Barred Rock Chickens: Buyer’s Guide

Barred Rock Chickens: Buyer’s Guide

When we first started keeping hens, we first started with Barred Rock chickens. With their beautiful black and white feathers, what wasn’t there to love about this striking breed?

 

Barred Rock chickens are one of the most well known breeds out there – and subsequently, one of the most popular.

 

Once upon a time, our ancestors raised them as a dual purpose bird with a combination of some of the best farm chicken qualities: docility, hardiness, and broodiness.

 

These days, this breed is best known for its egg laying ability and gorgeous plumage.

 

In this article, you’ll discover facts about these cluckers, recommendations for reliable breeders and hatcheries, whether Barred Rock chickens make great pets, and more!

 

barred rock chicken hen with stripes

 

5 Amazing Barred Rock Chicken Facts

  • One of the oldest breeds in America
  • First exhibited as a breed in 1869
  • “Barred” refers to their feather coloring
  • They lay brownish pink eggs.
  • The barred color pattern is a dominant sex-linked gene

 

Where to Buy Barred Rock Chickens

Most major hatcheries and farm stores carry these chickens – you might also see them called “Plymouth Rock” chickens – this is because Barred Rocks are actually a color variation of Plymouth Rocks.

 

You can usually find Barred Rocks for under $3 (less, if you find them at the farm store and they’re more than a week old. That’s how I got mine for $0.99. Best investment ever.)

 

All the hatcheries on this list are good places to buy this breed – it’s probably best to choose a hatchery close to you, so your new chicks don’t have to travel too far before landing on your doorstep.

 

Always look for healthy, active chicks! If the photos of the babies don’t look great, or they look unhappy or sick, then don’t purchase them.

 

You’ll want to look for parent stock that are full bodied and sport fluffy, healthy looking feathers. If you’re looking for pet type chickens, then make sure the parents are friendly, too!

 

Recommended Hatcheries

The top hatcheries to purchase Barred Rock chickens are:

  1. My Pet Chicken
  2. Meyer Hatchery
  3. Cackle Hatchery
  4. Murray McMurray
  5. Stromberg Chickens

 

My Pet Chicken

If you live in the Northeast or Mid Atlantic, then this hatchery is a great option (note they do ship nationwide). They’re located in Connecticut.

 

My Pet Chicken sells day old chicks and 6 week olds that you can have shipped right to your door. The Barred Rock chickens on their site have gotten many 5 star reviews, with some owners saying their Barred Rock hens were the first to lay eggs.

 

They also look very full bodied with soft feathers, which is great. I imagine this is what the Barred Rocks our ancestors raised looked like (rather than some of the scraggly breeds you see today that are bred for egg production only, rather than an overall healthy bird).

 

Meyer Hatchery

There’s 37 (nearly) 5 reviews for the Barred Rock chicks on this website – so it looks like past customers love their chicks! Meyer is located in Ohio, so if you live in the Mid-Atlantic. Northern Midwest, or Kentucky area, this is a good hatchery to order from since your chicks won’t travel too far.

 

Owners say their babies arrived healthy and have now grown into active layers. The prices at this hatchery are competitive.

 

Cackle Hatchery

Cackle is located in Lebanon, Missouri, so it’s a good hatchery to buy chicks from if your farm is in the Midwest, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, etc. I personally usually order from this hatchery (they’re about 4 hours from my farm). Every time I’ve ordered from them, the chicks arrived ASAP and in good shape.

 

Their prices for Barred Rock chicks are reasonable, and they have good customer service. You can read our review of Cackle Hatchery here.

 

Murray McMurray

Murray McMurray has been around for a while, and they’re located in Iowa. If you live in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, etc, then this is a good hatchery to order from. I’ve ordered chicks through them once, and it was a good experience. Their Barred Rocks have many 5 star reviews. Their prices are a bit more expensive than the other hatcheries on this list.

 

Stromberg Chickens

Stromberg is located in Minnesota, so it’s a good option for our Northern friends (sorry, Canada, I don’t know if they ship to you). Their prices are a little more expensive than other options on this list. On their site, there’s an option to have your chickens vaccinated for Marek’s disease.

 

There’s not a whole ton of information and photos on their site of the chickens (no photos of the chicks themselves), but this hatchery has a good reputation.

 

Other Ways To Purchase Barred Rock Chickens

Join Facebook groups and ask for breeder recommendations. Here’s a popular group dedicated to this breed.

