Backyard chicken keeping is an increasingly popular hobby that is experiencing a resurgence. More and more cities are rolling back ordinances that prevent keeping chickens on your property, leading to an uptick in interest. There are hundreds of different types of chickens to choose from – hybrids, heritage breeds, crosses. One of those breeds is the Red Star chicken. It’s an interesting hybrid type of chicken that produces a ton of eggs every year.
All about Red Star Chickens
When it comes to picking the right breed of chicken for your home or farm, knowing the basics of the breed will help you make that decision.
- Other names: ISA Brown
- Appearance: Hens appear reddish brown feathers with white flecks. Males appear entirely white.
- Origin: America, mid 1900’s
- Temperament: Docile
- Noise: Moderate
- Purpose: Dual purpose bird
- Maturity: 22 weeks
- Eggs per year: 360
- Egg color: Brown
- Egg size: Large
- Hen weight: 6 lbs
- Rooster weight: 8 lbs
- Broody: Not likely
- Lifespan: 5-8 years
- APA Recognized: No, due to being a hybrid species of chicken.
Red Star chickens were originally bred in the 1900’s to produce larger eggs due to demand for them commercially. They were produced by breeding a Rhode Island Red rooster to a Rhode Island White hen. Backyard farming was becoming less common and needed farmers to produce more and larger eggs for families to eat.
Red Star chickens have very pleasant demeanors and doesn’t take much to get on their good side. A lot of kindness on your own can go a long way too, of course. It’s good to note that these chickens tend to fly and perch somewhere that seems comfortable to them. If you want to avoid your chickens from flying, it may be a good idea to confine in a decent coop/chicken run or clip their feathers.
When it comes to roosters, and this applies to just about every breed of chicken, if you treat them with respect and are kind, they will typically return the favor. Knowing their boundaries and reading their body language is important. If, despite all your best efforts, your Red Star rooster won’t stop being aggressive, it may be best to remove him from the flock and look for a nicer rooster.
Red Star chickens are considered to be a dual purpose breed and can be raised for both eggs and meat. If you’re just wanting the eggs, then you have found a great starting chicken breed. Red Star chickens will produce all year, despite the heat or cold, and have some of the largest eggs you could ask for. Raising Red Star chickens for meat is also not out of the question. Considering that a single hen can weigh about 6 lbs and a male being 8 lbs might be worth more than the eggs. Whatever route you choose, this chicken can do the job.
This breed of chicken is easy to sex before they are fully matured adults. Male chicks will appear lighter with yellowish white feathers and hens will be slightly darker with reddish-orange feathers. However, Red Star chickens are not meant to reproduce considering that this breed is a hybrid and will not retain the same characteristics in future generations.
Coop and run
Chickens tend to pick up bad behaviors when their coop and run aren’t up to their standards, so making sure you have the appropriate cook and run for your Red Star chickens is vitally important.
Red Star chickens like to have plenty of coop and run space to go about the business of being a good chicken. The more space you can provide them, the happier they’ll be and the more eggs they’ll lay. Red Star chickens should be provided 10 or more square feet of free-range area per bird.
Chicken runs and coops should be kept properly cleaned out and provided with fresh straw regularly. At least one nest box per laying hen is preferred, although they can tolerate “buddying up” and laying eggs in the same nest box. These chickens are known to wander some and will occasionally find creative places to lay their eggs.
Common Red Star chicken problems
There aren’t really any problems that are specific to Red Star chickens that aren’t known to any other breed of chickens. However, because they are such great egg layers, they may require more feed than your average chicken and may be more susceptible to egg binding. The amount of energy spent laying those large brown eggs calls for larger feasts!
Chickens are susceptible to a number of viral illnesses, including Marek’s disease, avian flu, fowl pox, Newcastle disease, and bronchitis. Some of these conditions are more common than others. Signs of a viral infection among your chickens include sneezing, coughing, reduced egg production, reduced eating, lethargy, discharge around the eyes and sinuses, sores, and paralysis in the case of Newcastle disease.
