Rhode Island is a breed of chickens that is the pride of American breeders. This meat-egg breed of chickens was originally bred as productive, but later the main direction was taken to the exhibition selection of plumage.
In recent years, the belief has even spread that this is not a productive, but an ornamental breed, since the egg production of Rhode Island chickens has fallen dramatically. But you can still find “working” lines of these chickens.
History of Rhode Island Red
Breeding began in 1830 in the village of Adamsville, located near the town of Little Compton. Adamsville is located right on the border with another state of Massachusetts, where some of the breeders lived.
For breeding, red Malayan roosters, fawn cochin, brown leghorns, Cornish, and Wyandots were used. The main sire of the breed was a black and red Malayan cock imported from Great Britain.
From the Malayan rooster, the future Rhode Islands received their rich feather color, strong constitution, and dense plumage. The invention of the name “Red Rhode Island” is credited to Isaac Wilbur of Little Compton.
This name was proposed either in 1879 or 1880. In 1890, poultry expert Nathaniel Aldrich of Fall River, Massachusetts proposed the name of the new breed, the Gold Buff. But in 1895, at an exhibition, chickens were presented under the name “Rhode Island Red.” Prior to that, their name was “John Macomber’s chickens” or “Tripp’s chickens”.
Rhode Island Red Breed Description
Thanks to red Malay ancestors, many chickens of this breed have dark red-brown plumage. But although the description of the Rhode Island chicken breed indicates precisely such a desired feather color, lighter individuals are often found in the population, which are easily confused with industrial egg crosses.
The head is small, with a single crest. Normally, the comb should be red, but sometimes pinkish ones come across. The eyes are red-brown. The beak is yellow-brown, of medium length. Lobes, face, and earrings are red.
The neck of medium length. The body is rectangular with straight broad back and loins. The tail of the roosters is short, lush. Directed at an angle to the horizon.
Pigtails are very short, barely covering the tail feathers. In chickens, the tail is set almost horizontally. The chest is convex. The belly of chickens is well developed. The wings are small, tightly pressed to the body. The legs are long. Metatarsus and toes are yellow. The skin is yellow. The plumage is very dense.
The breed standard suggests that the weight of an adult rooster is almost 10 pounds, and laying hens are almost 7.5, but the reviews of the owners of Rhode Island chickens show that in fact, an adult chicken weighs a little more than 5 pounds, and a rooster is about 6.5 pounds.
Egg laying 160-170 eggs per year. Egg weight ranges from 50 to 65 g. The shell is brown. Chickens have tender tasty meat. When bred at home, the breed can provide the owner with both.
On a note! There is the so-called old type of Rhode Island, which produces up to 200-300 eggs per year.
White Rhode Island Variant
In the photo, the Rhode Island chicken breed is white. This breed comes from the same area as Red, but its breeding was started in 1888.
In fact, these are different breeds, but sometimes they are crossed to produce highly productive hybrids.
The white variant was bred by crossing Cochinchins, white Wyandots, and a White Leghorn. It was registered with the American Poultry Association as a breed in 1922. The white version enjoyed moderate popularity until the 1960s, but then began to disappear. In 2003, only 3,000 birds of this population were recorded.
According to the photo and description, Rhode Island White chickens differ from red only in the color of the pen. It is also a meat and egg breed with a similar weight and productivity. The white version has a slightly larger comb, which has a more saturated red color.
Like Red, White Rhode Island exists in a bantam variant.
Rhode Island Dwarf Forms
The Rhode Island Red mini chicken breed was bred in Germany and has almost the same characteristics as the large variety. But the weight of birds is much lighter.
A laying hen weighs no more than 2.5 pounds, and a cockerel no more than 3 pounds. And according to one of the owners of the dwarf version of the breed, chickens weigh barely 2 pounds.
The descriptions indicate that the productivity of mini-forms is lower than that of large ones: 120 eggs per year weighing 40 g. But the feedback from the owners of Rhode Island mini-hens suggests that the productivity of a small form is even slightly higher than that of a large one, especially considering the consumed stern. Dwarfs carry eggs from 40 to 45 g in weight.
Other differences between the dwarf and the large form are lighter plumage and lighter eggshell coloration.
Conditions of Detention
The breed is considered not adapted to cage keeping, but in fact, these chickens are often kept in a cage. All varieties of Rhode Island are quite resistant to cold: they can walk at temperatures down to -14 ° F and are able to independently get their own food. When walking in a limited area, chickens will quickly destroy all available greens.
To provide chickens on the run with a complete diet, greens will have to be given additionally. When you try to release chickens for free-range, they will destroy the plants in the garden. A good option for walking with simultaneous protection against weeds: is a mesh tunnel around the beds.
For wintering and egg-laying, the chicken coop is equipped with perches, nesting places, and additional lighting. A litter is laid on the floor, which is only sprinkled in winter, and completely cleaned in summer. Additional lighting is necessary only in winter so that the chickens do not reduce egg production.
Breeding Rohde Island Red
For one rooster, a group of 10-12 hens is selected. In chickens of this breed, the incubation instinct is relatively poorly developed. Only half of the laying hens are willing to become hens. Therefore, breeding this breed will require an incubator.
Eggs without external defects and cracks are selected into the incubator.
On a note! Sometimes a defect in the shell is visible only when translucent on an ovoscope.
The temperature in the incubator is set to 98.6°F. This temperature is optimal for chicken eggs. Embryos do not overheat and do not hatch prematurely underdeveloped. The hatchability of chickens of this breed is 75%.
Pedigree chickens have a reddish feather color. The breed is autosex. At the age of one day, you can determine the sex of the chicken by the characteristic spot on the head, which is only found in chickens.
Cockerels are planted and fattened for meat with more high-calorie feeds. Laying hens are raised so that they do not get fat. At the beginning of autumn, the flock is sorted and the next year only highly productive birds are left.
Chickens begin to be fed either with starter feed or in an old-fashioned way, millet porridge with an egg. The second can lead to intestinal diseases.
Advantages and disadvantages
This breed has many positive qualities. Initially, they note the unpretentiousness of animals to the conditions of detention, and the ability to grow them in various climatic conditions.
The universal nature of the breed is also considered a plus – a farmer can use it to obtain both meat and eggs. Carcass meat has high taste qualities. Early puberty occurs, and the correct maintenance allows you to achieve a 100% survival rate for chickens.
Among the shortcomings, this breed has an average egg production . Because of this, it is not practical to grow the breed for commercial purposes. It is bought by breeders who breed on small farms to develop new crosses.
The elegant coloring of the plumage and the calm disposition of these chickens attract owners of private farmsteads.
Given that the birds are quite economical and require less feed than other versatile chicken breeds, it is beneficial to breed them for eggs and meat. On an industrial scale, this breed is not profitable, so it is quite difficult to find purebred livestock.
But these hens are often used to produce industrial hybrids and can be inquired at breeding nurseries.