I gotta give my love to Plymouth Rock chickens – they’re a true American 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 (silkies especially)!
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.
Where To Buy Plymouth Rock Chickens
You can buy these chicks at most major hatcheries and farm stores (such as Rural King or Tractor Supply.) Some hatcheries include:
- My Pet Chicken (based in Connecticut)
- Cackle Hatchery (based in Missouri. Read our review of Cackle here)
- Meyer Hatchery (located in Ohio)
- Stromberg’s Chicks (located in Minnesota)
- Ideal Poultry (located in Texas)
- Metzer Farms (located in California)
- Murray McMurray (located in Iowa)
The most important thing is to choose a high quality hatchery that’s also close to you, so your new pets don’t spend forever in the mail.
You might have difficulty finding colors other than the barred variety, so it’s best to check with qualified breeders if you want any variation besides a barred Plymouth Rock.
Most Plymouth Rock chicks should cost under $5 (although some breeders who raise heritage chickens might charge more, but you’ll likely be getting a show quality bird.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.