanted visitors. The Taj Mahal, Penthouse and Mansion will be a perfect home for your ISA Browns- it just all depends how many of these beautiful birds you want!

Health Issues

While ISA Browns may be a wonderfully low maintenance breed, because of their amplified egg laying, they are more susceptible to some health problems, mainly kidney issues, which can inevitably cause an early death. Antibiotics can assist with their recovery, however in most cases, it is only really holding off the inevitable.

Hardiness

Another great factor about the fantastic ISA Brown is that it is considered quite a hardy bird, and will cope well with the elements- rain, hail or shine, hot or cold- the ISA Brown will withstand it all like a champ! ISA Browns aren’t flighty nor fussy, so they bear confinement well, and will adapt to it’s surroundings with ease. They are particularly good foragers- easily spotting tasty morsels from afar to keep their tummies happy!

Why We Love Them!

We adore ISA Browns first and foremost because of their loving and friendly nature- we love a bird that appreciates a cheeky cuddle from time to time! If you have small children, you will delight in watching them share a special bond with their ISA Brown, and adventure around the garden together- the best of friends! Of course we can’t forget to mention their eggs-tremely impressive egg laying abilities- a big, brown egg a day is sure to keep the doctor away! Want to know more? Have a sticky beak at our 5 reasons to love Isa Browns here!

If you’re wanting a chicken breed for your flock that is truly an all-rounder, the ISA Brown is just too good to ignore!

Sources and further reading




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