Barred Rock chickens are known for their hardiness, broodiness, and easy-going personality. These desirable traits coupled with their ability to be dual purpose; it is no wonder why they are so popular with homesteaders.
Barred Rocks are a variation of Plymouth Rocks, and their name is often used interchangeably.
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Barred Rocks originated in Massachusetts, making their first appearance in 1869. Barred Rocks are one of the eight variations of Plymouth Rocks which originated in Boston and made their first appearance in 1829 at the America's first poultry show.
In 1874, this breed was accepted by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed.
The goal of this breed was for a dual-purpose bird that was a productive egg layer as well as a large enough bird to produce meat.
Plymouth Rocks and their subsequent variations were a product of crossbreeding a Java and a Barred Chicken, perhaps a Cochin, Dominque, and a Brahma. In this instance Barred is referring to the pattern on the feathers.
Heritage or Hybrid?
Barred Rocks are considered to be one of America's oldest heritage breeds of chickens as their lineage dates back to the early 1800's.
The American Poultry Association recognizes 8 (eight) varieties including Barred, Black (bantam only), Blue, Buff, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Columbian, and White.
Barred Rocks have a similar appearance to Cuckoo Marans with their black and white feathers. While the misidentification is understandable, a few key differences include the floppy comb (not straight) and the more pronounced white on the feathers aid in proper identification.
We got Marans and Barred Rocks at the same time, and they shared a striking resemblance from baby chicks, even to the present. As shown in the picture, they can easily be distinguished when in a group, but when they are separated, we identify them based on their floppy combs.
A few common features of this breed include:
Large Single comb
Comb is bright red
Medium to large bright red wattles
Bright red earlobes
Black and White Barred Feathers
Note that due to the size of their combs they can be floppy. In some breeds this is a sign of an illness, which is not typically the case with Barred Rocks. Their combs are so large and there is not enough support to hold them upright that they flop to one side.
Roosters weigh 9.5 pounds on average, hens are closer to 7.5 pounds on average. This makes them a larger breed as an average sized rooster is 6 pounds and a hen is 5.7 pounds.
While Barred Rocks are large birds, their fluffy feathers make them look even larger.
Our Barred Rocks are larger or of similar size to the other breeds of chickens we have. We suspect this is due to the fact that our other breeds are larger as well as cold tolerant/hardy like our Columbian Wyandotte's.
Barred Rock chickens have an above average lifespan of 6 to 8 years in backyard confinement, which is average as most chickens live between 3 and 7 years.
In optimal conditions they have been noted to live between 10 and 12 years.
Since Barred Rocks can be used as meat birds, it should be noted that these chickens tend to live shorter lives of 2 to 3 years due to decreased production as they age.
Egg Color & Production
Egg production starts between 18 weeks and 20 weeks (4.5 to 5 months), which is average with most breeds.
You can expect 4+ large brown eggs a week. In their first year, they can produce 200 eggs with proper diet and care. Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.
While this breed lays less eggs than some more productive layers such as Isa Browns, it should be noted that our Barred Rocks were the first layers of our flock, laying very close to 18 weeks.
Barred Rock chickens are known for their broodiness and instinct to sit on a nest. Our Barred Rocks often express broody tendencies. Their fluffy feathers and strong maternal instinct make them great mothers.
Barred Rocks are able to and breed naturally without human intervention or insemination, provided they will allow the rooster to mount them. Our Barred Rocks are so high on the pecking order, this is seldom in our coop.
Plymouth Barred Rocks are well known for being a cold hardy breed as well as heat tolerant.
Barred Rocks are the best of both worlds, their fluffy feathers help to retain body heat and keep this breed warm in the winter. Also, their large wattles and floppy comb that allows body heat to cool down when exposed to the air when circulating through their system in warm weather.
While they are tolerant to the heat, they do need access to shade in hot and sunny weather to ensure they do not overheat. For more tips on keeping your chickens cool in hot weather check out our article.
In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to clean water, and are not showing signs of frostbite on their combs, wattles, or feet. They likely will not require accommodations such as a heater or brooder in the winter unless there is extreme cold.
Barred Rocks are generally healthy chickens and are not ailed by any notable illnesses. Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.
We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock.
The most likely illness this breed will experience is heat stroke. In extreme heat can be difficult for them as they have an abundance of feathers.
The White Plymouth Rock has been cited to be resistant to a devastating disease to any flock, Marek's,
As a larger than average sized chicken they are considered good for meat production.
Barred Rocks are considered to have more dark meat than other breeds when processed for meat. They also tend to produce less breast meat than breeds that are specifically breed for that attribute like Cornish Cross.
Barred Rocks are above average as far as noise is concerned. This makes them not a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods. We would recommend them for more rural farms.
Since the hen makes an abundance of noise, and the roosters tend to consistently crow. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.
We have several Barred Rocks, and they make noise constantly and loudly. Whether they are broody or just walking around the run. I would even go as far to say they are often more vocal that our rooster.
I would consider these to be louder than Leghorns, which are known for their vocals.
Docile and mellow are words often used to describe Barred Rock chickens.
We have several Plymouth Barred Rocks ourselves and they have never been aggressive towards us. But they are also not as friendly and do not enjoy being held as much as some breeds like Golden Comets.
With their calm disposition, they would do well around children.
While Barred Rocks are not aggressive, they are at the top of the pecking order for our flock. We lovingly call them "Queens of the Coop."
Due to their dominance, they also tend to be the hardest and most aggressive towards new chickens to the coop. They will also chase our rooster when he mounts a hen and they think he is hurting one of their hens.
As large sized breed Cuckoo Marans require 4 square feet per bird in the coop. Our coop is secure from predator's and limited drafts, but still is unheated.
Our Barred Rocks did not have any issues during the winter, even on days it dipped to -22 (negative twenty-two) with wind chill.
In an enclosed run 10 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds.
During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.
Are They Right For You?
Barred Rocks can be a suitable option for beginners due to their docile temperament, cold hardiness, heat tolerance, and gentle personality.
Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Barred Rocks produce an abundance of dark meat, and produce less than an average number of eggs a year once matured.
If you are looking for a strong egg producer, it might be worth considering other breeds.
If you are looking for brown eggs, a friendly breed, a chicken that does well in colder climates or warmer climates and has dual purpose they may be a great choice for you!
Barred Rocks are some of the first chickens we got, and we have not had any issues, and would recommend them to beginners.
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