Raising Rhode Island Red Chickens

One of my favorite chicken breeds is the Rhode Island Red. It's the chicken of choice for those who want quality egg-layers and good fryers.

Bud Wood owns a hatchery and says Rhode Island Reds are one of the earliest breeds developed in the United States and are among his best sellers because of their production qualities.

'They're a fairly gentle breed, and they lay a nice big, dark brown egg," Wood says. "They're a hardy breed, and easy to raise. Rhode Island Red is probably the beginning genetics of all of the commercial brown egg layers today."

At peak production, the hens are egg-laying machines. Just one hen will give you five to six eggs a week.

The Reds have a larger body type than other breeds. Wood recommends feeding them a commercial layer mix, which gives them all the nutrition they need. You can also provide a place to forage. It cuts their consumption of commercial feed way down, maybe even in half. Grubbing around the yard for plants and bugs makes their yolks a brighter yellow color.

Keep them safe

While the Reds are roaming, be sure they have a place to go for protection.

"They need some place to get in and out of the weather," Wood says. "A tight building is preferable so that there isn't a draft in the winter. And some way that either the building's heated, or the water needs to be heated, so they always have fresh, clean, unfrozen water. They would love to go out and forage if you have a way of protecting them from critters during the day. They'll naturally come in and roost at night."

If your goal is to raise Rhode Island Reds as fryers, Wood says it takes a chick about 14 weeks to reach six pounds.

Chicks will cost about $1.00 for males and $2.25 for females. A straight run or non-sexed batch of chicks is the most economical.

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