Hard-working, docile, and beautiful best describe Barred Rock chickens. As America’s pride and joy, the Barred Rock is a production chicken that was bred for their meat and eggs. They are also one of the oldest American chicken breeds having provided food for farms and families during World War II.
Many confuse the Barred Rock chicken as being a separate breed from the Plymouth Rock; however, Barred Rocks are simply a color variety of the Plymouth Rock breed.
Despite the recovering conservation status of this chicken breed, a renewed love and passion among breeders have increased their popularity and their numbers across the USA.
If you are interested in Barred Rocks, the following guide explores their personality, egg production, breed standard, and more so you can pick the right breed for your flock.
The Barred Rock with their round bodies and massive egg production of 200 eggs per year, was popular in the early to mid-1800s. Their unusual black and white barred feather pattern attracted the attention of many poultry breeders during this period.
They made their first appearance at a poultry show in Boston, Massachusetts in 1849 but then for unknown reasons, they disappeared for almost twenty years.
Then, in 1869, Mr. Upham of Massachusetts decided to renew the breed by combining a clean legged rooster with barred feathering with Java hens.
Poultry breeders were pushing for the Dominique chicken at the time because of its favorable meat and egg production.
The Dominiques possess a similar black and white barred feather pattern to the Rock chickens but neither breed was standardized before the 1870s making it hard to tell the difference between the two.
The New York Poultry Society decided that the official standard should include a rose comb for the Dominique chicken breed and a single comb for the Barred Rock. From then on the Barred Rock chicken could be shown independently and received its official breed standard in 1874.
Both the Barred Rock and the Plymouth Rock chicken were successful in egg and meat production up until World II in 1939.
What many poultry enthusiasts do not know about this chicken was that it provided war-torn families and soldiers with a consistent supply of meat and eggs when food was rationed.
NOTETheir hardiness, friendliness, and ability to tolerate confinement also made them sought after backyard chickens during the 1930s.
To satisfy the rapid demand in the broiler industry the development of a Barred Rock production strain almost caused the original heritage Barred Rock hens to become extinct.
When breeders needed a hen that was more productive in terms of her eggs and the rate at which they could mature for slaughter, the demand for the Rock chicken declined.
In the last decade, the resurgence of these heritage chickens has improved their numbers and they have moved from critical to recovering status by the Livestock Conservancy.
What is the Difference Between a Barred Rock and a Plymouth Rock?
The Barred Rock chicken is often referred to as the Plymouth Rock, but this title belongs to the entire breed, not just the Barred variety.
The Plymouth Rock is a chicken breed much like the Orpington and the Sussex. They are available in seven color varieties with one of them being the Barred Rock. So, the Barred Rock is a Plymouth Rock chicken just a color variation of the breed.
Both types lay a prolific number of eggs, up to 200 per year, and are perfectly suited to backyard life.
Are Barred Rocks Rare?
They are listed as recovering after reaching near extinction since the 1940s and are only available through hobby breeders, so Barred Rocks are considered a rare breed.
If you are looking for a reliable egg laying chicken that is generally healthy and will make a wonderful family pet, then Barred Rocks are the perfect choice for you.
What Do Barred Rock Chickens Look Like?
Barred Rocks, also known as Barred Plymouth Rocks, are sturdy birds that have a sleek appearance because their feathers lie so close to their bodies. The purpose of their tight feathering is to give them good cold tolerance so they can withstand harsh American and European winters.
Rock chickens’ barred feather pattern, large red single comb, and yellow skin color make them easy to distinguish from other breeds.
They have a triangular-shaped body and clean legs which means that they shouldn’t have any feathers on their legs. All Barred Plymouth Rock chickens have red wattles, ear lobes, and combs with 5 points.
These birds have a large round breast peeking through their plumage which is a testament to their meat heritage and their favorable size for table fare.
How to Tell a Barred Rock Rooster From a Hen
The roosters and hens are similar in appearance but subtle differences make it easier to tell the girls apart from the boys.
The males have a large single comb that is much smaller and less prominent in the females.
If you look carefully at their feather pattern, you will notice that the hen appears gray when compared to the rooster. This is because the white bars on the feathers of the hens are wider compared to roosters making them look much lighter than their male counterparts.
Barred Rock Chicks
Barred Rock chicks do not have black and white coloring when they hatch. Instead, the hatchlings have dark gray down feathers that appear black with white patches on the top of their heads and across their bodies.
Barred Rocks are also sex linked so you can tell the difference between the male and female hatchling. The white patch on the heads of the chicks will be large in the cockerel and slim in the pullet. Only a week ago I picked up a few sex linked chicks at the local chicken hatchery, so hopefully, they all turn out to be hens.
The Barred Rock males weigh 9.5 lbs and the hens weigh 7.5 lbs.
Bantam Barred Rocks are simply miniature versions of the standard breed with bantam roosters weighing 3 lbs and hens weighing 2.5 lbs.
In the US, there are seven varieties of Plymouth Rock chickens that have been accepted by the American Poultry Association (APA). The Poultry Club of Great Britain only recognizes five color varieties as these colors were refined in the UK.
Barred Rocks fall into the breed categories of heavy, soft-feathered, and clean-legged large fowl.
The Barred Rock breed was established in 1874, followed by the Plymouth Rock Club that was established in 1897.
The Buff color variety made its debut in 1890 and thereafter the different colors of Plymouth Rocks were produced including the Patridge in 1914, the Columbian in 1920, and the beautiful silver penciled in 1922.
NOTEThe APA has already gone on to accept the variety in both the standard and bantam chickens.
Of all the poultry breeds, none meet the standards and the qualities of Rock chickens.
