The Rhode Island Red is not only America's best known breed, but is perhaps the world's best known fowl. It is the most successful dual purpose bird, and remains an excellent farm chicken. Originally developed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the 1880's and 1890's, its ancestors include Malay (hence the deep color), Shanghai, Java, and Brown Leghorn chickens. Its distinctive color and good production qualities helped it to spread rapidly. The single combed variety was admitted to the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1904 and the rose combed birds were accepted a year later in 1905.
The originators of the Rhode Island Red wanted to create a bird that could lay a good number of eggs yet dress out nicely as a table bird. These birds are very good layers of brown eggs, perhaps the best layers of all of the dual-purpose breeds. They can lay 200 – 300 eggs a year starting as early as six months of age. Since the 1940's, the Rhode Island Red has been selectively bred for more efficient egg production, becoming smaller, lighter colored, and less broody as a result. Of greatest conservation interest are the "old-type" Rhode Island Reds which are larger, darker, and more broody. These birds are becoming rare as the breed is “improved” to meet industry needs.
The hens of this breed weigh over 6 pounds and the roosters over 8 pounds. The Rhode Island Red is known for its hardiness and its ability to handle marginal conditions while still producing eggs. Some roosters may be aggressive at times. Most hens are peaceful and can become broody except within the strains that have been heavily selected for egg production.
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