Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Complete Breed Overview

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Famed for their excellent egg production, Rhode Island Reds are a popular choice of domestic chicken for backyard chicken owners. But when it comes to a Rhode Island Red rooster vs. hen – is there a big difference? And is getting a Rhode Island Red rooster a good idea, or will your hens be just fine without one?

Identifying a Rhode Island Red rooster vs. hen is essential if you’ve got chicks or young chickens. Successfully spotting the males and females at a young age is a huge advantage, as it allows you to organize and plan your flock and find new homes for surplus roosters.

So, here is your ultimate guide to Rhode Island Red roosters vs. hens, with everything you need to know about this prolific chicken breed!

Sound good?

Then let’s begin!

Rhode Island Red – Breed Overview

Rhode Island Reds are one of the most famous and popular American chicken breeds worldwide. Originating from Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the late 1800s, this breed got developed to become the ultimate dual-purpose bird – prolific layers that also double up as a meat bird.

If you trace the origins of many common chicken breeds, you’ll find that they came into being around the same time. This seemingly coincidental timing was due to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Excellence. The Standard of Excellence spurred many poultry fanatics to register their poultry-breeding efforts.

Although commercial poultry farmers tend to favor commercial strains of hybrid birds intended for either meat or egg production, dual-purpose chickens such as the Rhode Island Red remain popular with homesteaders and backyard chicken keepers.

The Rhode Island Red breed standard for this heavy breed of chicken highlights the following key features:

  • Red hackle feathers
  • Red-black body feathers
  • deeply colored black plumage
  • Green-black wing feathers and saddle feathers can occur on roosters
  • Yellow skin
  • Yellow feet
  • Square feet
  • A standard comb type is a single comb, but rose combs also occur
  • Light or dark brown egg color
red hens free ranging on a small homestead
Check out these two beautiful Rhode Island Red hens! Rhode Island Reds are a famous hardy breed known for needing fewer resources and less fancy housing than other breeds. Identifying Rhode Island Red roosters vs. hens is also straightforward. Red roosters usually have much larger wattles and combs. Their combs and wattles may also appear bright or solid-red. Their legs and spurs will appear longer and somewhat thicker. Hens have smaller frames and usually shorter tail feathers.

What Two Chickens Make a Rhode Island Red?

Most poultry enthusiasts consider Rhode Island Reds a separate breed of chicken – unlike hybrids, which come from two different chicken breeds. So, if you want Rhode Island Red chicks, you need to breed a Rhode Island Red rooster and hen together.

Rhode Island Reds have a varied and fascinating ancestry. The deep coloring of this magnificent bird is due to Malay bloodlines. Other heritage strains used to develop this versatile breed include Java, Shanghai, and Brown Leghorn chickens. Like most larger chicken breeds, the size of these birds comes from heavier chickens imported from Asia in the 1800s.

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How Can You Tell If a Rhode Island Red Is Male Or Female?

If you’re looking at a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens, it should be easy to spot the difference! Unlike some chicken breeds, Rhode Island Red roosters and hens have very different features, making it easy to tell them apart.

Consider the following differences.

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Appearance Comparison

The Rhode Island Red is a sizeable chicken breed. And both the hens and roosters will dwarf most standard hybrid egg layers in your flock. The Rhode Island Red roosters have a rectangular body with a sturdy, muscular physique.

When looking at a flock of Rhode Island Reds, you will notice that the rooster is a tall, proud bird with a regal stance. He will have longer legs and a longer neck than the hens. And also a much larger, deep red comb. There will usually only be one rooster, as Rhode Island Red cockerels do not tend to tolerate other males within the flock.

Rhode Island Red hens are densely feathered and have a much smaller comb than the rooster. They will have shorter legs and short necks but are still larger birds than many other common breeds of backyard hens.

glorious and confident red rooster posing for a portrait
Here you see the boss of our flock. It’s a mighty Rhode Island Red rooster! These birds are famous for watching over their hens and keeping them safe – and they’re up there with Dominique chickens and Plymouth Rocks as our favorite American breeds. A Rhode Island Red rooster can also be a surprisingly curious bird. We find that giving them plenty of stimulation – such as free-range space, ample snacks to forage, and yummy chicken scratch keeps them active and content. While some red roosters have reputations as being bullies – we find that some are kind and docile. (If you find your Rhode Island Red is bullying others, ensure all birds have plenty of food, water, and space. And something to keep them entertained!)

