A Guide to Keeping Isa Brown Chickens

One of the most popular backyard chicken breeds is the Isa Brown. In fact, when you purchase big brown eggs from your supermarket shelf, they are likely Isa Brown eggs!

These chickens are wonderful egg producers, and they have a friendly, sweet and affectionate disposition, making them the ideal addition to your backyard  family if your priority is lots of eggs!

What are Isa Brown Chickens?

isa brown pullets

Hailing from the USA but bred by a French company, this is a common hybrid chicken produced by humans exclusively for egg production. It is produced by mating a Rhode Island Red with a Rhode Island White.

ISA stands for “Institut de Selection Animale”, which was the name of the company which developed the breed in 1978.  

As a hybrid (crossbreed), these chickens are not inclined to become broody, hence will lay more eggs rather than working to hatch chicks. They have lower body weights than purebred hens, hence cost less to feed.

Appearance/characteristics

ISA Brown hens average two to three kilograms in weight and are a brownish copper color. They don’t have the standout physical characteristics some other poultry breeds do, however they are an attractive bird with:

  • Short, chestnut-brown feathers on hens
    • White, brown-flecked feathers on roosters
    • Roosters are broad and stocky; hens are smaller
    • White tail feathers
    • Single comb and wattle that redden as maturity for laying is reached

Temperament

isa brown hen

This breed is very human-friendly – they love treats, pats and a cuddle, and they will become best of friends with your kids. They can, however, be initially quite unwelcoming to new flock members, so introducing new birds may need to be undertaken carefully.

These birds are inclined to be broody only if conditions are right and while they can be good mothers, it’s not as guaranteed as it is in some other chicken breeds. As they are a hybrid breed, it’s recommended that you purchase chicks (or fertile eggs) from a breeder rather than trying to breed them yourself.

It’s important to understand that an ISA Brown rooster mated with an ISA Brown hen will not produce ISA Brown chicks!

Eggs

95% of ISA Brown hens are prolific layers. You can expect a happy hen to provide between three hundred and three hundred and fifty medium-to-largish-sized eggs in her first laying year (that’s six to seven eggs per week).

These chickens mature early and can start laying from as young as sixteen weeks and definitely by twenty-two weeks – significantly sooner than other poultry breeds.

It’s important to note that ISA Browns do have a lower natural life expectancy than most other healthy pure-bred chicken breeds; this is a direct result of their very high rate of egg production, which can lead to kidney issues.

They will lay for the duration of their lifespan, and the exhaustion of this can result in an early demise. Many will live only two to three years, while some can survive for up to five years or longer. This will ultimately depend on the love and care their receive from their human family members – so make sure to spoil your ISA Brown hens!

Why Choose this Breed of Chicken?

Isa Brown

ISA Browns are very easy to care for. Low maintenance and adaptable, they are suited to an array of climates and environments. Due to the high volume of eggs they produce, hens do require supplemental protein to maintain their feathers. This is easily given in the form of mealworms, live culture yoghurt, eggshells, or similar treats.

These chickens are:

  • Strong and hardy, coping well with rain, cold, heat and wind
  • Calm and docile
  • Very family-friendly
  • Great with kids – gentle and not fussy, or easily stressed or spooked
  • Extremely personable and they like humans

Purchasing your Isa Browns from a reputable, trustworthy breeder is crucial.

If you wish to start with backyard chickens, or are experienced and seek a sweet, friendly bird that will lay reliably, you can’t go past the ISA Brown! Not only are you guaranteed a reliable supply of beautiful, fresh eggs; these hens are a loving and fun family pet. Just make sure you are comfortable with their limited lifespan – if you are seeking a chicken primarily as a pet, especially for kids, perhaps choose a different, purebred chicken breed instead. If, however, eggs are your priority – ISA Browns just might be the girls for you.