 

Feeding Barred Rock Chickens

Chicks

As baby chicks, you’ll want to provide your flock with an 18% protein chick starter like this one. The protein is necessary to help them grow correctly. Without it, they might not be healthy adults.

 

You can also feed them treats such as dried shrimp, black soldier fly larvae, or mealworms.

 

Layers

Once your chickens start producing eggs, you’ll want to give them a layer feed and a calcium supplement like oyster shells. Layers need it so they can provide you with yummy eggs. The best diet for any hen starts with a 16% protein layer feed and fresh, clean water every day.

 

Roosters can also eat layer feed, although they will probably leave the oyster shells alone.

 

Most commercial feeds have all the nutrients your flock will need. Consider using a no-waste feeder like these to reduce the amount of spilled grain, to make it easier on your wallet, and to keep rodents away from your hens.

 

Barred Rocks are a large chicken breed, but have a very good feed to egg conversion ratio – so they don’t need a TON of feed.

 

You’ll want the bags you purchase to last as long as possible, rather than feeding every rat within a 10 mile radius. So, it’s best to not keep feed out 24 hours a day, lest it attract predators.

 

It’s best to make their feed inaccessible at night when they’re not going to eat it anyway.

 

You can also feed your hens lots of treats like mealworms. You can discover what chickens eat here, and what they can eat from your garden here.

 

For nicely colored yolks, you can add herbs high in beta carotenes, such as calendula.

 

Always give 24 hour access to water. Using an automatic waterer makes this easy. You can find recommended waterers here.

 

You can also learn how to build your own DIY gravity waterer here. 

 

Keeping Barred Rock Chickens as Pets

Are Barred Rock Chickens Friendly?

Yes, Barred Rock chickens are generally friendly, which makes them ideal for families as pets. The roosters especially are calm with both people and other animals. If you want to raise Barred Rocks as pets, it’s best to feed them lots of treats, and handle them daily.

 

You might notice that your hens won’t be as friendly if they’ve “gone broody’ and want to hatch eggs. This is normal, and she will return to being friendly if you help her stop her broodiness or after she’s successfully hatched chicks.

 

You can learn more about raising people friendly chickens here.

 

Are Barred Rock Chickens Aggressive?

Generally, no they aren’t. Barred Rock chickens are friendly and docile birds towards humans and other animals. However, if your chickens don’t have enough space (10 square feet per hen) or you have too many roosters, they might become aggressive towards each other. It’s always best to have 1 rooster for every 10 hens, and to make sure everyone has enough space and food to eat.barred rock chicken rooster

 

barred rock chicken rooster

 

Are Barred Rocks Noisy?

No, the roosters might crow when they see a predator, but are not noisier than other chicken breeds. The hens are very quiet.

 

Barred Rock Egg Laying Ability

Are Barred Rock Hens Good Egg Layers?

Yes! Barred Rock hens lay about 280 eggs per year. They’re actually considered one of the champion egg laying chicken breeds!

 

How Long Do Barred Rock Hens Lay Eggs?

Like most hens, Barred Rock chickens will lay the most eggs during 9 months of age until they’re about 3 years old. Most chickens will slow down or stop laying after they turn 3. There will be exceptions; some readers have emailed me with stories about their 7 year old hen who still puts out eggs 3 times a week. However, most chickens won’t lay eggs consistently when they’re that old.

 

You should decide what you plan to do with your hens when they stop laying. We personally keep ours and let them live out their lives naturally since they’re pets.

 

To ensure your hens are in peak condition for egg laying, it’s best to feed them a layer feed with 16% protein and supplement with oyster shells for extra calcium. Research shows that this diet helps them from becoming nutrient deficient (which can cause hens to stop laying eggs).

 

What Color Eggs Do Barred Rocks Lay?

Barred Rock chickens lay brown eggs.

 

How Many Eggs Per Year Do Barred Rocks Lay?

About 280 eggs per year, although the actual amount will vary from bird to bird. To ensure your chickens produce lots of eggs, you should feed them a healthy diet, including a 16% protein layer feed.

 

Do Barred Plymouth Rocks Go Broody?

Yes. Because Barred Rock chickens are a heritage breed, they tend to go broody. When the breed was first developed, modern incubators didn’t exist, so to hatch chicks, a broody hen was required. You can learn more about hatching chicks here. You can find the best incubators here.

 

Barred Rock Chicken Breed Characteristics

Breed History

According to the Livestock Conservancy, which promotes heritage livestock breeds, the Barred Rock was developed in America in the middle of the 19th century. It’s not clear exactly who developed the breed, however, it seems these chickens are the product of crossing Spanish, White Cochin, Dominique, Buff Cochin, Black Java, and Brahma chickens.

