Rhode Island Red: All you need to know before buying one

The Rhode Island Red is the official bird of the State of Rhode Island. This bird is famous and most common of all chicken breeds.

They are excellent and faithful egg layers a reputation that has made them adored by many chicken hobbyists and farmers.

Rhode Island Red chickens are calm, docile and placid chooks that do well on free ranging as well as in confinement.

These chickens are a dual purpose breed and can offer much meat as they can lay a large clutch of eggs enough for breakfast and market.

This article sinks deep about the Rhode Island Reds. I hope this information will be of much help so that you can make the right decision before buying.

Let’s roll!

Rhode Island Red Background

Rhode Island Red chicken was developed in the State of Rhode Island in the mid-19th century. This was made possible by breeding birds of oriental origin.

Chickens that were used to develop the Rhode Island Reds include: Cochins, Java, Malay, Shanghai, Brahmas and Brown Leghorn chickens.

The story of these chickens started off with a Malay rooster that was brought by Captain William to his home. He mated it with his local hens and found out that the resulting offspring had the potential to lay many eggs.

This propelled his ambition to breed more such birds. William Tripp sought help from John Macomber and began an extensive breeding program by bringing in Plymouth Rock chickens to contribute their genes.

They developed birds which they named Tripp or Macomber which caught the attention of dedicated poultry man Isaac Wilbour.

It is Isaac Wilbour who after using the birds from Macomber and Tripp to continue with the breeding named these birds The Rhode Island Reds.

Rhode Island Red was bred to be a dual purpose bird rather than a utility one. England farmers were in need of a chicken breed that could offer both meat and eggs.

This chicken breed was named the official bird of the state of Rhode Island in its honor to this place. Sculptures were erected so that their legacy will remain for generations.

Rhode Island Reds were admitted in the APA in 1901 where only the single comb variety was accepted. In 1909 they were accepted and admitted in the Poultry Club of Britain.

Characteristics of the Rhode Island Red

These chickens are now common in two varieties; the single comb and the rose comb varieties. There are also two strains that is the heritage and industrial strain.

The heritage strain of the Rhode Island Red is rare and has been put on the watch list by the Livestock Conservancy.

On the other hand, industrial strains are very common and they are used for egg production in most commercial farms.

Rhode Island Red chickens are rectangular shaped with a solid body. Their feathers are hard just like those of Malay chickens and are of a lustrous dark to a rich mahogany color.

Their combs are either single or of rose type depending on the variety. The wattles combs and earlobes are red.

Eye color is bay or red while the skin, legs and feet are yellow in color. The legs are clean and free from feathers. On each foot, there are four well-spaced toes and short claws on them.

The Rhode Island Red beak is yellow or of a horn color. They are medium sized where a mature Rhode Island Red rooster weighs 8.5lb while a hen weighs 6.6lbs.

There are bantam Rhode Island Red chickens although they are very rare. A bantam rooster weighs 2.1lb while a hen weighs 1.9lb.

Their breasts are broad and full with wide sloping backs and their tails held at an angle of 45 degrees. Sometimes, the tails have a black tip.

Rhode Island Red chicken temperament and hardiness

Rhode Island Red chickens are calm, docile and placid birds. They are noisy and are not the type you would keep on an urban setting.

The Rhode Island rooster can be very aggressive, rowdy and sometimes territorial. Do not let this male bird near your kids unless you are very sure about his behavior.

These chickens will get close to you and give you company as you go on with your daily chores. They love tasty treats like oranges and bread or those tasty mealworms.

Rhode Island Red chickens are curious birds that will wander on vast areas foraging and looking for their own meals.

However, these birds tolerate confinement and can be raised in chicken cages and on the deep litter method.

They are predator savvy and the rooster will always be on the lookout for potential predators like possums and chicken hawks.

These chickens are good when integrated with other backyard flocks. They rank at the middle of the pecking order and therefore are not bullies.