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Size Comparison

Rhode Island Red roosters are much larger than the hens. A fully-grown Rhode Island Red rooster weighs around eight and a half pounds, while a hen will be six and a half pounds.

This proportional difference means a Rhode Island Red rooster will stand several inches taller than his hens. And will also have longer legs and a longer neck.

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Color Comparison

A Rhode Island Red rooster is a magnificent sight! They are tall, proud birds with regal stances and beautiful plumage.

The plumage of a Rhode Island Red rooster is often a deep mahogany red, often overlaid with gleaming black feathers. The tail is also black, with prominent green highlights. The comb is deep red, as is the beak.

While Rhode Island Red hens are not quite as spectacular as the roosters, they are still undeniably beautiful.

The body plumage of Rhode Island Red hens ranges from light rust to dark red-brown, and some hens have darker green-black tail feathers. They have yellow legs and feet, a red-brown beak, and a small red comb.

red rooster and hens in the backyard eating from their feeder
Check out this adorable Rhode Island Red rooster vs. Hen showdown! Notice the hen and rooster side by side. The rooster looks like it’s ready to rumble! (The red roosters can get a bit aggressive.) It’s also easy to see the differences between roosters and hens as they pose for the camera – head to head. Rhode Islands are hefty birds – but you’ll notice the roosters are slightly heavier, more rectangular, and taller than the hens. (Rhode Island cocks weigh about eight and a half pounds – and hens weigh about six and a half pounds.)

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Temperament Comparison

Sadly, you may not routinely encounter a Rhode Island Red rooster, as these poor boys are often aggressive! Rhode Island Red breeders will keep the best roosters for improving their stock, but backyard chicken keepers tend to opt for a more relaxed type of rooster, such as a Brahma.

Not all Rhode Island Red roosters will be dominant and aggressive, but some tend to exhibit aggression towards humans and other roosters. If you are willing to take your chances with an aggressive rooster, he will undoubtedly be a fierce opponent for predators that dare to go near his hens!

On the other hand, Rhode Island Red hens are docile birds and are excellent for a backyard flock. They are active foragers. They love an area where they can roam freely. These are nosy, active birds, so if they are fortunate and live in a free-range environment, they will investigate anything and everything!

If you keep other chicken breeds, your Rhode Island Red hens will undoubtedly come at the top of the pecking order. They don’t always mix well with other chicken breeds. Because of this, they can bully other less-dominant hens.

Once upon a time, homesteaders prized Rhode Island Red hens for their broodiness, but sadly this has been bred out of them in favor of egg production. However, if you are lucky enough to get a broody Rhode Island Red hen, they make excellent mothers and will often successfully rear a large brood of chicks.

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Breed Summary

UsesA dual-purpose breed that will lay lots of eggs but can also serve for meat production.
AppearanceRoosters – Tall, proud birds with a regal stance. They will have longer legs and longer necks than the hens.

Hens – A densely feathered bird with a compact, sturdy body shape.
Average SizeRoosters – 8 ½ lbs

Hens – 6 ½ lbs
ColorRoosters – They have deep mahogany red plumage overlaid with gleaming black feathers. The tail is also black, with potential green highlights.

Hens – Plumage ranges from light rust to dark red-brown, and some hens have darker black-green tail feathers.
TemperamentRoosters – Can be aggressive towards humans and other roosters. Protective of their hens.

Hens – Placid and good-natured, very curious, and enjoy foraging. An active breed can bully less dominant breeds of hens.
How Long Do Rhode Island Reds Live For?5 – 8 years
How Many Eggs Do Rhode Island Reds Lay Per Year?250 – 300 eggs per year, or 5 – 6 eggs per week
What Size Eggs Do Rhode Island Reds Lay?Large
What Color Eggs Do Rhode Island Red Hens Lay?Light or dark brown
How Many Years Will A Rhode Island Red Lay Eggs?3 – 4 years at full capacity, then 1 – 2 years of reduced egg output
Rhode Island Red Chickens – Breed Summary

Rhode Island Red Rooster vs. Hen – Spot the Difference!

