What Are Sex Link Chickens?

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 17 July 2020

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.

If choosing from so many stunning breeds wasn't hard enough, you also need to think about hybrid, purebred or bantam chooks?! It can be eggtremely confusing and difficult to find the perfect match for you and your family. From looks, to traits, to egg-laying talents - where should you begin?

Cluckily, our friends over at Chickenpedia have created an amazing Chicken Breeds Course. This extensive online course shares useful advice on choosing the right chickens for you as well as size & frequency of eggs laid. You’ll even learn about their individual personalities, and be able to use their family-friendly compatibility scale through this well-structured program. It really is a great way to find your perfect backyard buddies which is why I highly recommend them to all of my readers! The courses are beginner-friendly and filled with vital information to help you raise a happy, healthy flock.

As chicken keepers, we want to do an eggcellent job when caring for our feathered friends, but many of us struggle to handle chicken health or behavior issues, especially in the first few years of having a flock. Chickenpedia have a full range of comprehensive online courses that cover everything you didn’t know you need to know and then some more! From healthcare to raising baby chicks to feeding and behavior, that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully look after your chickens.

As a member, you will get access to ALL their fantastic courses. So, no need to wing it, become a confident chicken keeper. Click here to check out Chickenpedia today!

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 perfect Penthouse and the terrific Taj Mahal and make your next hen house a backyard chicken coop.