One of the most highly regarded breeds of chicken you will see today is the Barred Plymouth Rock, which is named for its feather pattern which includes alternating bars of black and white. Not only is this breed a dual-purpose breed that is good for both meat production as well as year around egg-production, but they are also a Heritage Breed dating back to the 1800's. In addition to being dual-purpose, they are also hearty birds that thrive in many different environments and their placid nature makes them model flock members.
The history of the Barred Plymouth Rock, or "Barred Rock" as they are often called, is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Lots of crosses are rumored to have resulted in Barred Rocks but one in particular is said to be the Dominque. The Barred Plymouth Rock and Dominique were exhibited at poultry shows dating back to the year 1849 at which point differentiating between the two was difficult and remains so to this day. The key to telling them apart lies in the feather pattern which has a V pattern on Dominiques and more of a straight pattern on Barred Plymouth Rocks. Also telltale is the comb, which takes the shape of a single comb on Barred Plymouth Rocks and a rose comb on the Dominique.
Barred Rock roosters are highly preferred as opposed to other breeds of rooster for their friendliness and kindness, showing minimal aggression towards handlers. Both hens and roosters winter and tolerate confinement well although they do seem to prefer to free range. Hens are known for year-round egg laying to the tune of about 4 large brown eggs per week. Barred Plymouth Rocks are considered a heavy breed, with hens weighing close to 7 lbs and roosters weighing around 9 lbs.
The Barred Plymouth Rock earned recognition as a distinct and pure chicken breed at the hands of the American Standard of Perfection beginning in 197 and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy classifies the status of the Barred Plymouth Rock as 'recovering.' This is good news for the Heritage Breed as it suggests an upswing in their numbers after a possible threat of breed extinction. While their popularity did surge around the time of World War II, at which point they were quite likely the most widely utilized farm chicken in the country, they were nearly extinct by the 1950's. The reason for this was the creation of Production style breed which were said to lay more eggs. Over time, other color varieties of the Plymouth Rock were born. The colors currently recognized today include black, blue, buff, Columbian, partridge, silver penciled, and white.
While the Barred Plymouth Rock is a handsome bird that lays well and provides sustaining meat, it's endearing qualities do not end there, which is why this bird makes a good addition to most any flock. They are known for being active but docile as well as having a calm demeanor and being extremely intelligent. Hens can be broody but make excellent mothers to their young. In addition to the black and white barred feathers for which they are named, Barred Plymouth Rocks have eyes, comb, wattles, and earlobes are colored red while their beak, shanks, toes, and skin are yellow in color. The feathers of a hen often have thicker black bars than light ones which makes them appear overall darker than roosters.
While this breed is in recovering status, breed numbers still need to be watched carefully for signs of decline so as to avoid losing this wonderful breed forever. If you have one, tell us about your bird in the comments. If you do not have one and might want to add one, the Barred Plymouth Rock is a good overall choice about which not much negative feedback can be found. In addition to their great personalities, they are sure to dress up your flock with a splash of stunning yet elegant color, keeping it both interesting and classy at the same time.