The Plymouth Rock Chicken: All You Need To Know

The Plymouth Rock Chicken- All You Need To Know

Plymouth Rock is one of Americas’ oldest breeds. The hen was seen from coast to coast before the end of World War 2, and it became the nation’s main source of chicken meat and eggs.

As a dual purpose hen, it excelled in good quality meat production and good egg production, the only hen that could rival it was the Rhode Island Red.

Almost everyone used to keep them; it was encouraged by the Government as the troops needed food to fight across the seas and for the home front.

They were encouraged and embraced by thousands of people during this time, but sadly, after they finished the War, the chicken industry became highly mechanized. Like so many other breeds, the Plymouth Rock was cast aside as not productive enough.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Plymouth Rock chicken, including recognized varieties, egg-laying ability, how to care for them, and much more…

Plymouth Rock History and Background

The Plymouth Rock Chicken

 

We first saw the Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1849. No one is quite sure what happened to these original birds, as they seem to have disappeared for around 20 years or so.

The trail gets hot again in around 1869 when a Mr. Upham of Worcester, Massachusetts, was breeding with barred males and Java hens.

It’s claimed he was trying to breed selectively for barred plumage and clean legs.

It’s now thought that these birds are the likely ancestors of todays’ Plymouth Rock.

From our Dominique breed article, you may remember some confusion between the rose comb and single comb birds, with both being called Dominiques at the time.

The New York Poultry Society was determined to set the standard for the Dominique as rose combed. After 1870, all other birds with single combs became Plymouth Rocks by default.

The appearance of Plymouth Rock Chickens

If you asked most folks what a Plymouth Rock hen’s plumage looked like, they would say “black and white bars,” which would be correct as far as it goes.

The barring between the sexes is slightly different. The males have equal black and white barring, with each feather ending in a dark tip.

Whereas females have black bars that are slightly wider than the white bars, this can sometimes give them a slightly darker greyish hue than the boys.

There are several other varieties in the Plymouth Rock family, as we shall see.

The Plymouth Rock Chicken
The Barred Plymouth Rock is the oldest and best known of the Plymouth Rock family.

In fact, it is probably iconic in American culture, so in this article, we will describe the barred Plymouth Rock member of the family.

It has a large, sturdy triangular-shaped body with a full breast and a long, broad back.

Feathers are full, loose, and very soft, especially on the abdomen area.

The barring pattern should be sharply defined black and white, unlike the Dominique, which is much ‘fuzzier’ and leans towards grey.

Skin and legs are yellow, and their legs are clean, with four toes to each foot. Their ear lobes, comb, and wattles should all be read as is the face.

The beak is horn colored, and the eyes a reddish bay. Finally, their comb should be single with 5 points.

A standard-sized hen will weigh about 7½lbs, with roosters up to 9½lbs.

There is a bantam variety, and their weights are 2.5lbs for females and 3.0lbs for males.

Plymouth Rock Breed Standard

The Barred Plymouth Rock breed was admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1874. Currently, there are seven accepted varieties. The varieties of the Plymouth Rock recognized in the US are:

  • Barred
  • Blue
  • Buff
  • Colombian
  • Partridge
  • Silver Penciled
  • White

All are rare except the barred and the white.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain recognizes only 5 varieties (Barred, Black, Buff, Colombian and White), while the European Association of Poultry recognizes 10 varieties.

The APA classifies the breed as American, while the PCGB classifies it as a soft feather and heavy.

Egg Laying and Temperament

The Plymouth Rock Chicken

 

Plymouth Rocks are very respectable layers of large brown eggs. They average around 200 eggs per year which equates to roughly 4 eggs per week.

They lay well for the first couple of years but around year 3, a slow decline in productivity starts. However, hens have been known to lay into their 10th year!

In terms of broodiness, they aren’t known for it, but it can actively be encouraged in this breed, with the hens usually being good sitters and great moms.

The chicks are quick to feather out and mature, and by 8-12 weeks of age, they can be considered broilers if desired.

In terms of their temperament, Barred Rocks are mellow birds. They are not known for bad attitudes or picking at flock mates, and they seem to get along with everyone.

