The Rhode Island Red (RIR) is one of the oldest standard American breeds. They are a large breed with dark red plumage, though a white variety also exists. Originally developed around 1840, the RIR is a dual purpose (for eggs and meat) bird. Today, it is not much used for meat because of its dark colored feathers, which tend to leave spots. But it remains a reliable layer of brown eggs.

Ask people to imagine a chicken and many of them will think of a RIR. This is the classic brick red chicken with a rectangular, brick shaped body. While the breed is not as popular as it once was commercially, it is one of the most common varieties of backyard chickens. RIRs lay lots of eggs with a low-key demeanor that keeps them popular. However, owners do report that these hens can be hot tempered and a little standoffish at times, an attitude that should mellow with time and familiarity around people.

The RIR is the state bird of Rhode Island. Bred to withstand cold New England winters, this is one of the hardiest breeds around. Also, they are said to tolerate close living conditions and marginal diets better than other chickens. I do not recommend you overcrowd your birds or feed them anything less than the best available food, but occasionally when you make a change or introduce something new into their diet, some breeds have a hard time adapting. These ones can handle it.

Rhode Island Red Chickens

Rhode Island Red Facts


Large birds are on the light side of heavy, with hens averaging 6.5 pounds in weight.


Dark, brick red plumage with single red comb. Roosters have some dark green tail feathers also. A white strain exists, but is much less common.


RIRs are frequent (5 eggs per week) layers of large brown eggs.


These redheads can be hot tempered, but usually gentle and low key. 


Many people keep RIRs in a mixed flock and report no problems. However, a few owners report that these normally gentle birds can be aggressive around other birds. With a mixed flock, the easiest way to create harmony (aside from skipping the roosters) is to bring in the birds at the same time. Late introductions into an established pecking order can result in political issues. Below are pictures of RIR hens and a chick at nine days old.

Rhode Island Red