The Barred Rock is one of our favorite breeds of chicken. We have found that as chicks, they are usually the first to learn our ‘treat’ call and, when raised properly, tend to be a little more friendly/confident than some of our other breeds.
If I were to summarize this bird in a single sentence it would be – the Barred Plymouth Rock is a wonderfully mannered bird that is capable of living in both warm and cold climates, while providing ample meat and eggs for consumption. In short, it’s a perfect breed of chicken for the backyard flock.
If I were to say anything negative regarding this breed, it would be that whoever named it, made things way too hard. Some people call these birds ‘Barred Rocks’, while others will go with ‘Plymouth Rocks’ (and for those who can’t pick a side, they’ll just say ‘Rocks’)
To be fair, both names are correct. Plymouth Rock is essentially the breed, while Barred is attached to designate plumage.
If you look at a feather, from an adult hen or rooster, you will see pattern of black and white ‘bars’ stacked on top of each other. This is how the ‘Barred’ came to be. If you ask me, the original breeders responsible for naming this bird could have just said striped instead of barred and things would have made a lot more sense.
Barred Rock: Physical Attributes
As mentioned above, the plumage on this breed of chicken has a black (or very dark gray) and white barred/striped pattern. Their combs and wattles are a reddish color, with the comb being a single row.
Their size is about average, with the roosters weighing around 7.5lbs and the hens around 6lbs. Though they do not have feathers all the way down to their feet, they have still proven to be capable of handling the prolonged cold of our northern climate.
Hens, in their first season of laying eggs, give us, on average around 5 eggs a week per bird during the summer, and about half that during the shorter winter days. The eggs are tan/brown in color, sometimes being a little darker and sometimes with spots. The egg size is considered medium.
Spinoffs Or Variants Of The Plymouth Rock Chicken
There are at least 7 variants of the Plymouth Rock Chicken – Barred, White, Buff, Silver Laced (sometimes called the Silver Penciled), Partridge, Colombian and Blue. I’ve read of a Gold Laced and Black mentioned as part of the Plymouth Rock family, but I was unable to confirm a supplier for these two versions.
A bantam version of the Barred Plymouth Rock is available, which is simply a smaller version of the Barred Rock (think miniature pony).
Also, there is a Heritage version available. For an in depth look at what defines a heritage chicken visit The Livestock Conservancy.
Due to their ample size and egg production, Barred Rocks are considered dual purpose – meaning you can keep them for eggs or butcher them for the freezer.
It is important to note, however, that the amount of meat on a Barred Rock will be less than what you typically get from the grocery store. Generally, large scale suppliers will raise a breed of chicken that focuses wholly on meat production – meaning they are single purpose and not dual, such as the Barred Rock. This isn’t to say that the meat on a Barred Rock is inferior, only smaller and little slower to grow.
Speaking in general terms, Barred Rocks are very friendly chickens. They can be quite docile and are among the easier breeds to handle.
The hens are not as broody as some other breeds (visit here, for more on what it means for a chicken to go broody). But, if you want eggs more than you want baby chicks, then this is a good thing as unresolved broody behavior can be detrimental to a hen’s health.
Some have reported the Barred Rock to bully other members of the flock, but we have never experienced this behavior. For us, it’s always been the biggest bird gets to do what it wants.
### Important Note ###
Roosters should never be considered friendly, especially when toddlers are involved. A rooster’s spurs are quite dangerous and should always be treated with respect.
Free-range Or Caged
Not everyone has access to acreage. Point of fact, some city lots can be quite small. For this reason, some people will choose to keep their birds caged – as this offers the most protection.
The Barred Rock is a good breed for those who want to raise caged chickens.
However, if you do have the space to let your flock roam, then the Barred Rock is a fairly capable forager.
It’s been our experience that our Barred Rocks prefer free-range over a chicken run. That being said, we have lost more Barred Rocks to predators than any other breed.
The Barred Rock is a very common breed of chicken, especially in the United States. It has a good combination of performance and demeanor, making it a great choice for the backyard flock. Also, there are no major health issues that I’m aware of, to plague this breed – which only adds to its appeal.
(This is not to say that Barred Rocks can’t get the normal illness that can affect all chickens, only that this breed tends to be healthy and stable.)
Barred Rocks And Cold/Hot Weather
With living in a northern climate, it’s critical for us to have a breed of chicken that can handle freezing temperatures for an extended period of time. The Barred Plymouth Rock has proven to be well-suited for this.
Though it is not immune to frost bite, our experience has been that this breed does not suffer damage to it’s comb or wattle like other chicken breeds do.
Also, we have never had any major issues with Barred Rocks and their ability to cope with heat. Providing they have adequate protection from the sun and access to clean water, our birds have endured several days of triple digit heat indexes without major event.
For those who may be considering starting a flock for the first time, the Barred Plymouth Rock is a breed of chicken that I can easily recommend. It is a friendly, visually appealing bird that can take most of the abuse that the weather can deliver.
I have not found this breed to be labor intensive and with the one exception of predators, can resolve most of its own issues.
Arguably, the most effort you will be required to expend (once they are fully feathered and integrated with the rest of the flock) will be gathering the many eggs they lay.
I give this breed of chicken a perfect 5 stars!
We had a Barred Rock hen that we affectionately named Flopsy – due to her comb always being flopped over. This comb characteristic isn’t the norm for Barred Rocks, but it’s not unheard of either.
Flopsy was a sweet gal who was always happy to see us. In our then flock of 10, she was the favorite as she never failed to engage with us.
Unfortunately, Flopsy was lost to a predator. For this reason, I always advise people that chickens with ‘docile’ behavior due tend to suffer more from predators than other ‘flighty’ breeds of chickens.
However, it’s my personal opinion that friendly breeds such as the Barred Rock make a much better addition to your backyard flock. So just make sure to give them as much protection as you can as they are certain to provide you with loads of enjoyment!