Rhode Island Red vs Rhode Island White

Rhode Island Rumble: Red vs White Chicken Showdown

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Now I may just be a simple chicken farmer, but I’ve learned a thing or two about raising Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites over the years.

And let me tell ya, these birds couldn’t be more different! It all started back in ’09 when I decided to get into the chicken biz.

I’ll spare you the long origin story, but suffice to say, after some extensive research, I settled on starting my flock with those famous Rhode Island breeds. And oh boy, was I in for a wild ride!

My first impression after getting those baby chicks was pure delight.

They were just the cutest little puffballs, peeping away in my brooder. But it wasn’t long before their personalities started to shine through.

Those Rhode Island Reds were feisty from the start. Always squabbling over food and jostling each other to get the best nesting spot.

The Rhode Island Whites on the other hand, they were just sweet as pie. Happy-go-lucky and content to mill around my coop without a care in the world.

Now you’re probably wondering which breed I prefer.

Well, I’d have to say it depends on what you’re looking for in a chicken. Keep reading and I’ll break it all down for ya.

Egg Production

When it comes to laying eggs, Rhode Island Reds are champs! Those gals started pumping out eggs well before the Whites, sometimes as early as 16-18 weeks old.

Rhode Island Red vs Rhode Island White

And they have kept up an impressive production rate ever since, averaging 5-6 eggs per week in their prime.

One time my best Red hen, Ol’ Cluckzilla, laid a whopping 8 eggs in a single week! That’s more eggs than I knew what to do with. I was giving them away to neighbors left and right.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Whites lay nice big brown eggs too. But they take their sweet time getting started, not coming into lay until 6-7 months old typically.

And even then, they’ve never been as prolific as my Red ladies, maxing out around 4 eggs per week on average.

My White hen Ophelia is my best layer of the bunch, bless her heart, popping out 4-5 eggs like clockwork. But she’s the exception, not the rule. Most of her sisters top out at 2-3 eggs per week at their peak.

The other advantage my Red hens have is persistence. As they age, their egg production holds up better over time compared to the Whites.

At 2 years old, my Reds are still cranking out 4+ eggs per week reliably. Meanwhile some of my older White gals are down to an egg every other day or less by that point.

So if you’re looking to maximize eggs over a long productive lifespan, Rhode Island Reds are the clear winner!

Temperament

Remember when I said those Rhode Island Reds were feisty? Well that spunky attitude has stuck with them into adulthood.

Rhode Island Red vs Rhode Island White

They tussle with each other something fierce and don’t take kindly to being handled. I’ve been flogged by my Red girls more than a few times when trying to gather eggs or move them around the yard.

Matilda is one of my more aggressive Reds – she attacks me every time I reach into the nesting boxes! And don’t even think about trying to pick her up, or you’ll be getting pecked and clawed like there’s no tomorrow.

I tried to be gentle at first, but now I just scold her and grab her by the legs to move her out of the way when needed. After 5 years together she still hasn’t warmed up to me one bit.

Geraldine is another Red with attitude. She has asserted herself as the dominant hen of the flock and keeps the others in line with aggressive pecking. Last month she tore a hole in poor Delia’s comb and made it bleed!

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I had isolate Delia for a week while it healed up. Geraldine sure takes her position as top bird seriously.

The Whites however are just darling. Docile as can be and friendly as all get out. They follow me around the yard like puppies, always looking for treats and attention.

I can scoop those gals up anytime without a squawk of protest. Even my rooster Alfred is as gentle as a lamb, happily eating scratch right out of my hand.

Penelope is my sweetest White hen, always first to hop in my lap or eat from my hand. She loves it when I pet her – just starts purring like a kitten, eyes closed in bliss.

And she’s so patient with the chicks too, letting them climb all over her without a peep of objection. Yep, you just can’t ruffle Penelope’s feathers one bit. Wish all my girls were as mellow and congenial as her!

Cold Hardiness

Now this is where those fiery Rhode Island Reds have the advantage.

Their full feathering and assertive nature makes them better suited for colder northern climates. I’ve found my Reds handle the winter just fine, thanks to their thick plumage and icy disposition.

