Rhode Island Red: 5 Reasons to Add Them to Your Flock

Rhode Island Reds are an iconic breed and perfect for your flock.

These chickens have been the state bird of Rhode Island since 1954. Rhode Island Reds are dark red in color and used as the stereotypical "chicken" image in advertising due to their bright color. They have spunky and enjoyable personalities, make excellent backyard chickens, and are dual-purpose birds as they can be used for meat or eggs.

1. They Have a Long History

The state bird of Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Red chicken. It was elected to this prestigious position in 1954. William Tripp, a sea captain, purchased a Malay rooster from another sailor and mated it with his chickens. He enlisted the assistance of his friend John Macomber, and the two of them began a hatchery to produce serious cross-breeding between different breeds. The resulting birds were known to be superior to the area's existing fowl. They were dubbed Tripp's Fowl or a Macomber. Supposedly this breed also came of existence in parts of Massachusetts as well. New England poultry farmers developed the breed rather than 'bird fanciers.' Hence, upon hatching, the defining characteristics were utilitarian rather than 'good looks.'

2. They Have An Iconic Image

In 1904 the Rhode Island Red was accepted into the American Poultry Association. In 1906, the rose comb variety was taken. They are classified as "American class - large fowl, clean legged." Over the years, the preferred color has ranged from rich mahogany to dark red. Some black feathers in the tail and wings are perfectly normal but are considered inappropriate by APA judges. Roosters, hens, and pullets might have a rose comb and a wattle, though there may be some comb variety. Most Rhode Island Reds have a single comb, but rose combs are also common due to a recessive gene. A large rooster weighs about 8.5 lb., while a hen weighs about 6.5 lb.

3. They Have Excellent Personalities

Rhode Island Reds are great birds and an extremely hardy chicken breed. The hens are generally calm and docile. The Rhode Island Red rooster has a reputation for being one of the most aggressive roosters. Because cockerels can be aggressive, it is vital to choose the least aggressive of the group after they develop from baby chicks. The hen is said not to be broody, but they can and do get broody on occasion.

4. They Make Excellent Backyard Chickens

Rhode Island Red chickens make for an excellent free-range backyard flock, like Bantams, as they are good foragers and enjoy the company of both humans and other chickens, like the Leghorn and Wyandotte breeds. However, they still prefer to roost in a chicken coop at night. Additionally, like all chickens, they have a firmly established pecking order.

5. They Are Dual-Purpose Birds

Rhode Island Red chickens are a dual-purpose breed as they can be raised both as egg-layers or to be slaughtered for meat. Rhode Island hens are known for their excellent egg production and will lay 5-6 large brown eggs per week on average. Their egg color is light brown, and they are medium-sized. A hen that is a good egg layer can lay 200-300 eggs per year, though some estimate the egg-laying to be closer to 150-250 eggs.

RIR chicks can be purchased from most hatcheries and shipped to your local post office, making them an easy addition to your backyard. These few day old chicks will develop into beautiful Rhode Island Reds, excellent for meat or egg production.

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