A Brief History of the Black Rock Chicken

A Brief History of the Black Rock Chicken

Black Rocks are one of several breeds known as “sex links”. Sex-link chickens are unique in that male and female hatchlings can be easily distinguished by color. Sex-link chickens are known to be prolific layers that produce healthy-shelled eggs throughout their reproductive life.

Red sex-link chicks are tawny at birth, black sex-link chicks dark, with the male hatchlings displaying a characteristic white spot on their heads in both cases. There are several varieties of black sex links, but most are bred by crossing a certain type of New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red Rooster with a Barred Plymouth Rock hen. Many poultry keepers specialize in their own unique breed pairings to produce a specific hybrid. This is certainly true of the Black Rock chicken. This unique breed is the product of two very particular strains of Barred Plymouth Rock hen and Rhode Island Red rooster, and is only hatched at the Crosslee Poultry Farm in Scotland.

The original stock is said to have come to England from the USA, via South Africa. Peter and Margaret Siddons purchased the original parent animals around 1950, and started raising Black Rocks on their farm, the Muirfield Hatchery. Over several decades, they sought to improve this unique strain. In 2010, Eddie and Calum Lovett (father and son), took over the care and cultivation of these birds.

Because hybrids often have somewhat unpredictable characteristics, many poultry tenders stick to traditional breeds with well-known reputations for good egg production, longevity, and other qualities. With a family history going back around 150 years, Black Rock chickens are some of the most “traditional” hybrids available. That makes them popular with poultry novices and commercial farmers alike.

While all true Black Rocks are hatched at Crosslee Poultry Farm, you can also find them through select approved agents. If you are concerned that a retailer may be offering a different hybrid breed under the Black Rock name, be sure to get in touch with the Muirfield Hatchery.

Meet the Black Rock Chicken

Meet the Black Rock Chicken

It’s reported that the parent stock of the original Black Rocks came to the British Isles indirectly: from the United States to South Africa, then to the Arbour Acre farm in England, and finally to Scotland, where they have been meticulously raised for many generations. These birds are hardy, easy to care for, excellent layers, and have an inquisitive character, making them popular with both professional poultry farmers and those new to raising chickens.

Easy Hatchling Sexing

Black Rocks are a “sex-linked” hybrid. This means that, unlike traditional breeds, the appearance of the chicks is linked to their sex. Determining whether a hatchling is male or female is usually a very time consuming and difficult process, but absolutely necessary for those looking to separate future hens and roosters.

Long, Productive Lives

These birds are bred for longevity, both in terms of overall lifespan and number of productive laying years. It has been reported that hens may continue to lay for up to 7 years, and can produce an impressive 280 eggs per year. Eggs tend to be medium to large, are slightly tined, and have very good shell quality.

A Natural Outdoors

Unlike most hybrids, which are bred for laying indoors, Black Rocks were bred to wander outside. They are energetic, active foragers with hardy constitutions, making them perfect for commercial poultry farmers looking to raise free range birds. Easy care combined with a charming personality also makes Black Rock chickens a popular choice for individuals looking for some egg-laying additions to the family.

There are many hybrids available, some going by several names. However, if you are interested in raising this type of bird, you should keep in mind that true Black Rocks are currently only bred at the Muirfield Hatchery in Scotland.  Each year chicks are made available to select distributing agents. If you want to make sure that the birds you purchase are genuine, make sure to contact the hatchery to find out if your retailer is on the approved list.