When it comes to a reliable, steady chicken, the Barred Rock is one of the top favorites in the U.S. Developed in New England as a heritage breed, Rocks were cultivated in the early 1800s by crossing Black Javas and Domingues. They have since spread across the country and are a staple for many chicken enthusiasts.
Background and History of Barred Rock
As one of the oldest domesticated chicken breeds in our country, the barred has some element of mystery to its history. The barred ancestors made an appearance at a breed show in Boston, MA in 1849. It then disappeared for twenty years. In 1869 the barred chicken breed magically reappeared.
Mr. Upham of Massachusetts claims to have bred Java hens and barred roosters to create the Barred Rock prototype in 1869. There are claims by others who take responsibility for creating the prototype but Upham is given credit as the forefather.
During this time, the Dominque chicken was another popular barred variety that was competing against Barred Rock at breed shows. The breed standards were lax and there was overlap at the breed shows. Chicken breeders were exhibiting Dominiques and Barred Rocks (two types of barred varieties) in both breed categories and could win both because at that time the comb could be single or rose.
This caused upset among chicken breeders. The New York Poultry Society finally set the standard that required Dominques must have a rose comb and Barred Rocks must have a single comb. This allowed the two chicken varieties to be separated in competitions.
During World War II, the Barred Rock chicken became a staple in the broiler industry even though more productive chickens had been developed. The Barred Rock was singly responsible for providing meat and eggs for families during food rationing due to the war.
These hens retained their popularity throughout the years due to their docile nature, and productivity. By the 1930s, the Barred Rock chicken was a favorite of farmers and breeders alike.
Production chicken strains eventually evolved to increase meat and egg production. The heritage barred chicken was almost driven to extinction. Fortunately, the heritage breed has made a resurgence and is now on the recovering list by the Livestock Conservancy.
Barred Rock Breed Standard and Appearance
The Barred Rock chicken is described as having narrow, clean, barring (patterning) on its feathering. Barred are broad, long, and deep-bodied. They are bred for both strength and vitality. Chicks are dark grey to black when they first hatch with white patches on their head and body.
Barred Rock breed specifications:
Type: Large Fowl & Bantam
Size: Heavy – 7-8 pounds
Purpose: Dual, meat, and eggs
Varieties: Barred, White, Buff, Partridge, Columbian, Silver Pencilled, Blue, Black
Egg Laying: Very Good – 4 per week
Egg Color: Brown
Comb Type: Single Comb
A Barred Rock chicken will have no feathers on their legs and have 4 toes. Their skin color is yellow. This hearty bird will feature a 5-pointed single comb and the comb and face will be red.
The appearance of a Barred Rock hen is a large chicken with a slightly triangular shape to the body. The feathers are sharply defined with the black and white barred feathers.
The Barred eyes will be alert and bright. It will have a full breast, long back, and it has plenty of meat for those looking to raise them for the table.
All 7 varieties are recognized by the American Poultry Association by the standards adopted in 1874.
Barred Rock Personality and Temperament
This video explains how friendly, docile and sweet this chicken breed can be and why it is such a favorite for chicken raisers. Barred is suitable for the coop or for free-range. They love to forage and range but they can adapt easily to confinement when given sufficient space.
If you have children interested in raising chickens for exhibition purposes, this is a great chicken breed choice. Barred chickens are friendly towards children and have been known to be lap chickens. They do enjoy cuddling.
They are not great flyers to you don’t need a high fence to keep them confined. They are not a noisy chicken, so you don’t need to worry about chicken chatter disturbing your neighbors. While some breeds shout when they lay their eggs, Barred Rocks tends to whisper.
The mild temperaments and great dispositions make these birds a great addition to any flock. They are not aggressive toward other breeds and are easily handled for care and maintenance.
Your Barred Rock chicken will lay roughly 4 eggs per week. They are respected hens for their large brown eggs. On average, one hen will lay around 200 eggs per year.
Barred will be productive layers for the first few years. Around 3 years of age, they will start to decline in productivity. They will continue laying until 10 years of age, but their egg production will not be as prolific.
As far as broodiness, this is not typical behavior. They can make good baby sitters and make great moms if you give them a little encouragement in the motherhood department.
Chicks will mature around the 8 to 12-week age range and begin to lay eggs. In the beginning of egg production, eggs will be on the small side. As the hens mature and grow, the size of the eggs will increase to medium or large. Barred can also be considered for broiling by around 12 weeks.
Health Issues and Care
When choosing Barred rock chicks, be sure to find a high-quality hatchery so your baby chicks don’t spend a lot of time in the mail. Verify that you are dealing with a qualified breeder to ensure you are getting the Barred Rock variety that you are expecting.
These birds have very few health issues. They are hearty enough to be raised in northern climates with snowfall and cold temperatures. They will thrive in any temperature or environment, but they will do best when provided with clean and roomy quarters and are offered quality food and clean water.
Because these chickens are mild-mannered and quite delicious, they will be prone to predators such as raccoons, ferrets, raptors, and wolves. Be sure to provide a secure area for roosting that protects against predators. Many of them will strike at night.
Like all poultry, Barred Rock will be prone to parasites. If they are allowed to free-range, they will find sandy areas to take dust baths and rid themselves of parasites. Whether in a coop or free-range, be sure to do a parasite inspection regularly and medicate if needed.
Tips for Raising Barred Rock Chickens
The Barred is fairly standard when it comes to diet, grooming, and maintenance. This makes them a great breed for all chicken keepers, from the backyard enthusiast to the happy homesteader.
Here are some helpful tips for raising your Barred Rock.
This breed has no special grooming needs other than checking for parasites. If you plan on showing your birds, check out the breed grooming standard for Barred Rocks.
As with any egg-laying breed, you should provide your Barred Rock with extra calcium. You can provide them with oyster shells separate from their egg-laying feed. They will eat the calcium on an as-needed basis. You can also crush up eggshells into their food to provide an extra source of calcium.
Your birds will love you more if you supplement their diet with special treats like mealworms or table scraps. You will be their best friend when you arrive with tasty snacks. Treats can also be used to help with catching and grooming. Be sure to stay away from anything moldy and human food that is toxic to chickens like plants from the nightshade family, onions and garlic.
Be sure to provide a comfy and private nesting box for your Barred. Because of their egg-laying productivity, you will need a roomy nesting box. They also prefer a decent sized perch because they are a fairly large bird. Make sure your coop is well ventilated.
If you do raise your chickens in a climate that will have prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing, you should take measures to protect the combs. You can coat the combs with petroleum jelly or install a heat lamp when the temperatures drop too low.
Barred roosters tend to be calm unlike other breeds. Roosters have their own set of care needs, like trimming talons. You can do this with a good pair of clippers. Be sure not to trim too close to the leg as you could cause pain or damage. They are much more flexible on feed as they don’t need extra calcium for laying eggs. They will do fine on whatever feed you have in the coop for the girls.
The bottom line on Barred. You can’t go wrong with Barred Rock for your chicken raising needs. They are hardy, can be used for meat or eggs. They are prolific layers that do well in any climate. They are beautiful birds, solid, healthy, and pleasant in personality and nature.