Chicken Primer – Barred Rocks

Two-brBarred Rocks hands down are a favorite breed for my backyard flock. I love them because they are Montana winter hearty, lay many large eggs, like to get out and forage, they are not skittish,  they are a good coloring to be a free range bird, lastly they are a big girl who can be a Sunday dinner.

Barred Rocks are a truly an  American breed.   They were developed in the US at the close of the Civil War.   They became the most popular American breed for many years until the idea of a flock on every farm faded away after World War II.   This breed was in many movies, and children’s books.    The black and white chicken became what we thought of when we imagined what a true farm chicken looked like.

Rock is the actual breed of bird, the barred is reference to the feathers.   The feathers are barred, black, white, black,white like piano keys.   Like so many other birds the type of feathers is part of the name.   The Rock breed is the basis of the American chicken industry that we know today with lots of big birds with bigger white meat breasts.   In the Barred Rock it has maintained its egg laying ability and still have a good body size, hence it is a dual purpose bird.   It does both jobs relatively  well.

Barred Rocks have a single red comb.   The standard red floppy top hat we all drew on our chickens in the first grade.   This is not usually a good trait in Montana, where winters are long and can be bitter cold.   It can mean frostbite for a single comb.   Yet somehow our Barred Rocks always seem to fare well here here the  an unheated, chicken coop each winter.

The Barred feathers is suppose to make them less prone to predators, or maybe it is less prone to being seen by predators.    I like to think so, as the Barred Rock is a first class forager.   They will be one of the first birds out of the chicken run in the morning in search of the best tasty morsels.   This free-range mentality makes them an economical bird because the more food they find themselves the less we must buy.    Free ranging also makes their eggs more yellow and is purported to result in more omega 3 that birds fed standard commercial diets.   I know for sure about the color, the rest I take on faith.

Barred Rocks are interesting in that males are whiter than females.   I like to say they have white feathers with black barring and females have black feathers with white barring.    I am not sure about this year Barred Rock.   Some days I am sure it is male and other days I can’t see how it can be.   This year’s chick has had a hard road, loosing the sight in one eye and growing slower than normal after that.   I am not sure yet.   Oh well you take a look and let me know what you see.