The Rhode Island Red is an American breed resulting from the crossing of three breeds: Red Malay Game, Leghorn and Asiatic native stock. Named for the section of New England where they originated, Rhode Island Reds are dual-purpose birds bred for the production of meat and eggs. Under optimum conditions, a hen can produce nearly 240 brown eggs every year. The cheapest way to get started with these hens is to purchase day-old sexed pullets from a hatchery, feed store or local breeder. Purchasing chicks between the ages of 6 and 22 weeks offers a quicker, but more expensive option.
Obtain laying flock by purchasing day-old chicks from a hatchery.
Feed chicks starter crumbles with a coccidiostat for the first two weeks to help prevent coccidiosis, an intestinal disease that can be deadly to chicks. Provide access to food and clean water at all times. Feeders and waterers should be placed so the lip is the same height as the chicks' backs.
Maintain the brooder at 95 degrees for the first week and decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the chicks are fully feathered.
Move chicks to the laying coop when completely feathered. Allow at least 6 inches of linear roost space per pullet. Roosts should be 2 feet off the floor.
Switch chicks to grower feed between the age of 6 and 18 weeks.
Switch pullets to layer feed containing 16 to 18 percent protein at 18 weeks. Add a separate free-choice feeder with oyster shell to help maintain the hardness of the eggshells. Do not mix the oyster shell in with the layer feed.
Provide 14 to 16 hours of light year round. One 40-watt bulb is adequate for each 100 feet of coop space.
Install one nest box for each five hens. The recommended nest box dimensions for a Rhode Island Red hen is 10 inches square. To keep hens from roosting on the nest boxes, install them a few inches lower than the roosts. Fill with clean litter.
Collect eggs twice or three times per day.