They are described by their owners as sweet, calm, and docile – even the roosters!

Plymouth Rocks are always curious, and they love to check out their environment and follow you around to see what you are up to or any treats to be had.

Rocks much prefer to free-range and find tasty morsels in the yard, but they tolerate confinement well if given enough space.

Once you have established your relationship, this is a very trusting hen and is great with the family and children.

Health Issues

Plymouth Rock Roaming

Plymouth Rocks are a healthy, sturdy breed. They aren’t bothered by any particular ailments except the usual array of parasites.

The roosters do have large combs and wattles, so that they may need some attention to those areas in bitterly cold weather.

They have a good genetic pool, so they are usually healthy, long-lived birds that can live for 10-12 years if cared for.

Exceptional birds have lived up to 20 years!

Is The Plymouth Rock Chicken Right For You?

If you are looking for a breed that is suitable for a family setting, this could be your bird. Barred Rocks are known for being friendly towards children and adults. They do enjoy a cuddle and a fuss, and many become lap chickens!

They are poor flyers, so you don’t need to have a huge fence around their enclosure to keep them in, as they are unlikely to go and investigate the neighbors’ yard unless they can walk there.

Speaking of neighbors – the Barred Rock is said to be a quiet but talkative chicken.

Of course, it does have the usual chicken vocabulary, including the egg song, but the Barred Rock tends to ‘whisper’ rather than ‘shout’ across the yard. That should keep the neighbors happier.

They are very easy-going, not difficult to care for, making them a good choice for first-time chicken folks. Plymouth

Rocks are very tolerant of poor management practices, although ideally, they won’t need to be. If treated and cared for well, they can virtually raise themselves!

Their mellow temperament also makes them a good choice for 4H projects and the exhibition arena, where they usually do very well.

Summary

The Barred Rock has a long and distinguished history, even though the origins are a bit murky.
After the 2nd World War, the Barred Rock declined in popularity. The breed made the American Livestock Breed Conservancy list. The ALBC  still has it is currently listed as recovering.
The recovery is likely due to a renewed interest in backyard chickens, especially dual-purpose breeds that can fit well into almost any circumstance.
Todays’ Barred Rock hens can be divided into three separate groups:

  • Exhibition: These birds are all about conformation and plumage. Often productivity will suffer.
  • Industrial Production: High volume producers bred for the poultry industry, not suitable for 4H purposes.
  • Old Dual Purpose: These are the hens that Grandma had. Dependable for eggs and meat. Long-lived and amiable, requiring minimal care.

They fit well into just about any scenario you can think of.
As backyard birds, they do great; they tolerate confinement or free-ranging, do not require any special treatments, and are chatty and friendly. Egg production is very respectable, and as meat birds, they dress out nicely to a good weight. What more could you ask of your chickens?
If you keep Barred Rocks – tell us about them in the comments section below, please…

Plymouth Rock Chicken

49 thoughts on “The Plymouth Rock Chicken: All You Need To Know

  1. My barred rocks are my worst offenders for flying up and over my 6′ fence, so I would have to disagree that they are poor flyers. I also have Amberlinks, an Isa Brown, Calico Princesses and Production Reds — none of them fly as high. Guess I have super chickens <3. All of mine have great temperaments.

    1. I agree with Kari they are great fliers up and over a 6 foot fence into the neighbors yard, then up and back over for dinner and bed. they are very friendly and trusting.

      1. My BR are aggressive toward flock members, bullying my EE to the point the EE hid in the nesting area and lost weight. I tried various separation therapies without any luck. Finally applied peepers to the most aggressive of the 2. It has helped but my EE hasn’t laid an egg in seven months. I think I’m going to have to rehome the BR.

        1. My hen is agressive too! We put her in a large cage with a Brahma and another barred rock and she was pecking them. None of our other chickens peck!

        2. Thank you for the read. I do agree with the other’s, my hen and roo tend to peck and be more bossy towards their range mates… especially towards my EE (sweet docile girl) and my Kitty-Cat…

          1. I am glad to see this – I have three blue BR and they have begun targeting my poor brahmas. I am trying separating them now, not sure if it will work.