Rhode Island Red vs Rhode Island White

Last winter we had a terrible ice storm come through that knocked out power for over a week. The temperature dropped below freezing at night but my Red ladies powered through it like champs.

They hunkered down in the coop and piled on top of each other to stay warm. Matilda’s comb did get a little frostbite, but otherwise they came through unscathed.

The Whites on the other hand don’t tolerate cold weather nearly as well. They have big floppy combs that are prone to frostbite. And their feathers lack the dense insulating undercoat that the Reds have. I have to keep space heaters running in the coop 24/7 for the Whites once it’s below 25 degrees. Even then, their combs often get tipped in ice and frost-nipped.

Poor Alfred got it the worst last winter. His comb was droopy and shriveled up by the end of that ice storm and it never did return to normal. Now it flops to one side pathetically. But he’s still kicking at least! The Whites do okay with some extra protection, but Northern winters are certainly harsher on them compared to the hardy Reds.

So if you live up north like me, the Reds are your best bet for a winter hardy bird. Their feisty attitude serves them well in cold weather survival!

Meat & Broodiness

While both breeds make mighty fine eating, the Reds grow quite a bit bigger and are therefore better for meat production. Their average weight is around 6.5 lbs compared to the Whites at 5 lbs. My best Reds top out around 8 lbs by 20 weeks. That’s a lot of hearty chicken dinners!

Geraldine, my dominant hen I mentioned earlier, was a real chunker in her prime. At 18 weeks she weighed in at nearly 9 lbs! She put all her energy into growing big and strong rather than laying eggs. I butchered her at 20 weeks and got a good 5 lbs of meat off her carcass. Delicious!

The Whites never come close to that size no matter how long I let them grow out. My rooster Alfred is the largest White I’ve raised and he maxed out at 6 lbs at 6 months old. Most of the hens stay pretty petite their whole lives. Great for eggs, but not beefy enough for meat birds.

The Whites do have one advantage though – they tend to get broody more often. So if you’re looking to hatch your own chicks, a broody White hen is the way to go! My Buffy went broody 4 times last spring. She raised up over 20 chicks totally on her own – what a good mama! I’ve never had one of my Reds get broody even once.

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So while the Reds are my pick for meat production, you just can’t beat a doting White hen when it comes to raising adorable fluffy babies. They seem to relish motherhood!

Foraging Ability

When it comes to scavenging and foraging skills, Rhode Island Reds come out ahead. They are active birds that love to roam and explore their environment. I often see my Reds scratching and pecking vigorously through the dirt and leaf litter looking for bugs, seeds and scraps.

Matilda is one of my best foragers – she can spend an hour in the same spot digging, turning over every stick and stone until she’s found some tasty morsel like worms, beetles or spiders. She’s not afraid to really work the land. And her powerful beak makes short work of any obstacles in her path.

The Whites are more complacent in their foraging and will give up sooner if food is not readily available. My girl Penelope is content to slowly pick at the top layers of debris, but rarely digs deeper if pickings are slim. And she’ll abandon a spot after 10-15 minutes whether she’s found much to eat or not. The Reds seem to have more bottomless bellies that motivate them to search relentlessly.

This translates to the Reds being better at supplementing their feed bill through foraging. In summer when the ground is teeming with bugs and greens, my Reds can largely sustain themselves on what they scratch up from the yard. But the Whites never rely as heavily on foraged food, preferring their layer mash and treats from yours truly.

So if self-sufficiency through living off the land is important in your flock, Rhode Island Reds are going to more readily fit that bill.

Predator Awareness

When it comes to alertness against aerial and ground predators, the Reds once again show more vigilance. Their active foraging keeps their eyes and ears open to any potential danger.

I’ve found my Reds are quick to send up a clucking alarm if they spot a hawk circling above or a fox slinking around the coop perimeter.

Their nervous energy keeps them on high alert. One time a hawk made an attempt at one of my free-ranging Reds. But Matilda spotted it coming from 30 yards away and sent the entire flock into a frenzy of alarm calls and evasive maneuvers before it got within striking distance. They are savvy to any threats.

The Whites tend to be more oblivious, often ignoring signs of impending danger. Just last week a fox got into the yard in broad daylight.

