If you’re considering a backyard coop for your property it can be hard to choose the right hen to meet all your needs. There are hundreds of chicken varieties, but one of the best breeds in our opinion is the New Hampshire Red chicken. In this brief guide, we will look at this breed in a little more detail to help you make an informed decision.
Where the New Hampshire Red Chicken Comes From
New Hampshire Reds are less than a century old and they were developed in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire area. Originally, these chickens were a variant strain of the famous Rhode Island Red chickens. A group of New Hampshire chicken breeders were looking for a hen that could reach maturity quickly and around 1910 they created the New Hampshire Reds.
Professor “Red” Richardson is credited with the creation of this new breed of chicken. This process was conducted at the same time as he worked at an Agricultural Experimentation Station. The chickens were selected for good meat production and excellent egg laying capabilities. The New Hampshire Red chicken was entered into contests that were popular in the late 40s across the United States.
The “Chicken of Tomorrow” contests were accompanied by a documentary of the same name in 1948. The goal was to inform and educate people about the latest developments in the chicken industry. Chickens had become more prominent as a source of protein throughout World War and the trend was set to continue into the post war years. The New Hampshire Reds did not win this contest, but they did kick start the broiler industry and they were used to create the Delaware which was a popular breed for some years after.
A petition created by the Canaan Elementary School was presented to the Governor of New Hampshire in 2018. This petition was to make the New Hampshire Red Chicken the official state bird. A year later this petition was signed into law.
New Hampshire Red Chicken Characteristics
In terms of size, the New Hampshire reds are approximately the same size as the Rhode Island Reds. But, when you look carefully you can see that the Rhode Island Red has a roughly triangular body shape. The body is a deep and broad body that is often described as plump and the feathers are red but they have a lighter color.
Feather color of Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red
The general coloration of a Rhode Island Red is deep brown or mahogany but a New Hampshire Red has a chestnut coloration with a few highlights in pale yellow. In direct sunlight, the feathers have a tendency to bleach out and this turns them to an even lighter red color. At the neck, the feathers have black tips and this can be seen in the tail feathers too. The feathers underneath have a lighter salmon coloration and they are soft to the touch.
The single comb of this breed is bright red and fairly floppy when compared to other chicken breeds. The wattles and ear lobes are also red, the eyes are orange and the beak is a horn/red color.
There is a reddish colored line that runs from the clean shanks down the four toed feet. The toes and shanks are yellow as is the skin of the chicken under the feathers.
Weight of New Hampshire Reds
The standard New Hampshire Red has a weight of 8 lbs for the rooster and 6.5 lbs for the hen. There is a bantam variant of this breed with a weight of 34 oz for the males and 30 oz for the females. This breed is commonly used as a half of the sex link industry to make chicks with certain parents.
As an example: A New Hampshire Red rooster used over a Barred Rock hen would produce a black chick. There are many sex link variants that can produce a wide variety of feather colors.
The New Hampshire Red Chicken Temperament
One of the best characteristics of the New Hampshire Red is that it’s a friendly bird. It’s easy to tame these chickens and they make fantastic pets. They are at home foraging for various pests in the yard to eat and they are pretty quiet when compared to other breeds.
Amongst other birds, they can be a little aggressive at feeding time and their medium build allows them to pull and push flock mates aside to get at their food. This is not an ideal situation if you have other chicken breeds in your coop that are smaller and more docile.
There are a couple of workarounds, you can keep the New Hampshires in a separate coop or establish several feeding stations to divert their attention to different areas. Like many chicken breeds they have a wide range of personalities, most are docile and very lovable, but they can be aggressive and unfriendly.
One of the more prized characteristics of the New Hampshire Reds is their excellent egg laying capabilities. A hen will lay around 3 eggs per week which equates to an impressive 200 eggs per year.
These light brown eggs are larger than average and a hen tends to get broody on a fairly regular basis. New Hampshire Red hens are great setters and they are doting mothers if they hatch their own brood. Some hens may even accept a chick from others but this will vary depending on the individual.
Feeding New Hampshire Chickens
As we mentioned earlier, the New Hampshire Reds are medium sized and they do become aggressive at feeding times. A flock of these chickens will find some equilibrium and most birds will give as good as they get. Smaller birds could be easily bullied and splitting up several feeding stations across a wider area should fix this problem.
Who is the New Hampshire Red Chicken Best Suited For?
The New Hampshire Red chicken is well suited to a dual purpose if you’re primarily interested in meat and egg production. As young birds, they tend to feather out and mature quickly and you could soon be yielding 3 eggs per week for each hen.
When it comes to dressing out a bird for your table, you’re looking at a weight of just under 8 lbs for roosters and 6 lbs for hens. So, this is a big enough bird for a family with some leftovers for the following days. These birds are not well suited to confinement, they like to free range and they are good little hunters to keep your garden free from pests.
As a people friendly bird, they are good pets, they can tolerate hot weather if there are shady spots and they are best kept apart from other docile breeds.