It is a shame that this wonderful chicken breed is still listed as recovering, but with so much interest in their egg laying, robustness, and their docile nature, poultry breeders are hopeful that these beautiful birds will return to their original numbers.
What Color Eggs Do Barred Rock Chickens Lay?
Your Barred Rocks will lay large brown eggs every week. The egg color can range from light brown to a tinted eggshell.
When Do Barred Rock Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
A Barred Rock chicken will start laying eggs between 16 to 20 weeks of age. They will reach the height of their egg production between 1 and 3 years after which the number of daily eggs produced becomes less until they stop laying.
FACTOnce Rock hens start producing eggs, they will lay a large egg size every 25 hours.
Some poultry keepers have had hens that laid eggs into their 10th year! Their overall egg laying will also depend on the strain of chicken. A production line Barred Rock hen will produce high yields of 4 to 5 eggs per week compared to the heritage strain of 3 to 4 eggs per week.
Do Barred Rocks Lay in Winter?
No, Barred Rock hens will stop egg laying in winter. If you want your hens to produce more eggs in the fall, you will need to add supplemental lighting to the chicken coop.
Chickens lay eggs in warm temperatures and need at least 14 hours of daylight, so installing a light and maintaining their coop temperature will encourage their laying.
Barred Rock Meat Production
Barred Rock chickens were developed to supply both farms and families with tender meat and eggs. They form a very full breast once mature which contributes to their favorability as a meat bird.
Because they mature quickly, they become broilers by 8 to 12 weeks and are ready for slaughter.
NOTEBroilers are fast growing chickens that are specifically bred for meat and ready for slaughter by 7 weeks old.
Standard chickens that are not broilers mature at a much slower rate and may only reach the appropriate size for slaughter by 14 to 15 weeks.
Barred Rock Broodiness
The broodiness of hens will really depend on their strain and individual temperament. Some birds become broody in the spring and will set well compared to other chickens that never become broody.
The Barred Rocks that do become broody make good mothers and these gorgeous girls will be very protective of her chicks. Plymouth Rock chicks also feather quite rapidly allowing the hen and her clutch to move outdoors much sooner than other chicken breeds.
Temperament and Behavior
Plymouth Rock chickens are active birds and need quite a lot of time spent outdoors where they can forage. This type of free range behavior also helps them find small stones to digest food in the crop.
If your chickens don’t spend time outside of the coop, you can add grit, which is the equivalent of small stones, by sprinkling it across the chicken coop floor.
The video below shows you a quick overview of the Barred Rock’s behavior.
While the Barred Plymouth Rock is a docile and friendly breed, they easily become the victims of aerial predators. These chickens are not as flighty or alert as other breeds such as the Leghorn and their relaxed nature can land them in some serious trouble.
To avoid the loss of your precious Barred Rocks, you can let them free range in a large run or you can monitor them as they move about the yard.
Are Barred Plymouth Rocks Noisy?
These chickens are not considered noisy or loud and will rather quietly cluck and chat as they forage for food in their coop or outside in the garden.
NOTEThe only time you will really hear the hens is when they sing the egg song!
After one hen has laid an egg, she will squawk and cluck to let everyone know that her egg is in the nest box.
While the Barred Plymouth Rock tends to handle confinement quite well, they will need at least 10 square feet of space per bird. Because they like to free range and forage, sufficient space will prevent unnecessary squabbles and coop stress.
The hens also prefer a well-ventilated coop especially in summer because their dense feathers can contribute to heat stress when temperatures rise. The nest box should be at least 12 x 12 inches and positioned low to the ground or with a nearby roost so they can easily jump into the box.
Roosts and Perches
Barred Rock chickens are heavy birds so keep their nest boxes, perches, and roosts low to the ground. Their weight will increase their risk of leg and foot injuries especially if they constantly jump off high perches.
This American chicken breed is tough, healthy, and can adapt to most types of environments whether a large farm or a fully enclosed backyard. They are cold-hardy but don’t do as well in hot climates and should always have clean water and access to a well-ventilated coop.
All densely feathered chicken breeds can be affected by lice and mites, so keep an eye on their feather condition. Frequent scratching and poor-looking feathers are signs that external parasites could be bothering your fowl.
Chickens can prevent mites and lice by dust bathing themselves in a soft sand patch or you can apply a poultry powder to prevent and treat any pests.
How Long Do Barred Rock Chickens Live?
The Barred Rock lifespan is between 8 to 10 years which is incredible for a large chicken.
A chicken that is hardy, easy to raise, and perfect for the backyard coop is the Barred Rock.
They are also beautiful and friendly and if you don’t have enough space for a large bird, you can find a bantam size with all the wonderful qualities of the standard size bird.
When looking at rock chickens barred feathers, a single comb, yellow skin and yellow legs distinguish them from similar-looking breeds such as the Dominique.
They produce a large brown egg size at an average of 200 eggs per year so you’ll have a consistent supply through spring and summer.
The chicks are sex linked making it easier to tell the difference between male and female hatchlings. The Barred Rock hen is not reliably broody so don’t depend on her to hatch baby chicks.
Rock chickens don’t have any health issues and their dense plumage makes them very cold hardy birds.
As a heritage breed, these chickens are recovering from their endangered status because of their growth as backyard flock.
If you’ve enjoyed our post, we hope that you will share all of the amazing qualities of the Barred Plymouth Rock and perhaps add a few to your own chicken flock, if you haven’t already!
(1) Plymouth Barred Rock Hen by Dale Calder – licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(2) Boggar – Bantam Plymouth Barred Rock by Dale Calder – licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(3) Barred Rock hen by normanack – licensed under CC BY 2.0
(4) Nest boxes and brooder by normanack – licensed under CC BY 2.0
(5) Barred Rocks Hen, Montesori, Redlands 5-2012 by Don Graham – licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0