Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed


                                                                       Rhode Island Red Rooster
The Rhode Island Red Rooster is the archetype of
 all roosters and the breed one of the most popular
 domestic birds in the world.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Rhode Island Reds: A Popular Chicken Breed
Rhode Island Reds are among the most well-known and popular of all the common chicken breeds.
There is good reason for their popularity. Not only are they easy to keep, breed well and serve as excellent layers and table birds but they can be kept as a reliable and family-friendly backyard bird as readily as on the larger scale of agricultural production.
In this article we will explore the origins, features and particular qualities of the Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed.
At the end of the article you'll find lots of helpful resources and further reading if you are interested in keeping these fine utility birds or simply want to find out more.
Rhode Island Reds are are so well-loved and highly regarded that they have attained the status of the official state bird of Rhode Island.
Sadly, for a time as fewer people managed small-holdings, their popularity and presence declined. Happily, they are beginning to make a come-back as more people return to small farming practices or simply backyard chicken keeping.
Rhode Island Reds are known as a utility bird. This means that they are good stock both as layers and for meat and that they are generally a hardy breed with a good, robust constitution. This makes them an ideal 'starter bird' for anyone new to chicken keeping.
Rhode Island
Rhode Island - 
Rhode Island, USA
The Rhode Island Red chicken breed is the mascot bird of Rhode Island itself!
Origins of The Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a North American breed originally developed in 1850 in the village of Adamsville, Rhode Island, from a black-breasted red Malay cock which had been brought over from England for the purpose.
Malay Game Fowl -
 'Father' of The Rhode Island Red
The Malay game fowl was the base breed first used in developing 
the Rhode Island Red strain. It is known as 'the father of the breed.'
Source: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
The original bird has been preserved and can be seen displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. He is considered 'the father of the breed.'
Who Bred The First Rhode Island Red?
The first breeding experiments attempting to produce a bird with the particular qualities of the Rhode Island Red were undertaken by Captain William Tripp, a resident of Little Crompton and his colleague and fellow chicken fancier, John Macomber.
First they crossed Malay and Javacocks with Chinese Cochin hens. The resulting birds were then bred with Light BrahmasPlymouth Rocksand Brown Leghorns to produce the strain that was named the Rhode Island Red.
The breed was officially recognized in 1895 at the providence Poultry Show and has remained popular both with hobbyists and farmers ever since.
                                                                              Rhode Island Red Monument
This fine monument to the State bird of Rhode Island 
was raised by public subscription in 1925.
Source: Swampyank CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia Commons
There is a fine Rhode Island Red Monument that commemorates the state bird.
The sculpture was made by Henry L. Norton and erected on the outskirts of the village of Adamsville in 1925, commissioned by The Rhode Island Red Club of America. The club had been founded in 1898.
By the early twentieth century, the importance of the breed, which was to become the most readily recognized chicken breed not only in North America but possibly the world, had been fully appreciated.
The sculpture itself was honored in 2001 by its addition to the National Register of Historic Places.
Another monument was erected by the state itself a few miles the other side of Adamsville.
The Rhode Island Red Club of America is still going strong with a busy community, meetings, newsletter and website (details in the resource box at the end of the article)
Children and Roosters
It should always be remembered that any animal, especially a rooster, can be aggressive or dangerous when provoked, teased or threatened. So long as you treat your birds well and with respect and teach your children to do so, you should have no problems of that kind. Common sense and respect are always key in approaching any animal, wild or domestic.
Rhode Island reds are also very hardy birds. If the temperature is likely to drop much below zero then they will need some extra warmth but other than that, they will happily survive the winter. If there is a chance of freezing weather, then a heat lamp in the coop is an excellent idea and the application of a little Vaseline to the comb and wattles should keep them protected from sores, frostbite and splitting or just drying out.
These birds love to forage and scratch and will find a good portion of their own food if they have access to grassland and woodland floor.
They make excellent free-range birds, too, as they are generally gentle in nature and will form a good bond with their keepers - making them very unlikely to get lost.
By nature the flock instinct is very strong in the Rhode Island Red and this has certain negative and positive consequences in terms of their captive management. On the negative side, the rooster will defend his harem quite viciously if need be. They have been known to kill dogs or intruding foxes and even attack unknown humans that they felt were threatening the flock. However, this should not be over-stated. If family dogs are well-trained and slowly introduced to the birds in the company of the bird keeper, there should be no special problems.
On the positive side, they will regard the keeper as a part of the flock and come when called, walk with the keeper and permit themselves to be picked up and handled in a very trusting way.
                                    Rhode Island Reds Like to Forage
Rhode Island Reds have a strong flocking instinct and will spend hours foraging together. The rooster will defend his harem against any perceived threats.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)

The Rhode Island Red is aptly named although its exact coloration does vary quite considerably. Most birds are best described as rust colored although they can be much darker, almost maroon and some so dark as to seem nearly black.
Physical Characteristics of Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed


If you look closely at the feathers, they are tinged with a little black around the edges in many cases. These variations in plumage are insignificant if your primary interest is in eggs, meat or simply keeping the birds as pets. However, if you want to get involved in showing the birds, then there are very strict rules about the amount of black (known among fanciers as 'smuttiness') that is permissible. If you mean to show, I recommend that you get in touch with your local poultry society or club who will be able to advise you.
Rhode Island Reds have a squarish, well built body shape, with a good, proud pectoralis or breast and strong thighs. This is one of the factors that makes them good meat birds as well as good layers. They have bright yellow feet and their bills or beaks are a reddish-brown. Their eyes are orange.
The average rooster weighs in at about 8 1/2 lbs and hens generally a little lighter at 6 1/2 lbs.
                                                                                 Rhode Island Red Hen
The Rhode Island Red hen is smaller than the rooster
 and has a lower, less sharply serrated comb.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Rhode Island Reds Are Excellent Layers

The Rhode island Red is one of the finest egg layers ever bred.
Not only do they typically continue to lay throughout the winter months as a consequence of their strong constitution but they also produce more eggs on average than most other utility breeds.
Rhode islands will happily lay between 200 and 300 eggs a year. They generally go into lay early, too, often starting at six months or even less. They will continue to lay for many years.

Large brown eggs are typical of the breed.
The Rhode island Red is an excellent layer,
 producing hundreds of large, brown eggs every
 year, even continuing to lay throughout the winter.
Source: Public Domain vis Wikimedia Commons

As you can quickly calculate, even a small flock of say three or four birds will keep the average family in eggs without any difficulty and possibly with a number left over to gift or sell. Equally, anyone thinking of egg-production as a small business couldn't do better than to choose the Rhode Island Red as their primary breed.
The egg of the Rhode Island Red is a big, plump, brown affair, often too large to fit in a standard size egg box! It has a dark, rich, yolk and a delicious flavor.
The eggs are great for eating boiled, fired or poached or used in cakes, pasta and other dishes.
Rhode Island Red As A Table Bird
While all Rhode Island Reds make reasonable birds for their meat, if you want to take greatest advantage of this aspect of keeping them, then it is highly recommended that you go to the trouble to ensure that your birds are true 'Old Type' reds.
                                                                             A Delicious Chicken Stew
The richly flavored meat of The Rhode Island Red gives its best
 when cooked slowly in a stew.
Source: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
More recently, as interest in egg production has out-weighed interest in meat production, several strains of Rhode Island Reds have become popular which are lighter and less broody.
At one point it even seemed that the original strain would be bred out of existence entirely. However, with the help and support of various conservation societies and the recommendation of the American Slow Food movement, the stocks have started to recover.
The Old-Types produce a delicious, rich flavored meat that can be cooked roasted, broiled or pan-fried but demonstrates its finest culinary qualities when simmered very slowly in casseroles, soups and stews.
Keeping Rhode Island Reds
Keeping any animal requires an investment of time, money and other resources.
To keep any breed of chicken well you will need at least a minimum amount of space outdoors, a place to put a suitable coop, sufficient funds to buy food and pay for veterinary care as and when required.
The details of everything you need to know to start keeping chickens are beyond the scope of this article but I would strongly recommend that you do plenty of research in any case before taking the plunge.
Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Certainly keeping Rhode Island Reds can be very rewarding and, in time, even pay for itself.
I would recommend reading as much of the literature as you can find and joining your local poultry club to make contact with other chicken keepers who will be able to show you and advise you in more detail. The club will also be an excellent source of your first birds.
If you want to take chicken keeping further, or just learn more about the Rhode Island Red chicken breed, then check out the following resources, which should be of great help to you.
Resources For Chicken Keepers
·         The American Poultry Association
Lots of information, links and resources at the official site of the APA
·         Raising BackYard Chickens, Build a Chicken Coop, Pictures of Breeds
How To Raise Chickens, Build chicken coops, Hatch baby chicks. Everything you need to know about raising rural or city chickens in your own backyard.
·         RHODE ISLAND RED CLUB OF AMERICA
The Official Site of The Rhode Island Red Club of America

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