Plymouth Rock Chicken – Breed Profile & Facts
So you want to raise your own chicken, but you are yet to decide on the best breed to add to your flock. Consider the Plymouth Rock chicken for its hardiness and good meat and egg production. The name of the chicken itself evokes images of the country’s very first inhabitants.
Today, Plymouth Rock chickens are among the most popular types of backyard birds in the country. These dual-purpose heritage breeds are good with kids. They can also tolerate both heat and cold.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the background of this breed and how it evolved to be an American staple. Read on to learn more about characteristics that make Plymouth Rock chickens excellent backyard birds.
History of Plymouth Rock Chickens
The first showcase of the Plymouth Rock was done in 1849 in Boston. Twenty years later, the modern Plymouth Rock was derived from cross-breeding a cock with a single comb and barred plumage and Black Java hens. The Livestock Conservancy reports that this chicken breed was born when Java birds were crossbred with single-combed Dominiques.
In the first edition of the critically-acclaimed American Standard of Perfection of 1874, chicken lovers first got a chance to learn about the Plymouth Rock. At this time, the original color pattern for the chicken was barred plumage. Other color patterns were added later.
The Plymouth Rock got widespread acclaim in the US due to its easy management, early feathering, resistance to cold, good egg production, and tasty meat. Breeders used this bird to develop broiler hybrids at the onset of industrial chicken farming in the 1920s.
Plymouth Rock Chickens Characteristics
Based on their physical characteristics, Plymouth Rock chickens are great general farm chickens. They show some broodiness while being docile. They also feature a slightly deep, full breast and a long, broad back, among other characteristics as discussed below:
– Size & Weight
A standard Plymouth Rock hen weighs between 7 and 8 pounds, which is quite heavier than other backyard birds. On the other hand, a rooster weighs about 10 pounds. In the bantam variety, males weigh about 3 pounds while hens weigh about 2.5 pounds.
Since they are docile and calm, Plymouth Rocks make great backyard chickens. They are very friendly with children and humans. However, the bird has to warm up to you first before you allow your kids close to the bird.
It’s common for Plymouth Rocks to be a bit temperamental when adjusting to their new coop or surroundings. They will be accommodative to pets and members of your household once they adjust to the flock. Expect them to follow you around if they see that you have treats to feed them.
Plymouth Rocks have always been well-maintained ever since they were first bred. They also come from a genetic pool of long-living birds. Your Plymouth Rock can live about six years or more when provided with the best living conditions.
– Egg Production
The hen will lay up to five large, light brown eggs (about 24 ounces per dozen) every week. It will maintain this egg production age for three years, after which there will be a decline.
Plymouth Rocks go broody and take excellent care of their eggs and chicks. With strong maternal instincts, they are usually dedicated to looking after their chicks. You can also stimulate their broodiness with artificial eggs in a nesting box.
– Meat Production
As dual-purpose birds, Plymouth Rocks can lay eggs and produce meat. Since they were bred, their high-quality meat and large body size were ranked highly as their egg-laying abilities. Their chicks feather faster and take less time to grow, making them ideal for meat production.
If you are drawn to the meat production qualities of this breed, get one from a source that selects both egg and meat qualities. For meat production, the bird must have heavier weights, larger frames, fast growth, and low egg production abilities.
Plymouth Rock Chickens Care
Though they are low-maintenance, Plymouth Rocks need a small amount of care every day. The bird risks having growth issues, laying a low amount of eggs, and appearing frail if you fail to care for it. Here are care aspects you should consider when handling Plymouth Rocks:
– Feeding & Nutrition
Plymouth Rocks respond well to feeding and can grow fast when properly fed. Give your chicken a good-quality chicken feed and supplement the feed with occasional table scraps. Avoid giving the bird any potato skins, avocado, rotten foods, or processed foods.
If you are rearing the bird for egg production, you should supplement their diet with calcium. Calcium helps chickens grow strong and healthy bones and be less prone to fractures and breaks. It also helps hens lay large eggs with strong, healthy shells.
Feed newborn chicks a high protein diet with plenty of nutrients to keep them healthy and enable them to grow big and strong. Use 20 percent of protein in the starter feed for the first 6 weeks and then reduce it to 18 percent when the chicks are 16 to 18 weeks.
Supplement the diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and bugs or worms sourced from the yard. Expect a large adult Plymouth Rock chicken to consume at least a quarter of a pound of feed every day.
Your Plymouth Rock should have 24/7 access to clean water. Use hanging water feeders to ensure that the water is free of debris and clean.
Plymouth Rocks, like all breeds of chicken, need a safe and securely-designed coop to shelter them. The hens require ample and private nesting box room to lay their eggs comfortably. You may also have to set up decent-sized perches to allow them to roost in comfort and sleep well.
The coop should be properly ventilated to keep the birds warm during winter and cool during the summer. You can add a cold draft wafting through the coop to regulate airflow.
Due to their large stature, the birds will require at least 4 square feet of space per bird. You should also spare a roosting space of 8 to 10 inches for them to snuggle up together and keep warm.
