The Plymouth Rock is a remarkable, dual purpose bird first bred in the United States. This heritage breed really made its mark during World War II, and went on to become a beloved pet chicken for many avid backyard poultry keepers!
So, are you thinking of getting a Plymouth Rock chicken?
To help you learn all about these beautiful birds, the following guide discusses their egg laying abilities, temperament, health, coop requirements, and much more!
How the Plymouth Rock Became a Popular Dual Purpose Breed
The Plymouth Rock is among America’s oldest breeds of chicken. This heritage breed was seen from one coast to another since the 1840s, but it really became a star chicken towards the end of World War II.
Back then, Plymouth Rocks were robust and hardy chickens, so people preferred them over many rival chicken breeds such as the Rhode Island Red. This is because their primary purpose was to consistently provide the troops and their families with meat and eggs.
Even the government encouraged keeping Plymouth Rocks, and many homesteaders were happy to embrace these chickens.
Sadly, after the war, the rise in the industrialization of egg and meat production meant that these dual purpose chickens simply didn’t meet the fast production standard of the poultry industry, despite it being a foundation breed for the broiler industry.
But this wasn’t the end of the Plymouth Rock chicken. Instead, their soft nature and distinct colored plumage earned them their place as America’s highest-preferred backyard chicken.
The Appearance of the Plymouth Rock Chicken
If you see a full-bodied chicken with mottled feathers and bright yellow legs, it’s the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken. This breed is known for its unusual coloring and always tends to stand out in a flock of chickens. When you own a Plymouth chicken, you’ll never miss them in your chicken coop or garden again!
DID YOU KNOW…Plymouth Rock Chickens are often called Dominickers or Domineckers after the Dominique breed of chicken; however, Plymouth Rocks have a single comb while Dominiques have a flat, rose comb.
Plymouth Rock chickens do well in cold weather because of their rapid feather development. Their barred coloring should be clearly defined so that you can see the clear pattern of broad dark and light parallel bars across the body.
The barring is generally even across the neck, breast, wings, and tail in both hens and roosters.
The Difference Between Plymouth Rock Hens and Roosters
When you look at the average hen and rooster of other chickens, it’s easy to tell them apart by looking at the coloring of their feathers. In Plymouth Rocks, it’s actually a little bit trickier to distinguish between the sexes.
NOTEThe Plymouth Rock rooster has dark and light bars across the head and body with dark tips on each feather.
These bars should be of an equal size compared to the wider black barring on the Plymouth Rock hens. Because of the larger size of the black to white bar ratio, females appear darker or with a gray tinge compared to males.
Plymouth Rocks are unmistakable in their appearance, so let’s look at how to identify them according to the American Poultry Association breed standard.
Plymouth Rock Breed Standard
While Plymouth Rocks were first recognized in the 1860s, the breed was only accepted into the American Poultry Association (APA) breed standard in 1874.
According to the APA, the Plymouth Rock chicken is an American bird but in Great Britain, the breed is described as a soft feather bird that is heavy in size and weight.
Plymouth Rock chickens have a single comb with 5 points, along with bright red ear lobes and wattles. Their beak is a yellow horn color, and they also have yellow skin and legs with 4 toes on each foot. These chickens won’t have dark eyes, but will possess “reddish bay” eyes as per the breed standard.
The standard rooster weighs 9.5lbs whereas the hen weighs 7.5lbs.
A bantam variety also exists with a bantam rooster weighing 3lbs and 2.5lbs for hens.
The Plymouth Rock Chicken Recognized Variety
The Plymouth Rock varieties recognized by the American Poultry Association’s standard include the Silver Penciled, Blue, Buff, Partridge, Columbian, Barred, and White. The Barred and White color types are the most popular; however, the Blue and Silver Penciled are also desirable varieties for backyard coops.
The Great Britain Poultry Club as of now has accepted 5 varieties into the breed standard including the White, Barred, Black, Columbian, and Buff.
The White Plymouth Rock Chicken
Although Plymouth Rock chickens are identified by their barred plumage, the solid white color variety is accepted by the APA. These stunning chickens are pure white with yellow skin, and they lay incredibly large brown eggs.
The Blue Plymouth Rock Chicken
If you are looking for a show bird to add to your coop, the Blue Plymouth Rock could be the one for you.
The plumage of the blue type consists of hues of lavender and gray, creating a gorgeous silver-blue shade. Interestingly, an Andalusian rooster and a Barred Plymouth Rock hen were bred together to produce this variety.
