Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rhode Island Reds

Photo - Source: Unknown
When I was young, I was enamored with Rhode Island Reds - I wanted a nice trio of show quality - not hatchery barnyard stock -  but true, deep red coloured, exhibition quality Rhode Island Reds.  Well, the closest I got to having that was drooling over show pictures and advertisements in my father's Feather Fanciers.



(www.featherfancier.on.ca)  


True Rhode Island Reds were scarce in Western Canada at that time and although hatcheries were always claiming to have them, the birds they offered were no where near the colour nor the shape of what I had read and heard to be the standard.
Single Comb Rhode Island Red Rooster
Photo Source: http://propercourse.blogspot.com


The Rhode Island Red is probably America's best known breed of chicken, some even believe that it is the best known chicken breed in the world.  What other breed can claim two monuments as well as a movie star?  In the animated film Chicken Run, the character of Rocky is supposedly a Rhode Island Red rooster.


Rhode Island Reds were originally developed in the farming communities of Massachusetts and Rhode Island around Little Compton near Buzzard’s Bay and Narragansett Bay in the 1880's and 1890's.  Adamsville, Rhode Island, has staked the claim as being the birthplace of this well-known bird and a monument commemorating its significance is found in the city.  

THE RHODE ISLAND RED

TO COMMEMORATE THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE

RHODE ISLAND RED BREEDING FOWL WHICH
WAS ORIGINATED NEAR THIS LOCATION.

RED FOWLS WERE BRED EXTENSIVELY BY

THE FARMERS OF THIS DISTRICT AND LATER

NAMED 'RHODE ISLAND REDS' AND BROUGHT INTO
NATIONAL PROMINENCE BY THE POULTRY FANCIERS.

THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY THE 

RHODE ISLAND RED CLUB OF AMERICA 

WITH CONTRIBUTIONS OF RHODE ISLAND RED
BREEDERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

ON LAND DONATED BY 

DEBORAH T. MANCHESTER.

1925

In fact, very nearby, just a couple miles away, there is another monument to the Rhode Island Red, this one honouring its importance to America’s farming history.
Rhode Island Red Group - Photo Source: www.chasanbassets.com
The Rhode Island Red was bred with the intention that it would be a good dual-purpose fowl, early layers with a high year-round egg yield and being a bird that could dress out nicely as a delicious family farm table bird. The Rhode Island Red resulted from a series of poultry experiments undertaken in 1854 by Captain William Tripp of Little Compton and another fellow named John Macomber. First they crossed Malay 



and Java cocks 


with Chinese Cochin hens. 


The offspring were then crossed with Light Brahmas


Plymouth Rocks 


and Brown Leghorns. 


Other farmers then became involved in the project upon seeing the beautiful dark red birds, the deep red colour supposedly a result of the Malay blood. Due to the aforementioned mélange of breeds in its ancestry, the original birds were found in single-combed, rose-combed and pea-combed varieties, with the latter being quickly bred out.
Rose Comb Rooster - Photo Source www.kippenencyclopedie.nl

The Rhode Island Red was recognized as a legitimate breed at the Providence poultry show in 1895, and was first seen to be advertised in poultry journals in 1896. The popularity of these birds was such that Europe was enjoying the pleasures of the breed even before it received official recognition from the American Poultry Association. 
Photo Source: Unknown
The single combed variety was admitted to the Standard of Perfection in 1904 and the rose combed variety a year later.


 The old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it would most certainly be deemed applicable to the Rhode Island Red. Since the 1940's, selective breeding for more “efficiency of egg production” has actually seen the breed get smaller (by as much as a pound) and of a lighter orange-red colour.  As well, the distinct shape characteristic of its horizontal, rectangular body has been changed somewhat.  They have also become less broody. All of this has contributed to its changing status from a good family farm bird to a good commercial brown-egg laying variety.

Hatchery Quality sold as "Rhode Island Reds"

Hatchery Quality sold as "Rhode Island Reds"
Hatchery Quality sold as "Rhode Island Reds"
True "Dark Red" coloured Rhode Island Red

The true dark red coloured Rhode Island Red (a.k.a. original stock) is being monitored by the A.L.C.B. (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) in order to ensure its survival. Surveys are now putting this bird, once so very popular, in numbers of less than 2500 in North America and 5000 world-wide.



In 1954, a state bird election was sponsored by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, and the Providence Journal Company. The Rhode Island Red beat out its closest competitors, the osprey and ruby-throated hummingbird, and became Rhode Island's official state bird at noon on May 3, 1954. "The Rhode Island Red," Governor Dennis J. Roberts said, upon signing the bill into law, "has become a symbol of Rhode Islanders all over the world." – Quahog.org


Photo Source: Pure Poultry, U.K.


Rhode Island Reds are available as both Standard and Bantam fowl.




A very good article on the Colouring of Rhode Island Reds can be found at:

http://www.aviculture-europe.nl/nummers/07E05A04.pdf


2 comments:

  1. where can i get some real RIR chicks? I want ones that have a true blood line and also go broody.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woah. Thank you for this comprehensive article. Fascinating. While my RIR, Daisy, does have rich mahogany color and black tail tips, she has no irrdescence, and holds her tail high. Wonderful to see the honest-to-goodness breed, and sad to see the birds that pass as RIR these days.

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