The Plymouth Rock was developed in America in the middle of the 19th century and was first exhibited in Boston, Massachusetts as a breed in 1849. These first specimens seemed to “lose their identity” and the breed disappeared for two decades until it reappeared at another poultry show in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1869. These later birds are considered the progenitors of the Plymouth Rocks we know today. Several individuals claimed invention, using crosses of Spanish, White Cochin, Dominique, Buff Cochin, Black Java, and Brahma. The original Plymouth Rock chicken was of the Barred variety and other color varieties were developed later including: White, Buff, Silver Penciled, Partridge, Columbian, and Blue. The breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Excellence in 1874.
The Plymouth Rock became popular very rapidly, and in fact, until World War II, no breed was ever kept and bred as extensively as these birds. Its popularity came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, excellent production of brown eggs, and meat that was considered tasty and juicy. The Plymouth Rock was one of the foundation breeds for the broiler industry in the 1920’s.
Plymouth Rock hens grow to 7 ½ pounds and cocks to 9 ½ pounds and their rate of lay is very good at around 200. Temperament is calm and the birds are cold-hardy with early feathering. This chicken has a bright red single comb, face, wattles, and earlobes. The comb of this breed has five evenly serrated points with those in the front and rear shorter than those in the middle. The plumage should have feathers that are crossed by sharply defined, regular, parallel bars of alternate light (short of positive white) and dark (short of positive black) color. The barred color pattern is due to a dominant sex-linked gene. This gene does not add dark bars to light feathers but prevents pigment on colored plumage, thus creating light bars on dark feathers. The male carries 2 copies of the gene and the female only carries one copy, which is why the males are usually lighter in color than the females.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.