Skip to main content

The Rhode Island Red Chicken

Physical Characteristics of the Rhode Island Red Chicken

  • Hens weigh an average of 7 pounds when full grown.
  • Roosters weigh an average of 9 pounds when full grown.
  • Dark, mahogany red color feathers.
  • Hens and roosters have single combs.
  • Beak color is a red tinged brown.
  • Leg color is yellow.
  • Eye color is orange.

Rhode Island Red Chickens

The History of the Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed

The Rode Island Red is a dual purpose chicken meaning that it is raised for eggs in addition to meat. This chicken was recognized at its own breed in1904 for the single combed and in 1905 for the type with rose colored combs. This chicken breed currently holds the Conservation Status of recovering. These chickens were developed in the state of Rhode Island and is the current bird of its namesake state.

There are two types of RIR chickens that are available for the backyard flock. One strain of the breed was selectively bred to lay a large number of eggs. This strain of birds will normally have lighter reddish colored feathers, the hens rarely go broody and was developed to lay an egg on an almost daily basis. These are the birds that are generally raised by hatcheries for back yard flocks.

The original strain of the breed will not lay as often. They can be distinguished from the other type by their feather color. This older type of Rhode Island Chicken will be a darker shade of brown. The hens in this group do tend to go broody more often and are good mothers to their chicks. These birds are harder to find and are more likely located on farms and from breeders for purchase.

Tolerance to Cold Climates

The Rhode Island Red is an excellent breed of chicken for colder climates. They will continue their regular pattern of laying eggs until the outside temperature drops below zero. As long as they are able to roost with their feet completely covered by their breast feathers, frostbite of the feet will not become an issue. The comb is the only area that is prone to frostbite in extreme cold so it will need to be checked on each chicken regularly. Keeping the moisture level to a minimum inside the chicken coop is especially important in the wintertime to help prevent frostbite on the feet and combs.

The Rhode Island Red Chicken Handbook

Egg Production

Rhode Island Red hens begin to lay eggs at approximately six months of age. This chicken breed is a brown egg laying breed meaning every egg will have a brown colored shell. The hen’s peak laying time is the first year after she lays her first egg although contrary to popular belief, a hen of any breed can continue to lay eggs for many years, not just in the first three years of their lives. If the chickens are properly cared for, owners of this breed can expect to see five to seven eggs per week from each hen during their peak laying years if the hen is the commercial RIR. After that first and second year, egg production will usually start to decline but the hen will more than likely produce erratically for many years after the peak laying time.

Proper nutrition and husbandry practices will ensure that the Rhode Island Red hen lays eggs to her full potential. Egg laying problems can usually be tracked back to poor quality feed and nutritional deficiencies. Overcrowding will also cause laying problems in addition to health problems in all chicken breeds so it is important to provide enough space for each chicken. The space requirements per chicken are different depending on who you talk to.

1915 Lithograph of the Rhode Island Red Hen and Rooster

1915 Lithograph of the Rhode Island Red Hen and Rooster

Personality and Behavior

The Rhode Island Red has a great personality and will greet their caretaker warmly. They are good with children, especially if the child is familiar to them. Strangers will receive the cold shoulder from the hen and may be challenged by the rooster if he sees them as a threat to the flock. They do well with other chicken breeds unless the area is too small for the number of chickens present.

This chicken breed is good for beginners and backyard flocks. They are easy to care for, disease resistant and pasture very well. Rhode Island Red chickens are a good choice for meat in addition to eggs because of their size and growth rate. It is an all around useful, productive breed that with proper care will serve their owner well.


GlstngRosePetals from Wouldn't You Like To Know on October 27, 2012:

I had some Road island reds and production reds that laid an wasome ammnt. of eggs daily and they were the size of duck eggs.

I always got my chicks from ideal poultry. I just went on line and orderd my pullets and the chicken farm was on. Great hub! Voted up!!

Scroll to Continue

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on July 23, 2012:

Thank you very much!

@Mhatter99- VERY funny! :) I wish I knew!

@Bob Bamberg- The eggs are always SO much better when they are fresh. I have 7 laying hens and 1 rooster in my flock. I wish more people were able to keep chickens if they wanted to. They are doing that around here too. I think right now it is home owners associations that are the biggest hurdle.

@mecheshier- Thank you! I'll be posting about more chicken breeds as I have a chance to write them.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on July 22, 2012:

Great report! The only piece of critical information you omitted: What exactly was it that the Rhode Island Read? :))

Bob Bamberg on July 22, 2012:

Good job, Helena, very thorough! A lot of interesting information that I wasn't aware of. I had a feed and grain store until we closed it last October and always enjoyed spring's "chick days."

We'd start taking orders in February just to satisfy winter-weary New Englanders suffering from cabin fever, but we wouldn't get the chicks in until late April at the earliest. They'd be a day old upon arrival, and it was always a time of excitement. Customers loved bringing their kids in to see them, and day care centers would schedule visits.

Rhode Island Reds were by far the most popular, but the Barred Rocks and Black Sexlinks had good followings, too.

One of our customers would sell us her extra eggs (she always had one or two dozen a day) and we'd sell them to other customers. Sometimes they'd be gone before the woman got them to the store, because people would call to ask if we had any and would be told "they're on their way here now."

In our neck of the woods, cities and suburban towns are re-writing their ordinances to allow residents to have a backyard flock, usually restricted to 6 -12 hens. It has become a popular "hobby farm" lifestyle change for many "city folk."

mecheshier on July 22, 2012:

A great Hub. I love roosters. Your article is very informative. Love the history and pics. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for useful and interesting. Thanks.

Related Articles