The Rhode Island Red rooster is considered famous, iconic, attractive and one of the most successful chickens in the world. It has a darker mahogany deep red plumage that appears black from far, large stature, and, of course, delicious meat. This chicken comes in two varieties that include the single and rose comb and the hens come in two strains that include the heritage and production strains.
Because of its success, the RIR has ticked most of the checkboxes making it a favorite breed among most chicken enthusiasts. Due to its excellent breed qualities, this chicken is considered a base breed used to create most hybrids that bear red plumage. So, are you looking to learn about the history, temperament, production, and appearance of this chicken? Please read on.
Specifications of Rhode Island Red Chicken
|Origin||Rhode Island; the USA|
|Lifespan||5 – 8 Years|
|Weight||6.5 – 8.5 Pounds; 1.9 – 2.1 Pounds for the Bantam Variant|
|Purpose||Both Meat & Eggs|
|Egg Production||200 – 300 Eggs Annually (Industrial Variant); 150 – 200 Eggs Annually (Heritage Variant)|
|Egg Size & Weight||Large Light Brown Eggs|
|Comb Type||Single and Rose Comb Varieties|
|Temperament||Docile, Friendly, Calm, Inquisitive, & Quite Aggressive|
|Appearance||Light Brown to Bright Mahogany Color|
|Hardiness||Both Cold and Heat Hardy|
A Short History of Rhode Island Red Chicken
The RIR is a chicken that has a rich history that dates back to the 1800s. In fact, the story of this magnificent rooster began in 1854 when a sailor named William Tripp bought a Malay rooster from a fellow sailor.
With the help of a friend named John Macomber, Tripp decided to mate his Malay rooster with his own chickens. The results were stunning as the offspring had attractive appearances and were much better in terms of production than their parent breeds. The roosters were bigger in size and they produced delicious meat that was quite tasty.
Over the years, these two men, Tripp and Macomber, used several other breeds in their selective breeding program to improve and refine the qualities of the RIR to make it better. Some of the breeds used in the program included the Malay (the forefather of this breed), Java, Chinese Cochin, Brown Leghorn, Plymouth Rock, and the Light Brahma.
Over time, this chicken gained widespread popularity among local poultry farmers and was named the Tripp’s Fowl or Macomber fowl. Later on, rumors of this chicken reached Isaac Wilbour, a successful poultry farmer who was desperate to improve his flock.
Wilbour bought some Rhode Island Reds and used them in his own selective breeding program. Despite the undeniable efforts made by Tripp and Macomber, it was Wilbour that was credited for naming this chicken the Rhode Island Red. The first name represents the Island it was first developed while the last name represents the color of its plumage.
In the 1940s, the RIR became a recognized egg-laying hen while in 1954, it became Rhode Island’s state official bird. Two statues were even erected in Little Compton and Adamsville in honor of this excellent breed.
Physical Appearance and Breed Standard of Rhode Island Red Chicken
Now, starting with its standardization, the RIR rooster is a robust chicken that has excellent qualities. From what we’ve learned in its history, this chicken was accepted by the APA as early as 1904 with the rose comb variant being accepted later in 1906. It was later accepted by the British Poultry Standard in 1909.
One obvious way you can recognize the appearance of the RIR rooster is by the color of the plumage and the shape of the body. In most cases, this chicken has a rectangular solid body that’s upright in stature.
The feathers have a bright mahogany color that displays hints of green when light shines on them at an angle. The hens have a lighter brown color with bodies that aren’t as upright as those of the males.
Other than the plumage, the RIR rooster and hen can be distinguished from several other features. Some of them include the single/rose comb, which is red in color and larger in roosters. The eyes are orange-red while the beaks are brown. The wattles and the earlobes are also red while the shanks and the skin are yellow. Just like most other breeds, the RIR has four toes in each leg.
When it comes to size, the RIR chicken is considered a medium to the large-sized bird. The roosters weigh around 8.5 pounds while the hens weigh approximately 6.5 pounds. Due to its huge success, breeders have managed to develop a bantam variety of the RIR that weighs 2.1 pounds for the rooster and 1.9 pounds for the hen.
Lastly, we have the Rhode Island Red rooster chick. Here, the chicks will display a soft rust color of orange, tan, and red on their heads and back and white down on the underneath.
Although the RIR is not an autosexing chicken breed, most experts suggest that you can determine the sex by using the vent sexing or feather sexing methods. The feather sexing method involves examining the pinfeathers where males have even rows of pinfeathers while females have both long and short pinfeathers alternating.
Still, on the feathers, males will bear a white spot on the wings while females will not have this spot.
Productivity of Rhode Island Red Chicken (Egg Laying and Meat)
From what we’ve already discussed, the RIR rooster is a chicken that’s hailed for ticking most of the checkboxes. When it comes to the usage or the purpose of breeding this chicken, most breeders are happy to mention that this chicken is excellent when it comes to both meat and egg production.
The hens, for instance, will generously give you a bumper harvest of 5 – 6 medium to large-sized light brown eggs annually. If you do the math, this will be approximately 200 – 300 eggs annually for each hen. However, these statistics are for industrial RIR breeds and not heritage breeds.
