Even if you’re completely new to the poultry world, you’ve likely heard about Black Star chickens before. This is the single most popular chicken breed in the US and is widely regarded as the best egg-laying chicken out there. What’s great about this breed, however, is that the Black Star’s positives go far beyond just that.
So, let’s examine the Black Star chicken breed in detail and find out what exactly makes these birds the all-stars of the poultry world.
What is a Black Star chicken, exactly?
When we emphasize the crossbreed nature of the Black Star we do so because two Black Star birds can’t produce another Black Star, the way other breeds do (even if they too have first started off as crossbreeds of other chickens). Instead, to get a “true” Black Star you need to repeat the initial crossing of a Barred Rock hen with a New Hampshire or a Rhode Island Red rooster.
This isn’t to say that two Black Stars can’t produce offspring – they sure can. But it just won’t have the exact characteristics of its Black Star parents. Instead, it will lean more toward one of the two grand-parent breeds – the Rhode Island, the New Hampshire, or the Barred Rock.
If this sounds peculiar, read on – we’re just getting started. For example, did you know that the Black Star chicken is also called a Black Sex-Link chicken? We’ll explain this and other curious tidbits below.
History and genetics of the Black Star chicken
The history of Black Star chickens is quite new – it started right after World War II. That’s because these birds were the product of breeders’ efforts to create a “super egg-laying” bird that could help the rapidly rising food demands of the American population with the troops returning from the war, the influx of refugees, the baby boom, and so on.
So, after a few years of efforts, breeders eventually stumbled upon a fascinating cross of first-generation hybrid chickens – the Black Star. These birds were quickly recognized for their amazing potential as a great dual-purpose breed – they both produced an astonishing number of eggs and they were for the chicken meat needs of the American people.
Another amazing feature of this crossbreed was the fact that chicks produced by crossing Barred Rock hens with Rhode Island or New Hampshire roosters were sex-linked. This means that breeders could easily identify male from female chicks right as they hatch. As you’d expect, this is a fantastic boon for breeders as it makes their job much easier.
Male chicks that carry the barring gene (are going to have white bars on their feathers when they grow up) are born with white patches on their heads which makes them instantly recognizable. Female chicks are covered in black as are chicks that don’t carry the barring gene.
Because of their ability to produce a large number of eggs and how easy it is to select the right young chicks, Black Star Sex-Link chickens were instrumental in the egg production industry in the 1950s and have remained popular to this day. They are much more than just egg machines, however, and this Sex-Link chicken is also highly valued by backyard chicken keepers.
What does a Black Star chicken look like?
This Sex-Linked hybrid black beauty has a pretty recognizable appearance to go with its recognizable name. Black Star males and females do look different, however, so, let’s go over each separately. Also, note that as this is a hybrid crossbreed, there isn’t a solid standard for Black Sex Links, meaning that a little variation in their looks is to be expected.
Black Star hens have mostly solid black plumage with some light brown or reddish speckles in between, especially on the breast feathers. Their carriage is upright with the tail typically pointing upwards at a rather good angle.
The size of these chickens is considered medium with the weight varying between 5 and 8 lbs – closer to 5 for the hens. These birds also have a single comb that’s of a bright red color as are the wattles, faces, and ear lobes. The skin and legs are yellow with the legs having 4 toes each.
A Black Star rooster, on the other hand, will have a feathers pattern that’s more similar to that of the Barred Rock. The rooster’s comb is also significantly larger than that of a hen and it either stands tall and upright or flops to the side. The male’s comb also becomes bright red as soon as the bird matures whereas the hen’s smaller comb turns bright red only when it’s ready to lay eggs.
Black Star temperament
One of the other key characteristics of the Black Star crossbreed we ought to mention is just what great pets these birds are. This is an often-ignored point by the broader poultry industry which mostly focuses on maximizing the egg and meat production. For those that just want to raise a nice flock of chickens in their backyards or homesteads, however, the fantastic temperament of the Black Star is also important.
These birds are docile, calm, and friendly with people, children, other farm animals, and other pets. Black Star hens are also very quiet and can only get a little bit noisy while laying eggs but even that isn’t very noteworthy compared to most other breeds.
Black Star roosters are a bit louder, as can be expected from a rooster, but even they don’t go far out of line in that regard. This makes both male and female Black Stars fantastic backyard birds even if your neighbors are in close proximity.
These birds are so social, in fact, that they can even be raised as pet animals, just as you’d raise a yard dog or cat. If you give your Black Star chicken enough time and love, you can easily even end up with a “lap chicken.”
Another aspect of the wonderful Black Star temperament is that these birds are lively and playful. They love to run around, socialize, and they are expert foragers, to the point of even cutting down on the feeding bills if you give them enough space to forage.
Giving your Black Stars space is an important point, however, as it’s not great leaving them in small enclosed chicken coops all day every day. They may tolerate that better (or less worse) than other larger breeds, but Black Stars too need open spaces to roam, run, forage, and take dust baths in.
So, as long as you can give your Black Stars enough space – approximately 10 square feet of chicken run space per bird – you will have a very productive, healthy, and happy flock.
Black Star health, egg laying, and other details
Let’s start with the possibility of health issues, something that many could say is to be expected for a crossbreed without a solid standard. Fortunately, this isn’t the case here and the Black Star is considered a very healthy bird overall. This isn’t to say that these chickens can’t have health issues – they can – but there aren’t any breed-specific problems to watch out for or elevated risks.
All this means that, as long as you take good care for your flock, you maintain a good chicken coop, you keep your birds free of lice, mites, and other external or internal parasites, you feed your birds with a high-quality diet rich on protein and calcium, and so on – this hardy breed will be very likely to stay healthy throughout its lifespan.
What about egg production, then? Is it really as spectacular as people say or is that a bit of an exaggeration?
It really isn’t. Black Star chickens can easily produce up to 300 extra-large brown eggs a year if they are kept healthy and happy. This amounts to close to 6 eggs per week per chicken, every week of the year, including during the winter. These eggs are indeed a fine brown color and have high nutritional value, and they are often way larger than you’d expect from such a medium-sized chicken.
Black Star hens can exhibit a bit of broodiness, however, but that’s rarely an issue. So, overall, if you take good care of your Black Stars, keep them healthy, let them free range and enjoy life, they will be very likely to reward you with much more eggs than any other domesticated chicken would.
In conclusion – is the Black Star chicken the right breed for you?
Black Star chickens are ideal for pretty much anyone looking to raise chickens. Whether you’re looking to get into the top end of the poultry industry or you just want a few nice egg-laying chickens in your backyard, you can’t go wrong with a Black Star flock.