    2. My barred rocks are coop jumpers, too! Great chickens, though. They are friendly, curious, and follow me around while free ranging, mainly because they know I’ll throw them an extra treat from time to time. It is fun to spoil them a bit.

    3. I agree they are great fliers. Mine fly to the top of the shed and from there over a 10ft fence to the airport. That was with one wing clipped on each bird.

    4. My Barred Rocks are also great flyers, I have to clip both wings to keep them from flying over my 4 foot fence.

  2. We started our flock with two Red Rock Chicks. We were told that they are the mix of a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a Plymouth Rock Hen. They are both red in color, although after molting one has yellow tips on some of her feathers. They are both funny little ladies. Very curious and tolerant being held. And great egg layers! We’re getting an egg daily from one, and at least 4 a week from the other.

  3. I love my barred rock, she loves to be picked up and she always tells me about her day when I come home!

    1. II think it possible that there is strain’s of BR’s out there that are less desirable than others. I’m not real happy with mine, about 6 weeks old now. They are the most flighty chicks I’ve ever owned. Otherwise I have to wait awhile to see what other traits they will have. I was not expecting these girls to be so skiddish.?

    2. We just go 10 barred and they are going to be confined in a big coop with a top on the cage. We will have them with a chained fence m. With a chain top. They will be protected by hawks. Right now they are about a week and a half old. So cute and love their brood.

      1. We just got 11 of them 2 weeks ago..how are your girls doing now? Being they would almost a year now? The article made me think they are perfect. ..then the comments made me think twice..lol..too late now..I guess we’ll wait and see ?

      1. My BR are 30 months old. I have 17 of them and average 5 eggs a day. Poorest layers i have ever owned. Considering eating them this fall. Bought 17 Jersey Giants this years as i had them before and they all laid well.

  4. Previously, we had Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons raised from chicks. Those chickens were good layers, but very noisy and plucked feathers from each other. Now, we have a flock of 5 Barred Rocks purchased as pullets. All around, we are very pleased with our choice. They are great layers. They seem slightly smarter than their predecessors (eg. staying in the coop during a rainstorm). They are much happier and don’t pluck feathers. They are quieter. We found they are not lap chickens, but that may be true of most chickens that are not raised and handled as chicks.

  5. I incubated twenty (20) eggs bought on line and only one hatched. I had issues with controlling humidity in the incubator which might have attributed to the low hatch rate. The one egg which hatched was a Barred Rock hen. She is a very sweet-tempered pet which is quite attached to me. She has started laying a few weeks ago (22 weeks when she started) She is really delightful to be around and likes to eat out of my hands. I have not regretted the purchase.

  6. I love my barred rocks. Both rooster and hens hang around whenever we are outside and follow us around. I love the attention and the talk. He is the best rooster taking care of his hens and protecting them.

  7. My Barred Rock, aged approximately 13 months, has yet to lay an egg! She seems perfectly healthy, fat, strutting around. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      You mentioned that she is overweight, sometimes obese hens have a hard time laying eggs…
      Claire

  8. I have been terrified of Chickens from infancy! Then my Daughter gave me 2 Plymouth Barred Rock H, & 1 Delaware Hen, that my young Grandson’s hand raised. They sit, roll over, & play dead. I still have resevations around others Chickens, but I love my Ladies : ) The Delaware & Barred Rocks stay on the ground, but my Australorp(Houdini) taught my Amber Whites to escape : ) They always fly back to me when I find them out in our neighbors field : )

  9. I have 3 Barred Rocks, 3 Rhode island and they just started laying 2 days ago. I’m pretty sure it was one of the reds because I saw her checking out the nesting box. Will they lay about the same time every day, or it will vary? Do I just catch them at the right time to see which one is laying?

  10. I love, love, love my barred rock hen and she loves me. She jumps in my lap and takes a nap. As a layer she is also great. I entered her eggs in an egg show and she got first place. She is three now and the egg production has dropped off but she is my buddy. This spring I got three more babies but no chicken can compare to Ellen DeHeneres!

