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Rhode Island Red Chickens

Rhode Island Reds are one of the most popular breeds of chicken, and for good reason! These hardy, easy keepers do well in almost any climate, are great layers of brown eggs, and come in both standard size and a much smaller bantam size. Developed in the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the 1840's, early flocks contained chickens of various colors and comb types, but the most common color today is a lovely deep red that has become the most identifiable characteristic of this iconic breed. Curious and athletic, and able to handle poor diets and even poorer weather, they're a great choice for small flocks. Although usually gentle, quiet, and sociable both towards humans and other chickens, Rhode Island Red chickens can be feisty and independent, and their seemingly endless curiosity can get them into trouble. They can be kept in close quarters, but often become restless and pushy in really tight confinement. These traits, however, also make them great foragers a quality which makes them popular among backyard flocks.

 

Hens begin laying early, and though they will not always lay in the extreme heat or cold, they can lay more than 200 large medium sized brown eggs a year.  It isn't too unusual for them to lay large eggs in their first year, and they may go on to lay double yolked eggs in subsequent years. Because of their egg laying abilities, Rhode Island Red chickens are often used in some of the most common commercial hybrids such as red sex links, ISA browns, and golden sex links. As you may guess from some of the names, the color of day old chicks from some of these hybrid crossings depends on their gender, making it easy to sort females from males as soon as they are hatched.

 

Roosters are large and handsome, and are big enough as cockerels that Rhode Island Reds are considered a "dual purpose breed", meaning that while the hens make great layers, extra males and older hens traditionally provided large and meaty carcasses for the Sunday dinner table! Don't be too quick to send young roos to the freezer, though. They can make for very watchful protectors of the flock, will warn of intruders, and can even make great pets.

The hens rarely go broody, making them ideal for flocks where the maximum number of eggs is wanted. But beware: because of their popularity, and because they are so widely available, some flock lines are considered much better layers than others. If you are considering keeping Rhode Island Red chickens, do your research and make sure you get your birds from a reputable source. Also be aware that there are both "production" lines and "show" lines. In show quality lines, chickens are bred to have close to perfect color and conformation, but may not lay quite so many eggs in a given year as their less pretty relatives.

For adaptability, willingness to forage for some of their own food, personality, and egg laying ability, it's really hard to beat Rhode Island Reds. Whether standard size, bantam, show quality or production variety, these chickens will continue to be among the most popular breeds worldwide.

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