Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about the history, characteristics, and care of different cat and dog breeds. Knowing the general characteristics of different breeds can give pet owners a sense of what to expect with different cats and dogs, especially in regards to grooming and enrichment! But did you know that there are different chicken breeds as well?
Having backyard chickens seems to be a big trend for folks living in more urban centers, especially for those in the Pacific Northwest. Getting backyard chickens is a big investment, as there is plenty of work that goes into caring for these animals. One good thing to know before you get chickens is what breeds you’d like! One great backyard breed is the Rhode Island Red.
Rhode Island Reds are hardy chickens and will be some of the best egg layers you’d have in a flock. Even in harsh conditions, these chickens are known to lay eggs and often produce 200-250 brown eggs a year. Generally, that means you’ll often get 5-6 eggs a week from a Rhode Island Red! Additionally, they’re dual purpose, meaning that you could raise them for meat or eggs. Care for these chickens will vary slightly based on what you are raising them for.
As you might imagine, this breed originated in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The breed was developed by poultry farmers in the mid 19th century, meaning that the defining qualities of a Rhode Island Red are practical and functional rather than looks. However, these chickens are still rather cute! Their feather coloring will vary in the shade of red, ranging from deep mahogany to a dark rust color.
Large fowl hens of this breed will usually weigh 6-7 pounds, with roosters weighing almost 9 pounds. Their lifespan will depend largely on predators, illnesses, and how you care for them. But hens of all sorts of breeds can often live 5-8 years with you! A hen’s egg production will slowly decrease in both number and quality as she ages but her temperament and personality won’t. Rhode Island Reds would be great to have around for several years, even after they stop producing eggs because they’re often funny and lovable chickens.
A Rhode Island Red’s temperament is usually pretty laid back and they’ll like being around people and other chickens. The roosters can be more aggressive but if you’re looking for a friendly, backyard chicken, you can’t go wrong with a Rhode Island Red hen! The hens will love to explore your yard to look for bugs and seeds, as they’re active foragers. They can also be very talkative.
One of my favorite family chickens was a Rhode Island Red that we affectionately called ‘Red’ (for obvious reasons). She loved to roam around the yard on sunny days and on more than one occasion, I found her laying eggs in weird hiding spots! Red was the definition of a Rhode Island Red, as she was a consistent layer and loved her flock, people, and especially Rooster the dog. On nice spring and summer days, she would often just follow Rooster around! She was also very protective of her flock and often acted like a proud mama hen to some of the younger chickens.
Rhode Island Reds would make great backyard chickens, especially if you’d like friendly, curious hens who regularly produce eggs!