A 12 by 12-inch nesting box will fit your Plymouth Rock chickens nicely. The key here is to have one nesting box for three to four hens. However, you’ll notice that there will be a favorite nesting box that the birds will always want to use.
Since Plymouth Rocks enjoy stretching their wings and running around, your backyard should have a run enclosure. If you are cautious about letting them roam outside as free-range birds, be sure to enclose the space for running and playing.
– Health Problems
A Plymouth Rock will rarely fall ill since the bird isn’t prone to any extraordinary health conditions. It can be convenient for you if it’s your first time raising the bird and you are unaware of its susceptibility to health conditions.
Like other chicken breeds, watch out for health issues such as lice, mites, and worms, among other parasites. You should also feed the flock crushed garlic and apple cider vinegar to boost their immune systems.
Monitor the chickens’ behavior if the weather outside is cold or hot. It’s common for them to be prone to overheating when the temperatures are alarmingly high or frostbite if it’s freezing outside.
Be cautious about introducing new birds to your coop since they may transfer infections such as coccidiosis to the other flock. Though it’s relatively easy to treat coccidiosis, it may take a toll on your egg-laying hens and slower the growth of the chicks.
How Much do Plymouth Rock Chickens Cost?
It will cost you less than $5 to buy a Plymouth Rock chick. Prepare to encounter some breeders with a higher price tag for the heritage chicken. The high price shouldn’t scare you since the birds have been bred with the best survival and reproduction qualities.
You can find the chicks at most farm stores or major hatcheries. Always settle for an established hatchery that’s within your locality. You wouldn’t want the chicks to spend a lot of time in transportation.
Qualified Plymouth Rock breeders usually consider factors such as color patterns when setting the price. Talk to them prior if you are looking for a variation of your choice.
Have a clear plan of the number of birds you plan to raise, and have a coop on standby. You should also create a long-term nutrition plan and budget for the feeds. The coop should have favorable conditions before the chickens are transported to your place.
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Good for Beginners?
Plymouth Rocks are known for their regular laying and gentle personality. They are hardy and adaptable to different surroundings. Provided you meet their need for shelter, water, and food, they can live happily and be kind to you.
You can raise this bird in a household with kids or the elderly without worrying about conflict. Plymouth Rocks are friendly and docile with humans and other hens. They are also a great companion if you enjoy petting chickens.
As a beginner, handling the bird will require less investment in terms of energy and time. The bird will always receive you with rapt attention every time you encounter it.
If it’s your first-time rearing Plymouth Rocks, it’s easier to start raising chicks or mature birds instead of hens. Your chickens will also easily adjust to the feeding routine you use.
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Hardy?
Physically, Plymouth Rocks appear large and are hardy, making them suitable for small homesteads and farms. They have plenty of flesh on their bones and can acclimate to cold temperatures. Their beautifully-patterned feathers and heavyweight posture keep them toasty and nice.
Despite being hardy, Plymouth Rocks require care to improve their health. The chicken coop should give them shelter from sunlight and rain. It should also give them enough space to jump around without posing any threat to each other.
Plymouth Rock chickens can tolerate freezing temperatures. However, the roosters are more susceptible to frostbite despite having large combs. You need to give them extra protection from the winter cold.
The birds don’t react to extreme heat like most chickens. However, they can survive in hot summers provided there’s an unlimited supply of cold fresh water, cold dust bathing areas, and plenty of shade close to the coop.
Tips on Keeping Plymouth Rock Chickens
- Keep the Plymouth Rock chicks in a nesting box measuring 12 inches in width and 12 inches in depth to give them ample space to move or sit.
- Give the Barred, blue, black, or white varieties a least 4 square feet of space in the coop per bird to improve their survival.
- Spare a roosting space of at least 10 inches since Plymouth Rocks are large and sturdy.
- Position the roosts at a shorter height from the ground to prevent injuries when the birds jump off.
- Build a 6-foot high fence for the chicken run if you consider creating one.
- Be on the lookout for younger and slimmer Plymouth Rocks trying to jump over a 5 to a 6-foot fence.
- Safely clip the wings of mature chickens that repeatedly try to escape the fence or run to keep them inside the coop until you decide to release them.
- Give your hens additional calcium in the form of crushed eggs or shell grit to improve their bone structure and the quality of eggs produced.
- Periodically mix their food with a small amount of apple cider vinegar to reduce their susceptibility to common ailments.
- Keep the coop well-ventilated and cool during the summer.
- Add a heat lamp when the winter temperatures go beyond the freezing point.
All in all, expect great things when raising Plymouth Rock chickens since they are dual-purpose, sturdy, and docile. Their easy-going and friendly personalities make them an excellent choice for beginners and households regardless of the experience. The chicks grow feathers faster and can grow to become larger birds, making them great prospects for meat production.
Have fun rearing Plymouth Rocks, and don’t forget to share your experience with others. You should also build upon the knowledge you have about the bird for better rearing experiences.