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Rhode Island Red Chickens: Everything You Should Know

Chicken are arguably one of the most versatile birds that we’ve ever domesticated and that’s a fact. There are plenty of people that will argue that cats or dogs are better animals to have around, but when it comes to overall use value, the chicken reigns supreme.

On top of that, there are a ton of different chicken breeds out there that cater to a plethora of different needs, depending on what you require from them in the first place. As such, it is actually quite hard to find the perfect chicken breed for you, since they’re very specific when it comes to their characteristics depending on which one you decide to get.

So, for today we have decided to cover one of the most widely regarded chicken breeds out there. This breed has been with us for a very long time now, and it is often referred to as one of the most successful chicken breeds in the world.

We are talking about none other than the Rhode Island Red Chicken, and if you know anything about it then you already know that you won’t regret your purchase if you go for one.

There are plenty of reasons as to why the Rhode Island Red Chicken is so popular, and in today’s guide we will talk about every one of these and more. So, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then we’ve got a lot of information to bestow upon you, starting off with:

The History of the Rhode Island Red Chicken

Rhode Island Red History
Photo by JulieAnne van der Lek / pixabay.com

As you can instantly tell off of the name alone, the Rhode Island Red Chicken comes directly from Rhode Island, where it was first developed way back in the 1800s.

The cool thing about this is the fact that the natives of Rhode Island loved this breed so much, that they ended up picking it as the state’s official bird since 1954. Even to this day, this breed is still considered to be the fan-favorite that everyone goes for, because of how reliable and easy it is to find.

The rest of the name comes directly from its most poignant feature: its color. As you can tell, the Rhode Island Red chicken is very brightly colored, to the point where it’s very easy to pinpoint when you’re dealing with one yourself. When it was first developed, the breeders decided to go for a simple utility bird, one that could be used both for its eggs and its meat alike.

Rhode Island Red Hens
Photo by Alexas Fotos / pexels.com

Nobody knows exactly which breeds were used to breed the Rhode Island Reds, although there are more than a handful of obvious genes that were transferred over the years to them.

Out of these, the easiest to point out are the following:

  • The Brown Leghorns
  • The Javas
  • The Cornish
  • The Red Malays
  • The Cochins

By far the most important contribution there though came from the Malays, as these are the ones that originally carried the red color genes that the Reds are so famous for right now.

While this breed is mostly secluded to the American market, it has also recently started to catch a lot of attention in Germany and England, due to the creation of a bantam Red.

Rhode Island Red Size and Appearance

Rhode Island Red Rooster
Rhode Island Red Rooster / Photo by Vitag / wikipedia.org

Since they are multi-purpose birds, the Rhode Island Red chickens are quite large, larger than most other breeds in fact.

They immediately stand out though thanks to their red coat of feathers and of course, their signature shining black tails that are also sometimes highlighted by hints of green.

You can immediately point you their red wattle and single comb, and on top of that they also have orange-red eyes and quite distinct red-to-brownish beaks.

Rhode Island Red Size and Appearance
Rhode Island Red Rooster vs Hen / facebook.com

The Rhode Island Red chickens are known for being quite proud birds. This is mostly due to their casual, yet very imposing posture, which makes them look really intimidating to be around.

As far as the chicks are concerned, they are all very small and adorable with hints of orange, tan and red spread all across their frail bodies.

Rhode Island Reds Purpose

Rhode Island Reds
Robert Leigh’s Rhode Island Reds / facebook.com

We mentioned previously that the Rhode Island Reds are very much so dual-purpose birds, but what we didn’t mention is the fact that they are quite proficient at laying eggs, to the point where we would argue that they’re better than most other breeds out there at it.

They are the absolute best when it comes to laying eggs, especially so when you consider just how heavy they are.

You can get as many as 200 to 300 eggs every year from the Rhode Island Reds, or about five to six of them every week or so.

While there are quite a handful of differences that you can find between the heritage and the industrial type of Reds that you’ve got, you won’t have to worry about having to feed them anything special regardless of which of them you go for.

On top of that, the conditions required to help them grow are very easy to reach, and if done properly you will end up with some of the tastiest meat you’ll ever try.

