Rhode Island Red

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Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red cock, cropped.jpg
Rhode Island Red rooster
Conservation status Livestock Conservancy: watch[1]
Other names Rhode Islands
Country of origin United States
Use Dual purpose layer breed
  • Male: 8.7 pounds (3.9 kg)
  • Female: 6.5 pounds (2.9 kg)
Skin color Yellow
Egg color Brown
Comb type Single
APA American
PCGB soft feather: heavy[2]

The Rhode Island Red is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was developed in the late nineteenth century in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by cross-breeding birds of Oriental origin such as the Malay with brown Leghorn birds from Italy. It was formerly a dual-purpose breed, raised both for meat and for eggs; modern strains have been bred for their egg-laying abilities. The traditional non-industrial strains of the Rhode Island Red are listed as "watch" by The Livestock Conservancy.[1]

The Rhode Island Red is the state bird of Rhode Island.[3][4] It is one of only three state birds that is not a species native to the United States.



The Rhode Island Red were originally bred in Adamsville, a village located in the town of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Adamsville is adjacent to Westport, Massachusetts, where some of the original breeders lived. One of the foundation sires of the breed was a black-breasted red Malay cock which was imported from England. This cock is on display at the Smithsonian Institution as the father of the Rhode Island Red breed.[citation needed]

Developed in southeastern Rhode Island and the South Coast of Massachusetts, early flocks often had both single and rose combed individuals. It was from the Malay that the Rhode Island Red got its deep color, strong constitution, and relatively hard feathers.[5]

The name "Rhode Island Red" is ascribed to Isaac Champlin Wilbour (1831–1899) of Little Compton, Rhode Island at an unknown date, or to a Mr. Jenny of the Southern Massachusetts Poultry Association in 1879 or 1880. The poultry expert Nathaniel Borden Aldrich (1866–1908) of Fall River, Massachusetts suggested the name "Golden Buffs" around 1890, but by 1895 they were being exhibited under the name "Rhode Island Red." Before this they were known as "John Macomber fowls" or "Tripp fowls."[6]

In 1925, the Rhode Island Red Club of America donated funds for an elegant monument to the Rhode Island Red in Adamsville. (The monument is now on the National Register of Historic Places.) A competing monument to the Rhode Island Red, claiming its creation not for the poultry fanciers, but for the farmers who grew them commercially in great numbers in Little Compton, was erected by the state in 1988 a mile or so (about two kilometers) south of Adamsville.[clarification needed][7]


The bird's feathers are rust-colored, however darker shades are known, including maroon bordering on black. Rhode Island Reds have red-orange eyes, reddish-brown beaks, and yellow feet and legs, often with a bit of reddish hue on the toes and sides of the shanks. Chicks are a light red to tan color. The roosters usually weigh in at about 8.7 pounds (3.9 kg), the hens average slightly less at 6.5 pounds (2.9 kg).[5]


The Rhode Island Red was developed as dual-purpose breed, to provide both meat and eggs. Since about 1940, it has been selectively bred predominantly for egg-laying qualities, and the modern industrial Rhode Island Red is a layer breed. Rhode Island Reds have been used in the creation of many modern hybrid breeds, mainly due to the prolific egg laying abilities of the Rhode Island Red.[citation needed]

The traditional dual-purpose "old-type" Rhode Island Red lays 200–300 brown eggs per year, and yields rich-flavored meat suitable for making chicken stew.[1][8] It is included in the Ark of Taste of the Slow Food Foundation.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Conservation Priority List. The Livestock Conservancy. Accessed February 2017.
  2. ^ Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Accessed August 2014.
  3. ^ "Rhode Island State Bird - Rhode Island Red". 50states.com. 1954-05-03. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  4. ^ "Rhode Island Red's Success". The Sydney Morning Herald. April 1, 1938. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Poultry Breeds - Rhode Island Red Chickens". Ansi.okstate.edu. 1997-06-26. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  6. ^ Hale, Dwight Edward. 1911. Standard-Bred Rhode Island Reds, Rose and Single Comb: Their Practical Qualities; the Standard Requirements; How to Judge Them; How to Mate and Breed for Best Results. Quincy, IL: Reliable Poultry Journal Publishing Company, p. 11.
  7. ^ "Statues Honor Doughnuts, Chickens". Toledo Blade. Feb 25, 1666. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Old-Type" Rhode Island Red chicken. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. Accessed February 2017.

Further reading[edit]

Media related to Rhode Island Red at Wikimedia Commons