Breed Spotlight: New Hampshire Red
Of the several chicken breeds that were developed in the United States, the New Hampshire Red is often overlooked by today’s modern homesteaders. However, during its development in the early 20th century, it filled an important role. Its intended purpose as an egg producer meant that it should feather out quickly as chicks and mature to egg-laying age as early as possible. After all, this breed was developed in the New England states, where the weather can be snowy and cold.
The New Hampshire Red was initially developed out of the Rhode Island Red breed. These two breeds can be somewhat challenging to identify from each other, especially as chicks. From the early Rhode Island Red flocks, individual birds who showed signs of early maturation and hardiness were selectively bred back to each other until a distinctly separate breed emerged. By 1935, the New Hampshire Red was admitted as a recognized breed into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection
By the middle of the 20th century, the New Hampshire Red was gaining popularity as a meat-producing breed. Because of its quicker maturation and heavier body than the Rhode Island Red, poultry breeders realized the potential to cross the New Hampshire with other heavy breeds to create a larger table bird in a shorter amount of time. The New Hampshire/Plymouth Rock cross was one of the more popular crosses and led to the development of our modern-day broilers.
The New Hampshire Red is typically lighter reddish-orange colored than a Rhode Island Red, which should be deep mahogany. Modern-day New Hampshire Red hens lay an average of 170-200 eggs annually. Hens weigh an average of 5 pounds and roosters can be around 7 pounds at full maturity. Hens tend to go broody and make excellent mothers. Roosters are generally easy to get along with, and the New Hampshire Red is especially known for learning to tolerate other homestead livestock without a lot of flightiness. They can sometimes be the dominant personalities in a mixed-breed chicken flock, so watch for that if you have some more docile breeds.
The New Hampshire Red makes a nice dual-purpose breed for backyard flock owners interested in preserving our nation’s heritage breeds. Consider adding the New Hampshire Red to your flock if you live in the northern parts of the US where winters are cold and snowy. The New Hampshire can also handle warmer climates as well.
Have you owned a New Hampshire Red? Tell us about your experience with the breed in the comments.
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