The Rhode Island Red is probably the most famous American chicken breed. It’s a well-regarded utility breed that is raised for eggs, meat and as a show bird. Many people choose this breed for their backyard flocks because they are reliable layers. They are hardy and they will supplement their diet if they are allowed to forage freely. Every hybrid chicken breed that lays brown eggs is based on the Rhode Island Red.
History of the Rhode Island Chicken
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.
Appearance of the Rhode Island Chicken :
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 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.
Rhode Island Chicken Eggs
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.
Do Rhode Island Reds stop laying in winter?
The majority of chicken breeds will not lay eggs during the colder months. Rhode Island Reds will continue to lay, but the egg production is significantly decreased until the weather improves. Like other birds, they will not lay during molting which occurs for up to 12 weeks during fall.
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.
What Are the Pros And Cons Of The Rhode Island Red Chicken?
- The Rhode Island Red is a great bird for beginners.
- They are excellent egg layers.
- This breed is hardy and relatively self-sufficient.
- They like to forage, and they are well suited to free range setups.
- This breed can be loud and rowdy.
- They don’t like to be touched or handled.
- Prolapsed vents can cause a production strain.
- Bullying of timid birds can be a problem.
Who are the Rhode Island Chickens best for?
This breed is an excellent forager, but this does create issues in the yard or garden because they dig for their food. So, if you have a smaller outdoor space it can be torn up quickly and your lawn and plants will be damaged. But, the Rhode Island Red is a hardy breed and a prolific layer which makes them a great choice for a backyard pet or small farm.
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.