If you need a good, standard egg-layer, you can’t go wrong with the Red Star. The Red Star chicken is a hybrid bird specifically developed both for prolific egg production and a good source of meat.
Since the 1950’s, these busy little hens have been producing a high output of large brown eggs for both small time farmers and large egg production facilities across the country. While this bird is considered a ‘mut,’ in the sense that it is a hybrid and not an official pure breed chicken, it is a real contender for the best laying hen out there.
Background and History of Red Star Chickens
First developed in the mid 20th Century, the Red Star chicken came about during America’s demand for more eggs. Small, backyard farms were becoming less common, and getting enough eggs to the family breakfast table required that commercial producers up their game.
Enter the Red Star–a hen that could produce enough eggs on a regular, consistent basis to keep up with the high demand.
The mid 1900’s, the idea that hybrid and crossbreed chickens were a bad idea also began to rapidly change. The development of hybrid crosses, such as the Red Star, was a gamechanger in “turning chicken from a luxury food to an everyday good.”
The original Red Star chickens were bred by crossing a couple of different breeds. The most commonly bred pairs are a Rhode Island Red rooster bred with a Rhode Island White hen. Some of the other breeds sometimes used in the hybrid production of Red Stars may include White Plymouth Rocks, also known as White Rocks, and Delawares.
Breed Standard and Appearance
Red Stars are a sex-link chicken. a sex-link breed means that male and female chicks are different colors, and you will easily be able to tell them apart shortly after they hatch. This is just one of the features that makes them an ideal choice for backyard farms. Not having to worry about an incognito rooster in your coop is a huge advantage.
However, as a sex-link breed, the Red Star will also not breed true. This means that when you pair a Red Star rooster and a Red Star hen, their offspring will not be true to the breed standard. In order to maintain the standard, if you want to breed Red Stars, you should include some of the other breeds mentioned above in your selection.
Mature Red Stars, both male and female, will be light brownish red to dark, rusty red in color. Sometimes there will be some variation in feather color with a little bit of white or black appearing. The hens have single combs, and both roosters and hens have yellow beaks and legs.
Red Stars are cleaned legged which means that there will never be any feathers on their legs. Both males and females will reach between six and eight pounds in weight at full maturity. This is a large part of why the Red Star is considered to be a good meat bird as well as a good laying hen.
Male hatchlings will be slightly lighter in color than females. More often than not, it is very easy to identify the males and the females right after they hatch. The other convenience to sex-link identification is that, due to the bird not breeding true, males are usually not kept around once they are identified.
With such a quick identification process, farmers need not waste time raising the young roosters if they do not wish to. However, males can always still be raised for meat if they are not being used inbreeding.
Personality and Temperament
The jury seems to be out on the general personality and temperament of the Red Star. In other words, they have varying personalities. However, many seem to agree that, on average, the Red Star is a lot more easygoing with humans than she is with other chickens.
As such, you will probably find it easier to add Red Stars into a flock of other breeds versus attempting to add new breeds to your established coop of Red Stars. If you are unsure how this will work, you might want to try introducing a few at a time so as not to risk complete upheaval.
If you are going to raise Red Stars in any capacity, you should be aware that they do like to fly. Of course, chickens cannot fly for long distances, but this particular breed will fly, and she will sometimes try to escape via her strong and capable wings.
You will likely need to enclose your coop completely, including overhead, with chicken wire to prevent your flock from making an all to easily escape.
Red Star Chicken Egg Laying
The Red Star hen is a fantastic layer. She will generally begin laying anywhere between seventeen and twenty-two weeks of age. On average, this bird can lay an egg every single day, provided the conditions are right. Keep your chickens happy and healthy, and you should expect well over 300 eggs a year. The eggs of the Red Star tend to be large, and they are brown in color.
The most important aspects to keeping your hens happy, healthy and laying, are keeping them well and properly fed, keeping them in a climate-appropriate atmosphere and ensuring that they are always able to find warm and clean nesting materials.
Looking out for their emotional welfare will help as well. You can find more tips on encouraging these hens to lay prolifically in the sections below.
Health Issues and Care
The Red Star chicken is easy to raise and generally doesn’t pose much risk of illness. The main concerns for health and welfare are true to that of most other breeds.
One of the bigger concerns with caring for your Red Star chickens is simply to ensure that they get enough to eat. These busy layers will need more food than some breeds because of the energy required to produce so many eggs!
Keep them well supplied with chicken, feed them mealworm treats and occasional fruits and vegetables. Your chicken can treats like bananas, grapes, tomatoes, rice and even crickets. They can also eat some table scraps, such as bread, corn, apples, berries, oatmeal, peas, broccoli, cabbage and cucumbers.
Another concern with Red Stars is keeping them entertained. Bored chickens may fail to thrive or may become aggressive. Make sure that you provide them with plenty of space. A sizeable chicken coop or barn with access to an outside run and play area is fantastic.
Letting your Red Stars roam free-range is even better. This allows them not only to acquire extra food through foraging but provides an element of entertainment via the hunt for this food and through other outdoor attractions.
Country Living recommends adding a hanging cabbage to your chickenyard. The cabbage will double both as a toy and a treat! A few other ideas, from British Hen Welfare Trust, include: homemade plastic bottle treat dispensers, hanging CD’s or mirrors and clean hay and stray.
Tips for Raising Red Star Chickens
The Red Star can tolerate a wide range of climates, from hot to cold. The only real concern in cold weather is protecting the single combs of the hens. You can do this by coating the combs with Vaseline.
As a skilled forager, the Red Star will make a wonderful free range chicken. This makes the breed ideal for backyards and small farms. Allowing your Red Star hens to forage for extra tidbits is also a convenient way to ensure they are provided with the extra protein and calcium necessary to encourage high egg production.
Even if your Red Stars will be free range, however, you should ensure that you provide some indoor shelter for inclement weather and shade for when it is extremely hot. Always provide your coop with adequate food, fresh water and clean nesting materials. And remember to net the top of the coop and yard to prevent them from flying away.
As you can see, the Red Star hybrid breed is an easy to raise, highly beneficial chicken. Whether you’re hoping for a hearty bird you can raise for meat or simply want a consistently prolific egg layer, this bird is an ideal addition to your coop.
And since they’re fairly easy to acquire, as well as to raise, there’s no reason not to try these versatile hens out. Just remember to introduce Red Stars into an established flock a little more gradually than you might another breed.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.