Nearly all modern chickens today result from carefully cross-bred species in the past. And humankind isn’t finished yet; there are so many mixes that have a ton of benefits.
Sometimes mixing two great breeds results in an even better chicken, which is why cross-breeding happens all the time, even today on a massive commercial scale.
Today, we’ll go over the best hybrid chicken breeds you can own!
6 Best Hybrid Chicken Breeds
Cornish Cross (Cornish x Rock)
This species was developed by Celia Steele from Delaware to produce large amounts of meat in very little time. To say she succeeded would be an understatement.
Cornish Crosses, sometimes called Cornish X Rock, Cornish Rock, or Jumbo Cornish Cross, are giant white birds that go from just hatched to ready to butcher in only six to nine weeks.
Most are available in three varieties, Ross 308, Cobb500, or Ross708.
Ross308 and Cobb500 are pretty similar, with larger breasts, and more white meat, and they are ready to process ever so slightly faster than the Ross708.
Ross708 has more dark meat, and their meat is better distributed all over, they have large legs and wings too, with less emphasis on the breast meat.
I have raised Ross308 and Cobb500 and found them to be so similar that I could not tell the difference. I was surprised by how friendly and loving these birds are too.
After they know you are the “bringer of feed,” they will waddle around behind you and even tolerate being petted or picked up.
Don’t get too attached, though, because letting them live past a certain size is unkind.
If you opt to raise Cornish Crosses, you have to be ready to butcher them in nine or ten weeks at the very latest. They grow incredibly fast, and their legs and organs will not keep up with their rate of growth after this period.
You can either butcher them, or they will break their legs or suffer from painful organ failure.
These birds are a great way to quickly fill your freezer with homegrown chicken.
A lot of people opt to grow fifty to one hundred a year, so they can eat one to two chickens per week, all year round.
You can do this in one flock, or raise several smaller groups periodically throughout the year.
Most produce three to five pounds of meat after being butchered from their live weight of six to ten (or more) pounds.
Golden Comet (Several Variations)
I’ll admit, for the longest time, I thought Golden Comets were a breed. They seemed to be everywhere, and I was in love with these superstar egg layers.
A Golden Comet is created one of several ways:
- New Hampshire Red Rooster with a White Rock Hen
- Rhode Island Red Rooster with a Rhode Island White Hen
- New Hampshire Red Rooster with a Rhode Island White Hen
- Rhode Island Red Rooster with a White Rock Hen
- Cherry Egger Rooster with a Rhode Island White Hen
- Cherry Egger Rooster with a White Rock Hen
- Rhode Island Red Rooster with a White Leghorn Hen (least common)
Depending on the parents used, and what the hatchery prefers, Golden Comets are occasionally also referred to as Red Stars, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Buffs, and Gold Sex Link.
Golden Comets lay about 330 medium to large light brown eggs a year. If you aren’t aware, that is a LOT of eggs. For context, look at how many eggs their “parent breeds” typically lay in a year:
- Rhode Island Reds lay around 300 eggs a year
- New Hampshire Reds lay around 300 eggs a year
- Cherry Eggers lay about 300 eggs a year
- White Rocks lay about 280 eggs a year
- Rhode Island Whites lay 200 to 250 eggs a year
Golden Comets were developed for commercial use but have made their way into backyards all across America. They start laying around four months old and will lay nearly an egg a day until they turn two; after this, their production steeply drops, and they will start to act older too. Most only live to be about four years old.
Black Star (Barred Rock x Rhode Island Red)
Black Stars, also called Black Beauties or Black Sex Links, are another hand-picked chicken breed cross intended to up egg production.
Created in 1945, right after the end of World War II, these birds were meant to make rationed food supply much more bearable. Poultry scientists crossed a Rhode Island Red Rooster or a New Hampshire Red Rooster with a Barred Plymouth Rock Hen.
They lay 250 eggs a year. While this isn’t as many as the Golden Comet or Rhode Island Reds, these eggs are jumbo in size, and they have the best feed conversion ratio, meaning you won’t need to feed these chickens nearly as much for them to stay healthy and lay those 250 eggs a year. This is a cheap cross too, so you will not pay a premium for the chicks.
These birds are also happy being stuck inside, as they are natural homebodies.
Black Stars are friendly, sweet, very quiet, and a great option for homesteaders with smaller children because they are so tolerant.
Pearl Star Leghorn (Partridge Rocks x Sussex)
Pearl Star Leghorns do not have a Leghorn parent, despite how their nickname sounds. These beauties definitely take after their Partridge Rock parent rather than the Sussex in appearance.
The hens have a beautiful varigated feathering that is brownish black near the neck and fades to a creamy brownish grey body with a subtle roany hue.
They lay 250 to 300 large cream eggs every year, which is a lot considering their small 4.5 to 5-pound size. And even though they are small, they do better in colder climates rather than hot ones.
If you want a smaller hen who will provide a lot of eggs and a companion to hop in your lap when you sit on the porch, the Pearl Star Leghorn is the hybrid breed chicken for you.
Dominant Copper (French Copper Maran x Rhode Island Red)
Dominant Coppers are bred for their egg color and overall egg production.
