Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn

Cock-a-Doodle Combat: Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn Showdown



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Growing up on a small farm tucked away in the heart of rural America, my childhood was peppered with the delightful cacophony of clucks, squawks, and the rhythmic hustle of feathered friends.

Our humble backyard was a haven for various chicken breeds, each with its unique charm and quirks.

Among these feathered companions, two breeds, in particular, stood out like stars on a moonlit night – the Rhode Island Red and the Leghorn.

Little did I know that this dynamic duo would spark a friendly, feathered showdown that would become the stuff of local legends in our close-knit community.

It all started with a pair of Rhode Island Reds that my parents brought home one sunny afternoon.

Scarlet-hued and sturdy, these chickens quickly became the unofficial mascots of our homestead.

They were the backbone of our daily egg supply, providing a steady stream of brown eggs that would find their way into grandma’s famous Sunday morning pancakes.

These Reds, as we affectionately called them, were robust, friendly, and always first in line during our makeshift feeding time.

One day, as I was meandering through the rustic landscape of our backyard, I stumbled upon a new addition to our feathered family – the Leghorns.

A trio of these strikingly sleek, white birds had joined the coop, bringing with them an air of elegance and a reputation for exceptional egg-laying prowess.

Intrigued by their reputation, I decided to delve deeper into the world of backyard chicken keeping and uncovered a brewing debate that divided poultry enthusiasts – the Rhode Island Red versus Leghorn showdown:

Egg Laying

Egg production is a top priority for many backyard flock owners. Both Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns are good layers, but Leghorns really outpace the Rhode Islands.

Rhode Island Red Egg Production

On average, Leghorns lay about 280 eggs per year. That shakes out to roughly 5-6 eggs per week. During their peak production period of 4-8 months of age, they can lay even more frequently. My Buff Leghorn Marigold once laid 8 eggs in a single week at 5 months old!

Rhode Island Reds lay approximately 200 eggs per year, or 3-4 eggs per week on average. Their production peaks around 1 year old rather than months like the Leghorns.

My RIR hen Hazel reliably lays 4 large brown eggs for me each week. But she definitely couldn’t keep up with Marigold during her prime!

For some added context, most backyard chicken breeds average 150-180 eggs annually. So while Leghorns are champion layers, Rhode Islands still produce a very respectable number of eggs compared to many breeds. Their brown eggs are large and beautiful too.

I’d recommend Leghorns to anyone wanting maximum egg yields. But Rhode Island Reds can absolutely keep a smaller family supplied with a steady egg basket each week.


Beyond production traits, temperament is so important for backyard chickens that live in close proximity to humans. Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns exhibit remarkably different temperaments.

Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn

Rhode Island Reds are super friendly, mellow birds. My RIR Rosie loves to eat treats from my hand and follow me around the yard. She even hops into my lap for pets! RIRs tend to be very docile and make excellent pets.

Leghorns on the other hand are extremely active and flighty. My Leghorns avoid me unless I have treats to offer them. They much prefer foraging in the yard to human interaction. While not aggressive, Leghorns don’t take well to frequent handling.

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My Rhode Island Red flock members come running when I enter their run. But my Leghorns scurry away squawking! So if you’re looking for chickens to act as pets, Rhode Island Reds are certainly the better breed in that regard.

That’s not to say Leghorns can’t become friendly. With gentle handling from a young age, Leghorns can become accustomed to people. But that calm pet-like temperament comes naturally to Rhode Island Reds.

Climate Tolerance

Heat and cold tolerance are crucial considerations for backyard flocks. Leghorns handle heat exceptionally well, but struggle in cold climates.

Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn

Leghorns have large single combs and big wattles that are prone to frost bite damage. Temperatures below 10°F can put Leghorns at risk. I provide my Leghorns with extra shelter and wind blocks during cold snaps.

Rhode Island Reds have smaller combs and wattles that better tolerate chilly weather. Their heavier body size also retains heat more efficiently. RIRs start growing thicker feathers in autumn to boost winter hardiness.

Last winter when temperatures hit 0°F here, my Rhode Islands stayed perky while my Leghorns hunkered down trying to get warm. I ended up losing a Leghorn rooster to the extreme cold.

So if you live in a warmer climate like me, Leghorns handle the heat wonderfully. But for cooler northern areas, the hardy Rhode Island Reds are a better pick for backyard flocks.


Many backyard chicken keepers appreciate broody hens that can hatch chicks without an incubator. Rhode Island Reds have a strong maternal instinct and frequently go broody.

Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn

Each spring, my RIR Hazel stops laying eggs and sits tightly in a nest box for weeks trying to become a mama. I have to physically remove her from the box daily so she eats and drinks. While it pauses egg laying, I adore seeing that strong natural mothering instinct.

Leghorn hens on the other hand very rarely go broody. In a decade of having Leghorns, I’ve only had one hen try to sit on a clutch. So if raising baby chicks organically is important to you, Rhode Island Reds are by far the better breed.

As long as you collect eggs frequently, a broody RIR will return to laying once the hormonal haze wears off. Some folks will break broodiness by placing frozen peas under the hen at night!

Size and Appearance

There are major size and appearance differences between these two popular backyard chicken breeds.

Leghorns are petite birds, weighing just 3-4 pounds on average. My little Leghorn hens look tiny compared to my other standard-sized chickens.

Rhode Island Reds have medium stature, averaging 6-7 pounds. My RIR Rosie looks massive next to my Leghorns! She has broad shoulders and a sturdy frame.

In terms of looks, Leghorns sport all white plumage with voluminous tails. Their heads are adorned with large crimson combs and wattles. They really are striking birds!

Rhode Island Reds flaunt rich mahogany brown feathers from comb to toe. Their reddish orange eyes perfectly match their small combs and wattles. I just adore their gorgeous coloration.

So Leghorns win points for their dainty size and flashy comb. But Rhode Islands exude classic backyard chicken looks with their sturdy build and deep red-brown hues.

Feeding and Diet

Proper diet and nutrition are crucial for backyard chickens. Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns have some differing nutritional needs.

Leghorns are light eaters and typically thrive on 16-18% protein feed. They don’t overeat, but require constant access to insoluble grit to grind food in their gizzards. Oyster shell supplement also provides much-needed calcium for all those eggs!

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Rhode Island Reds eat heartily and do best on a 14-16% protein feed. They’ll self-regulate on free choice feeding. But beware of obesity, as RIRs are prone to becoming overweight. I find sprinkling scratch grains judiciously keeps them active and trimmed up.

Both breeds relish foraging and benefit from greens, garden waste, sprouted grains, and kitchen scraps. This supplements their diet with key nutrients and antioxidants. Always provide clean water to keep chickens hydrated and their eggshells strong.

Adjust feed amounts and protein content based on egg production, activity levels, and weight maintenance needs. Monitor your chickens’ body condition and eggshell quality to fine tune their diet over time.

Housing and Space Needs

Housing Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns together takes some special considerations due to their differing requirements.

Leghorns are very active and fly quite well – they need ample space. I recommend a minimum of 8 square feet per Leghorn inside the coop and 10 square feet per bird in the outdoor run.

Rhode Island Reds aren’t high flyers and do fine with slightly less room. Plan for a minimum of 5 square feet per RIR inside and 8 square feet in the run. Crowding leads to temperament issues and injuries.

My combined RIR and Leghorn flock shares a coop with roosting bars set at different heights to accommodate both breeds. The Leghorns prefer the highest bars away from the bustle below. Ventilation is also key to keep active Leghorns cool.

Since RIRs tolerate cold better, make sure their coop still provides wind blocks and insulation during winter. Deep-bedded litter prevents frostbite on their feet and combs.

Giving each breed ample, tailored space ensures everyone rests comfortably and coexists harmoniously!

Predator Vulnerability

Backyard chickens face threats from predators like dogs, coyotes, foxes and hawks. Their size, activity levels and bravery influence vulnerability.

Leghorns’ diminutive size and skittish nature makes them prone to predation. It’s not uncommon for Leghorns to be picked off by hawks and owls. Secure, covered runs are a must to keep them safe.

Larger, more confident Rhode Island Reds don’t panic and flee as easily when threatened. Their size also discourages some predators. And motherly RIR hens will band together to protect chicks.

Cooping chickens securely at night is key for both breeds. But Leghorns’ nervousness can invite more danger. They startled and stampeded easily when my dog approached until proper introductions were made.

In free ranging situations, RIRs’ steadier demeanor keeps them safer. But supervised daytime outings are best for flighty Leghorn hens vulnerable to aerial attacks.

Noise Levels

Backyard chickens can sometimes ruffle neighborhood feathers when they get chatty. Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns have very different noise outputs.

Leghorns are very vocal birds. Their loud, frequent egg songs announce every laid egg. And they squawk anxiously at the slightest disturbance. Leghorn roosters crow repetitively even long after dawn.

Rhode Island Reds have much quieter egg songs and calmer dispositions. RIR hens cluck occasionally but don’t react as noisily to perceived threats. And RIR roosters tend to limit crowing to early mornings.

I’ve received noise complaints from cranky neighbors about my vocal Leghorn flock. But my laidback Rhode Islands go largely unnoticed. If maintaining neighborly relations is important, Rhode Island Reds are certainly the quieter breed.

That said, a rooster of any breed can disrupt the peace at daybreak! Hens-only flocks are ideal for close quarters living when possible.

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Cost Considerations

Backyard chicken keeping carries costs. Prices vary for Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chicks, hens and supplies based on breed popularity and other factors.

Leghorn chicks tend to cost $2-4 each, cheaper than many breeds. But as prolific egg layers, producing Leghorn chicks cuts into hatchery profits. So mature Leghorn hens run $20-25.

Rhode Island Reds’ friendly reputation makes their chicks pricier at $4-6 apiece. But their egg yields don’t compare to Leghorns, so RIR hens cost only $15-20.

Feed costs run a bit higher for hearty-eating Rhode Islands. Smaller Leghorns need less food too. Litter and bedding differs based on coop size and stocking density.

Vet expenses are impacted by health traits of each breed. Leghorns’ large combs may require more cold weather attention for instance. There are discounts for buying chicks and supplies in bulk.

With proper care, either breed can be kept on a modest budget. But specific costs for your flock will depend on how you stock, house and feed your Rhode Island Reds or Leghorns.

Poultry Prowess: Rhode Island Red vs Leghorn in a Battle of Beaks

Rhode Island Reds Leghorns
Egg laying per year 200 eggs 280 eggs
Eggs per week 3-4 eggs 5-6 eggs
Temperament Friendly, docile Active, flighty
Heat tolerance Moderate Excellent
Cold tolerance Excellent Poor
Broodiness Frequently broody Rarely broody
Size 6-7 lbs 3-4 lbs
Color Mahogany brown White
Feeding 14-16% protein feed. Prone to obesity. 16-18% protein feed. Light eaters.
Coop space needed 5 sq ft per bird 8 sq ft per bird
Run space needed 8 sq ft per bird 10 sq ft per bird
Predator vulnerability Lower Higher
Noise level Low High
Chick price $4-6 $2-4
Hen price $15-20 $20-25
Food intake Higher Lower
Winter care needs Lower Higher
Vet costs Lower Higher
Coop litter needed More Less
Good for hot climates Moderate Excellent
Good for cold climates Excellent Poor
Broody for natural incubation Yes No
Docile for handling, pets Yes No
Flighty, need covered run No Yes
Neighbor friendly noise levels Yes No


While both Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns make excellent backyard chickens, their differing strengths and weaknesses make them better suited to particular flock owners.

For high egg yields even in hot climates, lively Leghorns can’t be beat. They’ll pump out 5-6 white eggs per week for years on end.

Rhode Island Reds are my pick for family-friendly backyard pets that still lay a steady supply of 3-4 brown eggs. Their winter hardiness gives them an edge in cold climates too.

There’s a reason both breeds are so hugely popular – they’re back yard superstars! By choosing the breed whose traits best align with your goals and climate, you really can’t go wrong.

While that first mixed Rhode Island Red and Leghorn flock was a bit of a mess, I adore both breeds. Experienced chicken-keepers will find each breed has their merits!

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