The Rhode Island Red is an American breed
of chicken developed in the early 1900’s and its ancestry goes back to birds bred in Rhode Island, hence the name. Depending on the variety, the Rhode Island Red can have a single or rose comb.
Our Rhodes are single combed.
The Rhode gained in popularity as it was improved by local farmers in the first two decades of the 20th century. Following the advent of more complicated selection methods in the 20’s and 30’s, the breed established its excellent reputation as a superb layer.
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 in this country.
The show standards drifted towards a much deeper feather colour – almost black in many instances and selecting for feather and form has resulted in a drastic decline in the numbers of eggs many Rhode Island Red strains produce.
It is not unknown for some strains now to be barely capable of 100 eggs a year which is paltry compared to the good old days when birds routinely laid 250 plus and good ones could get up to 300 a year. There are very very few strains of the latter sort of Rhode Island left – most are somewhere in the middle – laying around 150 – 200 eggs a year which is disappointing.
It is therefore important that you check that your intended breeder selects for egg numbers and colour when choosing a source for your birds especially if you want them to produce eggs for your breakfast most of the year.
Unfortunately maintaining great productivity in any strain of poultry is very hard work – it takes time to record egg numbers and it costs money to only select the right eggs for the breed for incubating. As a result good productive Rhode Island Reds are rare nowadays.
Unless a breeder is constantly aware of how many eggs his birds are producing he cannot know whether or not each generation is as good or better than the last. Or he needs to bring in a new strain to beef up the numbers.
Selection of the eggs that are incubated to ensure that only ones of the right colour and size are used means fewer birds hatched but it is an important way to prevent the commonly seen pale small eggs that so many Rhode Islands produce now.
As so few breeders and owners of birds record egg numbers in the UK it is very difficult to judge the quality of many strains.
Our utility strain breeding stock have plumage is a deep burgundy/ chestnut, deeper than the commercially bred red hybrids, but not like the nearly black of the exhibition birds. The males take on a lustre that gives them a glossed appearance. The black tail feathering of the male has a vibrant green sheen.
They are a dual purpose, large heavy chicken breed and our hens are excellent layers of mid brown eggs. Our birds do very well on the normal layers diet and are strong foragers if given the chance.
The parent stock of our chicks have produced over 250 eggs in their first year. They are hardy birds, and can lay through the winter in the right conditions. As far north as we are this varies rather – some winters can be so dark and miserable we all feel like hibernating.
We continue to strive hard to ensure our strain will produce good numbers of eggs.
Characteristics of our strain of Rhodes include early maturity, good egg size, non-broodiness, and good tough feather and plenty of activity.
These days there is a great mixture of Rhode Islands available – those that have been bred by exhibition breeders are generally much darker and often have lost some of their productivity; many other breeders have not been selecting for productivity so the results can be very varied from really very poor to good. IT is important to ask your breeder what sort of selection they do – and the numbers of eggs their birds lay. Just because the books say that the Rhode Island is a good layer does not mean that all strains are these days. It is equally important to make sure the egg colour of the birds is good – some strains nowadays do not produce the good brown colour that a Rhode Island should.
If you are interested in the genetics and selection of Rhode Islands – take a look here –
lovely deep chestnut hen
a young gawky Rhode Island Red cockerel
Our Rhode Island Red breeding pen