ISA Brown 09102022

ISA Brown Chicken Breed (Everything You Need to Know)

The ISA Brown is an incredibly popular chicken breed that lays a lot of large brown eggs. This medium-sized critter is considered a sweet, friendly, affectionate, and docile chicken that adores human companionship. Although its genetic makeup is considered a secret, many suspects that this chicken has a fair bit of Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire/Rhode Island Whites.

Since this chicken is bred from excellent egg-laying heritage parents, its egg production is just phenomenal. With approximately 320 eggs annually, this chicken is considered a great factory bird that has excellent persistence in egg production while maintaining a great feed conversion rate. So, if this is the type of chicken you’re looking to raise, then read on for there’s more to what meets the eye.

Specifications of ISA Brown Chicken

Weight 5 – 6 Pounds
Egg Production280 – 320 Eggs Annually
Lifespan 3 – 5 Years
Egg Size/ColorLarge Brown Eggs
Temperament Docile, Friendly, & Affectionate
Feathered Legs NO
Beginner Friendly YES
Broodiness Rare
Cost of Chick $3 – $5 Per Chick

Why ISA Brown Chicken Is Exceptional

  • This chicken is exceptional because it’s a good layer. After all, this is what it was developed to do.
  • This chicken is very friendly to humans and is known to make a great family pet.
  • This chicken is hardy and able to tolerate various climates.
  • This chicken is relatively quiet hence perfect for suburban backyards.
  • They have an excellent feed conversion rate which means less feed is used to raise them.
  • As hybrids, ISA Browns are tolerant to illnesses common to heritage breeds.

A Short History of ISA Brown Chicken

History of ISA Brown Chicken 09102022

Now, the ISA Brown is a chicken that has a very long history. The breed was developed in 1978 by a French company called ISA. ISA is an abbreviation that stands for Institut de Sélection Animale. The main reason for its production was to engineer a chicken that could produce a lot of eggs in a commercial setup.

Indeed, ISA Brown did not disappoint as it proved to be a success. With an egg production that was upwards of 300 eggs annually, this chicken truly impressed its makers. What was even more interesting was how such a prolific layer transitioned to a backyard hen without dropping its yield or suffering any health problems.

This again was a huge plus to small chicken farmers as they had a backyard bird that could supply them with many eggs.

Back to its history, the ISA company (that developed this breed) merged with Merck & Co in 1997 to form Hubbard ISA. These two later separated in 2005 when ISA merged with Hendrix Poultry Breeders. As we mentioned earlier, the ISA Brown is a part of complex breeding that involves Rhode Island Red and white breeds such as White Leghorns and Rhode Island Whites.

Physical Appearance and Breed Standard of ISA Brown Chicken

Breed Standard of ISA Brown Chicken 09102022

The ISA Brown is a hybrid chicken that’s considered unique in terms of its appearance. However, at first glance, it’s easy to mistake this chicken for Rhode Island Reds or other hybrids such as Comets and Red Star chickens. So, how do you differentiate ISA Browns from other red chickens?

Physical Features

If you look at ISA Browns, you’ll immediately notice that they’re medium-sized birds. They have a rectangular shape and an upright tail that gives the body a U shape. They have a single comb that’s red alongside the earlobes and wattles. ISA Browns also have yellow skin and shanks with eyes bearing a yellowish-red hue.

Size and Weight

When it comes to size and weight, ISA Browns weigh around 5 pounds for the hens and 6 pounds for an ISA Brown rooster. These chickens are small to medium-sized and they don’t have a bantam variant.

Feather Colors

Just as their name suggests, ISA Browns are brown in color. Their plumage is described as being honey-colored or chestnut-colored. They mostly appear similar to Rhode Island Reds only that they have white under feathers.


One major advantage of ISA Browns is that they’re sex-linked chickens. This means that determining the sex of the chicks is easy and straightforward. Since hens are the ones in demand here, sexing them early enough is necessary as it allows you to raise hens right from the start.

Here, male chicks have white color on their down with brown speckles while females are light brown with white speckles.

Breed Standard

Lastly, ISA Browns are hybrids and sex-linked chickens. Since they don’t breed true, these chickens have no standard of perfection meaning they’re not recognized by any club or association such as the APA.