 

From the barred version, other types of Plymouth Rock chickens were developed (including white, buff, Columbian, and other combinations). You can read more about Plymouth Rock chickens here for the full list.

 

They were very popular as an all purpose breed around the turn of the 20th century, and were admitted into the American Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1874.

 

Barred Rock Chicken Coloring

These birds have beautiful black and white feathers that give them the trademark “barred” appearance. They have a single comb with red wattles and ear lobes that show off their health and vigor. They have yellow beaks and feet that give them a friendly, approachable expression.

 

The roosters have long, black and white striped tail feathers that they lose during fall molting (but they grow back even more beautiful). They’re nearly impossible to mistake for another breed, and they’re very beautiful!

 

Are Barred Rock and Plymouth Rock Chickens the Same?

Yes, Barred Rock chickens are a variation of the Plymouth Rock chicken. The barred feathers were the first coloring of the Plymouth Rock, and from the Barred Rock, other variations were developing, including:

  • White
  • Buff
  • Silver Penciled
  • Partridge
  • Columbian
  • Blue

 

How Big Do Barred Rock Chickens Get?

Pretty big – about 7 pounds for the roosters and 5 for the hens. While there’s not much you can do to influence the size of your chickens, feeding them a high quality diet will ensure their growth doesn’t get stunted.

 

Breeding Barred Rock Chickens & Genetics

Since the barring genes are common in a lot of chicken breeds, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that breeding Barred Rocks to create other, new hybrids is pretty common. It’s also popular genetics when trying to create sex linked chicks.

 

While we won’t dive too deep into genetics (it’s such a tricky topic!), here’s some interesting information about breeding Barred Rocks!

 

The barring gene is dominant.

 

A Barred Rock rooster will pass the barring gene to his offspring, however the Barred Rock hen will only pass the barring gene onto males (which is why you can tell the sex of Sex Linked chicks right after they hatch)

 

A barred rooster paired with a non-barred hen won’t produce sex-linked chicks. To create sex linked chicks, you must pair a rooster who doesn’t carry the barring gene with a purebred barred hen.

 

You can learn more about how chickens mate here and learn all you ever wanted to know about barring here.

 

Common Health Issues

Like other chickens, Barred Rocks are susceptible to lice, chicken mites, worms, and other parasites. Bumblefoot is another ailment Barred Rocks can get. To keep your chickens healthy, you can add herbs to their feed, such as oregano, garlic, and lemon balm. (In the store, we carry a product that helps support healthy immune systems with all natural herbs – you can learn more right here.)

 

Coops For Barred Rock Chickens

What Kind Of Coop Do Barred Rocks Need?

Like all chickens, this breed does better with space to forage and run. There should be plenty of room inside the coop and run. You should also make sure it has the basic essentials like a roost, waterers, and feeders.

 

The ideal chicken coop should be:

  1. Safe from predators
  2. Well ventilated
  3. Draft-free
  4. Easy to clean
  5. 10 square feet of space per chicken
  6. Enriched with environmental interest, such as branches and toys

 

Barred Rocks are fairly large chickens, so to ensure they’re healthy and don’t develop bad habits, make sure their coop has 10 square feet of space per chicken.

 

Like other chickens, Barred Rocks are susceptible to predators, especially pullets and young roosters, since they’re more likely to wander off from the coop or roost on the ground at night.

 

To keep them safe from dogs, raccoons, opossums, and larger predators like bear, make sure your coop is safe. You should also let them free range in a run or tractor to keep them safe.

 

If you want to build your own coop, there’s plans for a predator proof chicken house here. Make sure you’re using the best chicken wire here for your particular coop, as well (generally, ¼ inch hardware cloth is best).

 

If you want to know how to identify common chicken predators, you can read this article.

 

Barred Rock chickens are very cold hardy, but their coop still needs to keep them dry and warm in the winter.

 

In the summer, they should have access to a well-ventilated coop that’s clean and free of ammonia (so clean it weekly). Your coop should have good cross breezes so they don’t overheat.

 

Do you think Barred Rock chickens are for you? Do you raise Barred Rock chickens? Leave a comment below!

5 Heritage Chicken Breeds Our Grandparents Kept

5 Heritage Chicken Breeds Our Grandparents Kept

Heritage chicken breeds play an important part on our homestead.

 

Did you know humans have raised poultry for meat and eggs for almost 10,000 years?

