Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was developed in the late nineteenth century in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by cross-breeding birds of Oriental origin such as the Malay with brown Leghorn birds from Italy. It was formerly a dual-purpose breed, raised both for meat and for eggs; modern strains have been bred for their egg-laying abilities. The traditional non-industrial strains of the Rhode Island Red are listed as “watch” by The Livestock Conservancy.
The Rhode Island Red is the state bird of Rhode Island. It is one of only three state birds that is not a species native to the United States.
Rhode Island Red History
The Rhode Island Red were originally bred in a village located in the town of Little Compton, Rhode Island. One of the foundation sires of the breed was a black-breasted red Malay cock which was imported from England. This cock is on display at the Smithsonian Institution as the father of the Rhode Island Red breed.
Developed in southeastern Rhode Island and the South Coast of Massachusetts, early flocks often had both single and rose combed individuals. It was from the Malay that the Rhode Island Red got its deep color, strong constitution, and relatively hard feathers.
The name “Rhode Island Red” is ascribed to Isaac Champlin Wilbour (1831–1899) of Little Compton, Rhode Island at an unknown date, or to a Mr. Jenny of the Southern Massachusetts Poultry Association in 1879 or 1880. The poultry expert Nathaniel Borden Aldrich (1866–1908) of Fall River, Massachusetts suggested the name “Golden Buffs” around 1890, but by 1895 they were being exhibited under the name “Rhode Island Red.” Before this they were known as “John Macomber fowls” or “Tripp fowls.”
In 1925, the Rhode Island Red Club of America donated funds for an elegant monument to the Rhode Island Red in Adamsville. (The monument is now on the National Register of Historic Places.) A competing monument to the Rhode Island Red, claiming its creation not for the poultry fanciers, but for the farmers who grew them commercially in great numbers in Little Compton, was erected by the state in 1988 a mile or so (about two kilometers) south of Adamsville.