OK. So identifying adult Rhode Island Reds is easy, but what about younger hens and roosters? Can you tell the difference when they are chicks, or do you need to wait until they are adults to figure out the difference?

How Can You Tell A 4-Week-Old Hen From a Rooster?

It can be tricky to tell if baby chicks are male or female at four weeks old. However, look carefully, and you may see that some have a slightly larger comb than others – these are more likely to be roosters. The difference is so subtle that you may wish to wait longer before making your mind up. For sure!

two brown and red hens free ranging and foraging in the backyard
Here you see two Rhode Island Red hens. They’ve left the chicken coop and nesting boxes and are foraging the backyard for snacks. Notice the color variations in their plumage. Rhode Island Red chickens can have a blackish plumage, red, or a light pinkish tint. They’re famously hardy birds suited for New England climates. They’re a friendly breed – for the most part. However, the Rhode Island Red roosters are famous for being somewhat aggressive at times. (We’ve also read that industrial Rhode Island Reds may have a lighter feather coloration and be smaller than old-fashioned backyard flocks.)

How Can You Tell a 6-Week-Old Hen From a Rooster?

At six weeks of age, Rhode Island Red chicks should develop slightly differently depending on whether they are male or female. You may be able to spot subtle differences in the neck feathers, with females growing neck feathers with rounded rather than pointed tips.

Female chicks tend to develop feathers in an even pattern, while the feathers of males come through in patchy clusters. Males will also grow pointed, curved tail feathers, while females have broader, rounded feathers.

How Can You Tell If a 12-Week-Old Chicken Is a Rooster?

At 12 weeks, the difference between male and female Rhode Island Red chicks should become much more apparent. The roosters will have a larger comb that extends further back on the head. They will also have thicker, longer legs and larger feet.

red hen watching over her beautiful baby chicks in the backyard
Here is an adorable Rhode Island Red hen with her newly hatched babies! But are the baby chicks male or female? Well – there are three ways poultry raisers can identify the sex of their baby chicks – vent sexing, feather sexing, and observational sexing. Vent sexing is tremendously tricky to get right without specialized training. Feather sexing is also possible. Male Rhode Island Red chicks have a white spot on their downs near their wing web. However, the white spot’s location and size vary, making it somewhat unreliable. The third option, observational sexing, is our favorite way to determine chicken sex. It involves observing the baby chicks as they develop. The idea is to raise the birds until their sexes become apparent. Male chickens will develop large combs and wattles. Rooster heads will also appear longer and more masculine. You can usually successfully observe the sex of your chickens accurately after a few months of raising them.

At What Age Do Rhode Island Reds Start Laying Eggs?

It is impossible to tell the difference between some hens and roosters until they start crowing or laying eggs! Rhode Island Red hens don’t lay eggs as early as hybrid egg-laying hens, but they do develop faster than many other purebred breeds of chickens. Under the right conditions, your female chicks should start to lay eggs when they are between 4 and 5 months of age.

What Age Do Rhode Island Red Roosters Start Crowing?

Rhode Island Red roosters will start crowing when they reach 18 to 20 weeks old. This approximate timeframe is also the point hens start laying, as at this age, they have reached full sexual maturity.

However, if one of your chicks starts crowing, this does not guarantee that it is a rooster! At a young age, some Rhode Island Red hens will imitate roosters by making crowing noises. If it looks like a hen but starts crowing, I’d suggest giving her the benefit of the doubt for a week or two to see if she begins to lay eggs.

Read More!


Thanks for reading our guide about Rhode Island Red roosters vs. hens.

We love raising Rhode Island Red chickens. Hens and roosters!

And while many farmers typically avoid having multiple Rhode Island Red roosters, we try not to discriminate. All chickens are welcome on our farm – as long as they get along!

What about you?

Do you have Rhode Island Red roosters or hens on your farm? Or maybe you are considering adding some?

We would love to hear about your experience with these lovely backyard birds either way.

Thanks again for reading.

And have a great day!

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