By John Harrison based on work by Katie Thear
These are birds of mixed parents and grandparents which have been developed for production by selecting from the best strains. A strain is a family line which has a particularly desirable feature, as far as the breeder is concerned. This might be a good record of eggs laid, good shell quality or excellent feathering.
Examples of commercial laying hybrids are Hisex Brown and Babcock Brown 380. All the brown egg laying hybrids are based on the Rhode Island Red while the white egg layers are based on the White Leghorn.
Hybrids are generally the best choice for commercial production. Some have been bred for laying, while others are developed for the table. The latter are usually referred to as broilers. Initially developed for intensive battery and broiler conditions, hybrids have also been bred for free-range conditions.
The layers are slightly heavier at point-of-lay so that they are better equipped to cope with outside conditions. Examples include Black Rock, Bovans Nera, Hebden Black, Lohmann Brown, Speckledy, Hisex Ranger, Calder Ranger (originally Columbian Blacktail) and Babcock B380.
The most common, commercial table birds are the white feathered Cobb 500 and Ross broilers. These were bred for intensive conditions and grow quickly, although they do adapt to outside conditions.
Table breeds have also been specifically bred for free-range, and these grow more slowly and are white or brown feathered, although grey and other colours are also available, depending on the strain.
Free-range table breeds include strains of Hybro, Hubbard-ISA and Sasso. The range of different feather colouring depends on the male used.
Hybrid Free-Range Layers
Bred for free-range, the brown feathered Babcock produces 300+ mid-brown eggs.
This is a black sex-link cross of the Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock, producing 280+ eggs. Although soft-feathered, it has been bred to some extent for tighter feathering to cope with rain.
Another back sex-link of the same cross, bred for extensive conditions. Developed in the Netherlands, the birds produce 270-290 brown eggs. There is also a lighter Bovans Goldline laying 300+ eggs.
Originally called Columbian Blacktail, this has been bred for docility, as well as for free-range conditions. Feathering is brown with black tail feathers. 290-300 eggs.
Another black sex-link bird of the RIR x BPR cross, the Hebden Black produces 260-270 dark brown eggs.
This has been developed for outside conditions and is slightly heavier than the Hisex Brown which is also popular for commercial free-range. Egg numbers are 290-300.
A docile layer of around 290-300 light brown eggs.There is also a Lohmann Tradition. Both are bred for free-range.
This is a commercial hybrid based on the Maran to produce around 290 brown, speckled eggs.
Based on the White Leghorn, this lays 300 + white eggs.