What Is the Difference Between ISA Brown and Hyline Chickens?

It is easy to mistake the ISA Brown and the Hy-line chicken breeds. 

Many chicken keepers have referred to these two breeds interchangeably for years. 

Both are modern strains of commercial layers producing brown eggs, so they are easy to mix up.  

Key Takeaway:

ISA Browns and Hy-lines chickens are brown-feathered, brown egg layers with sex-linked chicks. However, upon close inspection, there are several differences, such as the Hy-line breed providing more and larger eggs and the ISA browns being smaller and more plain in color. 

Read on to find out the differences between these two breeds. 

what is the difference between isa brown and hyline chickens

Is ISA Brown Or Hy-Line Brown Better For Backyard Farms?

Both breeds have many similar traits. 

They are both friendly and efficient egg-layer chickens. 

When it comes down to a backyard farm, the Hy-line may be better in terms of feed efficiency. 

The ISA Brown is better if you want a smaller chicken. 

Here is a chart summarizing the aspects of each chicken breed:

ISA BrownsHy-line Browns
Egg colorBrownBrown
# of eggs per year300 467
Egg sizeLargeJumbo
Feather colorBrownRed with white speckles
Body sizeSmall to mediumMedium to large
TemperamentFriendly, calmFriendly and calm

Rehoming large-scale ISA and Hy-line Browns is also worth considering since many commercial poultry farms cull their chickens after the second year. 

However, they are relatively cheap to purchase as chicks, as well. 

These birds are quiet and friendly. 

They are great around children and good for first-time farmers. 

What Is An ISA Brown Chicken? 

ISA stands for Institut de Selecion Animale, a chicken breeding company in France that developed the ISA Brown in 1978. 

The company has merged multiple times in recent years, giving this breed different names, such as Hubbard ISA.

This is a hybrid chicken breed, but what the ISA Brown is a hybrid of is somewhat of a mystery. 

The company keeps its combination secret. 

Many speculate the Rhode Island Red and other white breeds are contributors.

Breeding these chickens yourself won’t yield healthy stock, however. 

Many chicks born from this hybrid breed often suffer from kidney disease. 

ISA Browns Characteristics 

These birds resemble the Rhode Island Red at a distance but have lighter brown feathers up close. 

They have red combs and wattles, yellow to bay red eyes, and upright tails.

Hens have about 5 pounds of body weight. 

They are good layers that produce around 300 brown eggs per year. 

ISA-Brown strains require plenty of high-quality chicken feed during the laying season to produce high-quality eggs.

These chickens do not go broody because they are layer birds genetically selected to omit broodiness. 

Brooding would encourage a chicken to stop laying, which would not be helpful to commercial poultry farms.

Due to their hard-working egg production, these chickens don’t live long. 

Their egg production significantly drops around the second year. 

Many commercial egg farmers cull them at this time. 

Yet, there have been some efforts in recent years to rehome these chickens once they become less productive. 

Generally, they still have a few years left in them. 

ISA Browns are sex-linked chickens, which means it’s possible to identify males and females by their color when they are chicks. 

Females are tan, while males are white. 

As backyard chickens, ISA Browns are friendly, non-aggressive, and low maintenance. 

They produce lots of eggs and can live for 5-7 years if properly cared for. 

ISA Brown Health

Since the ISAs were bred to be lay-chickens, their health declines along with their egg-laying ability after about two years. 

Most commonly suffer from reproductive tract issues such as prolapse, tumors, and cancer.

Also, on commercial poultry farms, diseases can run rampant. 

One contagious chicken can spread a disease to many others. 

Some common illnesses due to close confinement are avian aspergillosis, a fungal infection, and other chicken respiratory diseases caused by bacteria. 

Many of the sick chickens die. 

The chickens’ mortality rates are influenced by age, environment, and feed quality. 

What Is A Hy-Line Chicken? 

Hy-line International is the name of a company developing commercial layers since the 1930s. 

This company originated in the backyard farm of a man from Iowa. 

Since then, Hy-line has created several strains of chicken. 

Yet, the Hy-line brown is what many people confuse with the ISA Brown.

The Hy-line Brown breed is a hybrid chicken used most commonly for producing new egg-laying chicks and vaccine embryos. 

Similarly to the ISA Browns, their parent birds are kept secret. 

There is some speculation that Bovans Brown is in the mix, however. 

Hy-line Characteristics 

Hy-line brown pullets are red with white flecking, while roosters are the opposite: white with red flecking. 

These chickens weigh between 5-8 pounds at full maturity. 

They are considered to be medium to large chickens.

This balanced egg layer produces about 5 brown, jumbo-sized eggs a week. 

They begin to lay early at about 20-24 weeks and continue a steady egg production for approximately 80 to 100 weeks. 

They are the perfect balance of optimum egg size, fast egg production, and economical feed consumption.

All of these qualities make them ideal for commercial egg-layer farms. 

The key feature of the Hy-line Brown is it does not require as much feed as other egg layers, which is a notable difference from the ISA Brown.

Like ISA Browns, Hy-lines are sex-linkable. 

In contrast, the red chicks are females, and the whites are males. 

These chickens do not go broody. 

They are friendly and calm. 

Hy-line Browns also tolerate confinement well.

Another trait mentioned by owners is the Hy-line’s ability to be great escape artists. 

They can somehow weasel themselves out of fences and coops, exploring and foraging. 

Hy-line Brown Health

Hy-line Browns are a cheaper bird to purchase, yet they don’t live very long, with many backyard chicken keepers reporting them as living around 2-3 years.

On commercial poultry farms, Hy-lines are susceptible to many diseases spread through close contacts, such as bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases. 

They also can get tapeworms and other parasites.

Further Reading: ISA Brown & Golden Comet: Similarities and Differences

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through Farmpertise.com, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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