Dual Purpose Chickens
The Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock chicken is a popular choice as a backyard fowl. They are docile and friendly, inquisitive, easy to tame and will adapt well to both free range and confined environments. They are also tolerant of cold conditions.
It is believed that the Dominique, Cochin and black Java breeds contributed most to the Plymouth Rock with Malays and Dorkings also being used. Most development of the breed took place in New England in the mid 19th century. It was first exhibited as a breed in 1869 and was admitted to the American Standard of Excellence in 1874.
The name of John C Bennett usually appears when researching the history of the breed. He is often credited with creating and/or popularising the Plymouth Rock.
The original birds were barred. The elaborate barring on the feathers makes them very attractive. They were developed as a dual purpose breed producing good quality meat and plenty of large, brown eggs. Until World War II, the Barred Plymouth Rock was the most popular breed in the United States.
It was, and is, ideal as a backyard or farm bird being hardy and tractable. The hens go broody easily and are good mothers. There is excellent production of meat and eggs. The large egg varies from light to mid-brown, one reason for the drop in popularity of the breed when consumers began to demand white eggs.
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The hens lay right through the winter although production will drop off somewhat. An average of 200 eggs per annum is normal.
Cocks weigh around 9 1/2 pounds and hens 7 1/2 pounds. Birds of this size can be quite dangerous if they become aggressive. Fortunately the Plymouth Rock is docile and curious and not normally a problem to handle.
The back is long and broad and the breast moderately deep and full. They have a single, medium-sized comb. Nowadays different strains have been developed as either meat producers or egg layers. Good layers will have a deep, full abdomen. The head is red as are the ear lobes and the beak is a bright yellow. The eyes are a bay colour. The birds have a long productive life. The feathering is heavy and soft.
Colours include barred, white, blue, buff (developed by crossing with Rhode Island Red chickens), partridge, silver-pencilled (Plymouth Rock/Dark Brahma/Silver Pencilled Wyandotte), Columbian and partridge. Bantam versions of most colours are also available.
The White Plymouth Rock hens are often used as a cross to produce chickens for commercial broiler production.
Although once listed as in danger of extinction, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy now classes the Plymouth Rock chicken as 'recovering'.