Plymouth Rock Chicken

Gallus gallus domesticus

Last updated: September 13, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Jennifer de Graaf/Shutterstock.com

Plymouth Rock hens have a calm and friendly nature. They usually get along with flock mates and will shy away from confrontation or disputes.


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Plymouth Rock Chicken Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Gallus.
Scientific Name
Gallus gallus domesticus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Conservation Status

Plymouth Rock Chicken Locations

Plymouth Rock Chicken Locations

Plymouth Rock Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects, rodent, and worms
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
Plymouth Rock hens have a calm and friendly nature. They usually get along with flock mates and will shy away from confrontation or disputes.
Biggest Threat
Humans
Most Distinctive Feature
Barring black and white plumage
Temperament
Friendly
Incubation Period
21 days
Predators
Wolves, mountain lions, weasels, dogs, and raccoons
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Common Name
Plymouth Rock Chicken
Origin
Massachusetts
Average Clutch Size
4

Plymouth Rock Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • White
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
8 to 10 years
Weight
7.5 to 9.5 pounds
Age of Sexual Maturity
18 to 20 weeks
Aggression
Low

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The Plymouth Rock is one of the oldest chicken breeds in the USA, as they were first developed in the 19th century. Several people claimed to invent these chickens, using crosses of Java, Brahma, Java, and Dominique. While many varieties developed later, the first Plymouth Rock was barred. The seven varieties of Plymouth Rock include barred, partridge, silver penciled, white, blue, buff, and Columbian.

These chickens grew in popularity very quickly, and until the Second World War, no other breed was kept as extensively. The qualities that make them so appealing are their docile nature, broodiness, hardiness, and high production of eggs and quality meat. In addition, the Plymouth Rock chicken has a mellow temperament. They do not peck at other flock mates and typically get along with other animals.

Plymouth Rock Chicken History

The Plymouth Rock chicken dates back to 1849 when it first appeared. After that, however, any mention of them disappears for 20 years. Then, a man named Mr. Upham started breeding with Barred roosters and Java hens in Massachusetts in 1869. Mr. Upham wanted to develop a Barred chicken that had no feathers on its legs.

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The Dominique and barred rock initially looked identical, and each breed could have a single or rose comb. Therefore, unethical people would exhibit Dominiques in barred rock shows. However, in 1870 the New York Poultry Society decided to interfere and set a standard that Dominiques must have a rose comb, and all other barred chickens would fall under Plymouth Rocks. Since then, these birds became a household name, and people kept them under the government’s encouragement during World War II. Plymouth Rocks were the best livestock to keep because their meat and eggs provided great sources of protein, and they are incredibly low maintenance.

However, since the birth of the modern industrial hen, Plymouth Rock chickens have taken a back seat as they cannot produce the same number of eggs or grow fast enough to become a suitably sized meat bird.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Amazing Facts

  • After the first Plymouth Rock was sighted in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1849, it disappeared for 20 years before being seen again in 1869.
  • Currently, the USA recognizes seven varieties of Plymouth Rock chickens: barred, Columbian, Partridge, white, blue, buff, and silver. Five of these varieties are extremely rare.
  • Plymouth Rocks can produce three to five eggs a day, between 180 to 200 eggs annually. However, some strains lay 250 a year.

Where to Find Plymouth Rock Chickens

These chickens were initially bred in the USA and derived their name from the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, they are currently found all over the world.



Plymouth Rock Chicken Scientific Name

The Plymouth Rock Chicken’s binomial name is Gallus gallus domesticus, and they belong to the Galliformes order. This order consists of heavy-bodied ground feeders and includes species like landfowl, turkeys, quail, and chickens. These birds are essential to their ecosystems as predators, and they dispense seeds. In addition, they are usually reared by farmers for their eggs and meat, and some species are hunted as game birds.

Plymouth Rock chickens are members of the Phasianidae, which contains ground-dwelling, heavy birds like partridges, turkeys, chickens, pheasants, junglefowl, peafowl, and Old World quail. There are many popular gamebirds in this family, and it is so large it contains 185 species in 5 genera.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Size, Appearance & Behavior

When looking at Plymouth Rock chicken’s plumage, it has black and white bars. However, the barring between males and females is slightly different. Roosters have black and white barring, with each feather having dark tips. Hens have wider black bars than white bars, often giving them a grayish hue, darker than the roosters.

Each variety of Plymouth Rock chickens differs in size and appearance. For example, the Barred Plymouth Rock is the oldest and most well-known of the family and is a large, hardy bird with a triangular-shaped body, long, broad back, and full breasts. In addition, they have loose, full, and soft feathers, especially on their abdomen.

Their barring patterns are sharply distinguished between the black and white, unlike the Dominque, which is grayer and fuzzier. Barred Plymouth Rock has yellow skin and legs; their legs are bare, without any feathers. In addition, they have four toes on each foot. Furthermore, they have red wattles, combs, faces, and ear lobes. A true barred rock has horn-colored beaks, and its comb is single and erect with five points. Hens can weigh around 7.5 pounds, while roosters weigh up to 9.5 pounds, making them much larger than the bantam variety, as females weigh 2.5 pounds and males can weigh up to 3 pounds.

Plymouth Rock chicken walking on grass

Free-range Plymouth Rock or Barred Rocks chicken walking on green grass.