Heritage chickens’ meat is considered to be some of the most delicious chicken meat out there for a reason, just keep in mind that depending on the diet that your Red will go for, the taste will vary for sure.

Rhode Island Reds are known to be able to reach butcher size in less than 5 months in total, and while that may sound like a lot when compared with another breed such as the Cornish Cross, which takes about 8 to 10 weeks or so, it will be worth it at the end of the day.

While the Cornish breeds to mature a lot quicker, the Rhode Island Reds are larger and thus require more food, and if their diet is on point you will be getting yourself some of the most delicious meat ever at the end of the 5 months from them.

Color Varieties

Dark Rhode Island Red
Dark Rhode Island Red / Photo by Rhode Island Red Leyte / facebook.com

As we mentioned previously, for the most part, the Rhode Island Red chicken’s feathers are chestnut red, although you can also come across several different black feathers in the tail and wings.

These are referred to as “smutty” and are very popular during shows. This makes the Rhode Island Red chicken a very good choice for any competition out there.

You can also come across Rhode Island White chickens too, although these are quite different from the Reds and are a lot harder to find.

Rhode Island Reds’ Personality

Rhode Island Reds’ Personality
Photo by Sofia Tilton / pixabay.com

If we were to sum up their personalities using a single solitary word we’d definitely have to use “hyper”, because of how absolutely mental this breed can really be.

When it comes to exploring the unknown and just getting to the bottom of everything, the Rhode Island Reds are pretty much unstoppable, as they will go as far as possible to investigate everything there is to see out there.

Besides their nosey nature though you will find that the Rhode Island Red chicken is very much so just a friendly and loveable bird, that will rarely if ever attack any human out there.

On top of that, its pecking is nowhere near as threatening as it may seem, as despite the fact that they do have fairly large beaks, they don’t have the necessary power to actually inflict any real damage.

They can be quite mean if push comes to shove though, so while they will not necessarily attack you without any real rhyme or reason, they can get quite feisty if pushed to the limit.

The roosters are known for being quite obnoxious, so while you shouldn’t worry too much about being pecked yourself, you may want to keep your children away from them during the breeding season.

Most of the Red hens are not all that broody, although you will get the occasional misfit that will become broody practically overnight.

Once they do take on the mantle though, you can be sure of the fact that they will do a good job since they are actually quite good at being mothers and thanks to their fairly large size, they can easily protect their chicks against other birds or small predators.

Noise Levels

Rhode Island Red Noise Levels
Photo by happy2be / pixabay.com

If you do live in the city and you need to be careful not to disturb your neighbor with your backyard chickens, we do recommend that you get another breed because this breed is anything but silent.

In fact, we would argue that the Rhode Island Red breed is actually one of the rowdiest breeds out there. They are very loud and proud, especially so when they end up laying an egg and there’s no one there to collect it.

The good thing about this is the fact that the Rhode Island Reds are very friendly towards their owners, they will literally follow you around everywhere when you come to see them.

The problem with this is that they will also be very vocal about it, so again, if you care about your neighbors’ sanity, we recommend that you go for another breed because this one will never stop being loud and obnoxious anytime soon.

Rhode Island Red Health Issues

Rhode Island Red Health Issues
Photo by Kingfisher Farms / facebook.com

One of the best qualities that you could ever ask for from your chicken is sturdiness, as no one wants to have to deal with their chickens dying because the temperature slightly changed.

Luckily, the Rhode Island Reds are known for being very tolerant birds, to the point where they can easily survive through sub-zero and even 100F temperatures depending on the season.

Just keep in mind that if the weather is particularly dry, you will need to get them the proper amount of food, water and a good shelter to keep them hidden from the sunrays.

Genetically speaking though, the Rhode Island Red chickens are actually quite vigorous as they can go through their whole lives knowing that they’re not predisposed to any real health issues specific to them.

You should keep in mind though that they can get infested with lice and mites if you’re not careful, and on top of that, intestinal parasites are always going to be a problem when raising your very own chickens.

As long as you take them to the doctor every now and then, and you provide them with the necessary medication in case they need it, you will be just fine though.

