While they’re not an official chicken breed, the Black Sex Link chicken can be a great addition to any flock. Often, these chickens are desirable for their high egg production, hardiness, and easy sex identification on hatching.
Black Sex Link chickens can be immediately separated and cultivated based on gender once they hatch, allowing egg farmers to get a head start on egg production. The hybrid is also fairly cold-hardy, and they lay consistently throughout the year.
There’s plenty to understand about the hybrid before you commit to raising them. Keep reading to learn more about how sex-link chickens differ from standard breeds and what you should expect from the Black Sex Link varieties.
Black Sex Link Chicken Basics
The Black Sex Link chicken is a hybrid that was specifically bred so you could discern its gender at birth. These chicks are both when you breed a purebred barred hen (such as the Barred Plymouth Rock) with a purebred non-barred rooster (such as the Rhode Island Red).
Because of this cross, only the males receive the barring gene, and you can distinguish sex at birth. Pullets (young females) are all black, but males (cockerels) will have a distinct white or light yellow spot on the top of their heads.
While they’re not a recognized breed, the Black Sex Link chickens are affectionately known as Black Star chickens. Unless you plan on a certain breed or showing your chickens, there is no issue in having hybrids in your flock. In fact, sex-link chickens offer several benefits such as:
- Early sexing (so you know which ones will be hens and which will be roosters)
- Breeding for egg production
- Breeding for meat quality
- Disease-resistant chickens
Hybrid breeding also tends to create chickens with milder temperaments, making them a great choice for any flock.
Auto-Sexing Chicks vs. Sex Link Hybrid Chickens
An auto-sexing chicken is one whose sex can be distinguished as a chicken but exists within the standards of a certain breed.
A popular example of an auto-sexing breed is the Cream Legbar. This breed was standardized in 1958. Beyond having pure-bred parents, chickens must meet certain standards to quality for the breed (such as certain size and colors).
Black sex-link chickens are a hybrid, and they do not qualify as auto-sexing. While this hybrid has years of development and a fairly consistent appearance, you still end up with different colors and patterns when hatching.
Hybrids like the Black Sex Link chicken do not breed true. The males have two color genes that may not match with the single color genes provided by the hen, and you cannot predict outcomes like heavy banding or alternative colors.
While they may be hardier, you cannot crossbreed with any certainty of the chicks’ appearance. You cannot breed them past the first generation with consistent results.
Black Sex Link Chicken Origin
The Black Sex Link chicken was originally bred to meet food demand that increased after World War II. The United States farming industry was already under great pressure for production, even before troops returned home.
Food was already rationed, and something needed to change to meet the increased demands of the public. Breeds like the Barred Plymouth Rock hen were combined with New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red roosters because they were hardy and yielded high egg numbers and quality meat.
Another benefit to these hybrids was the ability to separate females from the males at an early age. Because the chicks were sex linked, farmers already knew which ones would be reserved for egg production and which were better suited for meat.
This allowed them to meet the increased demand for eggs, not waste time when cultivating meat, and caused the Black Sex Link chicken to become one of the most popular commercial egg producers in the 1950s.
Black Sex Link Chicken Appearance
Black Sex Link chickens start life with a pure black down, making it much easier to notice the light dot on the head of male chickens.
Once they reach maturity, their appearance varies. There is no industry standard for the Black Sex Link chicken, so there is no standard appearance to breed towards. Instead, breeders utilize certain chicken breeds that will produce the Black Sex Link appearance as a youth, such as a:
- Rhode Island Red rooster
- New Hampshire Red rooster
- Barred Rock hens
The sex of the parent must correspond with the breed to ensure certain traits pass down based on sex and allow the chicks to be distinguished at a young age.
The typical breeds used in the creation of Black Sex Link chickens yield some consistent results, but there is no guarantee. They’re usually dark adults with black legs and light yellow skin.
Beyond this, hens are usually black with gold hackles and breast feathers. They may have amber coloring in their neck feathers as well. Pullets weigh about 5 pounds and mature to a full weight between 6 and 7 pounds.
Roosters have bars across their body and tend to be more colorful. They may have mahogany feathers mixed in overall. Cockerels weigh a bit more , around 8 pounds, and roosters reach mature weight around 8 to 9 lbs.
Black Sex Link Chicken Temperament
The breeds that contribute to the Black Sexlink hybrids lend their skittish and curious nature, but these chickens are also energetic and friendly when treated well.To give your chickens the best chance at a social nature, make sure you allow them opportunity to stretch their legs and plenty of enrichment.
Black Sex Link chickens can be a bit more stubborn if you’re used to breeds that desire human companionship. They may tolerate you, but they will often act as if you’ve never met the moment you try to get them back from free ranging.
Because of this, we suggest getting them as early as possible (which is much easier to do when you know what sex you need and what sex you’re getting). This allows you to socialize them early on and curb some of the less-desirable behaviors.
