Breed Spotlight: The Rhode Island Red

by Meghan H

Published December 31, 2018

The Rhode Island Red chicken breed is one that frequents as a top 10 best seller. They are excellent layers of large, brown eggs and the hens are generally friendly and curious. The roosters watch over their flock carefully, and therefore can sometimes become aggressive with some humans and animals other than poultry.

Rhode Island Red Hen and Rooster Breed Spotlight Meyer Hatchery

Breed Development

The Rhode Island Red originated in Little Compton, Rhode Island in the mid-1800’s, making it one of the oldest American-bred chicken breeds. It began in farmers’ homestead flocks, where a highly productive egg layer was needed, but whose excess roosters could still dress out as decent table birds. The Light Brown Leghorn genes gave the Rhode Island Red its laying ability, while the Shanghai gave it the meat characteristics. The Red Maylay and the Java are the breeds that gave the Rhode Island Red its hardiness, lightweight bodyweight, red color, and hard feathering. The Rhode Island Red is therefore considered the original dual-purpose breed.

The single-combed Rhode Island Red was inducted into the Standard of Perfection in 1904. There is also a rose-combed Rhode Island Red, although it is no longer a common breed.

Breed Characteristics

Rhode Island Red hens are calm and are among the best layers for a heavy breed. Hens can lay around 4-6 brown eggs per week, but rarely brood, so you’ll have to find someone else to sit. Roosters may become aggressive. Males and females are lovely shades of deep mahogany red, are hardy in all climates, and are an excellent free range choice.

Rhode Island Reds mature early, with an average mature rooster weight of 8 1/2 lbs and hens reaching 6 1/2 lbs. 

Rhode Island Red Eggs Meyer Hatchery

If you have never owned a Rhode Island Red, consider adding a few to your flock. You may be surprised at how many eggs this little gem of American homestead history can produce for you!

Have you owned a Rhode Island Red? Tell us about your experience with the breed in the comments.

**Updated 1/23/2021

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