Rhode Island Red Vs. New Hampshire Red

by Meghan H

Published February 1, 2021

As a member of the customer service team at Meyer Hatchery, we are occasionally asked to raise poultry for photoshoots, blogs, etc. When asked if someone would be interested in raising Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire Reds for a comparison blog I immediately stepped up to the task. My grandmother raised Rhode Island Reds and my passion for chickens and that breed began with her. How could I say no? 

Ring, ring, I noticed the number on my caller identification. “Cameron, we have a package of chicks here for you to pick-up,” said the postal worker on the other line. I immediately hopped in my car and headed to our local post office. As I got into my car I couldn’t wait until I got home to see the chicks so I opened up the box in the car. They all arrived healthy and doing great.

RIR vs NHR Blog
Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire Red Day Old Chicks Meyer Hatchery

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red

From day one the chicks were relatively easy to identify in my opinion. When comparing the two as fully matured birds, Rhode Islands tend to be dark red, almost mahogany, in color. The New Hampshires tend to be brighter red such as chestnut with yellow highlights. As day-old chicks, I could see that the New Hampshires had more of a yellow appearance whereas the Rhode Islands had dark heads and backs, with some yellow tint on the belly. At this age, the docility and demeanor of both breeds were the same. My three-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed playing and handling them as chicks.

As days passed and they started to feather, I was still able to tell the difference between the two based on color alone. No one breed was handled more than the other. In all fairness, after a few days we did not handle them as much since I wanted them to receive the same handling, environment, feed, and water, as this was important to learn about the overall growth and docility of both breeds.

New Hampshire Red<br />
Day Old Chicks Meyer Hatchery
Rhode Island Red Day Old Chicks Meyer Hatchery

The chicks quickly grew out of the brooder space and then were housed in a smaller coop outside near my house. They spent the next several weeks maturing. There were two birds that caught my attention over the others, one of each breed. I noticed that one of my New Hampshire Reds was maturing much faster than the rest which ultimately led me to believe I had a rooster based on how fast the comb was developing, size, and the fine neck feathers. Now the Rhode Island Red was the complete opposite. She was very petite and half the size of the others. Could this be, she was bullied, genetics, etc? As she continued to age, she developed feathers just like the rest however she has not grown in height. She is proportionate for her size however compared to the others she is half the size.

First Photo Shoot

As it was time to take them out for juvenile photos, I took them out individually for photos and to see how they acted, not being confined to a coop and run. As most chickens are, they were curious and starting pecking at the ground. The New Hampshire chicks remained close to me, but the Rhode Islands tended to wander more. I also had one Rhode Island that would try to peck at my camera when I was taking close-ups. Needless to say from the photos that day I became very fond of the New Hampshires over the Rhode Islands as they were easier to manage. 

Meyer Hatchery New Hampshire Red Meyer Hatchery Hens
Rhode Island Red Chicken Hen Meyer Hatchery
Moving Out

After the juvenile photoshoot, it was time to move the Reds to our larger coop which houses all my other layers and show birds. The birds were timid at first as one can expect when introducing new birds to a pre-existing flock. Both the Rhode Islands and New Hampshire were the underdogs. For the first two weeks, they stayed to themselves away from the older birds. After time had passed they started to fit in with the others.

At the time of feeding the New Hampshires and the small Rhode Island are at the frontline waiting for food. As I walk throughout the coop I tend to have one that stays by my side all the time. Can you guess which one that is? Yes, it’s the small Rhode Island that I call “Mini”.

 Observations of raising and feeding Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red
  1.  The New Hampshire Reds are overall more docile than the Rhode Island Reds
  2. The Rhode Islands have a true mahogany color in which the New Hampshires are a light red color. One can easily identify the breeds from day-old to maturity
  3. Both breeds are very close in size. Only about a ½ -1 lb. difference. There is an exception with the Rhode Island Red that didn’t fully mature, which makes me question why the growth stunt and why she never grew true to size like the others? 
  4. The Rhode Islands tend to have a little bit more broad body vs. the New Hampshire that appears a tad bit slender 
  5. No breed suffered any alarming health issues 
  6. Both breeds liked to roam and forage when let out 
Rhode Island Red Chickens Hen and Rooster Meyer Hatchery Day old Chicks
New Hampshire Red Chickens Rooster and Hen Meyer Hatchery Day Old Chicks

In conclusion, this experience has been rewarding and exciting. I was shocked to notice the New Hampshires were indeed more docile than the Rhode Island Reds. While I personally find the Rhode Islands to be prettier I much prefer the New Hampshires for docility. Both breeds are considered outstanding layers so I am excited to fill my egg collection basket very soon with brown eggs. What will you choose Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red Either way, you can’t go wrong with “red”.

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