Rhode Island Red: The Full Guide in 2022

Looking for a chicken with loads of character and personality as well as being a prolific layer? Then a Rhode Island Red may just be the perfect chicken for you!

A Rhode Island Red with its signature deep chestnut red feathers.

Rhode Island Reds are one of the best breeds out there due to their personality, resilience and egg laying capabilities.

Our comprehensive and detailed overview of this breed will inform you of the characteristics of this exuberant chicken and enable you to decide whether they are the perfect addition to your flock.

What this article covers

This is a long article, so below are some quick links. Click any of them to go straight to that section – or just carry on reading for the full guide!

Overview of Rhode Island Red chicken characteristics

Lifespan8+ years
WeightHen (6.5lb) and Rooster (8.5lb)
ColorDark chestnut red
Egg Production5-6 per week.
Egg ColorLight brown
BroodyNo
NoisyYes
Suitable for hot environmentsYes
Suitable for cold environmentsYes
Suitable for wet environmentsYes
Child friendlyYes (hens, not roosters)
Cost of Chicks$4 (hen) $3 (rooster)

A little bit of history on the Rhode Island Red

The history of the Rhode Island Red started back in 1854 when Captain Tripp brought back a Malay rooster from his voyages.

Rhode Island Red chickens were originally bred in the late 1800’s in Little Compton, Rhode Island, USA. They were created by crossing various breeds including Asian Malays and Italian Brown Leghorns.

The Malay rooster that started the Rhode Island breed is actually preserved in the Smithsonian Museum.

The name of the bird was given by a Mr. Wilbour and the breed was admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1904.

The Rhode Island red chicken was designated the official state bird of Rhode Island in 1954 and is now an iconic symbol.

Rhode Island Reds were bred as a dual purpose bird. They were bred for commercial purposes both for egg production and for meat production.

The modern day Rhode Island Red has been bred with a main focus on egg laying.

These days breeders are divided into two groups. One is developing the breed for the commercial egg laying industry the other are breeders wanting to maintain the heritage strain.

The breeding of commercial varieties has made heritage breed Rhode Island Reds a rare breed.

There is also a Rhode Island White chicken but it is a different breed altogether.

Appearance of a Rhode Island Red

The body of this breed is rectangular in shape with a full broad chest.

One of the things that makes this breed stand out from the rest is their deep red color. They have a large plume, and a large tail as well, which most of the time is black.

Their feathers are packed tightly together, which is a trait of the Malay breed used to create the Rhode Island Red.

Rhode Island Reds can have either a single or rose comb. The single comb is upright with well-defined points, and the rose comb has a rear facing leader spike.

While there is a variation here, whatever the comb looks like, it will always be a bright, distinctive red. The same applies to their earlobes and wattles. 

Their skin and feet are the color yellow and they have yellow-brown looking beaks. 

Rhode Island Reds are also available in bantam size too.

When you think of what a traditional chicken looks like, no doubt you are thinking of a Rhode Island Red!

A Rhode Island Red with a single comb.

The Personality of a Rhode Island Red Chicken

These chickens are curious and have maximum personality!

They love to forage and investigate things that trigger their curiosity.

They are not generally flighty or nervous birds and are mostly very chilled out.

They don’t mind being handled by humans but are also very independent birds so will want to go off and do their own thing. 

They are friendly hens and fairly docile with other birds of similar characteristics. Mixing Rhode Island Reds with smaller, shyer breeds is not recommended due to their tendency to establish pecking order and resulting in bullying. 

The roosters have a bit of a reputation for being aggressive. Small children should be kept away from the feisty roosters.

Rhode Island Reds can be a bit noisy and rowdy sometimes. They are not noisy all the time but they are a talkative bird and enjoy human interaction.

Hens are not known for broodiness but it can happen now and then.

Once a hen has gone broody they are usually good sitters and good mothers.

Rhode Island Reds are Incredible Egg Layers

Depending on whether you get the production or heritage strain expect 3 to 6 eggs per week from a hen. 

Reds from the production strain will generally give you 5-6 eggs per week, equating to approximately 250-300 eggs per year.

Heritage strains will lay less eggs – but still a very decent amount. Expect about 3-4 eggs per week equating to approximately 150-250 eggs per year.

Rhode Island Red eggs are medium to large and light brown in color.

Health Issues in Rhode Island Red Chickens

Rhode Island Red chickens are a hardy and resilient breed who do not have any particular health or genetic issues.

Just like all poultry they can contract lice and mites and will still need care taken to manage this. Provide an opportunity for dust bathing to deter infestations. Intestinal parasites can routinely be kept under control with regular checks and medication as required.

Feeding a Rhode Island Red

A typical complete commercial layer feed will do fine.

Feel free to also give them your safe table scraps. They will love pecking and scratching at those with great curiosity and intrigue. 

Rhode Island Reds love foraging so if you allow them to do this they will get a bulk of their diet from insects, grass, grit and other goodies found in the environment. 

Coop Setup and Roaming

Rhode Island Reds are very resilient and hardy and will tolerate a wide variety of weather conditions – from freezing cold to 100F heat.

Just make sure they have the necessary dry, draft-proof shelter and other considerations such as shade, food and water to keep them comfortable.

Inside the coop they will need a minimum of 4 square feet per bird.

Rhode Island Reds like to establish pecking order and in a confined area without enough space the bullying and meanness can get intense so the more space you can spare per chicken  – the better! 

An average of 8 inches of perch space is enough. In the summer months they will like to spread out a bit more but in winter they will cuddle up together to keep warm.

Nesting boxes should be a 12×12 inch cube or similar. If you give them too much space you will find them nesting together which can lead to broken eggs.

As for roaming space, the Rhode Island Red is a standard sized bird so a minimum of 15 square feet per hen is needed. 

Rhode Island Reds are hardy birds that are curious and full of personality.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Rhode Island Red

Pros 👍Cons 👎
✔ Friendly❌ Can bully smaller breeds of poultry
✔ Full of personality❌ The production strain can suffer from prolapsed vents
✔ Long lifespan❌ Can be a loud breed
✔ Resilient and hardy❌ Can be escape artists
✔ Self sufficient❌ Good meat birds
✔ Great egg layer❌ Roosters can be aggressive
✔ Like to forage and scratch around
✔ Can be eaten as a meat bird

 Shopping list of items needed to look after a Rhode Island Red chicken

We have put together a shopping list below to help ensure your chickens are kept in an optimal health condition. Check out our list here:

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AUTHOR

The team at My Chicken Guide are chicken enthusiasts! We grew up tending to our family chickens and still maintain our passion for chicken care to this day! Our head writer is a qualified Environmental Scientist and our team has over 20 years experience in raising and caring for chickens.