 

While I’m a big fan of industrial breeds such as production reds, who lay an egg every day like clockwork, I’m turning more towards keeping pure blooded heritage chicken breeds on our homestead, in part to preserve a piece of American history that might otherwise be lost.

 

We also use them in our breeding program, to improve the chicken breeds we’re developing, and so we can start hatching sex links to bring some income to our farm.

 

This year, we added several heritage chicken breeds to our flock – both hens and roosters so we can continue the terrific bloodlines of these breeds.

 

Now, according to the Livestock Conservancy:

A heritage chicken “can only be produced by a Standard-bred Chicken admitted by the American Poultry Association. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a Heritage Egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard-bred Chicken, whose breed was established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life.

 

Why bother with heritage chicken breeds?

 

One advantage to heritage breeds is, when it comes to hatching them, you know what you’re going to get.

 

After all, the purpose to breeding pure bloods is the genetic traits are predictable. Generation after generation of heritage chicken breeds show the same traits, whether it’s a certain color egg, a specific size, or plumage.

 

Centuries ago, when heritage chicken breeds were first developed in America or otherwise introduced to our country, for the most part they were developed as dual purpose breeds.

 

Buff orpingtons, for example, were specifically bred so they would consistently produce eggs but were also white skinned, making butchering easier, and were a hefty weight.

 

So, which heritage chicken breeds are good for a homestead?

 

I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

 

In this article, we’ll look at 5 heritage chicken breeds and why they’re great for any homestead.

 

Orpingtons

 

The first of the heritage chicken breeds we’ll look at are Orpingtons. We personally keep several Buff Orpingtons on our homestead, and they lay wonderful brown eggs regularly.

 

They’re a great dual purpose chicken, bred for both meat and eggs. If you’re off grid, they’re particularly advantageous because the hens like to sit on eggs, making them ideal for a sustainable flock of heritage chicken breeds.

 

Orpingtons come in several colors, including black, white, buff, blue and splash, and the buff color is the most commonly seen.

 

Orpingtons have a wonderful history, and were developed in 1886 by an English man named William Cook, who was a professional coach man.

 

To meet the need for a dark chicken that could be exhibited in London at shows without soot showing (London was a dirty place in those days!) and to meet market demand for a chicken that was large, white skinned, and good for the table, he developed Black Orpingtons.

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken
These heritage chickens are named after the town they were developed in, Orpington, and were produced by crossing Minorcas, Langshans and Plymouth Rocks heritage breeds.

 

Later, the buff color was developed, and only the original colors are accepted by the American Poultry Association. 

 

As a heritage chicken, Orpingtons are perfect for any homestead because they grow to good harvestable weight, lay large brown eggs regularly, and are attractively colored birds.

 

Rhode Island Reds

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

Photo by Livestock Conservancy

 

Rhode Island Reds (RIR) is one of the oldest heritage chicken breeds in America. When it comes to RIR, there’s industrial strains, bred for egg production as well as the heritage strains.

 

For this article, we’re talking about the heritage breeds, which look different from an industrial chicken strain.

 

According to the Livestock Conservancy, heritage Rhode Island Reds are listed as “recovering”, thanks to efforts by breeders and homesteaders who want to preserve this piece of Americana.

 

Directly descended from the heritage chicken breeds our ancestors developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Rhode Island Reds originated in Adamsville, which is a village in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

 

They are larger than industrial strains, and perfect for either the table or for their eggs. They’re also the foundation for more modern “breeds”, such as Production Reds and Sex Links.

 

If you want to raise heritage Rhode Island Reds, do your homework to make sure the bloodlines are indeed true to this heritage chicken breed.

 

These heritage chickens are hearty birds that weather winter well, and are great with children. 

 

the better egg ad final

 

Delawares

 

Delawares are next on our list of heritage chicken breeds. They’re beautiful, striking birds that make a gorgeous addition to any backyard flock.

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

This heritage chicken originated in Delaware in the 1940s by crossing  Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens. They’ve been important in creating modern broiler breeds, and for a while were the most popular meat chickens in the Mid-Atlantic area largely because of their color.

 

Delawares are critically endangered according to the Livestock Conservancy because their usefulness as broilers has been surpassed by Cornish Crosses, but they still make a wonderful dual purpose bird for any homestead.

 

We have a couple Delaware roosters on our farm and they’re friendly, hearty birds that grow well.

 

Plymouth Rocks (Barred Rocks)

 

The fourth on our list of heritage chicken breeds are Plymouth Rocks, also popularly known as Barred Rocks.

