Is there anything more American-sounding than owning a flock of Plymouth Rock chickens? It even sounds like they were meant to be part of the heritage that brought us Thanksgiving and all sorts of New England charm.
Unsurprisingly, owning a Plymouth Rock chicken is starting to become a big trend among chicken fans. But, what do these birds need? Is this specific breed right for you? Not all birds are alike, so you may as well get the straight dope on this chicken breed before you buy.
What does a Plymouth Rock chicken look like?
Plymouth Rock chickens are early feathering birds with yellow skin, yellow beaks, and a bright red, five-pointed comb. They are known for having thick feathering and for being a “heavyweight” bird that can easily reach 10 pounds.
In terms of coloring, Plymouth Rock chickens offer a wide range of different markings they may have:
- Buff. Buff Plymouth Rock chickens are rare, but they aren’t unheard of.
- Partridge. These birds have brown, red, and gold accents.
- White. White Plymouth Rock chickens are always cute. They also tend to look extra fluffy as a result of their pale feathering. White is the second most common coloration for this breed.
- Silver Penciled. This chicken coloration involves grey and silver streaks.
- Colombian. Colombian Plymouth Rock chickens are white with black tail feathers and grey accents.
- Blue. This is the rarest color for Plymouth Rock chickens, It’s also the most expensive.
- Barred. Barred Plymouth Rock chickens are the most common coloration, and they have black and white bars throughout their plumage.
What is the history of the Plymouth Rock chicken?
To a point, the Plymouth Rock breed does actually stand up to its all-American reputation. This is actually the second oldest chicken breed in America. It can be traced all the way back to 1849, when a farmer bred single-combed Dominiques with Java birds.
This bird breed quickly took hold and became accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1879 as an official breed. However, you shouldn’t be too shocked to hear that this bird quickly gained a large following, even before it was shown at shows.
The Plymouth Rock chicken quickly became associated with Plymouth Rock’s development as a city—to the point of even becoming a low-key symbol of old-world Americana. Though the bird was originally bred for shows, people soon noticed it had a lot of great purposes.
Up until World War II, Plymouth Rock chickens were the most popular chicken breed in America. Their popularity sharply declined as hybrid breeds started to gain more traction. Farmers cast them aside because they were “not productive” enough for large-scale farming.
At one point, they almost vanished. However, things have changed and the breed’s popularity is on the mend. People are increasingly interested in older breeds of poultry. According to the APA, the breed is officially known as being “in recovery.”
What are Plymouth Rock chickens good for?
Plymouth Rock chickens are bred for two main purposes: eggs and meat. They are very hefty birds that often weigh about 10 pounds when fully grown. This makes them excellent for cooking purposes. Their meat is also high quality and noticeably juicy.
In terms of eggs, they also are a great pick. The eggs they lay are large, yolk-heavy, and great for almost every purpose. Plymouth Rock chickens lay anywhere from 4 to 5 eggs per week—so about 200 eggs per year, per chicken, on average.
What are Plymouth Rock chicken personalities like?
As any chicken breeder will tell you, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. Some chickens are going to be a lot sassier than their breed entails. With that said, it’s going to be hard to find a nicer breed than the humble Plymouth Rock.
Plymouth Rock chickens are fairly docile and sweet in nature. They are known for being extremely curious birds that will peck and inspect almost anything you put in their way. In terms of trust, they have no problem trusting the people around them.
A Plymouth Rock hen is a great mother to her chicks, but won’t be upset if you decide to approach her babies. Because they are such kind birds, the Plymouth Rock bird is an ideal choice for families who want to raise chickens with their kids.
Even roosters of this breed are mellow. That’s a major plus.
What should buyers know about Plymouth Rock hens when it comes to eggs?
Plymouth Rock hens are prolific egg layers and have no problem laying around 200 eggs per year. You can typically expect 4 to 5 eggs per week, per chicken. Since they are good mothers, you can also expect them to be pretty good sitters as well—if you want to have more chicks.
The eggs themselves are fairly large and brown in color. You can have them as an omelet, as an ingredient in bread, or really, as anything else. They tend to be quite tasty, which is why farmers are starting to breed them specifically for their egg-laying abilities once more.
It’s worth noting that most Plymouth Rock hens will have their egg-laying slow down by their third year. However, they tend to continue laying well into their 10th year of life.
What should buyers know about Plymouth Rock chickens as a source of meat?
The most obvious thing you need to know is that their weight belies their excellent potential as meaty birds. They can grow up to 10 pounds and their body types tend to be a perfect mixture of fat and muscle.
By the time chickens have reached eight to 12 weeks of age, you can use them as broiler meat. However, it’s best to let them live a bit longer so that their meat can fully age and become more tender.
Most people agree that Plymouth Rock meat is delicious. That may be why it was one of the most popular breeds in American history.
