While heritage breeds have their charm, new-age hybrids like the Amberlink chicken carry a variety of benefits. This particular breed has been around for over 50 years, serving dutifully to provide eggs and companionships throughout these many years.
Amberlink chicken breeders utilize the same breeds to achieve the Amberlink cross. While they’re not accepted by the American Poultry Association, the Amberlink is a favorite of many and a valuable addition to any flock.
There’s plenty to learn about this hybrid, from their appearance to their care requirements. This guide explains everything you need to know.
Amberlink Chicken Basics
Amberlinks are hybrid chicken, not purebreds, and their origin is more closely tied to selective breeding than anything else. Also known as the Dekalb Amberlink or Hyline Chicken, they’re directly derived from the ISA Brown genetic line developed by the Hendrix ISA.
Like most hybrid breedings, the contributing parent chickens are high egg layers. Parent breeds (apart from the ISA Brown) include:
- Rhode Island Reds
- White Plymouth Rocks (most common now)
- White Island Reds
Unlike purebred chickens, Amberlink hybrids will not breed true. Breeding an Amberlink hen and rooster together is unlikely to give you the traits you desire, and there is too much variation in their offspring to make the endeavor worthwhile.
Even with breeding purebred parents, there’s only a 50/50 chance of getting an Amberlink chick instead of a chick that favors one parent more. Hatcheries must start with parents that have the specific dominant and recessive genes needed to produce Amberlink chicks.
These hybrid birds are purpose bred for high egg-laying ability and easy gender identification early on in life. While they have shorter lifespans, they’re a favorite for high egg production in a backyard flock.
Today, you can buy Amberlink chickens for about $2 to $5 per chick. They will live about 3 or 4 years, only half as long as heritage breeds, but will offer continuous eggs during this time.
Amberlink Chicken Appearance
Also known as Amber Sex Link chickens, hatcheries can easily separate males and females early on. This makes it much easier to determine the path of a chick’s life and provide the care needed to facilitate that purpose.
While both are covered in soft yellow feathers at birth, they quickly develop their amber coloring in separate areas as they grow. The cockerels get them mostly on their neck and back, while pullets pale to white with only faint flecks of color on their wings and tails.
As adults, hens appear more similar to pure white breeds like Delaware chickens. It’s only on closer inspection that you may see the tinges of amber. Roosters display their namesake with more tenacity, hosting all shades of amber on their necks, chest, and back.
Amberlink chickens are a medium-size breed. While there is no standard weight for these hybrids, females are often larger than males. Hens weigh about 6 pounds, while roosters reach full size around 4 to 5 pounds. Amberlinks with larger-breed parents may occasionally inherit their size.
Amberlink Chicken Temperament
Most Amberlink chickens seem to adopt the amicable personality traits of their ISA Brown ancestors. They’re both sociable and considerate, making them a perfect choice for the chicken keepers with other animals or children.
Amberlinks tend to be a joy to keep around. They’re great foragers, and you can pass plenty of time watching them free-range and scratch around. Despite their stellar grazing instinct, they will not hesitate to swarm you as you walk up with feed.
This allows them to keep their title as a champion egg layer and keep up with production throughout their entire life.
Amberlinks and Other Chicken Breeds
While friendliness is a virtue, it can make flock life difficult for some Amberlinks. They’re unlikely to bully others in the group and may instead find themselves the victim.
For this reason, we recommend Amberlinks along docile breeds like:
Regardless of which breeds you have in your flock, you must monitor them for potential disputes. Providing as much space as possible is one of the best ways to prevent bullying of the laid-back breed.
Amberlink Chickens as Good Egg Layers
Hybrid chickens do not live as long as heritage breeds, and the Amberlink will only see about four years of life. They usually lay their brown eggs until they pass away, but production declines by 15 to 20 percent after the second year.
The medium-sized birds are more coveted for their egg-laying prowess. Amberlink chicken owners are usually seeking lots of eggs, and the smaller sizes of these birds make them ill-suited for meat production.
Amberlink Chicken Care Requirements
Like other chickens, Amberlinks are unlikely to mass-produce eggs if they aren’t taken care of properly. They don’t have complex care requirements, but understanding their basic needs is essential for ethical ownership and prevention of major health issues.
Feeding Amberlink Chickens
A proper diet sets the foundation for a happy, healthy life, and the benefits pass from chicken to consumer.
- Chick starter: from hatching to week 18; high protein (around 20 percent) and easy to digest; may come medicated (depending on personal preference and vaccination history of your Amberlink chicks)
- Grower: fed anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks; lower protein (usually 16 to 18 percent); suitable for male Amberlinks or bridging the gap between youth and laying age
- Layer: reserved for hens on the brink of or actively laying (around 20 weeks); has higher calcium content (as much as 4 percent)
The feed sets a well-rounded foundation for an Amberlink chicken’s development, and it should account for at least 90 percent of their daily diet. The other 10 percent may come from foraging or kitchen scraps.