The Barred Plymouth Rock Chicken
Barred Plymouth Rocks are accepted by the American Poultry Association and identified by their white and black color pattern. Light and dark bars running parallel across the body create a truly individual appearance! The barred rock plumage is the most common variety and is unique to this chicken breed.
NOTEAccording to the Livestock Conservancy, the Barred Rock is on the priority list as a breed in recovery.
This is because they were almost driven to extinction in the production industry as the demand for meat increased. Fortunately, conservation efforts by compassionate farmers and dedicated breeders have saved this heritage breed from coming under threat.
How to Sex Barred Rock Chicks
You can sex Barred Rock chicks with 80% accuracy by looking at the top of the head of a hatchling. The males will have a white patch on the head, which is much smaller in females.
Another way to tell the hens from the roosters at just a week of age is by looking at the coloring on the feathers. Males will have white bars on the tips of the wings while females are dark in color.
NOTEThe parallel black and white bars on the Barred Plymouth Rock are linked to a dominant sex-gene.
It creates a light bar across the dark feathers, which is more prominent in the plymouth rock rooster. This is the reason that the males look a lot lighter compared to the females.
Here’s a video showing how to determine the sex of plymouth chicks.
Are Plymouth chickens good layers? What’s the quality of their meat? Let’s find out in the following section..
Is the Plymouth Rock Chicken Good for Eggs?
Yes, Plymouth Rocks are great for eggs! During the Second World War, there was no other chicken breed as popular for both meat and eggs, and it was in that time period that the Plymouth Rock hens earned a reputation for being great layers.
These hens will lay large brown eggs ranging from dark to light brown, and with a smooth or speckled shell.
If you have multiple egg layers and find it troublesome or time-consuming to clean the eggs, here’s my review of the best egg washer to help you wash eggs quickly and easily.
NOTEPlymouth Rock chickens can lay up to 200 eggs per year, which is an average of 4 eggs every week.
At What Age Do Plymouth Rocks Start Laying?
Plymouth Rock chickens will start egg laying between 6 to 8 months, which is true for the Barred Rocks and other varieties. While other breeds lay as young as 16 weeks, the larger Plymouth chicken tends to lay a lot later.
Their slow egg production was also a reason they were replaced by breeds such as Rhode Island Reds who laid more frequently and at an earlier age.
How Long Do Plymouth Rock Chickens Lay Eggs?
As dual purpose chicken, a Plymouth Rock hen can lay eggs up to 3 years, after which her egg production will slowly decrease.
To ensure your Plymouth Rock hen lays good quality eggs, provide her with a balanced layer feed. Layer feed contains the protein, calcium, and essential vitamins needed to form hard eggshells.
If your chickens don’t forage outside the coop or run, provide them with grit as free choice. Grit helps maintain healthy crops and aids in food digestion.
Quality feed and a clean, spacious coop could even have some chickens laying well into their eighth year!
Are They Broody?
If it’s a broody hen you want, it’s a broody hen you get. Plymouth Rock chickens are good mothers and tend to go broody in spring. They have very strong maternal instincts, so if you’re looking for a broody chicken to hatch some eggs, the Plymouth Rock is the best choice.
Is the Plymouth Rock Chicken Good for Meat?
Because they were originally bred as dual-purpose chickens, Plymouth Rock chickens are certainly good meat birds.
NOTEPlymouth Rock chickens were essentially pioneers of the broiler industry during the 1920s.
Despite their popularity as meat production chickens during that time, they were slow to mature, and just a few years later they were replaced by meat production birds that developed much faster.
If you are interested in the Barred Rock chicken as table fare, their chicken meat is tender and plentiful, no surprise based on the large size of these birds!
How Friendly is the Plymouth Rock Chicken?
Whether the White, Blue or Barred rocks variety, these birds are described as having a docile personality and a natural curiosity especially when free ranging.
Because barred Rock chickens are so relaxed, they are also called lap chickens! They’ll quite happily sit on your legs, especially if you have their favorite treats around.
They tend to get along well with other flock members with different temperaments and will quite happily accept their position in the chicken coop. Even the roosters tend to be calm and the more time you spend with them, the more likely they are to follow you around.
Barred Plymouth Rocks don’t need much to be happy, but they should always be given time to free range in a place where they can find grass and grubs to supplement their diet.
