Com­mer­cial birds Shaver and Hy­line hens look iden­ti­cal, un­less you’re an ex­pert.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Poultry -


The mod­ern com­mer­cial hy­brids avail­able in NZ – Hy­line Browns and Shaver Browns – could also be con­sid­ered a light breed, although they are them­selves a cross of sev­eral breeds, ba­si­cally Leghorn with an in­fu­sion of a brown-egged heavy breed. Their ma­ture body­weight is much the same as a light breed, and in some cases con­sid­er­ably less.

Their nu­tri­tional needs are much the same and all are ad­e­quately catered for by the com­mer­cial feeds avail­able, es­pe­cially those with higher pro­tein and energy spec­i­fi­ca­tions.


The com­mer­cial meat chicken is a hy­brid cross of some of the tra­di­tional heavy breeds, in­clud­ing the White Ply­mouth Rock, Cor­nish, and oth­ers, and falls into the heavy breed cat­e­gory.

Prior to the 1940s, all the chicken breeds that we now call ‘her­itage breeds’ (or a first cross de­vel­oped from them) were all that was avail­able, and orig­i­nated mostly in Europe or North Amer­ica.

By the 1950s, the strain cross hy­brid be­came the breed of choice for com­mer­cial farm­ers. These were pri­mar­ily de­vel­oped by Hy­line in North Amer­ica, by Shaver (ISA Poul­try) in Canada, and by Thorn­bers and Sykes in Eng­land.

These birds were ei­ther based on high-per­form­ing Leghorn strains or a light/heavy cross like the White Leghorn/ Rhode Is­land Red-cross or the heav­ier dual-pur­pose cross of Rhode Is­land Red/ Light Sus­sex. The RIR/LS cross had the ben­e­fit of be­ing able to be colour-sexed at hatch­ing, the brown-to-red feathered fe­males en­ter­ing the lay­ing sheds and the white feathered cock­erels be­ing fat­tened for the ta­ble.

In New Zealand and Aus­tralia, the White Leghorn crossed with the Aus­tralorp hen was one of the most pop­u­lar choices of poul­try farm­ers pro­duc­ing eggs for sale up un­til the mid-1970s, when the first im­ports of North­ern Hemi­sphere hy­brids (Hy­lines and Shavers) were al­lowed into NZ.

The nu­tri­tional needs of egg-lay­ing hy­brids, with their smaller ap­petite and ac­tive char­ac­ter, is dif­fer­ent com­pared to the more pon­der­ous, heavy spe­cial­ist meat birds. Spe­cial­ist di­ets have been de­vel­oped ac­cord­ingly, and we’ll have more on that in next month’s col­umn.

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