One of the most popular backyard chicken breeds is the Rhode Island Red – in fact, for many people who want fresh eggs from their own chickens, this is a go-to breed. They are friendly and quiet in nature, and are ideal if you have children.
This breed was first developed in Rhode Island, USA in 1854. The very first sire of the breed was a black-breasted, red Malay cock which had been imported from England by sea captain William Tripp. Tripp bred this rooster with his own hens and Tripp noted that the offspring produced laid more eggs. The breed was then refined and improved over time and the Rhode Island Red is the end result.
In return it has been used to develop many hybrid chicken breeds; the ability of this chicken in terms of prolific egg-laying is passed to future generations by the roosters.
Facts about Rhode Island Chickens
Appearance: This breed of chicken is raised both for meat and eggs. It is a strong, solid bird known for its hardiness. Tough, good at free-ranging and foraging, and quite resistant to illness, it is climate hardy in heat or cold, however, if the temperature in their coop drops below freezing, it can suffer frostbite on the tips of its comb.
Typically, this beautiful bird has rust-red colored feathers, many with white streaks, though some birds are darker in color to a very deep maroon. They have reddish-orange eyes and yellow streaked feet (as the skin is yellow). Feet have four toes each. Comb, ear lobes and wattles are red. The beak is yellowish in color.
Roosters average a weight of 3.9kg, hens 2.9kg.
Chicks have yellow baby feathers with a light reddish tinge.
Temperament of Rhode Island Reds
They are friendly and have a generally good , easygoing nature, being quiet and docile much of the time, however, some are very pushy, outgoing, and even raucous! The hens are particularly friendly and overall they make good pets for kids, however if actively annoyed, they can become somewhat aggressive and the rooster can be particularly cranky if annoyed or during mating season. If you have children, keep them away from roosters and vice versa if the bird tends to be aggressive.
These chickens tend to be friendlier with people they know; they will identify who loves them and cares for them. The roosters will often attack strangers both animal and human due to being nervous of unfamiliar perceived intruders. Roosters will strongly defend the coop against canine, feline, or fox intruders – and often they will win.
They are also very social, caring for their flock and preferring to stay with their chicken friends. Not the broodiest of chicken breeds, the hens can become broody on occasion and make very attentive mothers.
A Rhode Island Red Hen Lays eggs that are brown in color. Most hens will begin laying at around 18-20 weeks of age. These chickens are great egg-layers, especially when fed plenty of quality feed and allowed to free-range and forage. An average hen can lay 200-300 eggs per year, with up to 6 or 7 weekly if she is healthy. Eggs tend to be very large, and Hens will lay well for about 3 years.
The lifespan of a Rhode Island Red Chicken
These chickens have an average lifespan of 8 years and can occasionally live up to 10-14 years. This very much depends upon environment, care, genetics, and feeding. With proper feeding, housing, sanitation, and veterinary care, your chickens will live longer.
These chickens are active foragers; they will scavenge for seeds and bugs, even eating a stray mouse or frog if encountered.
If you raise your chickens in a loving way, they too will love their human family. I have known one to make best friends with the family dog! Naturally inquisitive, they will greet their owner, come when called, have a “chat”, and even walk alongside you in the same way as your dog would. They will snuggle with you and reciprocate the love you show them.
If you’re unsure which backyard chicken is right for you, the Rhode Island Red is a great starting point! They are healthy and require little human care beyond the very basics. Brimming with personality, in the right family, this chicken will thrive.