Plymouth Rock chickens are a true American breed – learn all about this favorite breed.
Chickens come in all shapes and sizes, and the numerous breeds around the world have long found key roles in our backyards, our farms, and sometimes, even in our houses (especially silkies)!
Yet there has long been a misconception among chicken lovers: The Plymouth Rock and the Barred Rock are two different types of chickens.
In reality, the Barred Rock is just one Plymouth Rock chicken recognized variety; in other words, it is a variation of the standard breed.
While it is unlikely that these chickens have purposefully been pulling the wool – or the proverbial feathers – over our eyes, we are nonetheless presenting you with a great opportunity to learn about this wonderful chicken – before you decide to make a better backyard flock with its inclusion.
In this article, we will bring you characteristics, origin, weight, and we will even show off the wonderful plumage that help us distinguish true Plymouth Rock chicken varieties from one another.
5 Amazing Plymouth Rock Chicken Facts
- With popularity stretching back to before the Wild West was tamed, these fluffy butts are one of America’s oldest breeds.
- One of their greatest appeals is their long-lived hardiness. Not only are they rugged and can weather some of the worst storms that Mother Nature throws at them, but their large size makes for more satisfying hugs.
- Gossip in the hen house is spread in relative contentment, as mothers bear confinement well, and can make a home even in limited space.
- Forget the Apple Pie! Until World War II, it could have been said that nothing was as American as the Plymouth Rock Chicken, as no other breed was kept and bred as extensively as the Plymouth Rock Chicken.
- Considering that it took a little while for the name “Plymouth Rock” to stick, it makes sense that the original Plymouth Rock Chicken was actually of the Barred Rock variety.
Raising Plymouth Rocks As Pets
Do Plymouth Rocks Make Good Pets?
Absolutely! Plymouth Rocks are one of the best chicken breeds for mixed flock because they’re easy-going and friendly. The rooster temperament is calm, and they take great care of their hens. The Plymouth Rock Chicken recognized variety, the Columbian, is especially good, with their striking white coloring and their heavy (up to 6 pounds for females) weight.
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Friendly?
Yes, especially if hand raised, and given lots of treats. The roosters have temperaments that are generally peaceable with other animal species. They are usually calm and docile and often enjoy happy lives with people and other animals. Barred Rock chicks handle confinement well, and mother hens, like their male counterparts, have spread untold contentment to their human handlers.
What Is The History Of The Breed?
It is fitting that the Barred Rock chicken has taken the more popular name of “Plymouth Rock Chicken.” Like the United States, itself, the Plymouth Rock chicken origin is in Massachusetts. Unlike the USA, which became official in the 1700’s, this breed got its official start in the nineteenth century. For much of the early twentieth century, it was the most popular breed in the United States.
Plymouth Rock Breed Characteristics
What Do Plymouth Rocks Look Like?
It’s a sturdy looking bird, with white skin and yellow legs. Two of the most striking features is the yellow beak and the bright red single comb. The roosters have long, beautiful tail feathers, while the hens have a squarish body. Plymouth rock chicken weight varies between the hens and roosters: The roosters tend to be larger, weighing in at around 8 pounds, while the hens are around 5 pounds.
What Colors Do Plymouth Rocks Come In?
Plymouth Rock chickens don’t just come with barred feathers (although in my opinion, they’re the most beautiful!) Another popular option is the White Plymouth Rock Chicken, although it’s lesser known than the barred variety.
Plymouth Rock chicken colors include:
- Silver Penciled
What Is The Plymouth Rock Chicken Used For?
It’s an excellent dual-purpose bird. Their large size Is ideal for meat production. It also boasts fine egg laying capabilities, and a single hen can produce 200 eggs per year. These days, they’re also kept as pets, and in breeding programs that want to raise sex-linked chickens.
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Noisy?
