Rhode Island Red
Other names: Not to be confused with Rhode Island White
Type: Large, Bantam
The Rhode Island Red is one of the most famous utility fowls in the world, named after the American state where it was first bred in the 1880’s. The Rhode Island Red was originally bred in Adamsville, a village which is part of Little Compton, Rhode Island. One of the foundation sires of the breed was a black-breasted red Malay cock which was imported from England. This cock is on display at the Smithsonian Institution as the father of the Rhode Island Red breed. A cross of mainly Asian breeds, it became a huge success around the world within a few years of its development. Early flocks often had both single and rose combed individuals because of the influence of Malay blood. It was from the Malay that the Rhode Island Red got its deep color, strong constitution and relatively hard feathers. In Australia they gained their greatest popularity from the 1930’s through to the 1950’s.
In the past 20 - 30 years its place as the main commercial layer has been taken by the very efficient hybrids and there are very few breeders of productive Rhode Island Red left. As selection for show standards drifted in the direction of colour and feather form, selection for productivity was neglected and hence, depending on the line a bird has been derived from, egg production may not necessarily be as high as the claims might be. Early strains laid as many as 300 eggs per year. Today, the average hovers around 150 to 200 eggs per year.
Rhode Island Reds are however still a good choice for the small flock owner. They tend to be hardy, resistant to illness, good at foraging and free ranging, handle marginal diets and still one of the better egg layers of the dual purpose breeds (ie table bird and egg production). Although typically docile, quiet and friendly, Rhode Island Red roosters and sometimes hens, can be aggressive towards humans and other animals if they feel threatened. They can be aggressive towards other chicken breeds, particularly when in close confinement.
They are a large heavy chicken breed with rectangular, relatively long bodies and are typically dark red. Males take on a lustre that gives them a glossed appearance. The black tail feathering of the male has a vibrant green sheen. Some males may be quite aggressive.
Most Reds show broodiness, but this characteristic has been partially eliminated in some of the best egg production strains. The Rose Comb variety tends to be smaller but should be the same size as the Single Combed variety. The red color fades after long exposure to the sun.