Some favorites of Amberlink chickens include apples, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon (in moderation). Live insects like mealworms provide plenty of nutritional value while also entertaining the birds.
If an Amberlink chicken eats anything other than highly soluble mash or crumbles, they should also have grit to facilitate proper digestion.
Preventing major health issues starts with proper feeding habits. Because they’re a high-production hybrid, Amberlink hens should be offered a layer feed as well as supplemental calcium such as crushed oyster shells.
Amberlink layers also benefit from vitamin A, D, K and a B-vitamin complex.
While free-feeding usually doesn’t cause problems, it’s important to make sure no Amberlinks in the flock over-consume. You may need to provide more enrichment to keep their weight down or limit treats if you notice an issue.
Sheltering Amberlink Chickens
Amberlinks are hardy chickens, and they can handle both hot and cold climates. Even so, they need a safe space to stay and lay eggs. Coop construction should involve durable materials, such as hardwood and hardware cloth.
Allowing them to free range or keeping them in a run depends on the available space, but they always do better with more room to roam.
Amberlinks kept in a run should have at least 10 square feet available per bird. The enclosure needs a sturdy frame and plenty of ventilation. The top and bottom should be enclosed, at least with hardware cloth, to prevent predators from tunneling under or dropping in from above.
Ultimately, they will be happiest when allowed plenty of room to roam freely, but Amberlink owners must do their best to ensure flock safety. Fences are essential for keeping larger animals from encroaching on the birds, and decoys and netting may scare off any flying predators.
Health Concerns for With Amberlink Chickens
Like all chickens, you should regularly inspect (and potentially treat) Amberlinks for pests like worms, lice, and mites. This prevents unnecessary stress that could compromise their health, cutting into egg production and opening the door for larger issues.
As a high-production breed, the reproductive system of an Amberlink hen is under extreme stress. Providing them with ample space and nutrition may limit health problems, but Amberlinks are commonly diagnosed with issues such as:
- Egg binding
- Prolapsed vents
- Egg peritonitis
While you can take care of some of these issues at home without professional assistance, it’s important to have a vet you can rely on for advice and assistance when needed.
Egg Binding in Amberlink Chickens
Egg binding refers to an egg that gets stuck in the chicken’s oviduct. This can be prevented by offering proper nutrition and keeping your chicken at a suitable weight, but it’s also a common ailment of production breeds like the Amberlink.
Signs of egg gluing in an Amberlink chicken include:
- Low appetite or thirst
- Shaking, waddling, and straining
- Abnormal defecation
Upon examination, you may be able to feel the egg by gently squeezing on either side of the hen’s vent.
If left untreated, the egg bound hen will likely die within 24 to 48 hours. It’s essential to act quickly, starting by offering vitamins and electrolytes in the water (using a dropper if needed). Some suggest soaking the hen in a warm epsom salt bath for about 20 minutes to help her relax and pass the egg.
If the situation doesn’t change within an hour, you must contact your veterinarian immediately for more intense care.
Prolapse Vent in Amberlink Chickens
Prolapse occurs when an Amberlink chicken’s oviduct turns inside out. This is a serious problem that can be treated, but the first occurrence is rarely the last.
To prevent prolapsed vents, Amberlink owners should avoid controversial methods for stimulating early laying and make sure they offer optimal nutrition based on their chicken’s life stage.
Even so, laying large eggs naturally increases the likelihood of prolapse. Initial treatment involves separating the bird from the flock, returning the protruding tissue, and following up with anti-inflammatory cream and antibiotics.
You may need to reevaluate the diet of your chicken to prevent future issues, and any affected chicken needs to be constantly monitored for recurrence. More severe or persistent issues may require surgery or even euthanasia.
Peritonitis in Amberlink Chickens
The last major issue of Amberlink chickens is commonly known as egg yolk peritonitis. This occurs when the egg yolk is deposited either prematurely or partially shelled. Because of this, the yolk material is released and irritates the area, potentially becoming infected and leading to secondary, more life-threatening issues.
Amberlink chickens with peritonitis often stop laying eggs, or the eggs they lay have an abnormal shell. They become lethargic and stop eating as much, and you may even notice swelling in the area on top of this discomfort.
Treatment at home usually starts with proper hydration, but professional intervention is suggested because of the potential for infection. A veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics if needed. More severe cases may require surgery.
The Amberlink chicken is near-perfect for any situation. They are shining stars when it comes to egg production, but their friendly nature is what seals the deal for Amberlinks in a backyard flock.
If you find yourself with Amberlinks under your care, remember to:
- Provide proper nutrition, particularly calcium, to prevent egg-related illnesses in hens
- Make sure they aren’t picked on by other breeds in your flock
- Allow them plenty of protected space to roam around stress-free
With the right care, Amberlinks are more than happy to serve as a consistent source of eggs and companionship.