Not compared to other breeds. The Plymouth Rock Chicken is usually a quiet bird, and you might notice the roosters don’t crow as much as other breeds (Buff Orpington or Brahmas, for example). They make for quite good neighbors. Those rare times when they DO make a commotion is a good sign that something sinister is afoot, like a raccoon, or a potentially bad weather (usually it’s a predator though).
How Long Do Plymouth Rock Chickens Live?
The standard life expectancy of these fluffy butts is usually 6 to 8 years but some have been known to live until 10 to 12 years. Like any other breed, your chickens’ lifespan depends on factors such as genetics, feed, and housing (a well built predator-proof coop with good quality chicken wire is one place to start). You can read more about how long chickens live here.
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Cold Hardy?
Yes! Considering the heavy snowfall and occasional negative temperatures of their home state of Massachusetts, yes, Plymouth Rock Chickens are quite cold-hardy. Because of this, large numbers are not required for survival; they are ideal for small individual farms with low chicken populations and cold weather.
Can Plymouth Rock Chickens Fly?
Although the Plymouth Rock Chicken is not considered a strong flier compared to other birds, they are capable of limited flight. They can fly up into roosts, but not really much more than that. You can read more about whether chickens can fly here.
Are Barred Rock And Plymouth Rock Chickens The Same?
Yes, the Barred Rock is just a color variation of Plymouth Rock Chickens. You can read more about Barred Rocks here. They are technically the Barred Plymouth Rock.
Coops For Plymouth Rock Chickens
What Kind Of Coop Does This Breed Need?
Plymouth Rocks do best with plenty of room inside the coop (about 10 square feet of space per chicken) so that they can move around. It should also be predator proof, include roosts, and space for a feeder and waterer. In this article, I show you 55 different coops you can build yourself.
What Kind Of Predators Attack These Chickens?
Considering how valuable they are as food to humans, it is not surprising that predators like raccoons, wolves, and other fierce animals also prey on these birds. You can learn more about how to spot chicken predators here (based on their footprints).
Plymouth Rock Chicken Eggs
Are Plymouth Rock Chickens Good Layers?
Yes! They’re one of the champion egg layers of the coop! You’ll find your Plymouth Rock heb lays 280 eggs per year, which amounts to about 5 eggs a week.
What Color Eggs Do Plymouth Rock Chickens Lay?
The Plymouth rock chicken egg color is a light brown (some say it’s the color of a latte). The actual shade will vary from bird to bird. Stresses like extreme heat can also effect egg shell color. You can learn more about abnormal eggs you might find here.
At What Age Do Plymouth Rocks Lay Eggs?
Plymouth Rock hens begin laying their eggs at around 6 months. However, several factors can effect when your chickens lay eggs (and how often), such as diet, time of year, environmental stresses, etc. You can learn more about how often chickens lay eggs here and reasons why chickens stop laying here.
To prompt your hens to lay (assuming they’re the correct age), you should offer clean nesting boxes in a quiet place. You can learn more about nesting boxes here.
How Long Do Plymouth Rock Chickens Lay Eggs?
Like other chickens, Plymouth Rock hens will lay eggs consistently for the first 2-3 years. After that, you’ll likely see a decrease in the amount of egg laid each week, until she stops laying altogether (there will be some champion layers who lay until they’re a ripe old age, so these numbers are just generalizations).
Common Health Issues
- Vent Gleet
- Egg Binding/Vent Prolapse
- Intestinal Parasites
As with any other chicken, Plymouth Rock chickens are susceptible to lice, mites, worms, and other parasites. To help boost their immune systems and beat the bugs, feed apple cider vinegar and crushed garlic daily. You can learn more about my favorite herbs for deterring mites here. Find some of my favorite resources to help you with chicken health here.
5 Best Hatcheries to Start a Flock of Plymouth Rocks
1. Meyer Hatchery
Location: Polk, OH
Find more information and prices here: Meyer Hatchery
Located in Ohio, Meyer Hatchery is one of the many chick hatcheries nestled in the country’s heartland. It sells all kinds of chicken-raising supplies, including books, coops, and even hatching eggs and incubators.
