The Black Star goes by a number of names, including Black Sex Link and Black Beauty, depending on the hatchery. It is not a pure breed, but rather a crossbred chicken produced by mating a Barred Plymouth Rock hen to a Rhode Island Red (or occasionally New Hampshire Red) rooster. The name “Sex Link” refers to the fact the gender of the resulting chicks can be identified with complete accuracy at hatching, the females being black and the males being black with a white spot on the head. (Note that, if Black Star chickens are bred, the subsequent generations will not share this trait because the genes involved will re-pair into new combinations.)
While it is likely that a Barred Plymouth Rock/Rhode Island Red cross has been made frequently since the two breeds originated, the Black Star rose to fame shortly after World War II. Food rations, returning troops, the arrival of refugees, and a flourishing U.S. population led to some concerns about the nation’s food supply. Poultry scientists in quest of a truly exceptional laying hen experimented with many different breed combinations and hit upon the Black Star as a top solution.
Throughout the 1950s, the Black Star was among the most popular types of chicken used for commercial egg production. These days, other hybrids have largely taken its place in the brown egg market. But the Black Star still has a loyal following—it has earned its place as a good all-around homestead bird.
The Black Star is a superb choice for a dual-purpose chicken for homesteads of all sizes and aspirations. The hens are good producers (good enough to support a small business direct marketing eggs!) and the roosters are hefty enough to make satisfactory fryers for home use. The Black Star can also fit into the family as a very amiable pet.
This breed is calm and docile, making it very easy to handle and get along with. However, it also has a good dose of personality. It will probably tend toward the top of the pecking order.
The Black Star has an excellent immune system and appears to be less prone to external parasites than other chicken breeds. The only difficulty likely to be found in this breed is an occasional reproductive malfunction.
- Certainty of getting hens or roosters exactly as ordered due to sex-linked color trait.
- Excellent disposition.
- Suitability for nearly all climates and weather conditions (particularly cold winters).
- Adaptability to nearly any type of production system.
- Excellent foraging instincts.
- Feed efficiency.
- Excellent egg production, particularly for the first two years.
- Loss of sex-linked color trait in future generations.
- Lack of brooding instinct.