Rhode Island Red vs Barred Rock

Rocky Rooster Rumble: Rhode Island Red vs Barred Rock Showdown



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As I strolled out to the coop this morning, I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of my two favorite feathered ladies:

Henrietta the Rhode Island Red and Barbara the Barred Rock.

They came pecking and clucking over, eager for their morning scratch. It got me thinking about the differences between these two fabulous backyard chicken breeds.

I’ve raised both Rhode Island Reds (RIRs) and Barred Rocks for years now.

Let me tell you, when it comes to friendly, productive, low maintenance chickens, these gals can’t be beat! But each breed has its own personality and strengths. So how do you choose?

If you’re looking for lots of big, beautiful brown eggs, go with the Rhode Island Reds.

If you prefer a chill, friendly bird that lays steadily through the winter, Barred Rocks are for you.

Background on Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks

First, a little history. Rhode Island Reds were developed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the late 19th century.

Breeders were looking for a hardy, dual-purpose bird that was an excellent layer but also provided meat. The result was a bird with rich, reddish-brown plumage and an excellent laying ability of 4-5 large brown eggs per week.

Rhode Island Red vs Barred Rock

They quickly became one of America’s most popular breeds.

Barred Rocks emerged around the same time period. They were bred by crossing Black Java chickens with Dominiques, Plymouth Rocks and Cochins.

The goal was a rugged cold-hardy bird that produced well. Barred Rocks are named for their distinct black and white striped feathers. These chickens performed well in cold Northeast winters while still laying 3-4 brown eggs per week.

Today, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks remain two of the best backyard chicken breeds. Both are dependable, low maintenance birds well-suited for small flocks. But there are some key differences…

Egg Laying

When it comes to egg production, RIRs are hard to top. On average, they lay 250-280 large brown eggs per year.

My RIRs start churning out eggs by 5 months old. Once they hit their laying prime, I’m flooded with 4-6 eggs per hen each week—more than our family can eat!

Rhode Island Red Egg Production

Barred Rocks are no slouches in the egg department either. You can expect around 200 large brown eggs annually from a Barred Rock.

However, during cold winter months when daylight is shorter, they tend to slow down production or stop completely. My Barred Rocks drop down to 1-3 eggs per week in the dead of winter here in Vermont.

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So if maximum eggs are your goal, Rhode Island Reds are the champion. But Barred Rocks will keep your egg basket filled for much of the year too.


In terms of personality, both RIRs and Barred Rocks make wonderful pets. They are gentle, friendly birds who are happy to eat treats from your hand and follow you around the yard.

Rhode Island Red vs Barred Rock

Rhode Island Reds in particular are quite affectionate. My RIR Henrietta loves to jump on my shoulder when I’m gardening and come running when she hears the back door open. She’s also terrific with kids—patient and tolerant as can be.

Barred Rocks are typically more reserved but still make great companion chickens. My Barred Rock Barbara is happy to eat cracked corn from my hand, but doesn’t seek out petting like the RIRs do. She keeps to herself more than the others.

So in summary, RIRs make fantastically personable (and Instagrammable!) backyard chickens, while Barred Rocks are more independent but still friendly.


Let’s talk about good looks! RIRs are known for their deep, lustrous reddish brown feathers.

They have long flowing tails, bright yellow beaks and legs, and lovely red single combs and wattles. My RIRs strut around the yard looking like runway supermodels.

Rhode Island Red vs Barred Rock

Barred Rocks are undeniably beautiful too. Their barred pattern of glossy black and white stripes is quite striking. And those bright red single combs complement the feathers nicely.

They have a classic bird look that is very appealing.

So it comes down to your preference—the rich red plumage of Rhode Island Reds or the stylish black-and-white barred pattern of Barred Rocks. Either will be a fetching addition to your flock!

Cold Hardiness

If you live in a colder northern climate, Barred Rocks are often a better choice than RIRs. Those tight feathers help conserve body heat, and Barred Rocks continue laying through cold seasons.

My Barred Rocks soldier on during snowy Vermont winters, although egg production drops off when temperatures dip below freezing.

Rhode Island Reds don’t tolerate cold quite as well and tend to stop laying altogether in the dead of winter. The extra exposed skin and large single comb on RIRs also increases the risk of frostbite. If you live where winters are harsh, I’d go with a Barred Rock over a Rhode Island Red.

