Red Star Chickens – Everything You Need To Know

If you happen to be looking for information on Red Star chickens, the Red Sex Link, the Golden Comet, the Golden Buff, the Golden Sex Link, the ISA Brown, or the Cinnamon Queen… you’ve come to the right place, because they are all more or less the same chicken.

Confused?

No worries, our comprehensive guide to this seemingly multifaceted bird will help to clear up most – if not all of – your questions.

The poultry industry and the development of an egg-laying machine: A brief biography of the Red Star

The rise of the Red Star chicken crossbreed began in the United States in the mid-1900’s when the perception of cross-breeding started to change.

Prior to this point, hybrids were looked down upon as “mongrels” because they were seen to lack the purity found in the recognized breeds.

Throughout the years, traditional small farms and backyards would supply eggs and meat for themselves and their neighbors.

However in the mid-twentieth century this saw a decline, and as a substitute came the beginnings of the large-scale, poultry industry giants. Consequently, a high egg production in addition to a fast development of meat birds became the ultimate goal.

The Red Star, a hen that lays enormous quantities of eggs in their first years of life to then be culled, was brought up as a result.

This was one of the milestones that began turning chicken from a luxury food to an everyday good.  


Profiling Red Star chickens

Here are some things you need to know about this breed:

Physical features

Because Red Stars are hybrid chickens rather than an actual breed, their physical characteristics are more likely to differ from individual to individual.

Generally speaking, however, this crossbreed is categorized as a medium-sized large fowl that weighs between 6 and 7 pounds (or 2.72 and 3.18 kilograms), and that has no bantam counterparts.

Normally, their plumage is light brownish-red with white or buff accents, and some of them may grow a few dark feathers in the tail area.

They are a clean-legged bird, which means that no feathers will ever grow in their yellow shanks.

Their fairly small wattles and standard-sized earlobes tend to be red in color, while their beaks come in shades of yellow and brown. Most of the time, their eyes are a yellowish-orange color.

Red Stars have single combs – one of the most common kinds of combs in chickens – and these call for special care in extremely cold climates, as they are more susceptible to frostbite.

Learn more about frostbite in chickens and how to prevent it by taking a look at Raising Happy Chickens’ post on Backyard Chickens and Frostbite.

The “sex link” - Another perk that comes with Red Stars

Sex link refers to the ability to distinguish female chicks from male chicks on the day they hatch.

Remember how the Red Star was one of the chickens that helped to revolutionize the poultry industry?

Well, the sex-link was just another reason why the Red Star was, and continues to be so popular, as it allows the commercial egg-producing farm-factories to immediately dispose of male chicks.

Unfortunately, this happens often and – in the majority of cases – in inhumane ways.

You will find that Red Star female chicks have a reddish-yellow color, whereas males have a light yellow hue.

Although this is almost always the case, there can be a few exceptions of baby chicks taking on the “wrong” sex-defining color every now and then.

A similar term that tends to be mixed up with sex-link, is auto-sexing.

However, this concept only applies to purebreds whose female and male chicks can be identified at sight upon hatching.

In contrast to sex-links, auto-sexing breeds do breed true and pass this trait onto more than one generation.

Cambridge Professor Reginald Punnett was responsible for successfully breeding some of the first ever auto-sexing breeds.

Breeds with this unique characteristic are few though, and many find themselves already extinct. The Brussbar, Cambar, Rhodebar, and Buffbar are merely a few. 

Greenfire farms explains the idea of auto-sexing more in-depth in their article on Auto-sexing Chicken Breeds.  

Temperament

Instead of generalizing, perhaps it is safer to say that with Red Stars there are as many individual personalities as there are chickens.

That is why you’ll hear that some bird keepers describe their Red Stars as friendly, mellow or tender in character, while others describe them as flighty, dominant or unpolished.

This is possibly just another by-product of dealing with a hybrid bird!     

Of course, proper handling from a young age will increase the odds of ending up with a docile adult Red Star.

However, Red Stars can be known to oppose new chickens being introduced to the flock. Thus, proper handling is required in this area.

Feel free to take a look at our article on How to Introduce New Chickens to learn about how to make this process easier for the flock.  

Red Stars are voracious foragers, and so they benefit greatly when raised in a confined-ranging or part-time ranging manner.

However, despite their explorer-like nature, they can usually also adapt well to confinement.

If you choose to free-range though, make sure to find ways of keeping your flower pots out of their reach, as these charmingly frisky fowls love to dust bathe in the most ubiquitous of places.

