The Rhode Island Red is possibly the best-known breed in the world today.

This popular breed of chicken has a long history, having been developed in the American state of Rhode Island in the 1890s. A large variety of breeds were crossed to achieve this fine result, including the Buff Cochin, Langsh, Black Red Malay, Hamburgh and Rose Combed Leghorns. The Rhode crossed with a Sussex forms the basis of most of the present day hybrids.

Obviously, the Rhode Island is a Red bird, but there is a much less common White version. Plumage is a dark rich glossy red in the male, being slightly less glossy in the female. The male should only have black in his wings and tail and the female the same, but she can have black on her neck. The body is broad and deep and oblong in its shape – it is sometimes described as a brick. It has a broad flat back with a medium sized tail. The earlobes are red in colour, as are the eyes. They have yellow legs.

They are described as heavy birds, with the cock weighing in at an average of 3.9 kg and the hen at 2.9 kg, but they are also active.

Their egg laying ability is excellent at 5 extra-large, brown eggs a week. They are also kept for their meat.Rhode Island Red Cockeral

They bear confinement well, but also enjoy foraging on grass. They are bright and alert but at the same time quiet and friendly. The males can occasionally be aggressive. They are hardy and disease resistant.

There is a bantam version available as well.

This is part of a series looking at common chicken breeds and varieties in South Africa. For more, click here.

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