What kind of environments do Plymouth Rock chickens thrive in?
Considering that they are native to the Northeast, it shouldn’t be surprising that this bird breed is famously hardy against cold weather. Warmer climates can be okay, but in hot temperatures, they may end up getting sick.
In terms of living situations, Plymouth Rock chickens tend to do best free-range with plenty of space and fresh air. This is a bird that loves lots of space and will thrive in it. If need be, they can also deal with indoor environments provided that they are given enough space.
Are you worried about having chickens escaping your coop? You may not need to worry too much with a Plymouth Rock chicken flock. These birds are poor flyers and often can’t hop too high. As a result, you won’t need to build a high fence to keep them in.
Are Plymouth Rock chickens healthy birds?
There are few chicken breeds as healthy as Plymouth Rock chickens. Because this breed has such a wide genetic pool, they are not prone to deformities or disorders. In fact, that’s almost unheard of for the breed!
Chicken health is almost a given here. A healthy flock with little need to budget for healthcare makes these birds a beginner-friendly breed that will turn you and your family into confident chicken keepers.
These chickens can easily live 10 to 12 years. In some rare cases, a Plymouth Rock can live as long as 20 years. If you are looking for a bird that can survive for years without too much maintenance, you should look into a Plymouth Rock chicken.
With that said, there are limits to how much they can handle. Since their wattles and combs are bare-skinned, you may need to exercise some caution in extreme cold. These parts of the bird are delicate and can be prone to frostbite!
Are Plymouth Rock hens broody?
Plymouth Rock hens are very docile and relaxed birds, so they are not known for broodiness. Broodiness can interrupt a chicken’s egg-laying schedule and can also pose a health risk to the hen in extreme situations.
Most Plymouth Rock hends don’t get broody very quickly. With that said, it’s common enough for hens to experience at least one bout of broodiness within their lifetime. You still need to keep an eye out for broody behavior just in case. All birds can surprise you!
Are Plymouth Rock chickens loud?
If you live in a suburban region, you don’t want to buy a breed that is too loud. It can wake the neighbors and also cause the local authorities to seize your chickens. Plymouth Rock chickens tend to be a “middle of the road” chicken breed in terms of noise.
They are talkative birds that love to cluck and peck. However, they are not the type of birds to crow or “shout” at their owners. So, you can expect a steady flow of “cluck, cluck, cluck” when you go into a yard with these birds.
If you live in an area where noise can rattle neighbors, now would be a good time to think about getting a slightly quieter breed.
What should you know about showing Plymouth Rock chickens?
Plymouth Rock chickens have been making their way in livestock shows for over a century, so this breed does have the capacity to win. However, judges tend to be more choosy about these birds. Here’s what makes a winning bird in this breed’s category:
- Confirmation. Does your bird conform to the standard size and colorations of this breed? If not, it’s not a show bird. Barred Rock chickens tend to be the primary focus of shows.
- Plumage. Beautiful, healthy, and thick plumage is what judges love to see. If it looks like a bird from a magazine, you might have a winner.
- Breeding. You need to have a purebred Plymouth Rock chicken to show it. Hybrids are generally not allowed to compete against them.
It’s worth noting that “pretty” does not always equal “useful.” Many show chickens in this breed look great, but do not lay as many eggs as their industrial counterparts. With that said, it’s up to you whether you want to make the choice to raise a show bird.
Are Plymouth Rock chickens good pets?
If you are looking for a chicken breed that is gentle and docile, then a Plymouth Rock chicken is a good pick. These birds look beautiful but also tend to be curious and trusting of their owners. It’s not unusual to have these birds follow you around while you’re near the coop.
If you are good to them, you shouldn’t be surprised when they start to squat near you. That’s their way of asking you to pick them up. They can be very cuddly and even supportive as pets. People who are new to owning a pet chicken will enjoy having them.
How much do Plymouth Rock chickens cost?
Plymouth Rock chickens are fairly affordable, especially if you are looking for a pet chicken or a simple egg-laying bird. You can typically get them for $3.50 to $5.50 per chick. If you want a show bird or a single Plymouth chicken, then you might pay slightly more.
As with all other chickens, it’s always best to buy your chickens from a breeder that is reputable, ethical, and keeps good care of them. A happy chicken is a healthy chicken.
If you are looking for fine feathered friends for the family, you can’t go wrong with buying some Plymouth Rock chicks. The entire breed is known for being perfect backyard buddies for kids, great meat birds, and eggcellent egg layers.
Most people use them for egg production, but the truth is that this breed is great for almost any purpose. They are even good lap chickens thanks to their mellow and laid back temperament.
If you’re not sure what breed to choose, a Barred Plymouth Rock chicken will be a great choice. It’s a popular breed among United States breeders for a reason.