How to Raise Rhode Island Chickens

 Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other master farmers & gardeners. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.

Perhaps one of the most popular chicken breeds in America, the Rhode Island Red, is a classic bird for any farm.  It is an adaptable breed that thrives in many different settings as they are fairly easy to take care of.

Rhode Island Reds are a dual-purpose breed, meaning that they are used for egg production and meat.  A prolific and dependable egg layer makes them a popular choice for large industrial farms, and small homestead farms looking for a constant egg supply.  Producing quality meat is a bonus to this already useful bird.

The Rhode Island Red has a classic look that can be easily identified by their rust-red coloration and bright red waddle and comb.  They can make a good addition to many flock varieties.  

raising rhode island red chickens

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Rhode Island Red Origination

raising rhode island red chickens

If you had to take a guess at where the Rhode Island Red originated from, you probably wouldn’t have to think long— hint, it’s in the name.  If your answer is Rhode Island, you are correct! 

There are mentions of the Rhode Island Red as far back as the mid-1800s, although the breed wasn’t officially recognized in the United States until 1904.  There are a number of different breeds that were used to create this breed, including Brahmas, Plymouth Rock, Chinese Cochin, Java, Malay, and Leghorns.

The breed was originally designed as a quality egg-layer, so a focus on egg-laying abilities was a priority.

The breed is recognized as a large fowl with clean legs and comes in a rust-red color.  Black feathers in the tail or wings are also accepted, but with the red color as a majority.

The waddles and combs on Rhode Island Reds are a bright red color and can be single or double combed.

Reasons to Raise Rhode Island Reds

raising rhode island red chickens

As I mentioned before, the Rhode Island Reds are a very popular breed, and for a few good reasons.  

Egg Production

The Rhode Island Reds are one of the top egg producers when it comes to quantity, and can lay 200-300 eggs each year with the right conditions.  Even in less than ideal situations, they can consistently lay around 150 eggs a year.  They are also very dependable layers and have a slightly longer laying season naturally.

The eggs produced are a light brown color.  Their eggs will generally start as medium sizes and will increase in size after a few years.  The eggs produced after this time will stay consistent in color but will be larger eggs.


Being a dual-purpose breed, the Rhode Island Reds are also a good option for a meat bird, although that is generally not their intended purpose.  Their meat is said to be a little bit on the tough side, but still good.  They also take longer to reach an ideal butchering size, so they are not a quick option for a meat bird.  As far as heritage breeds go, their meat is of decent quality.

Generally Healthy

Rhode Island Reds are one of the more healthy breeds of chickens and rarely suffer from any sort of ailments.  This is a good breed of chicken for someone who does not want to worry about their birds from a medical standpoint.  When given proper routine care, there is very little to worry about when it comes to the Rhode Island Reds.

Adaptable To Their Environment

Rhode Island Reds can be found in nearly every part of the world, from some of the coldest environments to some of the warmest environments.  Due to their robust nature, they can withstand some of the harshest conditions without much interference.   

They are also adaptable to different living conditions, such as confinement and free-range.  The Rhode Island Reds are said to do just fine in small areas, making them good for almost any living situation.  If given room to free-range, they are good foragers and will enjoy the extra space.  

Challenges of Raising Rhode Island Reds

raising rhode island red chickens

Every good thing has its flaws.  Thankfully the flaws of the Rhode Island Red can be overlooked by many.  

Not Generally Broody

One of the main downsides to raising Rhode Island Reds is that the hens will not often go broody, so you may have to intervene a little if you want chicks.  It is not out of the question for the hens to sit on their eggs or raise their chicks, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The use of an incubator or a different breed of hen that is broody may be necessary if you want to hatch your own Rhode Island Reds.  

Aggressive Roosters

Is it said the Rhode Island Red roosters can be some of the most aggressive birds to raise in your flock.  Although there are exceptions to every rule, raising your Rhode Island Red rooster as a pet may not work out the way you want it to.  It is recommended to keep small children away from aggressive roosters, as they can cause bodily harm. 

The positive to this negative is that the roosters do a good job of keeping the hens safe.  The aggressive nature is not usually just towards humans, so they are effective at keeping away any other animals that attempt to infiltrate their area.

Rhode Island Red Temperament 

The temperament of a Rhode Island Red can vary from bird to bird, as with any species.  Generally, the hens tend to be fairly docile, yet full of personality.  They are curious birds that may make friends with you after some time.  

The hens are generally somewhere in the middle of the pecking order of the coop.  They generally won’t stand to get pushed around, but they have no desire to be the head of the pack.  

Roosters, on the other hand, are a different story.  