My Red ladies made a racket, but most of the Whites carried on with their pecking and dust bathing clueless to the fox in their midst. Thankfully I was home to scare it off before it grabbed one of those hapless Whites!

So when it comes to natural protective instincts, Rhode Island Reds have more innate vigilance. Their caution and distrust keeps them alert to risks that the mild-mannered Whites are naively unaware of.

Heat Tolerance

When the dog days of summer bring scorching temps and high humidity, Rhode Island Reds handle the heat better than the Whites. Red’s have tight feathering that doesn’t insulate them quite as heavily. This allows airflow to keep them cooler.

Last July was a real scorcher with temps over 100 degrees for weeks on end. My poor White hens were panting and struggling to even walk around the yard. I set up sprinklers, fans and frozen water bottles in the coop but they still weren’t very comfortable. Egg production plummeted during that stretch.

Meanwhile my Reds were faring relatively fine. Their larger combs and wattles help dissipate body heat more effectively. And they spent a good portion of the day dust bathing, which cools them off. They continued laying fairly well despite the oppressive weather.

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So if you live in a hot southern climate, Rhode Island Reds can better handle the heat. Their natural ability to shed heat gives them an advantage over the fluffy Whites in sweltering weather.

Space Requirements

Rhode Island Whites need a bit more living space than the compact Reds. Whites are larger birds on average and their docile nature means they are less inclined to venture far from their coop.

My energetic Reds cover every inch of my 3 acre property throughout the day. They trek all over seeking food, dust bathing spots, insects to chase, and prime nesting real estate. At night they pile into the coop contentedly after their adventures.

But my Whites tend to be real homebodies. Aside from Alfred the rooster, the hens rarely wander more than 50 feet from their coop. They prefer lounging in the shade of the building or ornamental shrubs I have planted nearby. More space doesn’t entice them to roam farther afield.

Because of this, I’ve found my White hens need a more spacious coop and attached run to keep them happily occupied. They spend a good 23 hours a day in their immediate shelter area. My Reds are fine with a smaller coop thanks to their ranging habits.

So if you have limited space, the energetic Rhode Island Reds are the better choice. Their boldness means they use vertical and horizontal space more efficiently than the mellow Whites.

Flock Integration

Introducing new birds into an established flock can be tricky business. Rhode Island Reds are more likely to resist newcomers and react aggressively. Reds already joust with each other – they certainly don’t take kindly to strangers in their midst.

Last fall I tried adding a few new Red pullets to my flock. Big mistake. Matilda was not having it. She chased, pecked and jumped on those poor pullets mercilessly anytime they came near the coop or run. This went on for weeks before I finally had to rehome the newbies for their own safety.

The Rhode Island Whites however are usually more amenable to newcomers. When I added a few new White hens this spring, Penelope and the crew accepted them after the expected initial tussle to establish pecking order. Within 2 weeks they were scratched together in the yard like old pals.

So if you plan to grow your flock gradually over time, the easygoing Rhode Island Whites are a better bet for flock integration.

The fiery Reds are more likely to resent and hassle new birds rather than welcome them into the family.

 

Rhode Island Red Vs Rhode Island White Face-Off

Rhode Island Red Rhode Island White
Egg production Very high – 5-6 eggs/week Moderate – 3-4 eggs/week
Egg color Brown Brown
Age at first lay 16-18 weeks 24-28 weeks
Temperament Fiesty, aggressive Docile, calm
Cold hardiness Excellent Moderate
Heat tolerance Very good Moderate
Broodiness Rarely Frequently
Rooster temperament Aggressive Docile
Size 6.5 lbs 5 lbs
Predator evasion Excellent Poor
Foraging ability Excellent Moderate
Coop space needed Minimum Moderate
Range area needed Moderate Minimum
Integrating new birds Difficult Easy
Egg production over time Remains high Declines with age
Meat production Excellent Poor
Feather care Minimal Moderate
Feed consumption High Moderate
Climate versatility High Moderate
Cost Low Moderate
Settling with mixed flocks Poor Good
Noise level Moderate Low
Kid friendliness Low High
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