Productivity of ISA Brown Chicken (Egg Laying and Meat)

Productivity of ISA Brown Chicken 09102022

Now, the ISA Brown is a chicken that was developed to perform one task only—to lay plenty of eggs. This commercial egg layer has accomplished that task with flying colors thus becoming a champion. It starts laying as early as 5 months where production is highest in the first 2 years. During this time, the ISA Brown lays around 6 eggs daily and around 320 annually.

Here, we’re talking of just one hen. This means that 3 or 4 backyard hens will provide you with plenty of eggs to feed a small family.

In a commercial setup, the ISA Brown will proceed to lay even during winter. While most chickens lower production to focus on molting, ISA Browns are provided enough warmth and proper feed that consists of proteins and calcium to stay productive during this time.

But, just like most hybrids, straining their bodies to lay too many eggs seems like a taxing endeavor. In fact, this is one reason why these chickens have a short lifespan that stretches to around 4 – 5 years. It also leaves them quite susceptible to reproductive health issues.

Meat Produce

Regarding meat production, ISA Browns are not sustainable meat birds. With medium-sized bodies and light weights (up to 6 pounds), these chickens cannot be raised specifically for meat. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t butcher an ISA Brown. In most cases, farmers butcher those hens that have already slowed down production to pave the way for young energetic pullets.

ISA Brown Chicken Characteristics (Personality and Temperament)

ISA Brown Chicken Characteristics 09102022

One good thing about hybrid chickens is that they’re docile, friendly, and very affectionate. As for the ISA Browns, these ones have taken their disposition to another level where they enjoy being petted, touched, and held by humans. In fact, these chickens are so affectionate that they even enjoy being cuddled.

With such a temperament, the ISA Brown can serve as a great backyard chicken and an excellent pet for farmers with kids. But other than humans, ISA Browns also seem to get along well with other chicken breeds in the flock.

They even socialize quite well with other pets such as dogs provided they’re introduced early enough. However, I must insist that ISA Browns can become victims of bullying if introduced into a flock that contains aggressive chickens.

Excellent Foragers

Although ISA Browns are specifically raised as commercial layers, these chickens can adapt to their surrounding quite fast making them excellent foragers. They’re also not flighty meaning you won’t have to erect high fences.

Noise Level

Now, when raising ISA Browns, you’ll expect to hear some free-ranging chats and coop murmurs. Since they’re reasonably quiet, these chats will never turn into erratic outbursts that can annoy your neighbors.

Common Health Issues of ISA Brown Chicken

Raising a chicken with extraordinary laying abilities such as this means that you should expect some drawbacks in terms of health. A chicken that lays over 300 eggs a year without rest means that its health is likely to suffer immensely during old age.

That’s exactly what happens to ISA Browns. These chickens are productive during their first two years. After that, production lowers immensely and the chicken’s health is left in jeopardy. After two years, these chickens can suffer serious reproductive health problems such as prolapse, tumors, cancers, egg yolk peritonitis, and kidney problems.

ISA Brown Rooster vs Hen

Brown plumage with white on the chestChestnut brown color with red hackles
Red larger wattles and combThe comb and wattles are shorter
Have thick legsThe legs are thinner
Large in size and weighs around 6 poundsSlightly smaller and weighs around 5 pounds
Slightly aggressive especially during pubertyKnown to be docile, gentle, and friendly

ISA Brown vs Golden Comet

Originated in FranceOriginated in the USA
Developed from crossing Rhode Island Reds with White LeghornsDeveloped from a complex breeding program that involves Rhode Island Reds and Whites
They manage up to 320 eggs annuallyManage around 300 eggs annually
The eggs laid are large in sizeEggs laid range from medium to large sized
They’re prone to genetic kidney problemsDon’t have any specific medical concerns

Required Environment for ISA Brown Chicken

Environment for ISA Brown Chicken 09102022

Now, the ISA Brown was bred to serve as a factory bird in commercial settings. However, this chicken has successfully transitioned into a backyard chicken thanks to its excellent free-ranging skills. In fact, these chickens fair well in family environments due to their bold and extremely fearless nature.

They’re also less skittish, curious, and warm-hearted towards kids and adults. Their free-ranging skills mean that these chickens can walk around and forage for a variety of foods such as seeds, leafy greens, fruits, bugs, insects, and worms.

When it comes to the noise level, ISA Browns are considered quiet chickens. They rarely make any noise with the only noise being low murmurs and coop chats during bedtime. This chicken is also less flighty meaning it can adapt to its surroundings without flying away.