That said, RIRs can still thrive fine in many cooler northern areas. Just make sure to provide a well-insulated coop and extra nutrition during winter months.

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Rhode Island Red hens are known to go broody somewhat frequently. This means they have a strong natural instinct to sit on a nest of eggs and hatch chicks. It’s admirable dedication, but can present challenges if you don’t want more baby chicks!

My RIR Henrietta goes broody like clockwork every spring and summer. She’ll pick a nest, flatten out her body over the eggs, and refuse to move for up to several weeks. I’ve had to physically remove her multiple times to get her to start laying again. It interrupts her egg production during prime season.

In contrast, Barred Rock hens rarely go broody. My Barred Rocks have never shown interest in chick-rearing. They just keep churning out eggs year-round. So if you don’t want to deal with broodiness, Barred Rocks are a safer bet.

Foraging Skills

Both Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks are decent foragers that will seek out bugs, seeds and greens in the yard. However, Barred Rocks tend to be a bit more skilled in this area.

My Barred Rocks spend hours leisurely wandering the yard looking for tasty morsels. They have an innate ability to scout out grub. I’ve seen them dig deep in mulch piles for worms, and delicately pluck tiny seeds from grass stems.

Rhode Island Reds aren’t too far behind in foraging abilities, but they seem a bit more content with their feed ration! Still, they’ll cover ground and eat weeds, insects and more when let out to free range.

Heat Tolerance

If you live in a hot southern climate, Rhode Island Reds handle heat better than Barred Rocks. Those bare red feathers allow better heat dissipation. And the large comb on RIRs acts as a radiator to release body heat.

Barred Rocks don’t cope quite as well in sweltering summers. All those feathers are great insulation in winter, but can cause them to overheat when temperatures spike. I add extra shade, ventilation and cool treats for my Barred Rocks on really hot days.

So in general, RIRs thrive better in consistently steamy, humid climates. Go with them or lighter feathered breeds if you live far south.

Space Requirements

Rhode Island Reds tend to be slightly smaller in stature than Barred Rocks. An average RIR hen weighs 6-7 lbs compared to 7-8 lbs for a Barred Rock. This gives RIRs a bit of an advantage in small backyard flocks where space is limited.

My petite RIRs are perfectly content in a small 4×6 coop and tiny dirt run. They don’t seem to mind tight quarters. The larger Barred Rocks perform well in the same space but prefer more room to roam and forage.

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So if your backyard is truly tiny, I’d lean towards compact Rhode Island Reds. But Barred Rocks are still a great choice for most standard small-scale setups.


As two of the most popular backyard chicken breeds, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks have similar pricing. Expect to pay $3-5 per chick at local farm stores or online hatcheries. Some breeders charge a bit more for “show quality” birds.

Since they lay well and have such wonderful temperaments, even older RIR and Barred Rock hens get scooped up quickly on Craigslist. You’ll usually pay $15-25 for a laying age hen. Roosters of both breeds can be harder to find homes for and often go for under $10.

The bottom line is both are very reasonably priced. And they deliver excellent value for some of the lowest costs breeds you can own!

Barnyard Brawl: Rhode Island Red Challenges the Barred Rock Titan

Trait Rhode Island Red Barred Rock
Egg laying per year 250-280 eggs 200 eggs
Egg color Brown Brown
Egg size Large Large
Cold hardiness Moderate Excellent
Heat tolerance Excellent Moderate
Broodiness Frequent Rare
Personality Very friendly Friendly
Foraging ability Moderate Excellent
Size 6-7 lbs 7-8 lbs
Space requirements Moderate Moderate
Plumage color Reddish brown Black & white barred
Comb style Single Single
Cost per chick $3-5 $3-5
Noise level Moderate Low
Chick friendliness Very friendly Wary at first
Predator avoidance Poor Good
Coop cleanliness Messy Clean
Feed intake Moderate Moderate

So in a nutshell, here are my recommendations:

  • Rhode Island Reds if you want maximum egg production, a friendly and affectionate personality, and gorgeous reddish-brown plumage.
  • Barred Rocks if you live in a very cold northern climate and want a winter-hardy, steady year-round layer with a beautiful black-and-white barred pattern.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either breed. I love both my RIRs and Barred Rocks for different reasons.

Hopefully this gives you a good sense of which might suit your needs better. Let me know if you have any other questions, and happy chicken raising!

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