Some Black Sex Link chickens are known to be noisy and aggressive to other breeds, especially roosters. While they usually work fine in a backyard, those in urban areas may have issues if they end up with a particularly noisy chicken.
Black Sex Link Chicken Egg and Meat Production
Black Sex Link chickens are dual-purpose poultry, and history shows us they do well in producing eggs and high-quality meat.
The Black Sex Link chicken is a brown egg layer. When treated properly, a hen will start laying around 18 to 20 weeks, although some start as early as 16 weeks. Their first few eggs will be very small “fairy eggs”, but after this expect a high production of large brown eggs.
The average Black Sex Link hen lays 220 to 300 eggs per year, or about 1 a day with slower production in colder weather. Beyond this, the hens are not particularly broody. They’ll likely lay eggs then wander off, allowing you to collect them without a fight.
Production slows down drastically after their fifth year, similar to the Rhode Island Red hens. Until they reach retirement age, the Black Sex Link hen should be a great egg layer.
While meat production was a secondary goal of the hybrid, the Black Sex Link chicken yields a decent amount of tasty meat by the time they mature (around 20 to 22 weeks).
Black Sex Link Chicken Care Requirements
Taking care of a Black Sex Link chicken doesn’t involve anything outside of normal rearing. At the most basic level they need:
- High quality food and proper hydration
- A clean, covered environment to live in
- Shelter from inclement weather and predators
Despite these low demands, Black Sex Link chickens are known to do better in certain conditions.
For example, their chatty and exploratory nature makes them better suited to rural settings. If you keep them in an urban yard, you’re likely to get a call from a neighbor and then spend the next ten plus minutes trying to coax the stubborn bird home.
Regardless of where you house them, make sure you have at least 6 square feet per chicken. Those that get time to free-range may settle for less, but this minimum space keeps cleaning to a minimum and prevents agitation in your flock.
Black Sex Link chickens also need perches about 8 to 12 inches long per bird. Like other breeds, they prefer to sleep off the ground in case a predator pops up. Regardless of your coop-building skills, the chickens will be more stressed without proper space to perch.
Offer at least one nesting box per four Black Sex Link hens by the time they are 14 weeks old. These should be about a square foot to prevent hens from nesting together and damaging the hens.
Proper Black Sex Link Chicken Diet
The best diet for a Black Sex Link chicken is specially formulated to meet their needs. Researching commercial foods allows you to determine which one works best for your flock, but make sure you choose one suited for your chicken’s job.
Before you feed them anything outside of a dedicated chicken feed, verify if it’s safe for your birds. Some foods that are fine for us, like potato peels, can make them very sick and may even be lethal.
Finally, make sure you offer your Black Sex Link chickens grit (especially if they are not free range). Chickens do not have teeth to grind down their food, and instead rely on tiny pebbles or other material to break it up.
Unless your chicken free-range all the time, they need something they can consume as needed to get the job done.
Black Sex Link Chickens and Free Roaming
Regardless of how large your chicken run is, a Black Sex Link chicken will thrive best when you allow them to free range. They’re intelligent fowl with great foraging instincts, and they may bore easily if you confine them to a single area for their entire life.
Do your best to make their runs as interesting as safe, spacey, and interesting as possible. Perches, dust baths, and the introduction of live insects are essential to a happy chicken.
If you cannot offer free-range opportunities, you may be better off with hybrids that do poorly when free roaming (like Amber Stars or California Whites).
Black Sex Link Chicken Health and Hardiness
Black Sex Link chickens are fairly hardy, maybe more so than their parents, and you don’t have anything out of the norm to worry about when adding them to your flock. Despite this, they’re still at risk for common chicken issues. Keeping up with vaccines and deworming schedules is essential to protect your Black Sex Link chicken.
External threats are a common issue, including:
On top of the usual parasites, Black Sex Link chicken owners should be wary of issues like Fowl Cholera or Avian Influenza. Any chicken with health issues should be separated from the flock when treating them to give them (and the flock) the best chance at a healthy future.
Reproductive issues common in Black Sex Link chickens (and only because they’re common in chickens overall) include tumors in the reproductive system and egg yolk peritonitis.
The latter would occur when the yolk of a developing, incompletely shelled, or ruptured egg deposits in the body cavity rather than passing to the oviduct and continuing with normal procedure.
This causes painful inflammation of the peritoneum, fluid in the coelom, and often infects the chicken with bacteria. Eventually, the infection spreads into the bloodstream of the chicken and can cause secondary infection in vital organs like the kidney, liver, or even heart.
While they’re generally low-maintenance fowl, Black Sex Link chickens still require an attentive eye and prompt intervention when illness occurs.
As you can see, Black Sex Link chickens may not have an official standard, but they share several characteristics. If you plan to add them to your flock, make sure you:
- Have enough space for them to stretch their legs
- Understand how noisy and adventurous they may be
- Focus on getting them as early as possible for optimal socialization
When you meet all their needs, the Black Sex Link chicken is more than happy to return the favor. Now that you understand the basics of the hybrid and their usual desires, you can set them up for success.