It feels like nothing’s ever black and white when it comes to chicken breeds, but with this stripey little stunner, it kinda is!
The Barred Rock is - quite simply - a brilliant American breed. They rock!
Barred Rock chickens look magnificent with their sharply styled monochrome feathers - so long as you like stripes. They’re calm, quiet, friendly, and hardy. They’re suitable for beginners, kids, and as backyard chickens. Plus, they’re dependable and decent layers. They’ve really earned their stripes.
From my experience there are only two grey areas that need clarifying when it comes to this black-and-white breed:
First up: how to spot this stripey breed. I’ve unscrambled the difference between Barred Rocks, Plymouth Rocks, Dominiques, and Amrocks for you.
Secondly: real keepers disagree with the egg-sperts about Barred Rock chickens. Curious? You should be.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS HERITAGE HEN?
LET’S GET CRACKING.
In this blog I’ll cover everything that you need to know about this all-round gem of a hen. So, stick around because you are in for some feathery fun with this one [DOWNLOAD FREE CARE GUIDE AT THE END]:
- Barred Rocks & Plymouth Rocks
- Barred Rocks & Dominiques
- Amrocks & Barred Rock Chickens
- The History of Barred Rock Chickens
- What Are Barred Rock Chickens Like?
- Is The Barred Rock the Right Chicken for Me?
- What’s the Barred Rock Breed Standard?
- What Varieties of Plymouth Rock Chicken Are There?
- How Big are Barred Rock Chickens?
- Can You Get Barred Rock Bantams?
- Barred Rock Roosters Vs Hens:
- Are Barred Rock Roosters Aggressive?
- What Do Barred Rock Chicks Look Like?
- Are Barred Rock Chickens Broody?
- Are Barred Rock Chickens Suitable for Beginners?
- Do Barred Rocks Make Good Backyard Chickens?
- Do Barred Rock Chickens Like to Be Held?
- Are Barred Rock Chickens Noisy?
- Can Barred Rock Chickens Fly?
- Barred Rock Chicken Eggs
- How Much Space Do Barred Rock Chickens Need?
- Are Barred Rock Chickens Cold Hardy?
- How Long Do Barred Rock Chickens Live For?
STRIPY CHICKENS – SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
What’s The Difference Between Barred Rocks & Plymouth Rocks?
Barred Rock chickens are the same as Plymouth Rock chickens. They’re Plymouth Rocks of the barred variety, and their full name – should you ever need to tell them off - is the Barred Plymouth Rock.
Plymouth Rock chickens also come in six other color varieties, but the barred is the most widely recognized and most distinctive with its barcode-style coat.
What’s The Difference between Barred Rocks & Dominiques?
The Barred Rock chicken has a single comb and straight black and white bars, whereas the Dominique chicken has a rose comb and a bit of a v shape to its barring, as confirmed by the experts at Cackle Hatchery:
“The Barred Rock has a single comb (straight comb) and more of a straight pattern in the barred feathers. The Dominique chicken has a rose comb and a slight v pattern in the barring of the feathers. Both make for good chickens in the winter and good pet chickens.”(Cackle Hatchery)
Dominiques are thought to be amongst the ancestors of Barred Rocks, and the family trait they passed on is their zebra-style plumage.
At one point in time, Dominiques and Barred Plymouth Rocks were considered the same breed and even the experts at the poultry shows struggled to tell them apart, so you’re totally forgiven if you get them confused.
Are Amrock Chickens the Same as Barred Rock Chickens?
Amrock (American Rock) chickens are the European version of the Barred Rock, and the breed originates from the same ancestors as those of the Plymouth Rock. The Amrock is only available in the black-and-white barred color and is a little larger and paler in color than the barred rock.
Early barred rocks were shipped from America 🇺🇸 to Germany 🇩🇪 during World War 2 to help with the food shortage, and thanks to their dual-purpose and hardy nature they soon found their way to the rest of Europe.
The Amrock and the Plymouth Rock are very similar, but the European strains were bred for meat production and bone capacity rather than for their fabulous feathering, meaning that they soon differed enough from the original Barred Rocks sent to Germany to be standardized as Amrocks in 1982.
The History of Barred Rock Chickens
The Barred Rock is just one variety of the Plymouth Rock chicken, which is one of America’s oldest chicken breeds.
During World War 2 Plymouth Rocks were one of the main sources of chicken meat throughout the United States. The government was actively encouraging chicken keeping as a sustainable food source, and since Plymouth Rocks were such great, beginner-friendly, dual-purpose birds, everyone wanted them!
The Plymouth Rock chicken did a bizarre disappearing act from around 1849 until 1869 when it popped its fluffy butt back up in Massachusetts. Before you ask – honestly - nobody knows where they went!
