Although they are a fairly new breed, ISA Brown chickens have grown in popularity quickly thanks to their extraordinary egg-laying and friendly personalities. These chickens are equally great for commercial egg-laying and for those new to raising chickens. If you give these chickens a shot, you are sure to fall in love with them.
History of Isa Browns
The Isa Brown breed is a hybrid that was developed by the Institut de Sélection Animale (ISA) in France in 1978. They were bred specifically for their egg-laying abilities. The genetic mix within the breed is a highly-guarded secret, but White Leghorns and Rhode Island Red are suspected as two of the breeds used. In fact, their lineage is such a big secret that the breed itself is a copyrighted product.
In 1997, ISA merged with Merck & Co., a large pharmaceutical brand and the result was Hubbard ISA. In 2005, Hubbard and ISA were divided and merged with two other companies. ISA merged with Hendrix Poultry Breeders, part of Hendrix Genetics whereas Hubbard was merged with Merial Ltd.
Hendrix Genetics specializes in improving livestock breeds through selective breeding, not genetic engineering. Their egg-laying chickens include the breeds Babcock, Bovans, Dekalb, Hisex, ISA, and Shaver.
ISA Brown Breed
The ISA Brown breed has been used worldwide for more than 35 years and has been proven to lay more eggs than the competition. It also has an excellent food-to-egg performance ratio, making it a very profitable breed for commercial use or an easy breed for small farmers.
The breed has gained popularity with smaller and new chicken farmers, thanks to its ease of care and docile temperament. If you want to start raising chickens in your back yard for eggs or as pets, this is a perfect breed for the job. You will have plenty of beautiful brown eggs, will save money on food when compared to other breeds, and will enjoy the temperament of your hens.
It’s not uncommon for retired ISA Brown chickens to become family pets. The British Hen Welfare Trust works to give these sweet girls homes where they can live out the rest of their lives once their commercial egg production slows.
Isa Brown Appearance
Since this chicken was bred for commercial purposes, there is no set breed standard. It is also important to know that as a hybrid breed, the ISA Brown doesn’t breed true, making it impossible to breed them for show purposes.
The offspring also don’t retain the characteristics of the parent and tend to have kidney problems. They also do not retain the breed characteristics, making them a poor choice for breeding.
The ISA Brown hen will weigh about 5 pounds at maturity, making her a small to medium-size hen. The males are primarily white and weigh 6 pounds. The hens are tan to copper in color and the males are primarily white, making them easy to sex at birth.
They have eyes that range between gold and red in hue with red combs and wattles. The breed has a very similar appearance to the Rhode Island Red breed, but their body is leaner and more similar to a leghorn, another prolific egg layer.
They have a short and straight tail that may contain white feathers. The underside of their feathers also tend to be white, so you may see some white peaking between those beautiful coppery feathers on a windy day.
Isa Brown Personality and Temperament
ISA Browns are known for being gentle, calm chickens. They are great with kids and are very docile. It is not uncommon for these chickens to become beloved pets within the family. This characteristic makes them especially popular among small farms, homes with children, and backyard chicken coops.
These chickens do well as pets and in neighborhoods. They are a fairly quiet breed that loves to forage in a backyard. Give them a place to roam and forage for bugs and worms and they will be content.
ISA Browns are also very social with people. They are the type of chicken to enjoy cuddling in your lap or may follow you around your backyard. Needless to say, the personality of these chickens will win over the hearts of those who work with them.
This breed of chicken is well-known for being a commercial egg-laying hen. Each hen will lay in excess of 300 large eggs per year for 2 years and has to potential to produce up to 500 eggs per year. The egg quality superb, large in size, and uniform. All of these make it a valuable chicken for commercial egg production.
The eggs are brown and weigh an average of 62.9 grams, or 2.21 ounces. By 90 weeks of age, these chickens will have layed an averaged of 420 eggs and will reach 50% rate of lay at 144 days old.
However, laying this many eggs means that by two years old, her egg production will slow down significantly. It is also not the best for the bird’s health. ISA Browns need more protein and calcium via oyster shells to keep up with production and for hard eggshells.
In addition to feeding a protein and calcium-rich diet, lots of sunshine helps these girls produce more eggs, so offer shade but provide open areas of direct sun for them to forage and graze. In the summer months, keep in mind that they will also need plenty of water for hot, sunny days.
Health Issues and Care
The ISA Brown is a hardy chicken. However, after laying several hundred eggs during the first two years of life, it can take a toll on her. Laying such a large number of eggs makes her more susceptible to reproductive health problems. Prolapse, tumors, and cancer are the most common problems with prolific egg layers like ISA Brown and Leghorn breeds.
It is important to ensure your hens receive plenty of calcium and protein to keep them healthy when they are at their egg production peak. This will ensure that they stay healthy as well as lay plenty of eggs for you.
Because of their hardiness, they can handle almost any weather with the proper preparation, making them perfect for nearly every location. They are very easy to care for and keep healthy, another reason why they are good for first-time chicken farmers.
Vaccination and sanitation are the primary elements that will keep your ISA Brown chickens healthy and happy. They are generally very healthy, but like any animal, there is a certain amount of work necessary to provide them with a clean, healthy environment.
6 Tips for Raising ISA Browns
1. Protein and Calcium are Very Important
As mentioned above, your ISA Brown chickens need more protein and calcium than most chickens because of their prolific egg-laying abilities. This helps your chickens stay healthy and produce quality eggs.
Provide them with oyster shells at all times and supplement the protein in their diets by feeding them a laying mix with over 18% protein.
2. Provide Space for Foraging
Another great way to boost your hens’ protein is to provide them with plenty of space to forage. Insects contain lots of protein and allow them to take in plenty of sunshine, which improves their egg production. Foraging is great for your hens and it keeps them happy.
3. Provide Plenty of Nesting Boxes and Perching Space
Since ISA Browns can lay 1 to 2 eggs per day, it’s important that each hen has plenty of space and a nesting box available. This will help them to stay comfortable and helps the cool environment stay clean.
When your hens aren’t laying eggs, they will need perching space to stay safely away from predators. It’s important for them to have plenty of room to stay cool and dry during the summer months.
4. Keep the Coop Clean
The best way to keep your chickens healthy is to provide them with a clean environment. Chickens are messy, so it’s important to change out litter and bedding regularly. Alternatively, you can use a mobile coop or chicken truck and move it regularly to a fresh patch of grass.
This will prevent disease-causing bacteria from growing and will keep your flock healthy.
5. Allow Your Chickens to Socialize
Since ISA Browns are social, don’t be afraid to enjoy some time with them. While they forage, offer them treats like mealworms and fresh vegetables. Feeding them by hand will help socialize your birds so that they are more comfortable with you.
6. Establish a Routine
ISA Browns are so easy to care for that they’re easy to forget them if they’re not part of your daily routine. The chickens also thrive when they are fed at regular intervals. Try to feed them and change out their water at the same time each day and maintain their coop regularly
Give ISA Browns a Try
The ISA Brown is an all-around excellent breed of chicken that is sure to impress. Whether you are looking into raising chickens as a hobby or business, there are many good reasons to give these chickens a shot. Their egg-laying and winning personality are sure to keep you coming back to this breed time and time again.