Rhode Island Red - Nearly Everyone's Favorite Breed
Rhode Island Red
Deciding what chicken breeds to buy for a backyard flock can be perplexing. Some chickens grow big, while others are diminutive. Noise and nervousness are normal for some breeds, while others are quiet and calm. Some breeds lay eggs in abundance. Others are scanty producers.
No breed excels in all characteristics most flock owners want, but a few come close. On top of the list is the Rhode Island Red, and that may be why it is one of the most popular chicken breeds in the United States and throughout the world. From their humble origin in New England, Rhode Islands are now in flocks in Australia, Europe, and Asia - nearly everywhere else people keep chickens.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island breeders used a mix of Malay, Shanghai, Java and Brown Leghorn genetics to create the breed in the 1880s and 1890s. Because Rhode Island Reds lay eggs like crazy, are attractive, easy to handle, fast maturing, and big enough to produce chunky meat, the breed immediately caught on and was soon scratching for grubs and insects on farms across the United States.
Many breeds became popular for a decade or two before fading and a few once common breeds are nearly extinct. If anything, the Rhode Island Red is more popular today than ever before, and it is the parent breed of several high egg producing hybrids. It may be the very best pure non-hybrid breed for backyard brown egg production. Rhode Island’s adapt well to many growing conditions. They love foraging in a yard or farm for tasty morsels and also do well when confined to a coop and limited to commercial feed. Neither winter's cold nor summer's heat phases them. Whether free-ranging or confined they enjoy table scraps and convert them into eggs.
The breed became so popular that the Rhode Island Legislature named it the state bird, and a monument to it can be seen in the tiny town of Adamsville, Rhode Island, near the Massachusetts border. This is a Yankee chicken that found its way into the hearts and kitchens of people everywhere.
Because they are so popular Tractor Supply almost always stocks them, and often they are one of the least expensive chicks to buy
Rhode Island Reds have many variations. Most common is a production strain bred more for abundant eggs than perfect feather color or body shape. Where the original breed and today's exhibition strains are a deep red, production types are usually a lighter, rusty shade of red, less unlikely to go broody, lay an egg nearly every day, and are slightly smaller than show birds.
A normal hen weighs about 6.5 pounds and a rooster about two pounds more. This puts them about mid-sized between heavyweight Orpingtons and lightweight Leghorns. During her first lay cycle, a Rhode Island hen will lay about 260 eggs a year, or about five a week. Just a few will provide all the eggs a family uses. Like many heavy brown egg laying breeds, Rhode Island Reds are relatively calm. Enter a coop filled with Leghorns and other white egg laying breeds and they immediately squawk and flap. In contrast, Rhode Islands will quietly go about their business as their keeper gathers eggs, fills feeders, and does other coop chores.
The Rhode Island Red has a few minor drawbacks. One is that some people report that the roosters occasionally are aggressive. Since few backyard flock owners keep roosters, that's not much of a concern.
Of all the hundreds of chicken breeds, few are as productive, interesting, and attractive as the all-American Rhode Island Red.
A Quick Chicken Tip:
When in a clean spacious coop with fresh litter on the floor chickens are amazingly tidy and fastidious.
But even the cleanest chicken can harbor bacteria that can harm people. Sanitation is important. Remember to wash hands after handling chickens, eggs, or other items in the coop. Keep towels, dishes and other items used to wash eggs separate from those used to prepare human food.
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