When it comes to a reliable, steady egg-laying 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 Dominiques.
They have since spread across the country and are a staple for many chicken enthusiasts.
This article will cover
- Barred Rock Chicken Overview
- Background and History of Barred Rock
- Barred Rock Breed Standard
- Personality and Temperament of Barred Rock
- Barred Rock Egg Laying
- Barred Rock Health Issues and Care
- 4 Tips for Raising Barred Rock Chickens
Barred Rock Overview
|Feature||Barred Rock Chicken|
|Purpose||Dual Purpose (Meat and Egg)|
|Egg Size||Medium to Large|
|Heat Tolerance||Yes (Moderate)|
|Comb Type||Single Comb|
|Egg Production||About 250 to 280 eggs per year|
|Chicken Skin Color||Yellow|
|Life Span||7-8 years|
|Adult Weight||Hen: 6-7 lbs, Rooster: 7.5-9.5 lbs|
|Backyard Friendly||5/5 (Friendly and adaptable to confinement)|
Barred Rock chickens are a really great breed for many farmers and enthusiasts alike. They can provide you with fresh eggs as well as tender, flavorful meat. So, if you want them as an addition to your flock, we’re here to introduce them to you!
Barred Rock vs Plymouth Rock
Due to their name being similar, many people confuse these two breed terms. “Plymouth Rock” is commonly used as an overarching term for the whole breed, including variations in color which include Barred, White, and Buff in configuration. Meanwhile, “Barred Rocks” refers to the specific sort of member found inside the Plymouth Rock breed.
When you look at the Barred Rock of the Plymouth Rock breed, it is easy to tell the former apart just by their black and white barred feathers. This pattern comes from a single dominant trait –but other than that, they share a lot in common with different varieties of Plymouth Rocks including size, physical make-up, and personality.
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 ancestors of the Barred Rock breed 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, Despite the development of more productive chickens, the Barred Rock chicken became a staple in the broiler industry. 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 of 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:
- Class: American
- Type: Large Fowl & Bantam
- Size: Heavy – 7-8 pounds
- Rarity: Common
- Purpose: Dual, meat, and eggs
- Varieties: Barred, White, Buff, Partridge, Columbian, Silver Pencilled, Blue, Black
- Egg Laying: Very Good – 4 per week
- Comb Type: Single Comb
- Egg Color: Brown
- Crested: No
A Barred Rock chicken will have no feathers on its 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 Barred Rock hen is a large chicken with a slightly triangular shape to the body. The feathers are sharply defined with black and white barred feathers.
The Barred eyes will be alert and bright. It will have a full breast and a 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, so you don’t need a high fence to keep them confined. They are not noisy chickens, so you don’t need to worry about chicken chatter disturbing your neighbors. While some breeds shout when they lay their eggs, Barred Rocks tend 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.
Barred Rock Egg Laying
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 babysitters 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. At the beginning of egg production, eggs will be on the small side.
Barred Rock 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 hardy enough to be raised in northern climates with snowfall and cold temperatures.
They can thrive in any temperature or environment, but they perform best when provided with clean, spacious quarters, along with quality food and clean water.
Prone to Predators
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 Rock 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. That said, there are standards you might follow to enter bird exhibitions. 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 fairly large birds. Make sure your coop is well-ventilated.
If you raise your chickens in a climate with prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, you should take measures to protect their combs. You can coat the combs with petroleum jelly or install a heat lamp when the temperatures drop too low.
Barred Rock 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 Rock. You can’t go wrong with Barred Rock for your chicken-raising needs. They are hardy, and 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.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch.