Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red: Which Chicken Breed is Right For You?



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Now I know what you’re thinking – chickens, really? But let me tell you, ever since my wife brought home those first few Rhode Island Red chicks a few years back, I’ve been hooked.

Who knew those feathered critters could be so darn charming?

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post: Rhode Island Reds versus New Hampshire Reds. I’ve raised both breeds on my little homestead, so I like to think I’ve gotten to know them pretty well.

And they both have their merits, but there are some key differences you’ll want to consider before picking your flock.

It all started when my wife Emily got a coupon for free chick day at the local feed store. She came home with six tiny Rhode Island Red chicks cheeping away in a cardboard box.

I tell you what, those adorable balls of fluff had me wrapped around their little talons from day one.

But as they grew, I noticed those Rhode Island Reds were feisty little birds! My old rooster Rocky was downright ornery and would flog my legs any chance he got.

And those hens were always bickering over treats and perch space. On the plus side, they laid nice big brown eggs and were excellent foragers when let loose in the yard.

A few years later, Emily got it in her head that she wanted to try a different breed. This time she brought home six New Hampshire Red chicks.

Well let me tell you, these birds have a completely different temperament compared to those spicy Rhode Island Reds!

Disposition & Temperament

Rhode Island Reds are known for being active, flighty birds that can be difficult to tame. New Hampshires, on the other hand, tend to be much calmer and tolerant of handling.

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red

My Rhode Island Red rooster Rocky was downright vicious at times. He would chase me around the yard and flog my legs if I turned my back.

I had to carry a stick to defend myself from his spurs! But that feisty attitude is part of the Rhode Island Red’s heritage – they were bred to be scrappy survivors.

The Rhodes Island Red hens were very competitive around food time. There would be lots of anxious pacing, feather ruffling and squabbling at the feeder and they certainly didn’t like me reaching into their space. I learned quickly not to get between a Rhode Island Red and her supper!

The New Hampshire Reds I’ve raised have been completely different. Even the rooster is mild-mannered and has never been aggressive. The hens are so docile I can scoop them up whenever I want and they never make a fuss. The New Hampshires get along pretty well together with minimal drama.

When my niece comes over, she can collect eggs from the New Hampshire coop no problem.

But I don’t dare let her go near those feisty Rhode Island Reds! So if you’re looking for a breed that plays nicely with others, I’d go with the New Hampshires.

Egg Production

Now when it comes to laying eggs, Rhode Island Reds are champs. Those ladies kept up a steady pace of 4-5 big brown eggs per week over their first couple years.

My best Rhode Island Red layer was a hen named Ruby. She was cranking out at least one egg a day in her prime, sometimes more! I’d routinely find her nest crammed with 3 huge brown eggs. Sadly her production dropped off after the second year, which is typical.

The New Hampshires have been less prolific overall at 3-4 eggs per week in the first couple years. My top producer has been a New Hampshire called Buffy who is good for about 5 eggs a week. But most of the other New Hampshire hens lag behind her output.

I also notice the New Hampshire eggs tend to be a bit smaller than the Rhode Island eggs. Rhode Island Reds just have phenomenal egg laying genetics – they were bred specifically to be high production birds.

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So if you want a chicken that pops out egg after egg, the Rhode Island Reds are going to produce more eggs over their lifetime compared to New Hampshires.

Heat Tolerance

Here in Texas, heat tolerance is a big consideration when choosing a chicken breed. Rhode Island Reds don’t seem to deal as well with heat compared to New Hampshires.

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red

Those big floppy combs on the Rhode Island Reds are prone to heat stress. I’ve noticed my Rhode Island Reds panting and holding their wings away from their bodies to stay cool once temps climb over 90 degrees.

A few times the combs of my RIR rooster Rocky got frostbitten during heat waves.

The New Hampshires handle hot Texas summers just fine thanks to their smaller combs. Even on 100 degree dog days, my New Hampshire hens keep cruising around the yard without a problem.

Their combs stay small and vibrant red rather than drooping from heat exhaustion like the Rhode Island Reds.

So if you live in a hot southern state like me, go with New Hampshires. Their heat tolerance is definitely superior from my experience.

Cold Hardiness

If you live up north where winters get frigid cold, the Rhode Island Reds may have an advantage.

Their large combs don’t do them any favors in summer, but help dissipate heat from their bodies in winter.

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red

I remember a cold snap one January where temps got down into the teens. My Rhode Island Reds hunkered down but kept trucking through the yard like champs.

But the New Hampshires stayed huddled near the coop and seemed hesitant to venture out in the icy conditions.

The smaller combs on New Hampshires don’t radiate body heat as effectively. And the New Hampshires lack the full skirt of feathers that the Rhode Islands have which helps conserve warmth. So when it gets downright frigid, Rhode Island Reds can better handle the cold than New Hampshires.

There’s a reason Rhode Island Reds are so popular with farmers in places like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. They’ve got what it takes to thrive through the long brutal winters up north.

Foraging Skills

When it comes to scratching up grubs, both breeds are excellent foragers. I let my birds loose in a fenced acre of pasture and woods, and they hunt down bugs, seeds and plants like champs.

But the Rhode Island Reds seem to have a slight edge when it comes to ranging farther and covering all corners of the property. Last summer I watched my flock decimate a big mole cricket infestation in the south pasture. The Rhode Islands led that charge and picked through that area like a fine tooth comb!

The New Hampshires tend to stick closer to the coop and barns where there is plenty to pick through. They’ll venture out, but not with the tenacity of those Rhode Island Reds who will walk a quarter mile if that’s what it takes to find fresh goodies.

So if your land is expansive with areas a good trek from the coop, Rhode Island Reds will do a better job scouring every inch for hidden treats. Both breeds are very self-sufficient thanks to their foraging skills. But the Rhode Island Reds seem to have that extra dose of wanderlust and bottomless appetite that makes them ideal free rangers.


There are some physical differences between these breeds too. Rhode Island Reds are slightly larger with the hens weighing 6-7 pounds on average. My biggest RIR was a hen named Bertha who was more like 8-9 pounds!

New Hampshire hens average 5-6 pounds in my experience. My largest New Hampshire is probably about 6.5 pounds at best.

Rhode Island Reds have long rectangular bodies, giving them a torpedo-like silhouette. New Hampshires are a bit more compact and triangular in shape to my eye.

The Rhode Island Reds really stand out with their long flowing tails that drape behind them as they walk. My rooster Rocky’s tail nearly touched the ground! The New Hampshires have a shorter, neater tail that doesn’t extend too far past their body.

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The feathering on the legs also differs – Rhode Island Reds have nice feather “boots” on their shanks, while the New Hampshires have clean, slender legs with minimal feathering. But both breeds share those deep red-brown feathers that just scream “classic farm chicken” to me!


When it comes to broody hens who want to set a clutch of eggs and raise up some chicks, Rhode Island Reds are not very inclined to go broody. Those busy ladies are so focused on pumping out egg after egg, they don’t have much time for brooding.

I’ve had a couple Rhode Island Reds occasionally try to set a nest, but they give up after a few days and go back to laying. It’s just not in their nature to diligently sit for the 3+ weeks it takes to hatch out chicks.

New Hampshires, on the other hand, have a much stronger broody streak. It’s not uncommon for one or two New Hampshire hens in my flock to go broody each spring. Once they set a nest, they doggedly sit for the full incubation period until the chicks hatch.

So if you want a hen to raise chicks for you without needing an incubator, the New Hampshires are a better choice. They have a very strong maternal instinct and attentively care for their wee ones once they’ve hatched.

One trick I use is slipping some fertilized eggs from my Rhode Island Reds underneath a broody New Hampshire hen. She happily adopts the Rhode Island Red chicks as her own once they hatch out! So the New Hampshires make wonderful surrogate moms for other breeds.

There are some downsides to broodiness though. Egg production stops completely during the 3-4 week brooding period. And some hens will go broody all spring and summer long, sitting back to back clutches endlessly. If egg laying is a priority for you, broodiness in your hens can be an annoying hindrance.

So weigh your own goals carefully when considering the broody factor between these two breeds.

Meat Production

While Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires are primarily raised for eggs, their meat can be a nice bonus. Both are dual-purpose heritage breeds that put on decent muscle mass.

Rhode Island Reds tend to be larger overall, so the roosters will provide a bit more meat. I process my Rhode Island Red roos at 5-6 months and they dress out between 5-7 pounds. The hens grow a little slower and I usually cull them around 9 months. Their mature size gives 3-5 pounds of meat.

Since New Hampshires are smaller, their meat yields are a bit less. My New Hampshire roos dress out around 4-6 pounds at butchering time. And the mature hens yield about 2-4 pounds of meat.

The meat from both breeds has great old-fashioned chicken flavor. However Rhode Island Reds have a slight edge for mass producing poultry meat. Their fast growth, large size and good feed-to-meat conversion make them a top choice for pastured chicken growers.

But both breeds are perfectly fine for homestead-level meat production. The surplus males provide a good supply of chicken dinners through the year. I like to butcher a few hens each season to keep the flock numbers balanced. Freezer space fills up quick when chicken harvest time rolls around!

Predator Avoidance

Free-ranging chickens face threats from aerial and ground predators like hawks, owls, raccoons and coyotes. Both Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires have decent survival instincts, but their response to predators differs.

Rhode Island Reds are quite flighty so they often panic and scatter when a predator approaches. This can actually help their survival chances by confusing the predator. But it also makes them harder to catch if you need to lock them up.

New Hampshires tend to freeze or crouch down when they sense a threat overhead. This helps them go undetected. Against terrestrial predators like foxes, they are more likely to face off or mob the intruder rather than run away.

In both cases, roosters of both breeds are pretty fearless and will confront predators with spurs flying! The hens often use the rooster as a lookout and warning siren.

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From what I’ve observed, the Rhode Island Reds are most on guard against aerial threats like hawks thanks to their skittish nature. New Hampshires seem better tuned into approaching land predators.

For true survivor stock, you may want to look at heritage breeds developed specifically for predator savvy like Dominiques, Chanteclers and Buckeyes. But both Reds have good self-preservation skills overall when free ranging.

Noise Level

Chickens clucking and squawking are just part of farm life. But the volume level differs between Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds.

Rhode Island Reds have a reputation for being quite vocal birds. My RIR rooster Rocky constantly announced his presence with loud cock-a-doodle-doing starting at dawn each day. And the hens chatter and cackle excitedly when I bring treats.

New Hampshire Reds are much quieter in my opinion. My NH rooster crows occasionally but not with the persistence of the Rhode Island Red. And the hens make noticeably less noise overall.

The Rhode Island Reds also get quite loud and worked up during their frequent squabbles. The New Hampshires settle disputes with less fanfare.

So if you need a quieter backyard flock, I would go with New Hampshires. The Rhode Island Reds like to remind you frequently of their presence with their vocal dispositions!

However, the loud chatter of the Rhode Island Reds can serve as an alarm system signaling when something is amiss. Those vocal girls will let you know immediately if a predator is creeping around or if their feeder runs empty!


There’s not a huge difference in cost between Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires when acquiring them from local farm stores or breeders.

Baby chicks typically cost $2-4 each regardless of breed. Most farm stores don’t separate prices by breed.

Mature birds are in the range of $20-30 for hens and $25-35 for roosters. Some breeders may charge slightly more for “purebred” lines but for ordinary backyard flocks, prices are very comparable.

Since feed, housing and other supplies are the same for both breeds, the ongoing care costs are essentially identical as well in my experience.

The one exception is if you want to purchase show quality birds from specialty breeders. Then you’ll pay a steeper premium for the pedigree and conformance to breed standards. But for everyday egg production, costs are on par.

I’d make my choice between Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds based on their temperament, egg laying ability and other traits rather than marginal cost differences.

Both offer excellent value for such personable, productive additions to the homestead!

Rhode Island Red vs New Hampshire Red Chart

Trait Rhode Island Red New Hampshire Red
Size Large – hens 6-7 lbs Medium – hens 5-6 lbs
Temperament Flighty, aggressive Docile, calm
Egg Production Excellent – 4-5 per week Moderate – 3-4 per week
Heat Tolerance Poor – prone to heat stress Good – handles heat well
Cold Hardiness Good – tolerates cold temps Moderate – less cold tolerant
Foraging Excellent – covers wide area Good – stays closer to coop
Broodiness Rarely goes broody Frequently goes broody
Meat Yield Good – 5-7 lbs for roos Moderate – 4-6 lbs for roos
Predator Avoidance Flighty, scattered panic Freeze or confront threat
Noise Level Loud and vocal Quiet overall
Chick Cost $2-4 per chick $2-4 per chick
Adult Cost $20-35 each $20-35 each
Care Costs Same as other standard breeds Same as other standard breeds
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