- Plymouth Rock (chicken)
The Plymouth Rock, often called simply Rocks or Barred Rocks (after their most popular color), is a
chickenbreed that originated in the United States. The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose, cold-hardy bird and therefore makes a great breed for the small farm or backyard flock owner.
There are seven varieties of Plymouth Rock chickens: barred, blue, buff, Columbian, partridge, silver-penciled and white.
The Plymouth Rock was developed in New England in the middle of the 19th century and was first exhibited as a breed in 1869. Several individuals claimed its invention, using crosses of Dominiques, Black Javas, Cochins, and perhaps Malays and Dorkings.
John C. Bennett(1804-1867) has been credited with either creating or popularizing the breed. Plymouth Rocks were bred as a dual-purpose fowl, meaning that they were valued both for their meat and for the hens' egg-laying ability. The first Plymouth Rock was barred and other varieties were developed later. The breed became popular very rapidly, and in fact, until World War II, no breed was ever kept and bred as extensively in the United States as the Barred Plymouth Rock. Its popularity came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat.
Most of the other varieties were developed from crosses containing some of the same ancestral background as the barred variety. Early in its development, the name Plymouth Rock implied a barred bird, but as more varieties were developed, it became the designation for the breed. The Barred Plymouth Rock was one of the foundation breeds for the broiler industry in the 1920s, and the White Rock continues to be used as the female side of the commercial broiler cross.
Plymouth Rocks are large, long-lived chickens. Some varieties are good layers while others are bred principally for meat. They possess a long, broad back; a moderately deep, full breast; and yellow skin and legs. The hens have a deep, full abdomen which is a sign of a good layer. The face of a Plymouth Rock is red with red ear lobes, a bright yellow beak, bay-colored eyes, and a single comb of moderate size. Their feathers are fairly loosely held but not so long as to easily tangle.
Generally, Plymouth Rocks are not extremely aggressive, and tame quite easily. They are docile and normally will show broodiness. The hens usually make good mothers. However, some males and females are big and active enough to be quite a problem if they become aggressive.
Breeders should be aware of the standard weights and not select small or narrow birds for the breeding pen. Common faults include a shallow breast, high tails, narrow bodies and small size.
The varieties of Plymouth Rocks refer to differences in feather markings.
- Silver Penciled (or Silver Laced)
Plymouth Rocks lay a large egg that varies in color from light to medium brown, sometimes with a touch of pink. The birds continue laying all through the winter with decreased production. On average, each hen will lay around 200 eggs per year.
The standard weights for Plymouth Rocks, as established by the American Poulty Association, are as follows: cock - 9-1/2 pounds; hen - 7-1/2 pounds; cockerel - 8 pounds; and pullet - 5-6 pounds.
In the rapidly-growing "backyard chicken" movement in the United States, Plymouth Rocks are a popular choice among families who choose to raise chickens at home as pets. The birds are well-adaptable to confinement or free range, are docile, friendly, and easily-handled.
The breed was once listed as in danger of extinction but is now recovering.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Box 477, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312
Chicken Breeds and Varieties (A2880), John L. Skinner, University of Wisconsin-Madison
* [http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/poultry/chickens/plymouthrock/index.htm Plymouth Rock chickens at OKstate.edu]
* [http://www.centralpets.com/animals/birds/domestic_birds/dbd4796.html Plymouth Rock chickens at CentralPets.com]
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