Heritage variants manage around 150 – 200 eggs annually, which again isn’t a bad performance. You see, following years of selective breeding, commercial breeders thought of developing a hybrid RIR chicken that could perform better than its heritage counterpart.
That’s where a split emerged in this breed with industry variants serving as factory chickens and heritage variants serving as excellent backyard birds due to their prolific free-ranging skills.
Just like eggs, RIR roosters are known to produce a decent amount of meat. Their meat is considered flavorful and richer due to their excellent diet mix where they spend most of their time foraging for seeds, herbs, worms, and insects.
Rhode Island Red Chicken Characteristics (Personality and Temperament)
When it comes to the temperament of the Rhode Island Red, most farmers and breeders mention that this chicken has a dice-roll personality. It’s more like a hit or miss. Sometimes the chicken might be friendly, shy, and non-aggressive and other times, it might be mean, curious and a little pushy.
When raised in a favorable environment, the RIR chicken will be calm, docile, and friendly to both humans and fellow flockmates. Industrial variants will appreciate confinement and will proceed to lay a lot of eggs while in the cage.
Heritage variants, on the other hand, dislike confinement and appreciate the freedom to free-range. Since they’re purebreds, these variants have a strong understanding of chickens’ social dynamics through an established pecking order. The hens of both strains are pretty laidback and quite docile. They enjoy human companionship and will rarely engage in fights unless they’re broody.
What are Roosters Like?
The roosters, on the other hand, can get overly aggressive. They’re mostly considered obnoxious and inquisitive. Although their beaks might not harm you, the same can’t be said for children. This makes the RIR rooster a poor choice if raised as a pet.
Regarding the noise level, the Rhode Island Red chicken is considered noisy. The hens will squawk and cluck loudly after laying an egg while the roosters will crow loudly every morning at dawn. Since they’re very vocal, these chickens cannot be raised in a suburban backyard as they will surely disturb the neighbors.
Now, the RIR is a chicken that’s hailed for being extremely broody. However, this only happens to the pure heritage breed that hasn’t undergone any selective breeding. Otherwise, industrial strains have been bred with other chickens to perfect production. As a result, this has suppressed its broody instincts making it an occasional broody bird.
Rhode Island Red Hen vs Rooster
|Strong upright bodies||Lean closer to the ground|
|Stand 20 – 22 inches high||Stand at around 15 – 16 inches high|
|The comb and wattles are large, firm, and waxy with a deep color||Comb and wattles are smaller with a light color|
|Plumage has a deep red color with a green shimmer||The lighter brown color that blends with the surrounding|
|Have longer thicker legs||The legs are thinner and shorter|
|Are quite loud and aggressive||Mostly subdued and quiet|
Rhode Island Red Growth Chart
If you want to successfully raise RIR chickens, you need to have a reliable Rhode Island Red growth chart that you can follow. A reliable chart will show you how long it will take for your chicken to reach maturity. It will also give you an idea of the amount of weight your chicken will add as it grows. At least this way, you’ll manage to determine the feed conversion rate of your chicken.
So, here, we’ll include two charts, one for the expected growth rate of RIR pullets within 40 weeks and the other a comparison of the weight between RIR cockerel and pullet.
|AGE IN WEEKS||WEIGHT OF THE PULLET IN POUNDS|
|AGE IN WEEKS||COCKEREL WEIGHT IN POUNDS||PULLET WEIGHT IN POUNDS|
Rhode Island Red vs Isa Brown
|RHODE ISLAND RED||ISA BROWN|
|Breeds involved are Malay, Java, Plymouth Rock, Brown Leghorn, Cochin, and Brahma||Breeds involved are RIR and White Leghorn|
|Developed in the USA||Developed in France|
|It’s a heritage breed (though there are industrial hybrid strains)||It’s a hybrid|
|The plumage is deep-red color||Has a lighter chestnut brown color|
|Lays around 250 – 300 eggs annually||Lays around 300 – 330 eggs annually|
|Weighs around 6.5 – 8.5 pounds||Weighs around 5 – 6 pounds|
|Long lifespan of 5 – 8 years||Has a lifespan of around 3 – 5 years|
Barred Rock vs Rhode Island Red
|BARRED ROCK||RHODE ISLAND RED|
|Docile and very calm||Quite bossy|
|Lays around 200 – 280 eggs annually||Lays around 200 – 300 eggs annually|
|Starts laying as early as 16 weeks||Starts laying later at around 18 weeks|
|Stops laying during winter to molt||Proceeds to lay during winter|
|Weighs 7 – 8 pounds||Weighs 6.5 – 8.5 pounds|
|The roosters are less aggressive||Roosters are unpredictable. However, they fall on the aggressive side of the bar|
Common Health Issues of Rhode Island Red Chicken
Genetically speaking, the Rhode Island Red chicken breed is hailed for being hardy and tolerant to most genetic health problems that affect most chickens. Since they’re not predisposed to any major health issues, these chickens can stay for a long time for up to 5 – 8 years.
However, being hardy doesn’t mean that this chicken is entirely safe from disease. Some of the things you should look out for in this chicken breed include parasites such as mites and lice, frostbites during cold climates, fowl cholera, avian influenza, and Marek’s disease among others.
