What is the State Bird of Rhode Island? (And Why?)

Rhode Island is the smallest state by area in the whole of the United States and the 45th most populous. It is mainly known for its sandy beaches and seaside towns. The state animal for Rhode Island is the Harbor Seal, but what is the state bird?

The state of Rhode Island chose the Rhode Island Red chicken (gallus domesticus) as the state bird in 1954. The large, red chicken or rooster provides a friendly, laid-back working avian that farmers love and state residents respect.

The state bird for Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Red Chicken

The state bird for Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Red Chicken

Why is the Rhode Island Red chicken the state bird for Rhode Island?

Breeders developed the Rhode Island Red chicken as a utility bird in the late 1800s. The chicken that became the state bird serves as both a meat source and an egg source. They work well as free-range chickens or as backyard chickens. They are known as very good egg layers, producing 200 to 300 eggs per year.

When did the Rhode Island Red chicken become the state bird for Rhode Island?

The Ocean State of Rhode Island legislature adopted the Rhode Island Red chicken as the state bird on May 3, 1954. The bird won a legislative fight between it and the Rhode Island hen, which also had a state legislator backing it. The chicken managed greater support and the legislator who liked the hen had their bill pigeon-holed. Rhode Island doesn’t share its state bird with any other state.

Rhode Island Red Rooster perched on a fence

Rhode Island Red Rooster perched on a fence

What does the state bird of Rhode Island look like?

These chickens vary in coloration from black with red highlights to bright red. A dark red color proves most common. Their wings can develop black feathers referred to as smut, which can disqualify the bird from showing in contests.

Both the male and female grow to about .80 to 1.3 feet in length. They weigh more than most other birds at a median weight of 6 pounds for females and 7.5 pounds for males. They have a wingspan of between two to three feet.

Rhode Island Red rooster and chickens

Rhode Island Red rooster and chickens

How do these birds behave?

The super friendly Rhode Island Red chicken makes the ideal chicken if you’re just starting out with domestic chickens or purchased your first farm. If you want to have a small flock of chickens in your backyard, this breed will do well. You need to provide the chickens with food, water, and appropriate shelter, but as long as you procure at least one rooster and one hen, you will soon have eggs.

These chickens do not live in the wild and never have, since they were bred from existing species. Always domesticated, they make ideal working chickens. They lay eggs frequently, so prepare for daily procreation. They’re also quite healthy and hardy, so they aren’t prone to disease. This factor also makes them ideal for beginners who have not maintained a flock of chickens before.

Do Rhode Island Red chickens form communities?

The Rhode Island Red chicken forms the community you provide. While you can let these birds live in a free-range situation, fencing your property at least at its furthest boundaries makes a good idea. This provides them with plenty of roaming space, while also protecting them from predators and vehicles on roadways.

You typically won’t let Rhode Island Red chickens keep their eggs to breed chicks. You would more than likely purchase additional chickens than have the chickens and roosters breed children. These chickens typically lay single yoke eggs, but you can obtain double yoke eggs from these chickens, providing you a tasty surprise when you cook breakfast.

Rhode Island Red chickens drinking water

Rhode Island Red chickens drinking water

They’re bred to be prolific and easy to maintain. In 1854, William Tripp, a ship captain who regularly traveled between England and RI, transporting, you guessed it, chickens. During one of his voyages, he made the acquaintance of a fellow sailor who had a red Malaysian rooster with him. Purchasing the bird, he took it home to his hens as a gift. The two types of chickens willingly interbred, creating a new chicken. The resulting chickens and roosters of the English hens and Malaysian rooster produced better tasting and greater numbers of eggs. He began breeding his stock with his sailor friends’ birds, thus creating the breed of Rhode Island Red. Originally, the animal was called Tripp’s Fowl or The Macomber.

The story of this hearty American bird gets more complex at this point. The English birds made an oceanic voyage with Tripp, visiting the US. American farmer, Isaac Champlin Wilbour, purchased a Tripp’s Fowl from Captain Tripp on one of his voyages to the US. Wilbour then introduced the English-Malaysian Tripp’s Fowl to his own flock, which comprised members of the Shanghai, Java, and Brown Leghorn species of chickens. This interbreeding on a small Rhode Island farm created the modern Rhode Island Red, which eventually became the state bird of RI.

The true beauty of the Rhode Island Red is that it truly embodies the melting pot that comprises the US. This all-American bird draws its bloodlines from England, Malaysia, China, the Isle of Java, and Italy.

A Rhode Island Red hen eating

A Rhode Island Red hen eating

What do Rhode Island Red chickens eat?

Rhode Island Red chickens prefer to dine on their favorites. Some of those favorites include cereals, seeds, worms, bugs, and human food leftovers.

However, if you purchased this breed of Rhode Island Red chicken to use for laying eggs or as an eventual meal, you’ll need to feed it a farm feed mixture that agricultural experts developed specifically for the Rhode Island Red chicken. You will reduce your bug problem by getting these birds.

They love to nibble on insects in between meals. A reduction in insect population is one of the side benefits of owning these birds.

You may also like

Get the good stuff

Get the latest BirdFacts delivered straight to your inbox