You have definitely seen the Rhode Island Red chicken around. This popular breed is found on small and large farms and homesteads and in suburban backyards across North America and across the world — and with good reason. The Rhode Island Red chicken is a hardy and healthy bird that lays abundant large, brown eggs. And all this comes in a lovely little personality too.
Rhode Island Red Quick Facts
- Primary use: Eggs (can be a dual purpose bird depending on lineage but rarely used for this anymore since the 1940's)
- Size (Roosters): 6 lbs
- Size (Hens): 5.5 lbs
- Egg production (Annual): 260+
- Egg size: Large
- Egg colour: Brown
- Origin: USA
Top Reasons to Choose the Rhode Island Red Chicken for Your Flock
- Laid-back, docile, and friendly demeanor
- Easy to handle
- Lays up to 260 eggs per year
- Not usually broody
- Starts laying eggs between 18 and 20 weeks of age
- Cold hardy—able to endure low temperatures
- Generally a healthy and low-maintenance breed
Many people will swear by this breed for their personalities alone.
The Rhode Island Red chicken is a larger bird used for both meat and egg production. While downsides are minimal, one thing to remember is that this breed is not particularly suited to heat. The roosters can also be temperamental, especially around breeding season.
If you’re looking for a chicken that’s a prolific egg layer the Rhode Island Red is a good choice.
Hens lay up to 260 eggs per year, starting between 18 and 20 weeks of age.
History & Origin
The Rhode Island Red chicken is the state bird of Rhode Island and a domestic breed of American poultry that is renowned for her friendly, calm disposition and reputation as one of the best egg-laying chickens you can get.
The Rhode Island Red Chicken was originally bred in New England by a sea captain of the name of William Tripp who bought a Malay rooster from another sea man and then mated it with his own chickens.
And so the "Tripp Fowl" was created. It quickly became known as a superior chicken breed in the area and word of mouth spread fast.
Several other breeds were used to refine and perfect the breed – including the Java, Chinese Cochin, Brahma, Plymouth Rock, and Brown Leghorns.
These birds came to the attention of a successful poultryman called Isaac Wilbour who then began his own selection program.
Despite all the work put into the breed by Tripp and Macomber, Wilbour is credited with naming the Rhode Island Red.
While they were a dual-purpose breed, in the 1940s, their purpose changed primarily to egg laying.
The Rhode Island Red is used in most crossbred varieties available today, like Red Sex Link or Cinnamon Queen hybrid chicken breeds.
They were (and are) so popular that its bloodlines flow in most brown egg breeds throughout the world today.
Once a popular dual-purpose breed, most today are used for egg laying and have been so since the 1940s when the breed was once again refined.
Rhode Island Red was accepted to the British Poultry Standard in 1909.
As a larger bird, this chicken is known for its signature red plumage. The shades of red can vary from a light pink to almost black, although black feathering is not desired and considered a fault if overly present.
As far as the comb, it can be either singular or a rose comb. Either way, it’s a deep shade of red, as are the earlobes and wattles.
The Rhode Island Red normally has red-orange eyes, reddish beaks, and yellow feet. Occasionally, there may be some red on the toes. Industrial strains, however, may be lighter in color.
It is a yellow-skinned chicken and the feet should also be yellow.
There also exists a Rhode Island White that is, you guessed it, white in color.
Personality & Temperament
Rhode Island Red chickens are inquisitive and will often investigate new things, even things they probably shouldn’t. They’re normally friendly hens to other birds of similar temperament, but they may bully more docile breeds.
The roosters, however, have a reputation for being a little temperamental. Small children should not be left around them unsupervised, especially during the breeding season.
These chickens are expert foragers and love to run around. They’re not a particularly nervous breed, and they don’t get flustered often, making them an ideal choice for areas with high noise volume.
The Rhode Island Red chicken can be quite loud at times. They may not be noisy every waking moment, but they are, on average, talkative birds.
That said, they do enjoy human interaction and aren’t normally aggressive.
Lots of Large Brown Eggs
Rhode Island Red chickens from a production strain lay eggs frequently.
On average, a RIR hen will lay 5 to 6 eggs in a single week, averaging around 260 per year — often more. Rhode Island Red eggs are fairly large and brown.
An RIR hen will usually start laying at around 18 to 20 weeks of age and continue to lay until its fourth or fifth year.
Most hens will lay eggs throughout the year, but depending on weather and light, it can vary. Keeping a light in the chicken coop and ensuring the hens have access to a warmer, dryer space can help production during the winter months.
See my article on keeping hens laying during winter.
This breed isn’t usually broody, but it can depend entirely on the hen and lineage.
The Rhode Island Red chicken is well-suited for colder temperatures, having originated from the cooler climate of New England.
They also do well in most other temperatures but are susceptible to extremes. Frostbite can be a problem, especially on roosters, during the snowier months.
In terms of heat tolerance, they’re not particularly well-suited for hotter climates.
That said, if they have access to plenty of shade and water, they’ll do just fine in slightly warmer areas.
The Rhode Island Red chicken does best in free-range environments.
They’re expert foragers and prefer to search for their food quite often. They also need plenty of space to run around, as they can be an active and curious chicken breed.
Before adding a Rhode Island Red to your flock, consider if you can provide the space they’ll need. While free-range is a popular choice among many flock owners, some risks come with it.
Predators—wildcats, housecats, dogs, and coyotes, to name a few—are important to keep in mind for your area. There’s also the risk of one of your chickens wandering off and becoming lost.
That said, proper precautions and upkeep can minimize these risks to your flock. Be sure to consider safety measures before deciding for sure on free-range.
The Rhode Island Red chicken is a wonderful addition to a backyard chicken flock of similar birds.
As prolific egg layers, they’ll keep you supplied with 5 to 6 fresh eggs per week and around 260 eggs annually. The eggs are large, and the hens aren’t normally broody - a great option for someone who is looking for consistency.
The Rhode Island Red breed requires quite a bit of space to run around and is better suited for free-range as opposed to confinement.
A Rhode Island Red rooster can be loud and, on occasion, obnoxious, so it’s best to keep small children away from them unless properly supervised - especially during the peak breeding season.
But this goes for ALL roosters.
Suited for cold temperatures, adaptable, and useful for both egg laying and (sometimes) meat production, the Rhode Island Red breed will make a nice addition to your backyard chicken flock, as long as the other birds have similar temperaments.
And while this breed is versatile, it’s important to keep in mind your primary reason for owning chickens. Are you looking for a consistent, quick egg layer?
Do you want to use your birds for meat as well as eggs? If it’s a yes to one or both of those questions, the Rhode Island Red chicken is the right choice for you.
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