In our small flock of six we have four various colored Orpingtons and two barred rocks. Today I’m going to share a bit about our two Rocks.
When I originally researched breeds Barred Rocks immediately were placed at the top of the list thanks to their reputation for being an excellent dual-purpose bird with a friendly attitude. They are also known for being very cold hardy.
This history of this breed is a little convoluted. I’ve tried to piece together what I can from the internet. So if anything is incorrect here, let me know!
Barred Rocks are reported to be a cross between a Dominque cock and a Black Cochin or Black Java hen. The first Barred Rocks made their appearance at Worcester Massachusetts sometime in the late 1860’s.
Now, here’s where it gets confusing. Have you noticed that some call their Rocks “Barred Rocks” and others call their Rocks “Barred Plymouth Rocks” or just “Plymouth Rocks”? ….. Which is correct? Mother Earth News suggests that Barred Rocks were originally entered for exhibition under the name “Plymouth Rock” and was later entered in the Standard in 1874 as “Barred Plymouth Rock”. Yet other sources, such as Local Harvest, suggest that Barred Rocks are the true original breed, while Plymouth Barred Rock is a descendent or offshoot from the original Barred Rock breed. Confused yet? Me too.
Regardless of what you call them, all seem to agree this is a great breed for backyard flocks. The only complaints I hear from some keepers is that Barred Rocks can be bossy towards other chicken breeds. And indeed, one of our Rocks it quite the bossy girl.
Our two Rocks are named Blackberry and Sweet Pea. Originally, I had only ordered one Barred Rock chick, thinking their reputation for being bossy and protective would make them a good look-out for the other girls since we don’t have a cock to keep watch over them. The hatchery threw in an extra Barred Rock chick though.
That extra chick was Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea was from the start the most outgoing and adventurous. She had a habit of getting stuck between the Brinsea brooder and the side wall of the brooder tub. I started to think she was doing it on purpose just to be picked up after the 4th time in two hours.
Of the two Rocks, Sweet Pea is not the prettiest. If she were human, she would have been that lanky, frizzied hair girl that didn’t know how to dress. But what she lacks in style she makes up for in confidence! Sweet Pea is quite sure she is queen and demands attention all of the time. If you try to enter the run, Sweet Pea immediately jumps up to chest height to make her presence known. If you have a treat, watch out. She’ll jump and try to grab it from you by any force necessary. We have to be careful to ensure that Sweet Pea doesn’t hog all the treats to herself. Sweet Pea is also innately curious about EVERYTHING. She will peck, examine and investigate anything. If either my husband or myself are in the run for whatever reason, she’ll follow us around, pecking at our legs, back or even jumping up onto our shoulders (thank goodness she hasn’t poo’d on one of us yet). Sweet Pea is a fun chicken. But she also has a bossy side that we have to monitor. She’s been known to harass the very gentle Lavender Orpingtons by pecking or stealing food. For this reason, we’ve had to intervene more than a few times.
Our other Rock is Blackberry. Blackberry is the antithesis of Sweet Pea. Blackberry is refined, poised, gentle and one of the friendliest girls in the flock. There’s quite a large gap between our two Rocks personalities, and it’s been very interesting to observe. While no one chicken has overtly asserted herself as head hen, I would place my bet on Blackberry if forced. She seems to watch over the other girls and is the first to come running when we call the gals back into the run after a day of roaming the yard. Blackberry is also a very pretty bird, with refined curves, better groomed feathers and a straighter, red comb than Sweet Pea (sorry Sweet Pea, but its true). On top of all this Blackberry is our no. 1 egg layer. While her eggs are just a little smaller than Buttercups, Blackberry lays more eggs and was in fact the first one to lay an egg when she was younger. Blackberry does have one habit that I haven’t decided is annoying or endearing. After laying an egg she jumps up to the main roost in the run and announces to the world her newly laid egg – BAUK! Bauk bauk bauk BAUK! For about 5 minutes straight. It’s quite loud and is the only time I worry that I may be annoying the neighbors.