Breed Profile: Rhode Island Red Chicken

This RIR Chicken is One of America's Most Celebrated Heritage Chicken Breeds

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: Rhode Island Red Chicken

Origin: As you might guess, the Rhode Island Red origin is the East Coast in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Rhode Island Red chickens are as American as baseball, but were developed by breeding the Malay, a lanky Asiatic bird thought to hail from northern Pakistan, and the Cochin, from Shanghai, with the Java and brown Leghorn chicken breeds. Most Rhode Island Red chickens have single combs, but many have rose combs due to a recessive gene in the Malay ancestry. The Rhode Island Red chicken was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1904 for the single comb then again in 1906 for the rose comb, and serves as the official Rhode Island state bird.

Varieties: Rose Comb, Single Comb

Temperament: Docile, but can be aggressive

Egg Color: Brown

Egg Size: Large

Laying Habits: Up to 150-250 eggs per year


Skin Color: Yellow

Weight: Rooster, 8.5 pounds; Hen, 6.5 pounds; Cockerel 7.5 pounds; Pullet, 5.5 pounds; Bantams: Rooster, 34 ounces; Hen, 30 ounces; Cockerel, 30 ounces; Pullet, 26 ounces.

Standard Description: Comb, wattles, earlobes are recognized in both single comb and rose-combed varieties. Medium-size wattles and earlobes. All are bright red. Reddish horn beak; reddish bay eyes; rich yellow shanks and toes tinged with reddish horn. A line of red pigment running down sides of shanks and extending to tips of toes is desirable. Plumage is primarily rich, lustrous dark red. Tail is mainly black, though it may have some red near saddle or edges. Wings are mainly red with some black highlights.

Comb: If single-combed, medium to moderately large single comb, with five evenly serrated points that are longer in the middle than the ends. Comb stands upright. (Standard of Perfection).

Popular Use: Great brown egg layer and meat bird

It really isn’t a Rhode Island Red chicken if it has: Any white feathers showing on the outer plumage, any stubs or feathers between the toes, diseased birds, white earlobes, wry tail feathers, down on the shanks, crooked backs or beaks, lopped combs, feathers having any problems with their quills, side sprigs on the comb, and wings that do not fold well or slipped wing (as it is best known).


Quotes from Rhode Island Red Chicken Owners:

“Rhode Island Red chickens are striking birds with the contrast between the dark red body color, black tail with a “beetle green” sheen and the bright red comb and wattles. Their length of body, flat back and “brick” shape is both distinctive and attractive. Add to this its docile yet regal personality and superb commercial qualities (eggs and meat) and you have a flock of ideal backyard chickens.” — Dave Anderson, in The History of Rhode Island Red Chickens

“Rhode Island Reds are strong, smart, and not at all timid. Add a Rhode Island Red to your flock and she will soon rule the roost.” – Marissa Ames, Ames Family Farm (Photos from Marissa Ames)

Breed Club: Rhode Island Red Club of America,

Learn about other chicken breeds from Backyard Poultry, including Orpington chickensMarans chickens, Wyandotte chickens, Olive Egger chickens (cross-breed), Ameraucana chickens and many more.

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