Check out our article on How to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden to get helpful ideas on how to do it!

Red Stars love to spread their wings and fly (...and are pretty talented at it, too!), so they will try to conquer even the tallest of fences.

Therefore, an adequate coop that is tall, but well-secured… so that it allows them to express their flying abilities while still keeping them safely enclosed, is the ideal.

If you free-range them you might want to reinforce those fences or, if really necessary, clip their wings.

When it comes to broodiness this crossbreed is nearly the antithesis of the word. They are not a broody bird.

These chickens are egg-laying machines and so, for them, there is absolutely no time to waste!

Purpose – How many Red Star chicken eggs per year can you expect? 

This is a crossbreed that was specifically developed for commercial egg production.

The Red Star hen is, therefore, an exceptional layer that produces between 280 and 300 large brown-shelled eggs per year – and sometimes even more!

Yes, it is quite hard to reach the bar set by the Red Star chickens’ egg production, but if curious you can learn more about the Ten Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds by reading our article on the subject.

Rumor has it that their performance noticeably declines after their first or second laying cycle; however, there aren’t any available studies that exactly show the extent of this drop.

Some argue that overall, Red Stars end up laying less eggs than many heritage breeds, but this will also continue to be up for discussion until a reliable research study is carried out.

Red Stars are known to be hardy in cold and hot climates, and they generally lay year round… even through winter.

Unlike most breeds, which lay their first eggs at 22 weeks of age, Red Star chickens tend to start laying their first egg at 18 or 20 weeks.  

Other than this, the Red Star is considered a dual-purpose breed, and many backyard keepers often use it as such. After all, they are a beefy bird that can provide plenty of meat.

In the poultry industry most commercial spent laying hens end up being used in other industries, such as the pet food or the cosmetic industry, for their meat and fats.

For further information on the subject, the Huffington Post has written an article on what farms do to hens who are too old to lay eggs.

Those of you who are curious to know how long chickens lay eggs for, can take a look at our article on the topic.


The many pseudonyms of an unrecognized bird - Why do Red Star chickens go by so many different names?

Generally, the different names are used according to the purebreds that were used in the crossing… yes, the name depends on the Red Star chickens parents.

For example, it is said that a cross between a male New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red and a female Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island White, Silver Laced Wyandotte, or Delaware will result in Red Sex Links.

Furthermore, sources maintain that a cross between a male New Hampshire and a female White Plymouth Rock will result in a Golden Comet.

A cross between a male New Hampshire and a female Silver Laced Wyandotte, on the other hand, produces a Cinnamon Queen.

The ISA Brown is said to have started as a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites carried out initially by the Institut de Sélection Animale BV.

This institute merged with Merck years ago to establish Hubbard. Hubbard now owns the patent for this chicken hybrid. 

Countryside Daily provides an accurate post on the topic in their article Understanding Sex-Link Hybrid Chickens and under the subsection of Common Red Sex Link Crosses.  


Bonus Red Star chicken facts – Answers to the most FAQs

​​​1

What is a Red Star chicken?

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The Red Star is a crossbreed.

As the term crossbreed implies, these types of chickens are simply a cross between two other recognized breeds.

In other words, there is no Red Star chicken breed – at least not yet!

Generally speaking, if you cross two of the same kind of hybrid chickens (e.g. breed a Red Star with a Red Star), the offspring may or may not resemble the looks and performance of their parents.

That is to say, that crossbreeds do not breed true.

Find out more on the topic on Red Star chickens wiki

2

What is a Black Star chicken?

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This is another hybrid that is closely related to the Red Star.

One can breed Black Stars (a.k.a. Black Sex Links or Rock Reds) by crossing a male Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red with a female Barred Plymouth Rock.

Like their Red Star counterparts, Black Stars are also sex links, so one can normally distinguish female from male chicks.

Most of the time female chicks will be completely black, whereas male chicks will be completely black with the exception of a white dot on their heads.

Quinn from Reformation Acres writes a brief review about Black Stars on her post, Chicken Breed Profile: Black Star Chickens.  

3

What is a designer breed?

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Designer breed is just another term for a hybrid chicken (a.k.a. a crossbreed).

My Pet Chicken Q&A post on the difference between Breeds, Designer Chicken Breeds, and Varieties of chicken, covers the subject more in detail.

4

What is the need for creating a hybrid or “designer” breed?

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Well, most crossings are done out of curiosity… that natural tendency of wanting to know what a mix will conceive.

