Rhode Island Red vs Buff Orpington: Which Backyard Chicken is Right For You?



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Now I know what you’re thinking – this guy doesn’t know the first thing about chickens.

And you’d be right! Before starting my backyard flock last year, I couldn’t tell a Rhode Island Red from a Buff Orpington to save my life.

But let me tell you, after raising both breeds for the past year, I’ve learned a thing or two about their differences.

Stick with me and I’ll break it down for you, backyard chicken-style.


It all started on a warm spring day last year when my wife and I were visiting our local feed store.

We had dreams of waking up to farm-fresh eggs every morning, just like my grandpa did back in the day.

As we wandered the baby chick section, peering into their fluffy little feathers, one feisty Rhode Island Red caught my eye.

She was spunky, energetic, and ready to take on the world.

My wife, on the other hand, fell in love with a docile Buff Orpington, who seemed content to sit calmly and take in her surroundings.

And just like that, we brought home one chick of each breed, ready to see how they compared.


After a year of chicken parenting under my belt, I can definitively say that Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons are about as different as two chickens can get.

From egg production to temperament to cold hardy capabilities, these two backyard chicken breeds are unique in their own ways.


Keep reading and I’ll break down their key differences so you can decide which of these feathered ladies is right for your flock.

Egg Production

When it comes to pumping out eggs, Rhode Island Reds reign supreme.

Rhode Island Red Egg Production

My RIR hen lays a whopping 5-6 big brown eggs a week, like clockwork.

I’m talking eggs so large you’d swear they came from an ostrich! Her egg song is hearty and persistent, like she’s belting out the chicken version of an 80s power ballad every morning.

My Buff Orpington on the other hand, lays a modest 3-4 medium sized eggs per week.

But don’t let that lower production fool you – the eggs my Buff Orpington lays are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

They’re a warm caramel brown with dark chocolate speckles so picturesque they look like they belong in a still life painting.

I’ve even thought about entering her eggs into those decorative egg competitions!

When it comes to consistency, Rhode Island Reds are hard to beat. My RIR girl lays eggs like clockwork, rain or shine. I can set my watch to her 10am egg song. Buff Orpingtons tend to be a bit more sensitive to weather and stress.

When the heat gets intense in the summer or if a predator stresses out my flock, she’s more likely to go “off lay” for a period of time.

But get this – even when my Buff Orpington does pause laying, she only takes a brief 1-2 week break before bouncing back with a vengeance.

Rhode Island Reds seem to go through more prolonged 2-3 month molting periods where egg production stops completely. So Buff Orpingtons may lay fewer eggs overall, but offer more consistent year-round production.

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If you’re looking for a chicken who will follow you around the yard like a puppy, then go with a Rhode Island Red.


My RIR is super social and always underfoot as I work in the garden or take care of yard chores. She loves human interaction and is an absolute cuddle bug who will fall asleep in your lap.

Buff Orpingtons have a more mellow, relaxed temperament. My Buff girl is perfectly content spending her days leisurely foraging around the yard on her own terms. She’ll occasionally come over for a quick pet, then be on her way.

Rhode Island Reds make fantastic 4-H and backyard chickens for kids since they love all the handling. My RIR patiently lets the neighborhood kids give her hugs and chase her around the yard. She’s never once pecked at them or gotten aggressive.

Buff Orpingtons, on the other hand, don’t have nearly as much tolerance for loud kids chasing them around! They prefer gentle calm interaction.

My Buff Orpington has nipped at my niece a time or two when she got too hyper. So if you have small children who want an interactive chicken, I’d definitely recommend the tolerant and sweet Rhode Island Red.


With their rich mahogany feathers and bright yellow legs, Rhode Island Reds are one of the flashiest backyard chicken breeds around.


My RIR hen has stunning reddish-brown plumage that gleams with an iridescent beetle-green and orange sheen in the sunlight.

Her feathers are so lustrous they look airbrushed! Buff Orpingtons have fluffy cream and caramel colored feathers that give them a cuddly, loveable appearance.

My Buff Orpington looks like a feathery stuffed animal come to life. Her soft buff feathers are flecked with black speckles that remind me of vanilla bean ice cream.

And that fluffy butt – don’t even get me started! It’s so adorably plump she waddles when she walks. Basically, picture the downy cuddliness of a duck crossed with the flirty sass of a chicken.

Cold Hardy Capabilities

When the temperatures start to dip in fall, my Buff Orpington really starts to shine.


Her abundantly thick and fluffy down feathers provide ample insulation that keeps her nice and toasty throughout the bitter cold winters here in Vermont.

She plows through snow drifts like a feathered snow plow and has no problem laying eggs even when temps drop below zero. Rhode Island Reds, on the other hand, have more sleek, close-fitting feathers that don’t provide quite as much insulation from the cold.

My RIR stops laying eggs altogether once temperatures consistently drop into the 30s.

And during the polar vortex last year when temps got down to -15, she stayed huddled in the coop and refused to come out! So if you live in a more temperate climate, the RIR will be fine through the winter. But for frozen tundra locations, go with the cold-hardy Buff Orpington.

Feed Requirements

When it comes to feeding your flock, Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons have some differences in their dietary needs.

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Rhode Island Reds are lean, active foragers that do well on a 16-18% protein poultry feed. They have a faster metabolism and use up energy more quickly as they busily rummage through the yard. I like to free-choice feed my RIR flock so they have access to food at all times to fuel their energetic lifestyle.

Buff Orpingtons, on the other hand, are more relaxed grazers and do perfectly fine on a lower protein feed between 14-16%.

Too much protein can actually make them overweight! My Buff ladies get plenty of exercise, but they aren’t as relentlessly active as the RIRs. Limit feeding is ideal for Buffys to prevent excess weight gain. I portion their feed out morning and evening to match their slower metabolic rate.

During heat stress or peak egg production, boosting protein up to 20% for both breeds can help support their increased nutritional demands.

And don’t forget the calcium supplement for strong eggshells! I offer free choice oyster shell along with their feed. Good quality layer feed, clean water, and some supplemental greens or scratch grains are all these ladies need to thrive.

Broodiness and Maternal Skills

Rhode Island Red hens aren’t very prone to broodiness – maybe one out of every five hens will exhibit strong mothering instincts.

But when they do go broody, they are fiercely dedicated to incubation but notoriously bad mothers! My RIR hen once went broody and refused to leave an unfertilized nest for over two weeks.

Then when the eggs inevitably didn’t hatch, she abandoned the nest in confusion. Rhode Island Reds make committed incubators, but lack natural mothering skills.

Buff Orpingtons, on the other hand, are renowned for their exemplary broodiness and fantastic mothering abilities.

Four out of my five Buff hens reliably go broody each spring. And once those Buffys set their mind on motherhood, nothing breaks their focus!

They diligently incubate the eggs, turning them multiple times a day like a biological ferris wheel. And when the chicks hatch, Buff mothers are extremely protective and attentive.

Ideal Environment and Housing

When setting up an ideal habitat for your flock, there are a few key differences to keep in mind between Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons.

Rhode Island Reds do best with plenty of space to roam and forage. My RIR flock has free reign of my one acre yard and they utilize every square foot scratching, dust bathing, and sunning themselves. Buff Orpingtons don’t need quite as much land to roam, but they do require more protective shelter.

My mixed flock takes shelter beneath the branches of a mature maple tree, which provides shade from the summer sun and a wind break in winter.

I also have a small 8×12 coop for overnight and egg laying. The key for housing Buffys is draft-free shelter from wind, rain, and cold to protect all those voluptuous feathers! Deep pine shavings make a cozy winter bedding. For RIRs, focus more on offering dust baths, roosts, and foraging area over elaborate housing.

Predator Protection

Protecting your flock from neighborhood predators like dogs, foxes or hawks is a high priority for any backyard chicken keeper.

Rhode Island Reds are alert, reactive birds that startle easily and sound the alarm at any potential threat. My RIRs run flapping and squawking to the coop at the slightest odd noise. This skittishness can be tiresome, but does provide an early warning system against predators.

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Buff Orpingtons have a much more relaxed, unflappable temperament. They typically ignore unusual sounds or sights, and are less likely to raise a ruckus.

While this avoidance of false alarms is nice, it can make Buffys more vulnerable to actual predation since they lack the nervous vigilance of the RIRs. I’ve found the best approach is a mixed flock – my RIRs raise the alarm then the Buffys follow along calmly to safety.

Ideal Climate Conditions

When selecting a chicken breed, pay close attention to your regional climate and weather patterns. Rhode Island Reds adapt well to a variety of conditions and do fine in most average temperature ranges. Just make sure to provide cool shade and ventilation in summer, and wind protection in winter.

Buff Orpingtons, however, are more climate specific. Their fluffy plumage makes them susceptible to heat stress in excessively hot southern climates.

Temperatures over 90F can cause lethargy, reduced feeding, and lower egg production. Free choice water, shade, and cool treats like watermelon help beat the heat.

In chilly northern regions, Buffys revel in the cold thanks to their downy insulation. Just avoid excess moisture which can dampen all those feathers. Choose the right breed for your local conditions.

Rhode Island Red or Buff Orpington? The Winner

So who’s the winner in a Rhode Island Red vs Buff Orpington showdown?

Honestly, I think both breeds make fabulous backyard chickens! Rhode Island Reds are prolific egg layers that bond closely with their owners.

And the flashy reddish plumage provides a real pop of color to your flock. On the flip side, Buff Orpingtons are sweet-natured and unbelievably cold hardy.

And you just can’t beat that cute fluffy butt! At the end of the day, each breed has their own benefits and drawbacks.

My advice? Get one of each and enjoy the best of both worlds like I did! Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons have complementary qualities that balance each other out beautifully.

Just make sure you have adequate backyard space since these active ladies need room to roam and forage. But if you’re limited to just one breed, think about your climate and egg laying needs.

Rhode Island Reds excel in warmer southern regions where Buff Orpingtons really can’t tolerate the heat.

But for Northern cold climates, a Buff is the clear choice for winter egg production. Otherwise, follow your heart and choose whichever fluffy butt tugs at your chicken-loving heartstrings!

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