What Are Sex Link Chickens?

by Backyard Chicken Coops June 05, 2018

The world of chicken breeds can be confusing for new chook keepers. There’s so many types, terms and breeds to keep track of. Frankly, it even scrambles the brains of some eggs-perienced chicken keepers! While searching for a suitable chicken for your coop, you may come across the term “sex link chickens”. But what eggs-actly are sex link chickens? Cluckily, the backyard chicken coops eggs-perts are here to clear things up.

All chicken breeds can be further classified into hybrid, heritage, purebred, or bantam chickens. There are two types of chicken breeds that have physical characteristics when they hatch that helps us determine if they are hens or roosters. These are known as sex link chickens and autosex chickens.  

isa brown sex link chickens in backyard

ISA Brown sex link chickens foraging in the backyard.

What is a Sex Link Chicken?

Sex link chickens are a type of hybrid chicken breed. Hybrid chicken breeds are the result of cross breeding two or more heritage or purebred chicken breeds, usually to produce offspring that lays more eggs, produce more meat or other desirable traits like plumage colour, body shape or temperament.

Sex link chickens can be sexed by their dominant feather colour on the day they hatch. In hatcheries and egg farming operations, this makes it easy for farmers to separate the males from females. As a backyard chicken keeper, it means that you can be pretty certain that the chicks you are purchasing from your breeder or hatchery are indeed hens, and you won't have to figure out what do with unwanted roosters as your baby chicks grow.  

Sometimes, hybrid sex link chickens are simply sold under the humble moniker of commercial layer hens but most are sold by breeders and hatcheries under a brand name. Here are some of the more common names you’ll see advertised:

  • ISA Brown
  • Lohmann Brown
  • Red Sex Link
  • Black Sex Link
  • Red Star
  • Black Star
  • Golden Comet

Sex link chickens will not produce sex linked offspring if mated to each other, so each hatch of sex linked chicks is the result of mating two different chicken breeds.

barred plymouth rock autosex chickens hen rooster in backyard

A Barred Plymouth Rock autosex chicken breed hen and rooster in the backyard.

What is an Autosex Chicken?

On the other wing, autosex chickens are purebred or heritage chicken breeds that display sex linked physical characteristics upon hatching. So you can tell the difference between hens and roosters thanks to the different feather colours or patterns - usually barring - in female and male baby chicks.

Unlike hybrid sex link chickens, mating auto sex chickens will produce chicks that display the same gender revealing characteristics. There are only a few purebred and heritage chicken breeds that are autosex chickens, and these breeds are rare or in some cases, nearly extinct. These include:

  • Legbar chicken breed
  • Rhodebar chicken breed
  • Barred Plymouth Rock chicken breed
  • Delaware chicken breed
  • Coucou de Rennes chicken breed

If sex link hybrid chickens aren’t what you’re looking for in a backyard bird, have a peck at our top 20 chicken breeds here. While we can’t promise you won’t get a rooster, we can help you figure out who’s who with our guide to chicken sexing here.

Heritage, hybrid, purebred or bantam. No matter your backyard bird of choice, you’ll need a safe and sturdy coop to keep them happy. Have a peck at the marvellous Mansion, the perfectPenthouse and the terrific Taj Mahal and make your next hen house a backyard chicken coop.

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