Nonetheless, there is an expression called hybrid vigor that applies to both plants and animals, which refers to how the offspring of crossing two purebreds often show a drive that surpasses that of their parent breeds.

In other words, some traits such as rapid growth, laying capabilities, hardiness, etc. can be enhanced in members of the first hybrid generation. Encyclopedia Britannica explains the concept in more detail.

5

What is the average Red Star chicken lifespan?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

A bit less than the average chicken - Red Stars can live anywhere from 5 to 8 years, but sometimes even more depending on the conditions under which they are kept.

Care is, without a doubt, one of the factors that will largely come into play when speaking of life expectancy and also one of the few factors that you as a chicken keeper will have control over.


Quiz: Is the red star chicken right for you? Don’t move on before finding out!

Choose your favorite farm fowl star - Red Stars vs. Similar chicken breeds

If the Red Star chicken is not for you, here are some other similar breeds you might want to check out:

Sussex

An English dual-purpose breed to the bone!

This heavyweight chicken is laid-back in character and known to bear confinement well. Sussex chickens make loving mothers and can joyfully incubate and raise other breeds’ eggs.

Sussex chickens can withstand cold and warm temperatures; nonetheless, they don’t do well in hot climates.

Like the Red Star, Sussex chickens are distinguished layers that are also able to continue producing throughout winter.

You can expect them to yield around 200 or 250 large tan- or brown-shelled eggs annually.  

Recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association include the Speckled, Red, and Light for both large fowls and bantam types of Sussex.  

Leghorn

This Italian breed (correctly pronounced leggern) is a superb champion layer. This medium-weight chicken has a reputation for being somewhat nervous in personality, but can handle confinement fairly well.

Leghorn chickens are not known to be broody or have motherly traits.

Leghorn chickens can endure cold temperatures, but typically perform at their best in moderate to hot climates. Thus, Leghorns do cut their egg production during winter.

However, you can expect them to lay around 250 to 300 medium to large white-shelled eggs per year!

There are 12 recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association for both large fowls and bantam Leghorns. These include Dark Brown, Light Brown, Red, and White, amongst 8 others.

Keep in mind that Leghorns are also categorized into those with a single comb and those with a rose comb.  

Ancona

Another reliable Italian layer breed that has made our list today!

This medium weight chicken has a rather effervescent character that requires a soft, yet confident, handling.

They are able to bear confinement, but their active and independent nature profits greatly from free-ranging.

These birds are like the Red Star in that they rarely go broody at all.

When it comes to egg-laying however, Anconas under-perform in comparison, yielding about 180 medium- to large- white-shelled eggs on a yearly basis.

Still, this is commonly seen as a good laying performance.  

Ancona chickens do well in both cold and hot temperatures, but they are considered to be more of a cold-hardy than a heat-hardy breed.

At the moment there are no color varieties recognized by the American Poultry Association – just single comb and rose comb Anconas.

If you’re curious to see other chicken breed options that are akin to the Red Star, check out our article on The Best Egg Laying Chickens. If you didn't find what you where looking for - you may also be interested in our Ultimate guide to Wyandotte or Silkie Chickens. Don't Fret - the right chicken is out there waiting for you!


Where can I buy a Red Star?

Prior to purchasing your first Red Stars, you should ask yourself whether you would like to get baby chicks or adult chickens.

If you are having doubts simply view our guide on Buying Chicks or Chickens: Where to Buy and How to do It? in which we’ll  hopefully clear things up for you.

Note that you can buy chicks from online hatchery shops, feed stores, local hatcheries, or sellers via Craigslist and occasionally even eBay.

When buying mature chickens, on the other hand, you will have to go and personally buy them at one of your nearest hatchery stores.

Whatever you do, here are three hatcheries that currently offer Red Stars:

  • Cackle Hatchery
    The minimum number of chicks required per order is 5 chicks.
  • Murray McMurray Hatchery
    The minimum number of chicks required per order is 15 on and after April 1st. Previous to this date the minimum is 25 chicks.
  • My Pet Chicken
    The minimum number of chicks required per order is 5 chicks.

You can also watch this short review from someone who bought Red Star Chickens from one of the hatcheries mentioned above:

Verdict - Is this unique red-feathered egg machine right for you?

At the end of the day, this chicken is just like a piñata… full of surprises.

With that all said: if you are willing to receive huge amounts of eggs in exchange for taking good care of a whimsical, or perhaps perfectly behaved, bird... then go for it!

If you found this article helpful, please let us know about it in the comments section below, and don’t forget to pass this article along to your fowl-aficionado friends!  

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