Typical Coop Setup and Roaming

Rhode Island Red Flock
Rhode Island Red Flock / freedomrangerhatchery.com

Since the Rhode Island Reds are fairly large birds you will need to make sure that the chicken coop has around 4 square feet per bird.

They are quite assertive though, so keep in mind that if they are confined to a small and enclosed space, they will get very easily riled up and they will end up attacking one another out of frustration.

So, while 4 square feet are considered to be good enough, we definitely wouldn’t say no to more than that either.

As far as their perching space is concerned, you should give them around 8 or so inches per bird. You may want to increase that to 10 inches or so during the summer, as they really love spreading their wings during this time.

Nesting boxes need to be at least 12×12 inch cube or so. We do recommend that you make their boxes even larger though for the most part, since they will sometimes end up nesting together which can easily lead to them accidentally breaking each other’s eggs.

As far as the roaming is concerned, you will need to make sure that each bird gets to run around 15 square feet or so at all times. As mentioned previously, these birds can’t stand being kept in confinement, so if you want to get your money’s worth here definitely go for at least 15 square feet. A decent sized chicken tractor would be ok too.

If you do keep them in an enclosed space at all times you will find them to be extra loud, to the point where you won’t even be able to hear your thoughts anymore.

Beginner-Friendliness

Rhode Island Red chick
Rhode Island Red chick / Photo by Thaddeus Quintin / wikipedia.org

While most of this is nice and all, are they actually good for a new farmer that’s just getting started with the craft?

Honestly, yes, a hundred percent yes. Not only is this breed typically very easy to take care of, but as long as you give it the proper space, food and water, you won’t really have to worry about all that much more on the long run with them.

On top of that, the Rhode Island Red chicken is also very predator-savvy. This is due to the fact that they are dark reddish colored, making them great at blending into the background.

Rhode Island Red Pullet
Rhode Island Red Pullet / facebook.com

While they are not exactly flying birds, they can easily fly out of harm’s way in case a fox for example gets a bit too close for comfort.

Since they do love to forage around a lot, the Rhode Island Red is also a great option for beginners due to how much they love to forage around.

If you are a homesteader and you want to get your money’s worth from the chicken you should definitely opt for one of these because they are especially tough and they can be left to free roam a lot of the time without a care in the world.

Is the Rhode Island Red the Right Breed for You?

Rhode Island Red Hen
Rhode Island Red Hen / Photo by tshatzel / pixabay.com

If you are on the lookout for a first-class hen that is extremely friendly while also being very proficient at laying eggs and offering you top-level meat then you can’t go wrong with the Rhode Island Red.

While you can also keep them with a sub-standard feed, we do recommend that you don’t stray away from the formula if you want to make sure that they grow up to be big and strong within 5 or so months.

They can easily survive through most conditions but that doesn’t mean that they should. This makes them great for beginners and experienced farmers alike, and even if you are on a tight budget, you can still get your money’s worth from them on the long run.

Just make sure that the roosters are kept as far away as possible from your small children, especially so during the breeding season. This is when things can get quite riley for them and you don’t want your child to be on the receiving end of your rooster’s wrath.

With all that being said, we would still argue that the Rhode Island Red is one of the best breeds out there, and while it does have more than a handful of disadvantages that it comes with too, it is still a great choice regardless of your current budget or experience raising chicken.

Conclusion

Rhode Island Red chickens
Rhode Island Red chickens / Photo by ANEK / stock.adobe.com

So, just to reiterate, should you get yourself a Rhode Island Red Chicken? Honestly it all depends on you. While we do have to say that this is one of our personal favorites, you may opt for a different breed altogether and that is totally fine.

As long as you feel like you’ve made the right choice, we won’t argue against it. But regardless, thank you for reading and we would like to formally wish you luck growing your next batch of Rhode Island Reds.

About Leah Shelton

Involved in the "green" arena for over 10 years, Leah has worn many hats due to her diverse experience and knowledge in the field. In addition to writing for Agronomag, she's also a sustainability consultant with a unique perspective on eco-friendly farming practices. Topics she loves to geek out about: regenerative food systems, chickens and cattle breeds, homesteading and green cities.

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