In 1869 Mr. Upham was busily breeding barred roosters and Java hens in Massachusetts, intending to develop a clean-legged, barred chicken. He succeeded and here we have the arrival of the barred Plymouth Rock chicken.
“This Heritage Breed was developed in New England in the early 1800s by crossing Dominiques and Black Javas. Since then, the breed has spread to every part of the U.S., and is an ideal, American chicken.” (McMurray Hatchery)
However, Dominiques were still a popular show breed at the time, and it was hard to differentiate between the Barred Plymouth Rocks and Dominiques. Owners could show their chickens under both categories and win twice. Madness.
This was a bit of a silly situation, so the New York Poultry Society drew a line under the dilemma by enforcing the standard of a rose comb for Dominiques and a single comb for Barred Rocks in 1870.
There will have been some very confused chickens that night!
MEET THE BARRED ROCK
What Are Barred Rock Chickens Like?
Why are Barred Rock chickens so popular? If the Barred Rock had a speed dating profile, this would be it…
“This beautiful but humble hen is a calm-natured, affectionate, and inquisitive soul looking for her hatch match in life. She enjoys the simple things and doesn’t do drama: she won’t pick a fight and she’s not noisy or demanding. She much prefers a cuddle from her chicken pals and human helpers to ruffling any feathers.
She’s not bothered by the cold, takes good care of herself, and rarely gets poorly. She likes to snuggle up in a cozy coop and is fine with confinement but enjoys a chance to get out and explore too.
She’s a dependable girl and will lay 200-280 eggs a year, whatever the weather. Raising a family isn’t at the top of her wish list, but if it’s important to you then she’ll hatch a clutch.”
Has her profile piqued your interest? Wondering if the Barred Rock is the right breed for you? It probably is!
Is The Barred Rock the Right Chicken for Me?
I can only think of two reasons why the barred rock might not suit you because they’re such a great all-rounder chicken breed. If you live in hot climates or don’t like stripes, then keep shopping!
Barred Rocks make great, cold hardy, easy-going chickens and are suited to backyards and barnyards alike. They’ll cope free-ranging or in a fair-sized coop, they’re friendly with other chicken breeds and are known to become lap chickens.
There’s nothing as reassuring as a personal reference, so I asked 255 keepers what they really thought of the barred rock as a breed.
Of chicken keepers surveyed, at the time of writing this article, 80% said they received 5-6 eggs per week from their Barred Rock hen.
BARRED ROCKS SOUND GREAT!
TELL ME MORE….
What’s the Barred Rock Breed Standard?
The Barred Rock has a chunky, sturdy, triangular-shaped body with a long, broad back and a full breast.
Their fashionable feathers are voluminous, loose, and super soft. They make wonderful cuddle companions! The Barred Rock’s black and white barring pattern should be sharply defined (unlike the Dominique’s blurred lines).
Their skin and legs are yellow, and they should have feather-free legs and four toes to each foot. Their ear lobes, 5-pointed single combs, and wattles should all be red. Their beaks are horn colored, and their eyes are bay/red.
What Varieties of Plymouth Rock Chicken Are There?
There are seven varieties of large fowl Plymouth Rock chicken recognized by the American Poultry Association, and the Barred Plymouth Rock was admitted back in 1874.
The varieties of the Plymouth Rock recognized in the US include the barred, blue, buff, Columbian, partridge, silver penciled, and white.
How To Tell Barred Rock Roosters from hens:
Male Barred Rocks are a little larger than hens and have mesmerizingly full, loose, and soft tail feathers. They really are impressive.
Barred Rock roosters have a more equal black and white barring pattern, and each feather should have a dark tip.
Barred Rock hens, however, have slightly wider black bars which can result in them looking slightly darker and greyer than roosters.
How Big are Barred Rock Chickens?
Barred Rock chickens are large and heavy with hens weighing 7.5lbs and roosters 8.5-9.5 lbs.
They were bred as dual-purpose chickens, so are designed to be dinner…but they’re just too pretty for that, in my opinion.
Can You Get Barred Rock Bantams?
If you lust after little chickens but adore the Barred Rock’s stripes, then you’re in cluck! Barred Rock bantams are getting easier to get your mitts on and weigh in at just 2.5 - 3lbs.
Barred Rock bantams share the lovely temperament and attributes of their bigger brothers and sisters, but of course, the eggs are smaller!
What Do Barred Rock Chicks Look Like?
Barred Rock chickens are dark grey with white patches on their heads. They aren’t born stripy. Boo!
Are Barred Rock Chickens Broody?
Barred Rock hens make great mommas, although some may have to be persuaded to take that next big step in life. Once they settle into sitting, they sit well and dote over their chicks.
