Chickens

Chicken Breeds – Egg Layers – Barred Rock

Over the next several days (who am I kidding more like weeks) I will be posting information about different chicken breeds. I am planning on covering three categories: {.1.} Egg Layers {.2.} Meat birds {.3.} Fancy/Exhibition breeds. I will try to give information on a few specific breeds within each category in a nut egg shell.  According to Wikipedia (it must be so, right?) there are more chickens in the world than any other bird. That being said this is by no means a comprehensive list.  But I did want to try and give some good and helpful options for those who are considering chickens for the first time or for those that have had chickens, but are interested in trying other breeds. The first category I am going to cover is Egg Layers…hence the title. Up first on the list, and the chicken I will be discussing today is the Plymouth or Barred Rock. Three years ago when my husband and I first embarked on starting our homestead the first chickens that I purchased were Barred Rocks. We only had 5 then. That was back before things got hoppin. They were great chickens to start with and that is why they are first on  my list. A lot of what I will be sharing with the egg layer category is from my own personal experience, and things I find to be pros and cons.

*History: Let me start off by saying, no they did not come over on the Mayflower and land at Plymouth Rock, and thus the name “Plymouth Rock”. I will admit that story is a bit more colorful to me, but here is the real story. They were developed in New England around the early 1800s, and they are a cross between Dominiques and Black Javas.

Pros: Barred Rocks are very good egg layers. Since they were bred in New England they are not put off by cold weather and continue to lay eggs even in the winter. This is a big plus because there are chicken breeds out there that close up shop once the colder weather and shorter day light hours hit, and you might as well forget many if any eggs over the winter months. The three years that I have had my chickens I have never had to buy any eggs year round. They are very hearty birds with a lot of vitality. When I purchased my first set of Barred Rock chicks I went in with a friend. Our chicks were chipped together and 7 of her chicks dies, all 5 of my Barred Rocks survived the chick phase and made it to adulthood. They are now going on 3 years old. Some breeds can be very boisterous and just down right squawky, believe me I am dealing with that currently, very obnoxious. However, the Barred Rock’s temperament is very laid back and docile. They are not flighty birds, and will stick around your homestead. (cue Millie) They make excellent pets as they are very friendly and are great for eggs making them the perfect chicken for a family with children. You can integrate other chickens with Barred Rocks fairly easily because they are not aggressive. They will establish their pecking order and put the new ladies in their place, but they are not bullies. I have integrated new adult hens with my Barred Rocks 3 times, and have never had any trouble. Barred Rocks are a dual purpose chicken which means not only are they good egg layers, they are also good as a meat bird. This is a plus if you are a prepper or wanting to live off the grid. I really wanted the dual purpose birds, so we had a meat option, but I will say our Barred girls are so sweet that option is off the table. (no pun intended, seriously) All the way around they are an excellent chicken and one of the most popular chicken breeds in the US. On top of all that they are also a very pretty chicken and will add beauty to your garden and yard. We love our Barred Rocks, and heartily recommend them!

Cons: Barred Rocks are excellent in egg production, but they are by far not the best  breed for egg laying as a straight laying hen which are heavy layers. The same goes for meat production. They are excellent for meat, but they are not going to be the best or the biggest compared to straight meat birds. Barred Rocks will also go broody in the Spring and throughout the summer. If you are looking to raise your own then this is a pro because they are good mothers. However, if you just want the eggs, and do not have roosters this presents a problem because now your chicken has decided to play mother hen and will sit on all of the eggs laid by the other girls. This causes problems because now you are down a chicken laying eggs and it can thwart the other hens from laying as well. You now have the hassle of pulling her out and putting her in what I call the isolation chamber or cage of shame. They will usually snap out of it in 3-5 days. But they can continue to go broody multiple times in the Spring and Summer season. I deal with it multiple times every spring and summer.

Eggs: Barred Rocks lay a light brown egg, and usually the eggs they lay would be considered large.

Eggs

All in all these chickens are probably my favorite as far as personality and disposition. When we ordered our chicks this summer I couldn’t resist getting at least two Barred Rocks. They are sweeties! Below are some pictures of Barred Rocks and what you can expect them to look like at certain stages.

The two newest Barred Rocks on the homestead. Born in July.
The two newest Barred Rocks on the homestead. Born in July.
This is one of our original Barred babies from 2013.
This is one of our original Barred babies from 2013.
7 week old Barred Rock. She is starting to get into the
7 week old Barred Rock. She is starting to get into the “akward teen years” otherwise known as a pullet. (what a difference a month and a half makes!)
And last but not least here is a full grown Barred Rock. Millie just couldn't not be a part of this post.
And last but not least here is a full grown Barred Rock. Millie of course couldn’t be left out.

In summery: the Barred Rock is a reliable, hearty, friendly, good egg layer and meat chicken, and cold weather resistant. They will make a great addition to any homestead!

~Kate

*History source: Murray McMurray Hatchery. I also would recommend Murray McMurray’s for any chicks orders you have. They are wonderful to work with, and we have gotten healthy chicks every time.

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