I'm a firm believer in preserving heritage breeds, whether they are chickens, horses, sheep, or any other form of livestock. I also believe that hybrid vigor is a good thing, and that too much inbreeding (or "linebreeding") can lead to weak animals.
I also believe that hybrid chickens have their place. Hatcheries sell at least three types of hybrids, and while each hatchery has named their own product, they are basically the same. The Cornish-Rock cross is a meat bird, and Production Red and Production Black birds are egg-layers.
I've done some research into these specialty hybrid chickens; here is what I've found:
"Cornish-Rock Cross" are obtained by breeding a white Cornish roo to a barred rock hen. (There are white rock chickens, which would probably be the best choice, but barred rock are much easier to locate.) These chicks are meat birds that grow very fast and are ready to butcher at 8 weeks. Yes, 8 weeks. Really.
"Production Red" hens are barred rock hens bred to a Rhode Island Red rooster (or New Hampshire Red). The chicks can be sexed when hatched: the red chicks are pullets and the yellow chicks are cockerels. (This is called a "sex-linked" trait, like calico cats are female.) You'll pay more for these chicks from a hatchery, but you'll receive red chicks which are guaranteed to be female. You don't waste feed, money and time raising chicks that turn out to be roosters. Production hens are also supposed to be "egg-laying machines" according to the hatchery ads: super layers.
TRIVIA: The second generation of production reds are the reverse: the yellow chicks will be hens and the red chicks are cockerels. That situation rarely comes up, since people only buy the female chicks and don't have a hybrid rooster to breed them to.
"Production Black" hens are similar to the reds, but are black, produced by using a different combination of hen:rooster.
So, according to my research, a homesteader should be able to produce her own cornish-rock cross chicks and production layers, right? Last year I decided to experiment with the production red layers. We bought ten Rhode Island Red chicks and a half dozen barred rock chicks. The survival rate was really poor for whatever reason, and a year later I now have two barred rock roosters and one Rhode Island Red hen, which is exactly opposite of the barred rock HENS and a Rhode Island Red ROOSTER that I wanted. So much for that.
I had planned to experiment on the meat birds this year but life has demanded too much of me and I am putting it off. I also was having trouble finding white Cornish chickens.
As I was feeding my chickens the other day, I was looking at my granddaughter's hen "Nemo", and remembering that three years ago when we incubated and hatched a lot of eggs, we had a lot of chicks this color from this particular breeding combination of a buff orpington rooster and 2 brown americauna hens. I gave a dozen assorted chicks to a friend as a starter flock, and if I remember correctly the red-gold ones were all pullets.
I sold most of the chicks that we hatched that year, but I wonder now if I had stumbled onto a sex-linked combination: were these red-gold-colored chicks all female, and were the brown ones males? I will never know, since the two brown americauna hens are long gone now.
I'm still curious about raising my own hybrids, and hopefully someday I'll try again. I think I'll buy started hens though, instead of buying chicks.
You, of course, are welcome to try too. Since I've given you the Secret Formula, you are required to tell me your results. Please.