  11. Can you guys explain to me why my chick poops like diarrhea and it screams loud as heck! Plz explain to me

    1. I love my 7 BR! They are 17 weeks today and I noticed that one has been sitting in the nesting box all morning. I went out at 7am to give treats and noticed 1 missing so i checked in the coop and there she was. It’s now 10:20 am and she is still in there. Is this normal?

  12. I loved reading your article. I have 2 of these adorable chickens. I’m certain 1 is my only rooster which I really didn’t want as I am a city dweller. I acquired my chicks in the end of April. Your descriptions fit my backyard friends to a tee!

  13. Hoping you can help. We have a hen that’s not doing well. Listless comb is off color, losing weight and she has diarrhea on and off. The rest of the flock seems fine. We lost one this spring with the same symptoms. They are only a year and a half old. Thank you!

  14. Hey what is your last name, my name is Lara Mia and I’m doing a report for school about chickens and i need your name for the author. Please
    To Claire

  15. It was funny to read about the BR temperament being friendly. My girl is crazy smart but boy is she trouble. She is very cunning and devilish. She also will not tolerate being picked up and is always watching that you don’t get close to her as she is next to impossible to catch. When you do catch her though she is very nice. She is great with the other chickens and helps keep rowdy ones in their place.

  16. Words like “SWEET and DOCILE,” have me wondering if we are thinking of the same chicken breed. I have 5 Barred Rocks, 4 New Hampshire Reds, 5 Rhode Island Red hens and 2 roosters, along with a rescued Americana hen. The only evil chickens in my flock are the Barred Rock hens and 1 of the Rhode Island roosters. Plus they are extremely loud fussy lil hens and peck my other chickens constantly. They are at the top of the pecking order and no other hens, but my evil rooster Harold, will stand up to them. LOL… Seriously, Barred Rock chicken are evil flock mates. ??

  17. That was informative article. My hen just hatch 10 Plymouth Rock chicks. I want to know there diet. Kindly suggest some healthy diet for chicks.
    Thanks

  18. I love my barred rock, I got a few last year with my small flock of others. They got along with my leg horns and red island rhodes. They are hardly and easy to care for in the summer they literally would free range the yard (12 acres of land) and they laid steadily if not almost 5 times a week when I was keeping track. They are easy going and easy to handle after owning them they became quiet tame and friendly.

  19. My Plymouth rocks are wonderful. The girls are gentle and easy with the other variety of chickens we have. The roosters don’t try to eat you alive… my favourite fella passed last year randomly and he is missed, so beautiful and gentle… though the highest perch and the tall fences are no problem for them, especially the bigger ones?

  20. It is worthwhile to complete things that are worth starting and ending. Smart people always do things from beginning to end.

  21. There must be a different strain of BRs than the one described in this article! We just had to rehome our 3 BR hens. They absolutely were not docile nor friendly — not to people, not to each other, and definitely not to other chickens. They pecked one another raw and would bully other chickens mercilessly. Although we loved their eggs, we couldn’t keep them because that meant we were limited to those 3 hens in our large coop. We now have six white rock pullets that grew up together as chicks and have no problem getting along. No more BRs for us, not ever!

  22. I’ve had several flocks of barred rocks over the years and have always enjoyed them. It’s hard to generalize about any breed because there can be a lot of variation among batches (i.e., hatch years), hatchery breeding stock, even individuals but like most folks here, I found them to be hardy, productive, enjoyable birds. I’m not a super fan of the commercial sex-link hybrids in general but I have found that the black sex-links/black stars are a lot like their barred rock parents in terms of temperament, production, hardiness, etc. I might try Sapphire Gems this year, as they too have barred rock parentage and they are so pretty.

  23. I have three Plymouth Rock hens. They are pets because I will never eat them. They are very curious and friendly. They have never tried to leave my yard and lay a nice large egg every day, with exception to when they moult and don’t lay for 7-10 days.

  24. I have a 9 week old silver pencil rock. Is there a way to tell if it’s a cockerel or pullet at this age? The comb is very small, but has some red at the base. It has a long tail. I ordered a bunch of RIR chicks from a certified breeder and this one bird was thrown in as a bonus. I’m hoping for a hen I just love the coloring, and temperament of the bird.

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