©iStock.com/Elenathewise

Behavior

Plymouth Rock hens have a calm and friendly nature. They usually get along with flock mates and will shy away from confrontation or disputes. You could say they don’t have a mean bone in their bodies. However, they are not complete doormats and typically fall in the middle of the pecking order. Surprisingly, the roosters are quite gentle too, but it is never a good idea to allow children around them until you are positive about their temperament. Therefore, these chickens make great additions to families with large properties where they can roam. They are especially good with children and allow kiddies to handle and carry them around. This is an inquisitive breed; they will follow family members around and won’t stop until they get a treat. They are excellent foragers and snap up any worms or bugs.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Diet

Plymouth Rock chickens aren’t very high maintenance and have no specific dietary requirements, which is excellent if you have different breeds of chickens, as you can feed them all the same food. However, chicks under eight weeks need 21% starter feed. But once they reach eight weeks, you can switch to 18% grower feed and continue using this feed until they lay their first egg. Then, after they lay their first egg, they require 16% layer feed, which they can stay on for the rest of their lives. However, feel free to add nutrition to their diets with treats like oyster shell or scratch, which helps with egg production.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Predators and Threats

Because the Plymouth Rock chicken is raised on farms all over the world, they have many predators. As a result, they fall prey to animals like wolves, raccoons, mountain lions, dogs, foxes, leopards, and weasels.

The only threat to these birds is human consumption. But, because of modern industrial chicken breeds, it is very unlike that Plymouth Rock chickens are in danger of over-commercialization.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

When compared to other common domesticated chickens, the Plymouth Rock matures at an average pace. Hens typically start laying eggs between 18 to 20 weeks, and their eggs are soft shades of light brown, considered large eggs.

These chickens can lay around 200 to 300 eggs annually. However, their average is closer to 230 eggs per year. Therefore Plymouth Rock hens can lay about four eggs weekly. They also have a long lifespan for a chicken and can live between 8 to 10 years.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Population

There are reportedly around 33 000 Plymouth Rock chickens worldwide. While there are 24 000 Barred Plymouth Rocks and 970 000 White Rocks.

Raising Plymouth Rock Chicken

Keeping Plymouth Rock chickens is relatively easy, as they are incredibly low maintenance. Unfortunately, while they are generally healthy, they are prone to some health issues.

Plymouth Rock Chicken Health Issues

Because these chickens were bred from healthy and sturdy breeds, they don’t have many ailments that plague them, well, not as many as other breeds. This is why they are highly sought-after amongst backyard chicken keepers. In addition, because their feet and legs are free of any feathers, owners don’t need to be concerned about dirt getting trapped and matted, making them less susceptible to lice and mites. However, owners should regularly check the plumage of their chickens for signs of lice or mites, especially if they are exposed to wet and cold temperatures.

They also need a dry sandy patch of land where they can roll around in the dust, which keeps them clean and decreases how often owners have to clean them. Additionally, they will need a secure, toasty coop that keeps them warm in the winter but doesn’t get too hot in the summer. Lastly, they are prone to frostbite if left in cold and wet conditions, so always check that their combs are healthy.

Plymouth Rock Chickens in the Pecking Order

While the Plymouth Rock is gentle and friendly, they generally find themselves in the middle of the pecking order because of their sturdiness. However, that does not mean they are aggressive, and it’s highly unlikely they will bother members lower down on the pecking order. These chickens tend to avoid conflict; if a skirmish breaks out in the flock, they will typically flee to the outskirts. Additionally, they usually get along with other chicken breeds in the flock as well as any human visitors.

Plymouth Rock Chickens Coop & Run Size

Because Plymouth Rock chickens are on the larger side, they will need more space than other chicken breeds. Therefore their coop needs to be at least 4×4 feet per chicken. If you do not build a big enough coop, it could lead to fights over space. But, besides the extra space needed for these chickens, everything else in the coop is pretty standard. For example, 12×12 inch nesting boxes accompanied by a 10-inch roosting area per Plymouth Rock. However, their roosting space can be larger than 10 inches, as they will use it a lot in summer to keep cool. In addition, there doesn’t need to be a nesting box per chicken. You only need one nesting box per three chickens.

Roaming Space

Plymouth Rock chickens can live in confinement but love to roam and thrive as free-range birds. They are perfect for pest control and will remove lots of insects from your garden. However, if you are an avid gardener and have a flower or vegetable garden, it’s best to fence it off; otherwise, these chickens will happily sample everything.

They require at least an 8 square feet run space decorated with perches located at different heights, leaf piles, and tree stumps, which keep them busy and stimulated.

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

Plymouth Rock Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Plymouth Rock chickens good layers?

These chickens can lay around 200 to 300 eggs annually. However, their average is closer to 230 eggs per year. Therefore Plymouth Rock hens can lay about four eggs weekly.

How long do Plymouth Rock Chickens live?

They have a long lifespan for a chicken and can live between 8 to 10 years.

How long do Plymouth Rock chickens lay eggs?

These chickens begin to lay eggs at 18 to 20 weeks old, and their egg production will start to decline at the age of three. However, some hens can lay eggs up to the age of 10!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Chickens and More, Available here: https://www.chickensandmore.com/plymouth-rock-chicken/
  2. The Happy Chicken Coop, Available here: https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/plymouth-rock-chicken/
  3. Backyar Chicken Coops, Available here: https://www.backyardchickencoops.com.au/blogs/learning-centre/barred-plymouth-rock

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