ISA Brown Chicken Care Guide: Temperament And Egg Laying

Today’s chicken subject is the ISA brown hybrid chicken.

She is one of the darlings of the poultry industry because she is such a prolific egg layer.

However in recent years the ISA has made her way into many backyard flocks by way of rescue from the slaughterhouse after her best laying days are done.

Others have been purchased from hatcheries where they can be bought for a few dollars.

These hard working hens will keep you well supplied with eggs and they will not disappoint you when it comes to eggs.

If you are interested in this breed then keep reading to learn how to properly care for them…

ISA Brown

ISA Brown Chicken Overview

The ISA brown chicken was literally made for the poultry industry.

They are by far one of the best production breeds and can lay around 6 eggs a week!

Interestingly she is one of the few industry breeds that has successfully transitioned to a backyard hen.

In a backyard settings you can expect a lovely little hen.

They are quite friendly, non-aggressive and make a good hen for families.

She is highly prized by many chickens keepers for her ability to lay lots of eggs. Although she will only lay extremely well for around two years (6 eggs a week), she will go on to lay eggs much longer but not as many as the first two years. As she ages this number will drop to a more realistic output of around 3-4 per week.

Overall they are quite suitable for a small urban yard or a rural barnyard.

They are pretty quiet so won’t disturb your neighbors and friendly enough to let the children handle them and cuddle them.

ISA Brown Breed Profile
Beginner Friendly: Yes.
Lifespan: 4+ years.
Weight: Hens (5lb) Roosters (6lb).
Color: Brown.
Egg Production: 6+ eggs per week.
Egg Color: Light brown.
Known For Broodiness: No.
Good With Children: Yes.
Cost of Chicken: $3-5 per chick.

Why We Love This Breed

Pros:

  • They lay beautiful large brown eggs.
  • ISA Browns have a gentle and docile temperament.
  • She is pretty quiet and would do well in a suburban backyard.
  • Given their temperament they are an excellent option for those new to keeping chickens.
  • As they are popular they are easy to find in hatcheries.

Appearance

Hybrid Close Up

Even though she is a bit on the small side they are considered a standard sized chicken.

As a hybrid chicken there is no official breed standard so their appearance can vary – in particular her feather color.

Her slight profile indicates that she was bred for eggs and is not a dual purpose breed. Their back is medium width with a U shaped profile and her skin is a yellowish color.

Wattles, single comb and ear lobes are all red.

Their beak is stout and horn colored and their feathers are red to light buff on the underbelly.

When walking around her tail is held at roughly 45 degrees.

Her legs are yellow in color and are feather free and she should have four toes to each foot.

Size and Weight

Roosters usually weigh around 6lbs, with hens usually coming in around 5lbs.

Telling the roosters apart from hens is nice and easy as they are a sex link bird.

At hatching the boys will be white and the girls a tan color.

Color Varieties

As their name suggests ISA browns are brown.

They are best described as honey colored, chestnut colored or simply red. The under feathers of this breed tend to be on the lighter side – a light buff color which often leaks through to the main color.

Their coloring is similar to a Rhode Island Red however ISAs are a touch lighter.

What Is It Like To Own An ISA Brown?

ISA Browns

This is a a chicken that likes to free range.

You will often find them ranging with other ISAs quietly chatting with each other as they do.

Ranging is very healthy for them and lets them get plenty of exercise and sunlight – both crucial for egg laying.

Also letting them free range gives them access to a variety of foods such as bugs, seeds and greens which is great for their diet.

Personality

The ISA is a remarkably friendly and affectionate chicken.

They love to be petted, touched and held which makes them suitable for a family environment.

She is seemingly fearless of people and not in the least skittish when people are around.

Despite being raised for intensive farming conditions the ISA has remained very curious and warm hearted towards people. They will hop into your lap with very little encouragement and many will make your lap their own.

A few treats and lots of love and you will have yourself a friend for life.

As they are so docile care needs to be taken if you are integrating them with other bolder breeds that may pick on them. As they are not aggressive they are fairly low on the hierarchy of the pecking order.

ISA Brown Free Ranging

Egg Production

ISA Brown Chickens were created to lay eggs and they do this in abundance.

Most can produce around 6 eggs each week for the first 18-24 months.

After 24 months the amount of eggs laid will decrease significantly – this is why the poultry industry dispenses with these ladies after 2 years.

However they will still produce enough eggs for a small family so if you have the opportunity to rescue some of these hens it certainly can be a worthwhile arrangement for both you and the hens.

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 6 Eggs.
Color: Brown.
Size: Medium/Large.

Noise Levels

ISAs are known to be a talkative bird however they talk quietly with each – they will chatter among themselves while ranging and even in the run.

However this is not a loud chatter or shrieks.

