Rhode Island Reds Chicken for Meat – The Complete Guide
Raising Rhode Island Red chickens is a great way to have fresh and sumptuous meat at all times. They were developed in the 19th century by farmers who wanted a hardy and fast-growing breed. Since then, the birds have spread all over the States and became famous as utility fowls for both meat production and egg-laying.
They are also ideal for beginners due to their calm disposition and ease of care. Rhode Island Red chickens grow very quickly and are favored by backyard poultry keepers for this reason. If you are a novice poultry keeper, you might consider reading about several breeds to pick the best that meets your purpose.
Impressively, this guide is essential for farmers eager to raise Rhode Island Red chicken for meat. Hopefully, by the end of it you will become a better backyard farmer and manage to raise healthy birds either for the market or your kitchen.
Are Rhode Island Reds Good for Meat?
Given that they are a heavy breed and get bigger than most chickens, Rhode Island Reds are ideal for meat. Another reason why Rhode Island Reds are a favorite with farmers is that they adapt well to different climates and temperatures. Moreover, they are resistant to various diseases and parasites that affect proper chicken growth.
Often, adult chickens weigh between 4 to 6 pounds which is almost double the size of an average bird. With the proper care, you can have ready chicken for meat in around four months. Males mature faster than females, usually by 9 to 10 weeks. On the other hand, it takes roughly 12 weeks for the females to mature.
Although most experts recommend farmers to slaughter their chicken around this time, you can choose to keep fattening them for a couple of weeks until they reach 16 or 20 pounds. All in all, calculate all costs involved in feeding, housing, and medicine to avoid running into losses by keeping your chicken much longer.
If you want to get your hands on Rhode Island chicks, you can also buy them online from various stores. I compiled a complete list of the best online stores where you can buy this chicken breed.
How Does Rhode Island Red Meat Taste?
Rhode Island Red meat is one of the best and tastiest red meats out there. It is no surprise that most people prefer this meat because of its bright red color and meaty texture.
Their appearance is not just for show either – even people who have never seen Rhodes Island meat will tell there is something unique about the bright red coloring. The exciting thing about these birds is that they are somewhat sweeter than other breeds.
As a matter of fact, some individuals insist that the meat tastes more like turkey. This means that you can expect a bit of extra flavors when you cook their legs and thighs compared to other chicken breeds.
What makes it even better is that some birds have orange/yellow-colored skin! You won’t find many other chicken breeds whose meat tastes great plus looks stunning at the same time.
When cooked, the skin develops a crispy golden brown crust while the flesh underneath remains juicy and tender. For this reason, they are ideal for classic dishes like fried chicken or roast chicken recipes. In addition, you can use Rhode Island Red meat in different cooking methods such as, baking, barbecuing, grilling, and roasting.
Note that meat produced by young chickens below one year old is considered the best tasting. The taste depends on the diet, chicken treatment during their growing years, and slaughtering method.
For example, a bird that was killed and butchered after many hours of rigor mortis will probably have a more intense taste than one who was killed when the body still had some flexibility on it. If possible, request your butcher to kill the chicken and process it right away.
Rhode Island Red Rooster vs Hen Meat
One of the most commonly asked questions in poultry forums is the difference between roosters and hens, taste, and texture. Here are a few things to consider when trying out this experiment:
- Male meat is much firmer than the female. It has less fat, and it’s juicier than the hen meat, making it taste better.
- The male bird also sports larger muscles on its thigh area, which is the tastiest part.
- While both types of meat are very delicious to eat, the male one is favored by most people because of its juiciness and bigger size. The hen’s meat is also quite tasty if you prefer smaller portions over a whole chicken.
- Both sexes have good flavors, although people prefer roosters over the hen due to their spiciness. However, people believe a hen tastes better than a rooster because it has more fat. Fat tends to add flavor to meat, which is why a lean piece of chicken will always taste bland.
The secret to cooking chicken well is to have low heat and high moisture. This means that adding a little water while cooking the bird would improve its quality tremendously. If possible, use fresh water when preparing your Rhode Island Red.
Rhode Island Red Meat Color
One of the most striking things about Rhode Island Red meat is the brilliant red color. The breast portion may range from pink to dark red or brownish, depending on how the farmer raised them.
With so much variety, you can choose to cook drumsticks or thighs if you prefer white meat or go for legs and wings if you’re more into eating darker meats.
Moreover, some recipes require the use of whole chickens. If you want to make soup, stew, or other southern foods (recipes), the only thing you have to do is remove their skin first and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
How Fast Do Rhode Island Reds Grow?
Even after the recent cross-breeding of other breeds, Rhode Island Reds are famous because they grow relatively faster and are easy to raise.
This means that you can expect a full-size rooster or hen in just 16 to 18 weeks. In fact, this is one breed that farmers can quickly build up a flock of more than 50 birds.
Best Time to Harvest Rhode Island Reds
The ultimate time to harvest your chicken depends on whether you want younger, softer meat or older and more firm. If your chickens are excellent layers, you might consider delaying their slaughter for slightly longer. That said, you can get quality meat as early as ten weeks.
Since you’re raising Rhode Island Red chickens for meat on a commercial scale, it’s best to be able to tell if they are ready for slaughter or not. First, check if their weight has almost doubled and if they are more active or not. So how do you know if they’re ready?
It is recommended that you start monitoring the meat on the roosters and hens by tapping it to listen for a hollow sound.
If it sounds like there’s a lot of air between the flesh and bone, then their meat will be considered as being tender. You can either wait until this happens naturally or assist them with poultry processing by feeding them a high protein diet. Below are quick signs to tell if the chickens are ready for slaughter.
- Redness surrounding the head region.
- Feathers around the neck appear ruffled or uneven
- Body seems swollen, especially in the abdomen area
- Chicken start walking with jerky movements as though something is bothering them inside.
Please note that some farmers would fast their birds before slaughtering them so that their muscles can shrink (chicken breed). However, doing this can significantly affect the quality and taste of their meat because of dehydration. Instead, all you need to do is be patient enough to allow your birds to grow to optimum sizes without interference for better taste.
After slaughtering your birds, it is vital to learn how to prepare and store their meat before eating it. You can keep them in the refrigerator for a few days before consuming them as far as storage is concerned.
When preparing the meat, make sure that all fat portions have been removed. This is because they can spoil quickly due to bacterial infections. You should also remove the skin to prevent fat and cholesterol from getting into the meat.
What to Feed Rhode Island Reds for Meat?
Similar to other chicken breeds, you need to know what to feed your Reds to help them grow faster and healthy. Note that these birds tend to become overweight if overfed.
Therefore, ensure that the diet consists of about 20% protein. On top of this, it wouldn’t hurt if you offer them additional calcium to enlarge the area around the breasts.
As you can see, raising Rhode Island Red chickens is not only a great way to produce delicious and high-quality meat but also an opportunity for you to make money from your backyard.
Their high growth rate means that it won’t take much time before you have many mature birds ready for harvesting. So what are you waiting for? Walk to a reliable breeder and pick healthy chicks as a basis of a gratifying journey with Rhode Island Red Chickens.