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Chicken Breed Spotlight: Rhode Island Reds

Posted by Laura Hepburn, Thu, Mar 21, 2013

Rhode Island Reds are one of the most popular chicken breeds for backyard flocks for a variety of reasons. They are dual-purpose, which makes them perfect for small homesteads, as well as amazing layers of large brown eggs. In fact, a well-fed Rhode Island hen can lay as many as 6–7 eggs a week! They are very hardy in a variety of climates and many report their “RIR” hens to be exceptionally docile.

The popularity of this breed has led to excellent availability from most hatcheries, mail-order services and feed stores; however, these Rhode Island Reds are an industrialized version of the original breed, which the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists as recovering. Some of the easy ways to tell the difference between the modern interpretation of the breed versus the original “pure” breed is to observe the color of the plumage. The original Rhode Island Red sports a very deep, dark, rich, mahogany-like color. Most Rhode Island Reds from hatcheries or in feed stores, which are the same Rhode Island Red variations found at many commercial egg farms, have much lighter red plumage similar to rust. Both types of birds are beautiful and productive, so unless you want to show your birds competitively, become a breeder, or help the original breed recover, there is nothing wrong at all with the new version.

One trait that a number of owners have reported with this breed is that they can be especially vocal. This can, of course, vary by individual bird. In my personal experience, my Rhode Island Red was definitely the “loudmouth” of the flock, but not having owned a lot of this breed I can’t say whether that trait carries over to “most” of them. Several reports in forums and blogs online, however, seem to note similar noisiness from their Rhode Islands.

The chicks of this breed are a soft rust color with two dark lines running down their backs. As they begin to grow up their feathers start growing in with patterns of rust and black, but these patterns don’t carry over into maturity. A full-grown Rhode Island Red hen will weigh about 6.5 pounds and have yellow legs and feet, red/orange eyes, and a red/brown beak. Their color will vary from darker red/brown to a light rust, and some hens will exhibit dark black/green tail feathers. Roosters are larger, weighing in at around 8.5 pounds, and generally have darker mahogany red/brown plumage with dark green tail feathers. This breed sports a single comb.

Rhode Island Reds are a truly American breed, having been developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In fact, the Rhode Island Red is the official bird of Rhode Island! In addition, there are not one, but two monuments to the breed in the state of Rhode Island—one in Adamsville and one in Little Compton.

If you are interested in a snapshot of some of the most common chicken breeds, download our Chicken Chart. This chart lists several breeds along with color variations, average egg production, egg color, temperament and more!

Do you have personal experience with this breed? Have you found them to be very loud? Or do you have some tips on how to make the most out of their productive laying? Leave your thoughts, suggestions or stories in the comments below!

Comments

Debra 03/21/2013, 4:01:05 PM

We "inherited" a Rhode Island Red last November when we had a terrible snowstorm. My Sister-in-law found a chicken in her parent's backyard that was huddling by the house to avoid the snowstorm. She kept it in the garage overnight and tried to find the owner, but no luck. She callled me to see if i could take her in and i said "of couse"! We introduced her to our flock of 3 and she adjusted pretty quickly to our flock but still isn't 100% a part of the girls. She doesn't seem to mind though! She has a very fun personality and is the first one to come running when i walk out the back door. She is also the first one out of the coop into her run for breakfast. She does like to "talk" a lot!!! We were very surprised that she laid eggs all winter long-what a treat for us! We are very happy that she joined our family.

Laura Hepburn 03/21/2013, 4:01:26 PM

What a great story! Thanks for sharing, Debra!

Ken 03/22/2013, 4:01:50 PM

I have several breeds and about a 100 chickens right now. My young Rhode Island reds are very loud.. They let you know when they want something.. I'm going to save the hens off that hatch.. I have another hatch that came from different blood lines and I will keep a couple of good roosters from them.. They are beautiful chicks..

alberto sacchi 04/24/2015, 4:02:27 PM

I am living in Philippines where we have hot season all the year. I should like to start with about 100 RIR free range for eggs production but i do not know if this type of chickens are good to lay eggs in high temperature. Someone can give me a suggestion please? Thank you

Dave Waldman 04/27/2015, 4:02:54 PM

Yes, the RIR are heat tolerant and are very good layers. Their only downfall is they can become very aggressive especially the roosters.

Jeff Tuttle 08/09/2018, 4:03:32 PM

I have some very special place in my heart for Rhode Island reds. When I was in highschool I had a pet rooster named Buddy that I raised from a runt chick that my dad said that would not make it. I cared for that chick,staying up late at night and early in the morning caring for him. I had a hard time in highschool being bullied and picked on.As he got bigger he would eat from my hand . I would carry him around like a puppy. He would come running when I came home from school and lay down at my feet to be picked up. He really liked being near me and would sit on my lap and crow. I remember many times it was his unconditional love that kept me going. I knew that no matter how hard my day was in school ,I had a special friend waiting on me when I came home. I will never forget what a special friend he was.

In reply to by Jeff Tuttle

Monika Palmer 09/23/2020, 11:52:32 AM

That’s so sweet we have rir and we have one that’s the same way I held it one day and got my first egg from her she laid it on my lap it was so cool

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