Ark of Taste
Rhode Island Red Chicken, "Old-Type"
The rich, reddish-black plumage and red comb of the “Old-Type” Rhode Island Red chicken is an iconic symbol of American agriculture. It is a successful dual-purpose bird, and an excellent-tempered farm chicken. These birds are very good layers of brown eggs, perhaps the best layers of all the dual-purpose breeds. They can lay 200-300 eggs a year starting as early as six months of age. The bird was originally developed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the 1880’s and 1890’s respectively and its ancestors include the Malay, Shanghai, Java, and Brown Leghorn chickens. The single combed variety was admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1904 and the rose-combed birds were accepted a year later in 1905.
The originators of the Rhode Island Red wanted to create a bird that could lay a good number of eggs yet dress out nicely as a table bird. Since the 1940’s, the Rhode Island Red has been selectively bred for more efficient egg production, becoming smaller, lighter colored, and less broody as a result. Of greatest conservation interest are the “Old-Type” Rhode Island Reds, which are larger, darker, and more broody. These birds are becoming rare as the breed is improved to meet industry needs.
The “Old-Type” Rhode Island Red chicken has an incredibly rich flavor that is most appropriate for (and best released in) stews.