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.
Posted by Suzie OConnor
@ 11:01 AM EST