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!

How Do Chickens Mate? For Healthy Hens, You Need To Know

How Do Chickens Mate? For Healthy Hens, You Need To Know

Have you ever wondered “How do chickens mate?” Well, I can tell you it’s not like people.

 

In fact, if people mated like chickens, it would be odd indeed.

 

There’s completely zero romance (at least of human value) involved.

 

One of the fun (or not so fun) things about being on a farm is you get to see animals mating. A lot.

 

Chickens mating are no exception.

 

In fact, chickens mate so much that it can cause problems with your hens if you’re not careful, particularly if you have multiple roosters.

 

The first thing you should know about how chickens mate is that hens don’t require a rooster to lay eggs.

 

They do it naturally once they reach the right age, and will lay an egg every 26 hours or so.

 

But how do chickens mate?

 

The mating dance

 

It all starts with a chickens mating dance. The rooster circles a female while scuttling his feet with his wings stretched down. He’ll also scratch the earth. It’s his way of propositioning the hen and marking “his territory.”

 

If one of your girls wants to mate, she will squat on the ground and allow the rooster to mount her.

 

Now, as for how do chickens mate, the actual event itself is brief and rather brutal.

 

The rooster mounts the female, and usually grabs the top of her head near her comb. He then stands on her back, and lowers his cloaca.

 

You might hear the hen squawk or sound distressed. That’s normal, and only a cause for concern if she is actually hurt.

 

The hen, meanwhile, inverts her vent, and the chickens touch cloaca.

 

The male’s semen is transferred to the female. It makes its way up her oviduct where it hopes to eventually fertilize an ovum.

 

Once the mating process is complete, the hen will rise, shake her feathers, and go on doing whatever she was doing before she was mounted.

 

The semen can live up to a month or so inside her oviduct.

 

It’s important to remember that when chickens mate, even if your girls are inseminated, they might not produce fertile eggs immediately.

 

If you have a rooster, that’s probably not too much of a concern, since chickens mate several times a day.

 

There have been reports of hens that haven’t been exposed to a rooster in the past month or so (the family got rid of the rooster, for example), but she still produced fertile eggs.

 

So, if you want to incubate eggs, don’t worry. You’ll be flush with fertile eggs in no time.

 

If you are worried about getting fertile eggs when your chickens mate, offer vitamin E-rich foods such as spinach or swiss chard.
Studies show that roosters fed a diet high in vitamin E showed increased fertility.

 

Chickens Mating: It’s a social thing

 

Something you might not know is that chickens mate for reasons other than reproduction. (Further reading: Can Chickens Lay Eggs without a Rooster?)

 

It’s also something they do socially, as a way to establish a hierarchy.

 

Chickens have strict social orders, with the rooster at the top, then the hens, then the younger pullets and cockerels.

 

When you have multiple roosters, they will compete for the same hen, either with each other, or by mating with the hen successively.

 

The reason is simple: the top rooster gets to pass his genetic value on to the hens, who in turn hatch his offspring.

 

This can particularly be a problem if you have several roosters and not enough hens for each. At times, we’ve raised heritage breed chickens for meat, meaning we’ve had more roosters than hens.

 

We eventually had to separate the hens from the meat chickens because the girls were in a dangerous situation; too many roosters trying to mate with them at one, and successively.

 

Female chickens are usually compliant, leaving them vulnerable to eventual problems if they mate too much.

 

To make things even more interesting, there are also instances of hens taking the social role of roosters, including mating, in the absence of a male.

 

These situations are few and far between, but it does happen.

 

Chickens mate several times a day, perhaps more if there’s a lot of roosters. By their nature, roosters are competitive, and will compete for the “top rooster” crown.

 

If left to their own devices, they’ll also almost continuously mate to establish their social dominance.

 

 

Some things to look out for when chickens mate

 

There’s a few things you should be aware of when it comes to chickens mating. Make sure your hens aren’t overly bothered.

 

You’ll know there’s a problem if they’re excessively missing feathers, or if there’s broken feathers on their back. That’s an indication they’re mating so much that the roosters are damaging their body.

 

Also check your hens for wounds. We had a hen who was sweet and compliant, but one day we noticed she had deep wounds on her side.
She never complained, but they were so deep that our only alternative was to euthanize her.

 

We had added a new rooster who was so aggressive with establishing his dominance over our top rooster that he tore large holes in our hens’ sides. (Here are some tips on adding a new rooster to your flock).

 

Also check your hens’ heads to make sure there’s no sores. The roosters will often grab hold of the back of a hen’s head right where the comb meets the head. Sometimes, that area can get picked raw.

 

If you have multiple roosters mating with your hens, then it might become necessary to separate them.

 

When chickens mate, the rooster stands on the female’s back, and if a lot of roosters fight over one of your girls, then her back can get hurt.

 

The bottom line is that it’s natural for chickens to mate, but as their owner, you should make sure everyone is safe.

 

Resources:

 

Y.F. Lin, S.J. Chang, J.R. Yang, Y.P. Lee & A.L. Hsu. “Effects of supplemental vitamin E during the mature period on the reproduction performance of Taiwan Native Chicken cockerels.” British Poultry Science, Volume 46, Issue 3, 2005

 

University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Female Anatomy And Histology.” Accessed April 11, 2016.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you ever wondered “How do chickens mate?” Did you learn anything new about the “whys” of chickens mating? Leave a comment below!

More Chicken Raising Tips:


A frequent question I get is “Can chickens eat suet cakes?,” and not only is the answer a definitive “YES!” but feeding homemade DIY suet cakes to chickens can help reduce bad behavior and stress from being confined in a coop all day.