Most chicks acquired from a reputable breeder or hatchery are vaccinated against the more common viral infections, like Marek’s. Chicks acquired from smaller-scale sellers may not be vaccinated. Always ask if your chicks have been vaccinated and what they’re vaccinated for.
Bacterial infections are a real concern for chickens, as coops, runs, and the outdoors, in general, can be havens for bacteria. The most common bacterial infections for chickens are salmonellosis and colibacillosis. These infections can be fast spreading and infect entire flocks.
Signs your chickens may be struggling with a bacterial infection include reduced egg laying, breathing problems, reduced appetite, and death. Salmonellosis doesn’t always present symptoms in chickens.
The two most common types of fungal diseases are brooder pneumonia and ringworm. Ringworm can be spread to humans as well, so if you suspect your chickens have ringworm, handle them carefully and wash your hands and clothes immediately.
Brooder pneumonia tends to only infect young chicks spending their first few weeks in a brooder. Ringworm usually clears up on its own with time. Keeping brooders and coops clean is key to avoiding these fungal infections.
Like most of our pets, chickens can experience parasitic infections. Worms, ticks, lice, and mites are some of the more common ones. Symptoms of these parasites include loss of appetite, lethargy, skin irritation, and unexpected loss of feathers outside of normal molting.
Be wary of used coops. Always disinfect them thoroughly before introducing your chickens. Replace coop bedding often and periodically disinfect chicken coops to reduce the presence of parasites.
It can be a rough and tumble life for chickens as they go about establishing pecking orders and foraging for food. Injuries, particularly foot injuries, aren’t uncommon. Most surface-level injuries will clear up on their own, but foot injuries are particularly concerning as the chickens’ talons tend to come into contact with their own manure as well as other pathogens in the soil and on the ground.
Common signs of a foot injury are difficulty walking or putting weight on the foot as well as lethargy. In the case of bumblefoot, a type of staph infection, both the chickens’ digits and sometimes entire feet can become swollen with pus-filled abscesses. Foot injuries should be treated and bandaged as soon as they are noticed.
Egg binding is an often tragic issue for chickens. It’s caused when an egg becomes stuck between the hen’s uterus and cloaca. Signs of egg binding include weakness, inability to perch, often choosing to sit or lay on the ground, straining, and a lack of egg laying. Egg binding can quickly become a fatal condition and will generally require a trip to an avian vet to fix.
Pasty butt, sometimes called pasty vent, is a fairly common condition that afflicts chicks. It can quickly become a life-threatening issue if not addressed. Pasty vent tends to be caused by stress and dehydration. It occurs when thick stools block the chick’s vent, preventing it from passing droppings.
Eventually, the chick will become ill and refuse to eat. Signs of pasty butt include smaller chick size and a pasty mat of droppings over the vent. This condition is easily treated by cleaning the affected area and removing the stuck droppings.
Breeding Red Star Chickens
Breeding Red Star chickens won’t necessarily result in more red stars. You’ll probably end up with a genetic mix of the grandparent birds. Breeding a Rhode Island Red rooster to a Rhode Island White hen will produce a Red Star chicken. A ratio of 10 hens for every rooster will typically yield good fertility rates. You can allow a broody hen to sit on her eggs or hatch them in an incubator. A quick guide to hatching:
- Incubation time: 21 days
- Incubator temperature: 37.5°C (99.5°F)
- Incubator humidity: 40-50%
- Egg turning: 4 times a day
- Candling eggs: Day 7
- Lockdown Date: Day 17
- Lockdown temperature: 37.2°C (99°F)
- Lockdown humidity: 65%
For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on incubating chicken eggs.
What to feed Red Star Chickens
Up until about 16 weeks old, your Red Star chicks should be fed a commercial chick starter feed with 18% protein. This added protein will help your young chicks grow and develop into healthy birds. After 16 weeks, they can be switched to a 16% protein layer feed to support healthy feathers and good egg production. Chickens enjoy being put out to pastures where they can eat grass, bugs, and other plants. They will also gladly eat some fruits, vegetables, grains, and leafy greens. Free-ranging your birds will also cut down significantly on your feed costs.
For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on what foods chickens can and cannot eat.