As mentioned previously, the Rhode Island Red roosters have a tendency to be aggressive.  They have been known to attack their owners, and cause harm to children and the unexpecting.  

Housing Rhode Island Reds

raising rhode island red chickens

Rhode Island Reds are kept in a variety of different living situations.  They have been used in industrial settings and can do well in smaller living quarters.  Even with little room to run, they can produce a good amount of eggs.  Ensuring that your birds have some grass to run around in will keep them happier overall. 

If you like Easter egg hunts, your free-range Rhode Island Reds will be happy to supply you with the hunt.  When free-ranged, these birds tend to lay wherever they find most convenient, which may not be the coop and can change often—they certainly like to keep you on your toes.  

The curious nature of these birds will have them exploring any area that is given to them.  They are generally good foragers and will spend hours hunting and eating anything they can get ahold of.  

The Rhode Island Reds are also very cautious and resourceful.  They are experts in evading predators, and will not usually be taken by another animal.  It is nice to know that your birds are looking out for themselves and are not just sitting ducks.

Raising Rhode Island Red Chicks

raising rhode island red chickens

The Rhode Island Red hens are not known to go broody often, and there is a good chance none of your hens will.  This makes raising Rhode Island Red chicks a little bit more of a challenge.

To raise Rhode Island Red chicks, you will generally need to take away the eggs and either use an incubator, or another hen to hatch them.  Using another hen, probably of a different species, to raise your chicks is ideal if the mother will not set, because the surrogate mother will also raise the chick once it has hatched.  She will see the chick as her own and take on the responsibility of raising it.

If you decide to use an incubator to hatch your Rhode Island Red chicks, just be aware of the timing for releasing them in with your flock.  Depending on the season, they may need to be kept inside longer to ensure they stay warm before their feathers come in.  The use of a heat lamp may also be recommended to get your chicks into the coop sooner.

If you do happen to get a broody Rhode Island Red, she will probably make a very good mother.  Although it may not happen often, they can make great mothers if you are lucky enough for them to go broody.  

Are Rhode Island Red Chickens a Good Fit For Your Flock?

raising rhode island red chickens

Rhode Island Reds can be a good fit for several different situations.  They can make a good addition to an already existing flock, because they aren’t generally pushy, but also won’t stand to get pushed around.

If you are looking for a bird that will lay a good number of eggs consistently, the Rhode Island Red may be a good fit for you.  These birds are great egg layers, some will hit record highs.  Even the ones who fall in the average for egg-laying will stay consistent and will lay often and early.  

These are also good birds if you want to add some personality to your flock.  The hens tend to be very curious, and may even become friendly after some time.  They are fun birds to watch and can be more docile than other breeds.  You will want to watch out for the roosters, as they can be aggressive.

Overall, there are several good reasons to keep and raise Rhode Island Red chickens.  There has to be a reason as to why they are one of the most popular breeds, why not find out first-hand?

Samantha Rainwater is a freelance writer, full-time business owner, and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.

Do you raise Rhode Islands? What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

(2) Comments

  1. Sandra Sarrell says:

    You are right on with your description of the Rhode Island red. They definitely have a lot of personality and I have a lot of fun Gathering their eggs. One in particular likes to roost on the edge of the nest box until I come and gather the eggs. When I go to gather the eggs she will get in the nest box and face me hoping for some attention.
    Very rarely do they become ill and thrive in my barn and run. They love the fresh veggies I give them and all flock around the Run door as I give it to them. At one point one of the hens would stand on the top of the chicken house at eye level to supervise me. LOL they are great layers and out of 12 hens I get consistently 10 eggs per day. They are definitely a great addition to anyone’s flock.

    1. Michelle Bertrand says:

      I’m a small breeder of “Old Type” Rhode Island Reds. They have rich, reddish-black plumage and bright red combs. I have never had any disease in my birds. They are free ranged and I’ve never lost one of them.

      My rooster, Rawleigh, is very protective and has stood on the middle of pasture and crowed from his comb to his feet when a bird of prey is overhead. He is aggressive and very protective of the hens but responds well to eye contact.

      I have one hen that just brooded a batch of chicks. I found her behind a fence with two nests, one had gone cold because I lock up my birds at night. Both had ten eggs in them and she was keeping one warm. I waited until dark and moved her and the eggs to a brooder. Eight hatched and they are healthy and keeping her very busy. She is still with them most of the time but gets out for a couple of hours a day now that they are 3 weeks old. And she just started to lay again! She is nine months old and her pullet eggs produced the tiniest chicks I have ever seen. They are making up for it now and are the picture of health. My RIRs lay consistently and produce eggs 95% of the time. She has beautiful plumage with large black tail feathers. She is a gem and I’m going to keep her for my breeding program.

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