Rhode Island Red Chicken – Breed Profile & Facts

Rhode Island Red Chickens are one of the most impressive breeds on the chicken scene. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not “red” chickens; rather, their feathers can be any color and pattern. The “red” nickname came about because of the occasional red feather that can show up on some chicken.

Naturally, the most dominant breed color is black, followed by white. You will also find some breeds with light or rusty feathers on their heads or necks. If you are looking for a productive dual-purpose chicken that is easy to handle, look no further. Keep us company as we take you through the bird’s general characteristics and care tips.

Rhode Island Red Chicken History

The bird dates back to 1803 in Rhode Island as a cross-breeding experiment between red Malay game fowls and Black Javas. Other theories indicate that the breed came as a combination of Plymouth Rock, Java, and Langshan birds.

It was until 1874 when the bird was recognized as a breed.  In 1890, Whites were put into the mix and created what is now known as the Rhode Island White variety. By 1900 Rhode Island Red became one of America’s most popular chicken breeds.

Later in 1926, the Rhode Island club was established with only 500 birds. Today, over 2 million Rhode Island birds are found in small poultry farms in America and some parts of Europe.

Rhode Island Red Chicken Characteristics

Rhode Island Red has a medium-sized body with an upright stance. They have red skin, and the color of their feathers depends on their breed variety. In comparison to other breeds, they are much more consistent in size. Their rose comb is well developed, broad, and bright red.

The beak of the Rhode Island Red chickens is yellowish-horn colored with a dark tip. It also has white earlobes, which are rounded and tiny. Long feathering covers the shanks (legs) and toes, while short feathers cover the upper part of their leg.

The tail is usually long, thick, and carried over the back or to the side. Sometimes, it may look like it has a slight upward curve. Compared to other birds, when a Rhode Island Red fluffs its feathers and raises its tail to fly, it forms a V shape. There is also a clubbed variety of Rhode Island Reds with an extremely short tail called ‘stubbies,’

Mainly, the bird’s skin color is yellow, and the eyes are orange. Rhode Island Red chickens have five toes on each foot, but the middle front toe is insignificant.

They have a fine layer of feathers most noticeable around the neck and abdomen area on both genders. The male’s feather coloring is more predominant with a red body and brown wings, while the female has the same color as her body orange-brown wings with white or cream-colored spots.  Below is a quick guide about other unique traits.

– Size and Weight

Healthy Rhode Island reds weigh 5-7 pounds in adult hens, and 8-10 pounds in cocks. If you plan to increase the weight of your chicken, offer them a well-balanced diet that consists of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B12, B2, and E. The amount of protein in their diet also needs to be appropriately regulated.

Also, the chicken diet should consist of 60 to 70 percent of animal food and 30 to 40% plant foods. Corn is advisable over wheat for young chicks since it contains more protein, essential in building strong muscles for active adults.  However, for older birds, the diet should contain high levels of protein since they are insectivorous.

Increase nutrients content by mashing their meal with water or adding crushed grains such as corn and oats. Rhode Island Reds also enjoy eating mealworms, mill worms, and greens. Therefore, provide your birds with these treats in return for good behavior.

– Temperament

Behaviorally, the Rhode Island Red chicken is one of the calm breeds. Impressively, they can remain composed even under stressful conditions. When allowed out of the coop, the breed usually stays close to the home and rarely roams away. They are so mellow that you can even pick them without worrying about being pecked.

They will also co-exist peacefully with other birds if they are not disturbed too much by their presence. A Rhode Island Red hen is typically a perfect sitter and mother, which means she doesn’t run away when the chicks are born but stays there to take care of them.

– Lifespan

Like other chicken breeds, Rhode Island Red Chickens can have an average lifespan of about 5 to 10 years. They are pretty hardy and can withstand harsh conditions better than other breeds of chickens.

Moreover, they rarely contact chicken ailments. However, if they have been in contact with different types of chickens, it is possible to catch some diseases like “Pasteurella” or “Fowl Pox.”

If you notice unusual signs with your birds, it is prudent to contact a reliable vet right away. If possible, separate the sickly birds from the healthy ones to prevent spreading the virus.

– Egg Production

Rhode Island red chickens are good egg layers and can produce large brown eggs. They lay a whopping 250-300 eggs per year compared to standard leghorn hens that will only lay 180-200 eggs per year. Sometimes, the eggs can weigh up to 90 grams a piece.

Rhode Island Red chickens will start laying eggs around 6-8 months of age, and they will keep that pattern for about two years, depending on the care of their owner. After two years, your hens will start slowing down on egg production, but they can live up to 8-10 years before any health problems arise.

In the beginning, the birds can give you brown eggs for about two weeks. Then, they may turn to a deep reddish-brown color or tan color.

– Meat Production

Rhode Island Reds mature quickly and are suitable for meat production. It has lean meat but is juicier than other breeds of chicken, such as the Cornish Cross. It also has less fat than the Cornish cross. This is the reason why it is a preferred choice for those who are on a low-fat diet.

The birds will start developing more fat in their muscles around five months of age. Given that they have larger legs, your bird might have more meat on its bones and likely end up weighing about 10 pounds.

Rhode Island Red Chicken Care

These birds are considered very easy to care for because they can handle cold and heat pretty well. You won’t have to worry about artificial insemination because the chickens often mate at ease.

All you need is to watch nesting signs like increased droppings, restlessness, or even male attraction towards the female birds. Do not forget to feed them on a nutritious diet and keep the coop clean to prevent diseases.

– Feeding and Nutrition

As with most other breeds, you will need to provide them with a good amount of protein and nutrients if you want to keep your birds healthy.

You can do this through their food as well as by letting them access worms outside the coop. Ensure that they have enough space to fit all of their feeders and waterers.

– Housing

If you’re planning to raise Rhode Island Red Chickens, then you’ll have to make sure that you give them a good amount of space. Remember that they are good fliers and require high walls to prevent them from escaping.

They will need at least 3 square feet coop with plenty of ventilation. Then fill the coop floor with pine shavings four inches deep for comfort. If possible, change the shavings every day or two because too much bedding may result in a wetter, colder environment for your chickens.

– Health Problems

Rhode Island Red Chickens can run into breathing issues if there’s too much dust or ammonia in the air. They will also need plenty of water and feed, so ensure you have everything prepared before letting them out.

Your birds can get a common heart-related ailment known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is usually seen in older chickens but can still be passed on to younger ones. Therefore, keep an eye on your flock for anything unusual.

– Breeding

When selecting birds for breeding, choose those with similar color patterns and feather shapes. Breeding Rhode Islanders with different feather colors may give the offspring a patchy appeal.

Avoid choosing Rhode Island Red Chickens with white feather spots, as this may indicate a genetic mutation in the breed. Encourage mating by placing two to three males with ten females to compete for a female constantly. With this method, you can expect about sixty fertile eggs per coop.

Some experts advise farmers to prevent the hen from sitting on eggs because the process may not be as productive as incubation. If you incubate the eggs for 21 days, you can get five to fifteen chicks per hen.


Rhode Island Red Chickens are a solid option for anyone looking to raise poultry with an easy temperament. They’re not the most efficient breed for egg production and might have heart-related problems, but there’s plenty of information on how to prevent this.

We hope you were able to learn something today about these lovely bird species. Finally, talk to a verified expert on how to make the breeding and rearing process less stressful.


avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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