French Copper Marans lay stunning deep chocolatey brown eggs, but only about 150 to 200 of them in a year. Rhode Island Reds lay a lot of eggs, about 300, but they are a common light brown shade.
Dominant Coppers lay an impressive 250 to 200 very dark brown to copper-colored eggs every year, giving you some of that rich color but with a whole lot more eggs.
The birds are beautiful, too; they have a black, brassy appearance with ultra-glossy feathers that reflect lots of light and shine.
Sometimes they have purple or iridescent green sheen on their wings, backs, necks, and tail feathers. Some have feathered legs, while others do not. I love the feathered feet on this variety.
Overall they are quiet, low-maintenance, and great foragers who will clean up the backyard of bugs while creating a lot of beautiful eggs every year.
Blue Plymouth Rock (Barred Plymouth Rock Rooster x Andalusian Hen)
An Andalusian Rooster bred to a Barred Rock Hen creates the stunning Plymouth Blue Rock cross. This bird is well equipped for hot and cold temperatures and is a beautifully distinct blueish, grayish, lavendarish color. Her head is darker, like a gruella, and her legs are a darker shade of brown.
Most Blue Plymouth rock hens lay an incredible 300 large to extra-large brown eggs.
This cross ensures that your flock will have a splash of color and beauty and that your egg basket will stay full almost year-round.
Roosters and hens are great foragers who will thrive in just about any environment, whether confined or allowed to freely roam all day.
The Benefits of Mixed Breed Chickens
There are several reasons why you or others may choose to cross-breed chickens to make a hybrid; here are some of the most common motivators:
Beautiful Egg Colors
Crossing different breeds will yield different eggshell colors and blooms on those egg shells. Because of experimental breeding, pink and purple eggs are now something you can add to your egg basket.
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Some producers mix chickens so they can have beautiful hues and a large number of eggs too. The Dominant Copper is the perfect example of this, she lays a lot of rich chocolatey eggs, many more in a year than her French Copper Maran mother ever could.
Increased Egg Production
A lot of laying variety crosses happen for this reason specifically. The Golden Comet is a great example of cross-breeding chickens for increased egg production.
The Golden Comet is (usually) a cross of a New Hampshire Red Rooster with a Rhode Island White Hen.
While the New Hampshire Reds lay about 300 eggs, and the Rhode Island Whites usually lay 200 to 250 eggs yearly, the offspring makes a whopping 330 eggs yearly.
When you cross two chickens of different breeds, something magical called hererosis, or hybrid vigor, can occur. It means that the quantitative characteristics are genetically enhanced.
Basically, the beneficial (desired) genes mask the maleficial (unwanted) genes to make a much better bird. Or, sometimes, there are just different genes that somehow work well together.
Faster Growing Times, Better or More Meat
Sometimes, mixing breeds results in a faster-growing animal that reaches maturity faster, or uses fewer resources to grow to adulthood.
The Cornish Cross is a great example of a fast-growing animal that produces significantly more meat that its ancestors ever could.
Better Immune Systems, Hardiness, or Longevity
While breeds will slowly acclimate and evolve to their area over many generations; this process can be sped up by cross-breeding to another animal that is already well-equipped for the climate.
You can also breed intelligent foragers with other smart foragers from other species for a brand-new bird that can source almost all of its food on its own.
Whatever benefits you gain from simply breeding two “good” animals or birds together are often magnified when the birds are from different species. Again, this is due to hybrid vigor (hereosis).
A Better Temperament
Taking two docile birds of opposite species and breeding them can likely result in super sweet and friendly offspring.
This is equally true for protective, dominating, aggressive, or flighty behavior. If you want to create a super rooster that will protect his flock, consider breeding an aggressive bird to another larger, equally aggressive bird of another breed.
The resulting chicks will likely grow up with an even better immune system and strong instincts to protect his flock.
Hey, you will spend copious amounts of time looking at your flock (you also watch your birds scratch the ground every day with your coffee in hand too, right?). There’s nothing wrong with crossing breeds to create an aesthetically pleasing bird that is even better suited to life in your flock.
Sex Links / Easy Identification
Sex link chickens are just hybrid chicken breeds. They can immediately be identified as male or female by the colors of their down feathers on the day they hatch.
Some of these hybrids are identified as brown for one gender, and yellow for the other gender. Others can only be identified by a single white dot on the tops of their heads for one sex, while the other sex is “dot-free.”
This easy identification can be extra helpful for several reasons.
For one, it means you can confidently sell your chicks that they are appropriately labeled and distributed.
For another reason, people who live in areas where chicken keeping has strict guidelines (i.e., no roosters) can prevent all kinds of potential run-ins with HOA and neighbors. Having absolute certainty makes life a lot smoother.
The Best Hybrid Chicken Breeds: Final Thoughts
There are thousands of books on genetics, the studies of cross-breeding animals, domestication, and hereosis.
While we could talk for days and days about chicken hybrids, the simple fact is that cross-breeding can have some incredible effects and result in super-productive offspring that fare well and are much better or more effective than their parents.
Genetics are truly fascinating, especially in the chicken world.
So now I must ask, what is your favorite chicken breed mix, and why is that?