Don’t let making homemade suet cakes become something overwhelming for you! I put together an awesome cookbook for you full of healthy recipes. Cluck Cakes has 11 recipes for organic and natural treats you can make for your hens.

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Can Chickens Lay Eggs Without A Rooster?

Can Chickens Lay Eggs Without A Rooster?

A very common question I get about backyard chickens is “Can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?”

 

Now, if you’ve asked yourself this question (or a similar question about chickens laying eggs), and you are still confused, or if you’ve asked someone else, and they’ve laughed at you mercilessly, don’t worry.

 

So, can chickens lay eggs without a rooster? And how do chickens lay eggs, anyway? These are very common questions, and it tends to confuse new owners.

Want to know more about eggs? Here’s my article on the anatomy of an egg.

 

herbs for backyard chickens

 

Particularly since, it seems, everyone hears wonky backyard chickens advice everywhere you turn once you bring a few hens into your backyard. (By the way, are you confused by abnormal eggs from your chickens? Here’s what you need to know about abnormal eggs).

 

In fact, I think every old time farmer who lives around our farm has stopped by and told us a few tall tales or two about chickens they raised in their childhood.

 

We’ve even gotten a few sprinkles of advice that have made me scratch my head and wonder where the hell they picked up that nugget of “knowledge” from (like these Chicken feeding myths…).

 

One such bit of advice (and you’d think they would know better since they claimed to have raised “over 1,000 chickens in their day”) is that a hen won’t lay eggs unless a rooster is present.

 

And that’s probably why I have so many folks emailing me asking “can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?”


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So what’s the answer? Can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?

 

Never fear –  in short, yes, chickens can lay eggs without a rooster being present.

 

So, if you’ve been putting off getting a backyard flock because your town doesn’t allow cockerels and you think you need one to get eggs, you can breathe a bit easier.

 

And feel free to make a cute chicken coop (try one of these free chicken coop plans) for those chickens you want.

Wondering can chickens lay eggs without a rooster? If you keep a rooster and chickens, you'll need to know this backyard chicken for beginners idea!

 

Yes, hens can lay eggs without a rooster, and they’ll might even lay them a bit easier and more regularly. (So feel free to use all your extra eggs in one of these genius ways).

 

You only need a rooster if you want to HATCH chicken eggs. In that case, the rooster is needed to fertilize the hen’s egg, which is the equivalent to a human woman’s ovum. If you’re wondering “how does a rooster fertilize an egg?” then here’s an article about how chickens mate.

If you have a rooster to fertilize hen eggs, you’ll need to learn how to hatch chicken eggs, too. 

 

Now if you’re wondering “can male chickens lay eggs,” the answer is an emphatic NO. They don’t have the right…erm….equipment.

 

herbs for backyard chickens

Why a rooster can make egg laying more difficult

So now that you know that chickens are laying eggs without a rooster, let’s look at why it might even be to your benefit to NOT keep a rooster.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. We have more than one rooster on our farm, and they’re fabulous.

 

Wondering can chickens lay eggs without a rooster? If you keep a rooster and chickens, you'll need to know this backyard chicken for beginners idea!

 

BUT I’m the first to say that there are times when it’s better to not keep the masculine gender in your flock (or, in the case of husbands, in your home. Just kidding. Not really.)

 

Roos can be cool guys, but they can also be huge….well, since this is a G rated backyard chickens blog, we’ll just go with “pains in the butt.”

 

A rooster’s main job is to protect his ladies. And sometimes, he can get a bit too possessive.

 

herbs for backyard chickens

 

What do I mean?

 

Well, you’ve probably read stories on Facebook of a rooster flogging his owner. And it’s not fun.

 

I’ve even read stories of chicken mamas who have to walk into their yards carrying sticks so they have something to distract the rooster with. Read more here about how to stop rooster attacks.

 

Now if you want to live your life with a flogging rooster, that’s completely up to you and your personal situation. However, if you just don’t want to live that way, know that it’s completely fine to give that rooster a new home.

 

No one should ever be abused by a rooster in their own backyard.

 

So why can a rooster start flogging? It’s usually triggered because the roo doesn’t want ANYONE (anyone meaning YOU or another rooster) messing with his harem.

 

A second reason they can be difficult to keep around is because they not only get possessive of their hens, but some roos can excessively mate with their hens, to the point that the ladies are suffering bodily damage. Read more about how chickens mate.

 

Yes. this is a thing, and it can definitely happen. Time for a story.

 

A few years ago, we decided to produce pasture-raised meat roosters. We figured they would be a better bet than females because they grow larger.

 

All went well, until the roos were about 6 months. And the hormones started kicking in.

 

And all hell broke loose.

 

At the time, our hens were also free ranging, and let’s just say it was a bit like a prison riot in the yard for a quick minute. (Wondering how does a chicken mate?)

 

In other words, too many roosters per hen leads to a very bad situation. If you’re wondering about the idea hen to rooster ratio, ONE rooster per TEN hens is a good minimum.

 

Now, we were able to quickly resolve the issue and the ladies came out perfectly fine, but it took another quick minute for their back feathers to regrow.

 

While this was a situation of too many males per female, any cockerel that has a harem of hens to oversee can feel he has to mate excessively to establish dominance. And that can lead to lost feathers and eventually lower egg production (here are some more reasons why chickens stop laying eggs).

 

So, in some ways, your hens might produce eggs BETTER than if there was a male present.

 

Now the next time you see someone ask on Facebook “Can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?” you can point them to this article for the definitive answer!

 

herbs for backyard chickens

More Backyard Chicken Resources:


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