The Rhode Island Red chicken is a hardy bird. It is cold tolerant and a heat tolerant chicken too. They are very common in most farms across the world where they are raised for eggs.

Egg laying and Uses

Rhode Island Red chickens are available in two varieties. The heritage variety which is the original bird developed as a dual purpose breed.

This heritage strained was refined some years back to improve on egg laying thus the industrial variety which are egg machines.

Today, the industrial strain of the Rhode Island Red is very common in almost all commercial farms that keep hens for eggs.

These chickens will reach maturity early and at 18-22 weeks, the Rhode Island pullets begin to lay. Some are known to lay as early as 16 weeks of age.

In a year, a Rhode Island Red hen will lay about 250-300 eggs. This translates to about 5-6 eggs/week. Rhode Island Red chicken eggs are medium sized and have a light brown egg shell color.

At the beginning of the laying season, the eggs are small but gradually get bigger over the years as the hens age.

The heritage variety of this breed will produce enough amount of meat which is good for a small family. Although they are rarely kept, Rhode Island Red chicken roosters will offer much meat because they are much heavier than the hens.

It is good to know that these chickens seldom get broody. However, in rare cases they will get broody and make prudent chicken moms.

If you want to hatch some Rhode Island Red chicks, do not mind to power on your chicken egg hatcher or let your Silkie hens do the hatching job for you.

Rhode Island Red chicks and chickens for sale are available at Townline hatchery and Murray McMurray hatchery.

Lifespan of the Rhode Island Red chicken

These chickens have a lifespan of 3-5 years. However, for the heritage strain, they may have a longer lifespan than their industrial sisters.

Chickens that lay a large number of eggs like the Red sexlinks chickens are likely to live for a short period of time.

This is so because their bodies especially the reproductive tissues are exhausted for laying a large number of eggs.

Most nutrients in the body are used up by the time they get to the final laying phase. This makes these chickens used up hence denying them a lengthy life.

However, those chickens raised as pets are likely to live longer. They are given the best care and live in good standards.

Health Issues

Rhode Island Red chickens are hardy, healthy and strong birds. They are the kind that will do well on both cold and hot climatic zones.

However chicken lice and mites will not spare them at all. These notorious parasites hide under their hard feathers where they suck blood and cause serious skin damage.

To do away with these ecto parasites, add small amounts of diatomaceous earth powder in their dirt bath.

DE powder works by removing body oils and moisture dehydrating them to death. Chicken worms like gape and thread worms are a serious threat.

They suppress the health of your birds making them lay few eggs and loss weight. To control them, seek advice from a qualified bird vet on the best wormer for chickens to use.

Do chickens pee?

Yes! Chicks pee because they eat, digest food in their bodies and have waste to pass out. However, there is a difference in the way birds pass waste out.

These critters do not urinate and only pass out solid waste. Although they drink water just like we do, Chickens will not pass out urine.

They lack a urinary bladder and this denies them any mechanism to hold or store urine. However, chickens urine is passed out as a white crystal or white spots together with the poop.

The chicken’s droppings are a mixture of poop and urine making them very concentrated and nitrogen rich.

Chicken poop is passed out through an opening in the butt called the cloaca. This is the same spot where they receive sperms and lay eggs.

Chickens have kidneys which is responsible for excretion and removal of urea from the body. In chickens, urea is excreted as uric acid which is not water soluble.

Uric acid is mixed with chicken poop and seen as a white substance on the bird’s droppings. It is because of this acid that chicken poop has a strong foul smell.


Rhode Island Red is a good breed to add on your backyard. These chickens are super handy and are cheap to raise because they are excellent free rangers looking for their own meals.

They are egg making machines just like ISA Brown chickens are. Having several Rhode Island hens you have enough eggs for breakfast and some extra for sale.

These chickens are friendly and placid but sometimes are pushy towards other hens. You can have one as a house pet if you do not mind a noisy bird around you.

Roosters can be very aggressive towards kids so, watch out! But raising male Rhode Island Red chickens is a good source of white chicken meat for Christmas holiday.

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