NOTERemember that these large size birds need extra space in the coop despite how well they adjust to confinement.
Allowing them to free range can prevent stress and ensure their personalities are always shining through.
How to Raise Plymouth Rock Chickens
You’re ready to collect your Plymouth Rock hens, but do you have the right size nesting box to help them lay those beautiful large brown eggs?
The nesting box for Plymouth Rocks should be a minimum of 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep. No matter the breed variety, the hens can grow to a fairly large size and should have enough space to sit or move around inside their box.
NOTEWhite, Black, Blue, or the Barred Plymouth Rock will require at least 4 square feet of coop space per bird.
This can prevent feather pulling, squabbling, and unhygienic chicken coops that become difficult to maintain. Should disease such as coccidiosis or respiratory illness break out in an over-crowded coop, it will likely spread to every chicken. At this point, treatment becomes difficult to manage.
Barred Rocks are gentle in temperament, but if they are raised in cramped conditions they might start pecking at their flock mates. This goes for all chickens that are confined and not provided with enough space.
Size of Roost and Fencing
When designing the roost for these large chickens, you should make sure it’s at least 10 inches. Roosts shouldn’t be positioned too high, as lower heights would prevent the heavier birds from jumping off and injuring themselves.
If you are going to create a chicken run, there should be at least a 6 foot high fence. Some Barred Rock owners have reported their younger and slimmer birds scaling a 5-6 foot fence, so always be vigilant in case you have some escape artists on your hands!
For mature chickens that continuously escape the run or fence, you can actually safely clip their wings to prevent them from flying the coop.
Is the Plymouth Rock a Healthy Breed?
The Plymouth Rock is a sturdy chicken and is not susceptible to ill health or genetic conditions.
Because they are so densely feathered, they can suffer from the usual array of pests so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their skin and feather condition. Make sure to provide your Barred Rock a few areas to sand bath, as this will help to keep parasites such as lice and mites at bay.
Roosters have large prominent combs that can suffer frostbite in extremely cold temperatures. If you are concerned about frost, you can provide your hens and roosters a well-sheltered and warm coop.
DID YOU KNOW…Applying petroleum jelly or coconut oil to the combs and wattles of chickens can protect these soft, fleshy parts against frostbite.
Keeping your birds in a well-ventilated, insulated, and dry coop can protect them against frost and other challenges that come with cold and wet weather.
What is the Lifespan of the Barred Plymouth Rock?
The Barred Plymouth Rock are long lived birds. They are an exceptional breed that has one of the longest life spans compared to other chickens! A Barred Rock chicken can generally live between 8 to 10 years of age, but there are reports of some chickens exceeding these numbers.
How Long Does It Take a Plymouth Rock to Mature?
Once birds reach 20 weeks of age, they are considered fully matured. Barred Rock Hens can start egg laying by 18 to 20 weeks, but the hens egg production slows down by the time they reach 3 years.
There is no other chicken more distinct than this American breed of poultry! Plymouth Rock chickens are unique in their appearance, temperament, and purpose. As they fed many people during the Second World War, these meat and egg birds are an important part of history.
Easy To Handle
Their docile personalities will have them following you around when tame, and as lap birds, Plymouth Rocks are wonderful to handle. So be sure to give this chicken a cuddle or two, they certainly won’t mind!
These chickens have also proven their weight in gold in egg production. They lay a brown egg, size large, and can produce between 200 to 300 eggs per year. Compared to other breeds of similar body weight, their egg laying ability is quite impressive.
Variety Within the Breed
One last interesting thing about the Plymouth Rock chicken is the variety within the breed. You can find colors such as White, Blue, and Buff, but the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken is by far the most popular.
Feel Free To Share
If you want your friends or family to learn more about Plymouth Rock chickens, be sure to share this guide, along with your newfound admiration for the American chicken breed!
For similar related breeds, look around my site. I have plenty of care guides for different chicken breeds!
(1) “Plymouth Rock Hen” by pause.reflect is marked with CC BY 2.0
(2) “Ken and Barbie” by EssjayNZ is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(3) “Plymouth Barred Rock and Eglu” by thomas pix is marked with CC BY 2.0
(4) “Sawyer feeds a Plymouth Rock chicken at Sky Meadows” by dionhinchcliffe is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0
(5) “Fat Plymouth Rock Chickens at Missoula Urban Demonstration Project” by Glamour Schatz is marked with CC BY 2.0