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Reinventing Rhode Island Red Type
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Reinventing Rhode Island Red Type

Reinventing Rhode Island Red Type

By Robert Blosl

One of the fun times I get each month is when the Poultry Press comes out and friends of mine call me up and ask me did you get your new Poultry Press yet. We sit down and go from one page to the other over the telephone looking at all the pictures of the birds that won at leading shows and fairs. and we ask each other what you thought of that Call Duck. Why I said that Grey Call has got a short coby body, nice puffy checks, a short bill and is just an overall great looking specimen. They will usually are with me. Then they will ask me about my breed the Plymonth Rocks that I am Secretary of the Club and they say what you think of that female bantam. I will say she is a very nice bird good Plymonth Rock elevated top line good undercarrgae. Just a very nice looking bird. They will say your right but she has one problem. What is that I will ask? She’s starting to look like an Orpington. She’s too thick and big. Your right I said but what you think causes this. Too much feed, raised in a hot chicken house, parents where to big, I don’t know. Most of my friends are saying they are hatched to early and early chicks will get big on you if you’re not careful. Then we will go to the Rhode Island Red females. What do you think of that Rhode Island Red pullet on page 23? I will say when I first looked at her I thought she was a partridge rock bantam. She had classic Plymonth Rock Top Line. My friend said she’s a cull. She’s a RED-ROCK. What have they done to our beloved Rhode Island Red Bantams? I have not seen a good typed bird in three or four years in the Poultry Press. Tell me Robert what has happen. You’re an old Red Man. You have raised Red Bantams for 20 years what has happen.

Origin of the RED-ROCK BANTAM: I tell them about 15 years ago I was looking at a new poultry Press that came to my house and I looked at a picture of the Rhode Island Red Bantam that had won at a show in North Carolina by a North Carolina Red Bantam breeder. I said out loud My God What Has this World Coming To. My wife said what another Indian Runner Duck won champion of the Show. No I said look at this picture of a winning Champion Single Comb Clean Legged pullet at this show. Whats wrong with her my wife asked me. I said look at her back. My wife said it’s not flat, but has a lift like a Plymonth Rock. That’s right I said. How in the world could a judge award such a bird best of breed yet alone Best SCCL of the show? I said to her, if this guy uses this female in the breeding pen his whole line in two or three years will be untypical no flat back Rhode Island Red Bantams. I told my wife that Arthur Schilling photographed a lst place Large Fowl Rhode Island Red pullet at a Major show back in the 1920s that had a nice flat back top line, great dark rich color, good feather quality, but Shilling warned the owner of this bird not to breed from her as he would ruin his strain of birds. My wife asked what was wrong with the bird Schilling just photographed. It had a bottom line like a Dorking. She was too low to the ground or short legged. Sure enough the breeder breed from this female and his whole line started to look like Dorkings and no buddy would buy Reds from again and he went Ban kRUpt. This fellow had a large farm and raised thousands of Reds every year but he ignored Schillings advice and paid the ultimate price.

What do you think will happen if this guy uses this elevated top line pulle my wife asked me? All or half of his bantams will have top lines like this female and his strain will be ruined forever. He started out with flat back females from Mr. E W Reese of Georgia and they had correct type flat top lines like the standard calls for. I know because we saw Mr. Reese bantams and this guys bantams when we went to the big show in Thompson Georgia back in 1989. Two years later, I opened up the Poultry Press and there my old Rhode Island Red friend from North Carolina had this time an R I Red Cockerel Champion SCCL and fourth best bird of the show. I said to my wife look at this Red Male. She said he’s got a back like a Rock Bantam. Is that the guy who you showed me his Red Female two years ago? I replied yes it is. O my God I said to myself. What and why did he do this? A friend of mine visited this fellows place to buy some Red Bantams and he asked the owner why half you’re Red Bantams has  flat backs and the others have backs like a Plymonth Rock. The owner replied, I don’t know what happen, but it has showed up BUT THE JUDGES LIKE THEM AND I AM WINING WITH THEM.

So that is the history of how the current RED-ROCK Bantam was born. This fellow became ill and died a few years later after my friend  visited his farm in North Carolina and all his Red Bantams where circulated around the country and it appears to me this North Carolina Strain  has gotten into most of the popular strains in the country today.