 

I talk in depth on this heritage chicken breed in one of my podcast episodes, so I’ll just briefly recap here.

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

The Plymouth Rock originated in America in the middle of the 19th century, and is one of the most popular heritage breeds in part because the barred birds are very showy and beautiful.

 

They’re also excellent egg producers. This type of heritage chicken was first exhibited in Boston, Massachusetts as a breed in 1849 and were developed from hybrid chickens with Spanish, White Cochin, Dominique, Buff Cochin, Black Java, and Brahma bloodlines.

 

And the original Plymouth Rocks were of the barred variety.

 

According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Plymouth Rock seems to have disappeared for 20 or so years until 1869 when this heritage breed appeared at a poultry show in Worchester, Massachusetts.

 

The Plymouth Rocks we know today are heritage offspring of the second set of Plymouth Rocks.

 

This heritage breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Excellence in 1874.

 

The Plymouth Rocks we have on our farm are friendly birds that we’re raising to breed both purebloods and black sex links. 

 

I like them because they lay nice brown eggs consistently and they’re a popular meat birds among our neighbors.

Sultans

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

I’ve never kept Sultans one of the heritage chicken breeds we raise on the homestead, but after learning about them, I would like to!

 

Sultans are one of several heritage chicken breeds that are critically endangered,according to the Livestock Conservancy.

 

They’re natives of Turkey, where they were likely developed as ornamental birds for the gardens of the Sultan.

 

They have been rare since they arrived in England in 1854 when Mrs. Elizabeth Watts of Hampstead, England, the editor of the Poultry Chronicle (a British publication) received heritage chickens from a friend living in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

 

Their actual name is Serai Taook, which in Turkish means Sultan’s Fowl, which is where their name derived.

 

They’re very pretty ornamental birds, possibly the most among the heritage chicken breeds.

 

They don’t lay very well, but if you are not looking for a high efficiency bird and just enjoy having friendly companions, then preserving these heritage chickens might be for you!

 

Helping to save heritage chicken breeds is a wonderful pursuit for any homesteader. These breeds are a piece of American history, and we’re happy to continue preserving them!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which heritage chicken breeds most interest you? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!


Sultan photo by “A White Sultan (chicken)” by Eunice. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

5 Stellar Chicken Breeds For Your Backyard Flock & Why You Should Care [Podcast]

5 Stellar Chicken Breeds For Your Backyard Flock & Why You Should Care [Podcast]

If you’re new to chickens, or thinking of expanding your flock, you’ll want to consider these 5 chicken breeds.

 

In this session of What The Cluck?!, we look at 3 heritage breeds and 2 modern breeds that are perfect for any backyard flock, and are also great for anyone wanting to make a business out of raising chickens for eggs.

 

We also talk a bit about the history of each breed, and at the end of the episode, you’ll walk away armed with more information about each breed, and an idea of which breed might be right for you.

 

In this episode, you’ll learn about:

  • Plymouth Rocks
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • Black Sex Links
  • Production Reds

As well as:

  • The advantages of each,
  • Their histories, and
  • Reasons each one is an excellent addition to any homestead.

Images of Each Chicken Breed:

 

 

 

 

Whether your looking for great chicken breeds for your backyard flock or just love to learn about the history of popular breeds, you'll love this podcast. From FrugalChicken

Barred Rock

Whether your looking for great chicken breeds for your backyard flock or just love to learn about the history of popular breeds, you'll love this podcast. From FrugalChicken

Rhode Island Red Hen

 

Whether your looking for great chicken breeds for your backyard flock or just love to learn about the history of popular breeds, you'll love this podcast. From FrugalChicken

Buff Orpington

 

Whether your looking for great chicken breeds for your backyard flock or just love to learn about the history of popular breeds, you'll love this podcast. From FrugalChicken

Black sex link hen

Whether your looking for great chicken breeds for your backyard flock or just love to learn about the history of popular breeds, you'll love this podcast. From FrugalChicken

One example of a production red hen.

Links we discuss in this podcast:

The Livestock Conservancy (Note: I said this site was the Livestock Conservatory in the podcast; I misspoke, it’s the Livestock Conservancy. I apologize for the error.)

 

American Poultry Association

 

Creating a Self-Sustaining Flock Through Selective Breeding, Episode 4 of What The Cluck?!
Feeding Your Hens Right!

 

FrugalChicken Instagram

 

FrugalChicken Facebook Group


 

I’d like to hear from you!

 

Which breed is right for your backyard flock? Which chicken breed is your favorite? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!