With these factors in mind, the ISA Brown is definitely a chicken that can adapt to urban living without causing any nuisance.

Raising Tips for ISA Brown Chicken

Raising Tips for ISA Brown 09102022

Feeding Your ISA Browns

One good thing about ISA Browns is that they don’t have to eat a lot to produce a lot of eggs. With just a little high-quality feed and treats to supplement their diet, these chickens are good to go. Secondly, these chickens require an established routine where they’re fed at regular intervals.

So, to feed ISA Browns, you need to start with a 20% protein starter feed while they’re chicks. This should continue throughout their juvenile age until they’re 16 – 20 weeks old. Once they reach the point of lay, switch to a high-quality layer feed with 16 – 18% protein.

Since these chickens are bred to lay a lot of eggs within a short span, they need a serious protein and calcium boost to replenish their systems.

Coop Setup

The best thing about ISA Browns is that they’re friendly both to humans and fellow flockmates. While in the coop, these chickens require a lot of space to stand, perch and stretch their wings. Here, you can provide them with at least 3 square feet of space per chicken to avoid overcrowding and possible confrontations.

Also, the coop should be cleaned regularly to remove any messes. Clean and new bedding should be added regularly to give your girls a clean and fresh environment. While doing this, don’t forget to add perching bars, roosters, and enough nesting boxes where the ladies can lay their eggs.

Freedom to Free-Range

Although ISA Browns appreciate confinement, these sweet birds will welcome the idea of being allowed to free-range. First, they’re not as flighty as Red Stars and so you won’t have to worry about erecting high fences or clipping their wings. Secondly, these chickens are social so you won’t have to worry about regular confrontations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Is the Difference Between a Red Star Chicken and an ISA Brown?

Now, when it comes to these two chickens, most people tend to confuse them a lot. In fact, other people argue it’s the same chicken with two different names. Now, these two are hybrids, sex links, and very similar in appearance. However, they have minor differences, which we’re going to discuss here.

The first one is the origin where the Red Star was developed in the USA in the 1950s. The ISA Brown, on the other hand, was developed in France in 1978. The Red Star is a result of crossing a Rhode Island Red with a White Plymouth Rock while the ISA Brown is a result of complex breeding that involves Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.

Production-wise, Red Stars are considered better layers with egg yield standing at around 360 eggs annually. This is different from ISA Browns which manages around 320 eggs annually.

Q2. When Can Isa Brown Chicks Go Outside?

If you have juvenile chicks, then you might be wondering when to transition the chicks to the outside coop. In most cases, chicks can be allowed to go out when they’re around 6 weeks old. This is because at 6 weeks, the chick down has gone and most of them have developed real feathers. Real feathers mean that your chicks can regulate body temperatures quite well. However, you must ensure that ambient room temperatures are around 70 – 65°F at this age.

Q3. What Do ISA Brown Chickens Look Like at Week Old?

Now, determining the gender of your chicks when they’re a week old is quite difficult. This is because most chicks are yet to develop combs, wattles, and genital organs which make it easier to distinguish them.

But, when it comes to ISA Browns, these chickens are considered sex links meaning it’s easy to sex them right after hatching. Although they only have their chick down, the males are usually white with brown speckles while females are light brown with white speckles.

Q4. How Much Space Does ISA Brown Chicken Need?

Just like humans, chickens, especially ISA Browns, need some space of their own to relax. As medium-sized birds, each ISA Brown chicken needs at least 3 square feet of indoor space to thrive.

If you have an outdoor run where the chickens can roam and relax, then you have to set aside at least 10 square feet of space for each chicken. You see, giving your chickens ample space is very important. It prevents your chickens from becoming aggressive or developing anger that leads to pecking and plucking each other’s feathers. It also prevents stress that can lead to low egg production.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, ISA Browns are among those chickens that are specifically raised as commercial layers. Although the results are fruitful, the aftermath is a chicken that’s totally exhausted and unable to live for a longer time after lowering production.

Although most ISA Browns are rescued and raised as pets (soon after lowering production), proper care in terms of feeding is important as soon as they start laying to ensure that they maintain consistency for a longer time.

So, if this is the type of chicken you’d like to raise, then this guide has discussed everything from its appearance, temperament, and production to the required conditions needed to raise it.

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