Meyer Hatchery has a minimum chick order of just three birds. You can order at most times throughout the year and you’ll still be able to raise a small backyard flock. Meyer’s also offers on-site pick-up if you live nearby.
- Can be vaccinated for Marek’s
- Shipped with gel vitamin pack
- Small minimum chick order
- Minimal discounts for buying in bulk
2. Cackle Hatchery
Location: Lebanon, MO
Find more information and prices here: Cackle Hatchery
Cackle Hatchery is a massive online hatchery that sells more than 185 different kinds of chickens. Not only can you buy regular chicken breeds, like Plymouth Rocks, but you can also find several rare breeds along with numerous bantam options.
Cackle also sells other species of poultry, such as ducks, geese, turkeys, game fowl, and more. The company also sells fertile hatching eggs if you want to try raising your own birds. They have a 3 bird requirement, which is great.
You can buy Plymouth Rocks seasonally from February through September.
- Significant discounts for male chicks
- Extra birds included with order in most cases
- Sent with straw pads and heat packs
- Limited availability at certain times of the year
3. Chickens for Backyards
Location: Phillipsburg, MO
Find more information and prices here: Chickens for Backyards
Another Midwest chick hatchery to consider is Chickens for Backyards. This hatchery sells day-old pullets, cockerels, and straight run birds.
Chickens for Backyards offers exceptional customer service. You’ll get a hatch date emailed to you within just 30 minutes of placing your order. Your poultry will arrive just one to three days after that date.
This hatchery doesn’t only sell chicks, either. You can stock up on all of the gear you need to raise backyard chickens here, including feeders, waterers, thermometers, and more.
- Hatchery sells all kinds of chicken raising supplies
- Website has plenty of chick care info
- Ship date emailed upon checkout
- Shipping can be expensive
4. My Pet Chicken
Location: Monroe, CT
Find more information and prices here: My Pet Chicken
My Pet Chicken specializes in small orders – you can purchase as few as three chicks. You Don’t have to stick to just one breed, either. You can always mix and match so that you have a colorful flock of backyard layers.
Located in Connecticut, My Pet Chicken offers a great resource for new, first-time chicken owners. You’ll find all kinds of helpful information on the company website, including plenty of resources that will guide you on how to start raising chickens.
My Pet Chicken offers all kinds of Plymouth Rock chickens, including the incredibly popular Barred Rock.
My Pet Chicken sells other kinds of equipment, too. This website and hatchery are definitely geared more toward “pet” chicken owners, specializing in gear like chicken diapers and saddles, among other things you might need.
- One of the best places to find advice on raising chickens
- Mix and match breeds to fill your order
- Small minimum order requirements
- Limited availability
5. Stromberg’s Chickens
Location: Hackensack, MN
Find more information and prices here: Stromberg’s Chickens
Stromberg’s is a hatchery located in Minnesota – and it’s one of the best places to find Plymouth Rock chicks. This hatchery is one of the largest in the country, specializing in baby chicks of all breeds but also adult birds, hatching eggs, and equipment, too. You can buy everything from wild birdhouses to baby doves here!
When you buy Plymouth Rock chicks from Stromberg’s, you’ll pay zero shipping costs if you are buying hatching eggs. Although there is limited availability of chicks at certain points throughout the year, you can buy hatching eggs at any time.
- Sold as hatching eggs and live chicks
- Discounts for orders of 25, 50, and 100 chicks
- Shipping costs are included on hatching eggs
- You do not automatically get your shipping date at checkout
In summary, the Plymouth Rock chicken has been one of the leading chicken breeds for well over a century, and not by coincidence. These rugged fowls put little stress on their handlers, while putting lots of yummy eggs in their bellies. With enough color varieties to satisfy owner whimsy, these are good-looking birds that certainly are among the best chickens for a backyard flock!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.