Barred Rock roosters are also protective dads and will take their turn egg-sitting if Momma needs a break. They’re all-round good eggs. 🥚
KEEPING BARRED ROCK CHICKENS
Are Barred Rock Chickens Suitable for Beginners?
Barred Rock chickens are one of the best beginner breeds as they’re so hardy and easy to handle and house. They don’t go broody easily which is perfect for beginners who aren’t looking to force a sitting momma away from her eggs.
Do Barred Rocks Make Good Backyard Chickens?
Barred rock chickens make great backyard chickens as they are so quiet and don’t seem to mind relative confinement. They’re big birds though, so need a decent-sized coop and run.
Do Barred Rock Chickens Like to Be Held?
Barred Rock chickens are calm, docile, and easy to handle making them a kid-friendly chicken breed choice. They’re said to be quite a tactile breed and are very happy to soak up some strokes and TLC from their human companions, which makes the breed a popular choice for 4-H projects.
Are Barred Rock Chickens Noisy?
Barred Rock chickens are a calm and quiet chicken breed. Yes, they announce themselves and their eggs, but they’re softly spoken and won’t offend your neighbors with their hushed chatter.
Can Barred Rock Chickens Fly?
Barred rock chickens can and will fly.
This statement may seem a little contradictory to other online resources but having spoken to lots of Barred Rock chicken keepers, I don’t think it would be right to sit on the fence about this: they will fly over a fence if they want to.
Plymouth Rocks in general are often referred to as poor fliers because they’re heavy birds. I imagine it’s dependent on strain - but personally - I wouldn’t risk considering Barred Rocks as non-fliers when you’re planning your chicken run.
As heavy birds, some are too fat to fly very far, and youngsters don’t seem to catch on too quickly, but fit and healthy mature chickens have been known to fly over 6-foot fences and perch on rooftops.
Here’s what our readers said about their Barred Rock’s flight skills:
Of chicken keepers surveyed, at the time of writing this article, 50% said the rated their Barred Rock chickens' flight skills at a 3/5, revealing that it was dependant on what was chasing them. They were happy to stay put when content.
Barred Rock Chicken Eggs
Barred Rock hens lay a rather respectable 200-280 medium-large eggs a year. I’m afraid they don’t lay barred eggs, though that would be cool!
They are dependable layers and won’t slow too much over the colder months since they’re a cold hardy breed.
Barred Rock chickens start to lay at around 5 months of age and production strains will lay for 2 years before they start to semi-retire. At this point, their egg production will start to slow, but only by about 15-20%.
Heritage strains will power through until their third or even fourth year before their egg numbers start to decline. They’ll continue to lay, though in reduced numbers until they’re 8-10 years old.
Are Barred Rock Roosters Aggressive?
Barred Rock roosters are known to be some of the calmest roosters about. They’re not usually aggressive.
The only thing to be conscious of is that they’re true gents and can be protective of their ladies. They won’t pick a fight, but if they think their hen or their offspring are at risk then they might act to defend them.
How Much Space Do Barred Rock Chickens Need?
Barred Rock Chickens are large birds and need 4 square feet of coop per bird.
Despite being on the larger side, Barred Rock chickens don’t seem to mind confinement, but they’re nifty little nuggets when it comes to foraging and this helps them keep off those extra pounds.
Are Barred Rock Chickens Cold Hardy?
Barred rock chickens are extremely cold-hardy and will be happy as Larry in colder, Northern climates. It’s sensible to keep an eye on those ruby-red combs though, as some Barred Rock roosters grow very large, floppy combs that are susceptible to frostbite.
How Long Do Barred Rock Chickens Live For?
Barred Rock chickens live for 6-8 years on average, though if you look after your ladies well they could be clucking at your ankles for up to 10 years.
In conclusion: Yes.
Barred Rocks DO indeed Rock.
The Barred Rock is a brilliant chicken breed for beginners and advanced chicken keepers alike because they just get on with life. They’re the perfect route to fuss-free eggs with cuddles on the side.
Even the least demanding chicken breeds, like the barred rock, need the basics to survive, and with just a little egg-stra TLC, they’ll truly thrive!
Healthy, happy chickens make for more eggs, more fun, less stress, and less expense. Vet visits aren’t cheap.
There will always be something to test your nerve when it comes to pets, and chickens are no different. What would you do if you spotted a black spot on your chicken’s foot? Would you introduce your new chickens to the coop straight away? Why have they stopped laying suddenly? Oh, and what in the name of chickens is that ‘thing’ in the nest box?
Having instant and unlimited access to chicken-specific expert advice at a fraction of the cost of a vet visit can soon become priceless when you have a sick animal in your hands. All you want to do is help them, but how?
Chickenpedia is an easy-to-read encyclopedia of chicken advice, knowledge, tips, tricks, and guides. It will fast become your go-to place for anything weird and wonderful your chickens throw at you.
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