Required Environment for Rhode Island Red Chicken
Now that you’ve learned a lot about the RIR rooster, one question you’re likely to ask yourself is whether this chicken will be a good fit for you. Well, the answer is yes. This chicken is by far the best option for small poultry farmers and beginners alike.
First, this chicken loves to forage meaning it can roam on its own in search of pasture. Provided you give it ample backyard space, it won’t have a problem fending for itself.
Secondly, the RIR is an excellent predator-savvy bird. Here, its dark reddish color allows it to blend with the background making it impossible to detect by both air and ground predators. Also, the roosters are quite strong and aggressive and will attempt to fight back in case of small-bodied predators.
When it comes to feeding, the RIR is not a breed that will demand a lot. With high-quality commercial feed, plenty of water, and table scraps, this chicken will be good to go. However, considering it’s a great layer, it’s good to supplement its feed with fruits, herbs, and leafy greens to ensure that it gets a high nutrient boost.
Lastly, you need to keep track of the climate conditions when raising your Rhode Island Reds. Now, the best thing about this chicken is that it’s hardy meaning it can handle different temperatures. So, whether you live in the USA, UK, Canada, or Australia, the RIR rooster is robust enough to tolerate most of these conditions. However, that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your chooks if conditions get worse.
Raising Tips for Rhode Island Red Chicken
The best thing about the RIR rooster is that it tolerates both confinement and free-ranging quite well. While inside the coop, you should provide your critters with plenty of space of around 4 square feet per chicken. Since this breed is quite bossy, ample space will prevent possible confrontations.
While inside the coop, you should install roosting bars and perches that offer each chicken around 8 – 10 inches of space to stretch. You should also install nesting boxes in the ratio of one for every 3 – 5 hens.
Outside the coop, your Reds will demand sufficient space to roam and forage. Here, you can provide them with at least 15 square feet of space per bird. Also, make sure that you designate a special place for them to lay their eggs. Lastly, erect a high fence in your backyard to keep the birds safe from predators.
Now, from 0 – 8 weeks, your Rhode Island Red chicks will need a starter feed that’s high in protein and rich in nutrition. The feed should have at least 18 – 21% protein.
From 8 weeks to around 18 weeks, your RIR juveniles should feed on an 18% grower feed. From 18 – 20 weeks onwards, your pullets might start laying small eggs which will increase in size as they age. Here, you should feed them a 16%-layer feed that has increased levels of calcium.
In addition to commercial feeds, you can decide to throw in some treats to give your girls some nutrient boosts. Here, you can feed them with fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
Now that you’ve done everything we’ve discussed above, there’s one more factor you must consider when raising Rhode Island Reds—paying attention to their health. To do this, you need to partner with specialized poultry veterinarians to acquire knowledge on how to raise your chickens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What Do Rhode Island Red Chickens Eat?
RIR chickens are easy-going breeds that feed on almost anything that comes their way. They can feed on table scraps and leftovers and a variety of foods such as seeds, worms, insects, fruits, and herbs. However, if you want your chickens to grow strong and healthy and also lay lots of eggs, you need to feed them with high-quality feed.
Each feed should suit each stage (just as we mentioned earlier) and should include the following ingredients in its formula; Protein, Arginine, Methionine, Lysine, Fatty Acids, and Vitamins. Lastly, you should provide your RIR chickens with plenty of drinking water with added supplements such as vitamins and digestive enzymes.
Q2. Are Rhode Island Red Roosters Aggressive?
Now, the RIR roosters are a kind of 50/50 when it comes to their disposition. Some breeders argue that they’re simply happy and easy-going while others confess that they’re mean, remarkably territorial, and a bit aggressive. From what we’ve discussed, I think you should be quite cautious with them and don’t allow children to get near them.
Q3. Can You Eat Rhode Island Red Chickens?
The Rhode Island Red chicken is marketed as being relatively large and masculine. This chicken is dual purpose meaning it’s raised for both meat and eggs. Although it takes around 5 months to reach butcher size, proper feeding means that this chicken can produce a lot of meat. However, its meat production is lower compared to broilers such as the Cornish Cross which mature within 8 – 10 weeks and are meatier.
Q4. What Is the Nesting Box Size for Rhode Island Red?
Now, RIR hens are medium-sized birds that tend to lay a lot of eggs. So, when constructing a nest box, you need to consider these two factors. Here, the boxes should be at least 12” square with 10” square being the minimum you can go. The boxes should be close to the ground and should have a clean litter.
So, are you willing to raise RIR roosters? Well, it’s all up to you. However, this guide has discussed everything you know about this chicken breed from its history, appearance, temperament, and production to various raising tips.
As you can see, this chicken is hardy and robust and can survive in different climatic conditions. It’s also a docile, gentle, and happy chicken that tolerates both confinement and free-ranging.
These chickens have an excellent feed ratio and are producers of large brown eggs that range from around 200 to 300 annually. So, if you’re searching for a great layer to add to your backyard flock, then I don’t see the reason why you shouldn’t pick the Rhode Island Red chicken breed.
Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!