An American Classic: The Rhode Island Red

rhode island red chicken

The Beginnings of the Rhode Island Red

The Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed came about in the same Frankenstein-ish type of way that has given birth to so many other popular breeds of chicken. Originating in, you guessed it, Rhode Island; breeders first started making crosses in the mid 19th century with the intention of creating a hardy dual-purpose breed of chicken. These original crossings were made with breeds such as the Red Malay, Brown Leghorn and Asiatic Native stock and were called Red Javas rhode island red chickenuntil 1880, when they were first exhibited as the Rhode Island Red. The Asiatic Cochin and Brown Leghorn helped give the bird its size and egg-laying ability while the Red Malay helped shape it’s deep colors, hard feathers, and overall hardiness.

The single-combed Rhode Island Red Chicken was officially added to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1904. While classified as a dual-purpose breed, most are utilized for their large brown egg laying capability with only a few being used for meat. The spent hens do maintain a size large enough to be considered for their meat.

Don’t be fooled by their beautiful appearance

The Rhode Island Red has a beautifully deep and broad body that possesses a rather horizontal and oblong shape when compared to other birds. Both males and females sport a deep and flowing mahogany red feathering with a black tail. They have a medium sized, 5-pointed single comb and large red eyes. Their comb, wattles, and ear lobes are of a bright red tint while their feet and shanks are a lustrous yellow with reddish horn. The chicks are dark red with some birds having dark red streaks down their back.

Such work ethic!

The Rhode Island Red has more than once been referred to as the most successful dual-purpose breed in American history, with the Barred Plymouth Rock being a close second. Endowed with an astonishing lay-rate of around 250 eggs per year, it’s probably the strongest egg-layer off all dual-purpose birds. Rhode Island hens don’t typically go broody and roosters can be quite aggressive. Certain strains of the Rhode Island Red have been bred towards egg-production, resulting in a smaller sized, lighter in color, and less broody chicken, and also one less desirable for meat. The bird’s rich and glorious mahogany color has led many fanciers to breed them for show, leading to a more exhibition-minded strain known as the Mahogany Red.

The traditional old-type single combed Rhode Island Red is a medium to large sized bird with cocks weighing up to 8.5 pounds and hens up to 6.5 pounds. While most birds do wear a dark mahogany coat, the lighter colored breeds are usually geared towards egg laying. It’s typical to see black feathers in their tail, though birds with black feathers on their body aren’t usually desirable.

Now a staple of the average American farm, the long-lived Rhode Island Red is a hard-working bird that’ll give you everything it’s got for many seasons to come!


2 thoughts on “An American Classic: The Rhode Island Red

  1. Pingback: An American Classic: The Rhode Island Red – eFowl Blog – Bring Back the Farm

  2. Cuppy says:

    All my chickens are pets, with unique personalities and names.
    I have a problem tho’… I just discovered, after google searching for information, on Dorkings that 8 of the last 9 eggs hatched a couple of months ago, are Silver Dorking roosters and 1 that looks like a Cuckoo Maran rooster.
    I swapped 6 chicks, before their breed or gender was identified, for 2 ducks, with my neighbor. Now my bantam Dorking hen(I thought she was an Old English game bantam, but I was wrong). Typical amateur eh? Anyway she is brooding again on 9 more eggs, due to hatch in about 7 days. I hope and pray I get some hens this time.
    Now I have 5 roosters, That’s 3 Silver Dorkings, 1 Barred Plymouth Rock Cochin, 1 Cuckoo Maran and one Eunuch (a Dorking with no wattles or spurs but otherwise a magnificent looking Cockerel) all bantams. All 6 chicks I swapped to my neighbor also turned out to be also roosters.

    Does anyone know if this rooster glut is typical of Dorkings or is it just an anomaly that all were male ???

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