The fact that they are reasonably quiet and not prone to flighty or erratic outbursts makes them a good bird for urban living.

Facts About This Breed

  1. ISA Brown chickens originated from France.
  2. Unfortunately they are vulnerable to to health-related kidney issues.
  3. ISA stands for Institut de Sélection Animale.
  4. As hybrids there is no official breed appearance standard.
  5. This breed is sex-linked which means that female and male chicks look different.

Isa Brown Care Guide

ISA Brown Chicken

Health Issues

As this chicken has been specifically bred to make lots of eggs their main health problems commonly come in the form of reproductive ailments.

For example: egg yolk peritonitis, cancer and egg prolapses.

Fortunately these problems do not generally manifest until the hen is over 2 years of age.

However sometimes these problems can happen to young hens so you need to be aware that these problems can happen and react accordingly.

Also as always the usual parade of minor problems such as lice and worms can be managed through a careful health and treatment plan. You should perform regular health checks to ensure tip top conditions for the girls.

You should know that as a hybrid breed the ISA brown will not breed true. You will get mutt chickens that are inferior layers.

It is not recommended that you breed two ISA browns as their offspring will have poor health and many die before they begin to lay.

Feeding

As chicks they should be fed a good quality crumble that is at least 20% protein. They should be fed this until they are at least fully feathered in.

Generally you should stick with the 20% until they reach point of lay at around 16-20 weeks.

Whether you offer free feeding or set feeding times is entirely your choice.

ISAs are not known for overeating so free feeding should not be a problem.

At the point of lay you can switch them to a 16% layer feed. You should also offer them oyster shell and insoluble grit in separate bowls. Clean fresh water should always be available to them and is essential to their health.

Coop Setup

ISA Brown And Plymouth Rock Chicken

As ISA Browns are a sleek and small bird 4 square feet each of coop space will do admirably for them.

However if you do not let them free range then more coop space is better.

As you know tight and cramped coops lead to antisocial behaviors such as feather picking – so do not skimp on coop space. The average of 8-10 inches of perch space is all the ISAs need. You can give them a variety of heights to choose from so they can pick where to roost.

As for nesting boxes the standard 12×12 inch box will do just fine for these ladies.

They are not prone to broodiness so they are not going to be sitting in there all day.

Run and Roaming

This breed loves to roam and forage but do not need a huge amount of room to do so.

A few hens in the average backyard will find everything they need right there.

Make sure your flowers and veggie areas are well protected as there is nothing so attractive to a hen as a tidy well mulched garden. By the time they are finished with it your garden will look like a large animal rampaged through it!

If you are concerned about possible predators then take your chair and book outside with them and enjoy some chicken TV.

These ladies do well enough in confinement as long as they have enough room and things to entertain them.

If you are going to keep them in a run then make sure each chicken has 8 square feet of space.

Leaf litters, perches of differing heights, dust baths, a quiet space and other types of attention holding amusements will help them to stay active and busy.

ISA Brown Breed History

An ISA Brown

The ISA brown is a relatively old breed.

She was created in the 1970s to be an egg laying superstar.

They originated in France where the Institut de Selection Animale bred them.

Although the exact genetic makeup is unknown to the general public, several folks have made reasonable educated guesses as to the main contributors to the breed.

It is thought highly likely that both Rhode Island Reds and Whites contributed along with the White Leghorn.

Anything beyond that is speculation.

She is what is known as a proprietary or copyrighted hen. In essence this means that no one except the creator (ISA) of the breed knows the exact genetic input. It also means nobody else can use the name ISA brown for a line or breed of bird.

Through breeding and experimentation the ISA was engineered to lay prolifically for as long as possible.

Although the ISA brown is one of the primary breeds used in factory farming they can be bought by the general public fairly inexpensively.

Unfortunately given their industrial pasts the ISA is usually one of the hens that are offered by rescue organizations for rehoming.

Summary

Despite being made for industry the ISA brown is a happy, curious and loving little hen with lots of personality.

These hens are one of the chickens that are most commonly rescued or adopted after factory life.

Although it may take a little time for them to get used to things like grass, fresh air and lots of room, they with positively flourish in such an environment.

If you wish to buy them as chicks they can be obtained from most hatcheries for a few dollars.

They are not a long lived chicken however they will supply you with eggs and entertainment for as long as they can…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and are interested in backyard chicken health and care. Her work has been shared on HuffPost, Mother Nature Network, Community Chickens, Mother Earth News and many more outlets. Today Chris keeps 11 chickens including 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 Rhode Island Reds and 3 Silkies. She is our backyard chicken expert at Chickens And More, and shares her knowledge on raising healthy, happy chickens with our readers. You can contact Chris at chris@chickensandmore.com

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