What went wrong: I remember an article that was written in the Rhode Island Red Chronicle in the 1960s by won of the greatest Red Breeders and judges of Reds Maurice Wallace from Canada. Mr. Wallace mad a profound statement and it is one I will never forget and we as breeders of all breeds of the America Class should remember. He said do not encroach into another breeds type when selecting your birds for breeders. If you are a Red Breeder, do not select birds (females) with Plymonth Rock or Wyandotte’s type. If you are a Plymonth Rock Breeder do choose your birds with well extended keel bones and a nice round chest. The type should be gravy bowl or derby hat in shape. The Wyandotte should have type like a circle. Do not breed Plymonth Rocks with brick shape like a R I Red  and do not breed Rhode Island Reds with type like a Plymonth Rock. Such a simple concept and for the life of me I do not understand how white rock bantams can be breed with such mass or thickness to look like a Orpington but it is happening.  We should be focusing on small racey looking females  like we use to see in the shows years ago. In this case of the birth of the Red Rock, I think my friend was on a color fad and selected birds for dark rich color and ignored the shape which is Paramount in a Rhode Island Red. Also, it is my opinion and opinions of others that the bantams are being breed to short and there is just no place for the feathers to go on the back but in the fashion of a Plymonth Rock. Also, it is possible that Red Bantams that are hatched out early in December and January have this unusulaual shape. They would be better off hatching bantams in Late March, April and the first week of May for smaller size and better brick shape. Most breeders think that you have to hatch out your bantams like you do your large fowl so you will have them ready for the fall shows and fairs. However, it’s been my experience that hatching bantams out in the mid summer gives you a better type and size bantam.

Weighing your Bantams: I talk to many people who ask me how to breed for type and color if they weigh their bantams. I have never had a beginner tell me they have a set of scales at home to weight their birds. We all know there are no scales at the shows to weigh the bantams as it may offend someone, yet in Europe many shows weigh their bantams so the weights are on the coop tag. I take mine to the post office and weigh them on their scales in boxes that weigh two pounds. I can then have the post office clerk tell me how much they weigh and I write down their weight on a 3x5 card with the band number which is written on the box for my records. Many may think that is rather odd that I do this, but I have been weighting my Red Bantams for over 20 years. I use to have bantam cockerels that had drop you to your knees type like my old large fowl, but weighted four pounds. Why did they weigh so much you may ask? Because I shrunk down my old Rhode Island Red Large from Mr. E W Reese with a cross on a Lee Roy Jones Bantam pullet to start a new strain of Rhode Island Red Bantams. I think in the past 20 years I have hatched and culled over 1500 bantams to get just six good breeders each year to reach my goal this year of a bantam that looks like my old Single Comb large fowl Reds. I have a picture of one of my standard weight bantam cockerels that I am breeding from this winter who has not only a flat top line but an extended keel bone and round breast to complete what Mr. Wallace was talking about in a brick shape.

Converting Red Rocks to Rhode Island Red Bantams: It will take many people up to five to eight years to reverse this terrible fault that we have no in our bantam lines. One way to correct this fault in the top line is try to select each year bantams that have the old fashion flat top lines and put breeding pressure on these traits. Try to get more length in the body of your females.  If this does not work you will have to purchase a Red and out cross it into your strain to get the old fashion brick shape to return. If this does not work, scrap all of your Red -Rocks and get you a new strain that is as close to the standard as possible and work from there. Next try to breed from hens that have molted back in their first hen year the closest type that the standard desires. Hens and Cock bird show the true type at 18 months of age and kill off all the short bodied birds or birds with elevated top lines.

Get yourself a standard of perfection and study the picture in the book under Rhode Island Reds. You will not see any pictures of Rhode Island Red Bantam females with top lines like a Plymonth Rock. Look at the picture in the standard for whyandottes and Plymonth Rocks. See the elevated top lines then go back and look at the Rhode Island Red top lines in the picture. It should not be that difficult for you to fix in your mind’s eye the brick shape that all great Red Banamtam breeders of tried to reproduce over the years. Next get you an old fashion brick that is used on houses to have a brick home. Place this brick in your poultry barn and fix this image in your mind’s eye. Better yet when you go to a Poultry Show, put a brick on the top of a show coop and maybe the judges will get the drift that we want Red Bantams selected with the old fashion brick type over the more common Red-Rock type. I do not want to fault the judges on why we got into these dilemmas totally. Yes a judge picked a Red Bantam Pullet in North Carolinian about 15 years ago over a flat back female and made her Champion SCCL of the show. However, the judges could help us by cutting hard on the Red Bantams that they select for best of breed and punish us by not awarding a RED ROCK female for champion SCCL and give it to a more deserving bird in this class.

Conclusion: I feel as a long time breeder of Rhode Island Red Bantams that it is my duty to bring this to the attention of the Poultry Public. I do not know if this article will do any good only time will tell, but it’s just embarrassing to see Rhode Island Red bantams winning at the shows and photographed in the Poultry Press who look l like Partridge Plymonth Rocks at fisrt glance when you view them. In contrast  it would be just as bad as to see a Production Rhode Island Red Large Fowl win best of breed or Champion American and be pictured in the Poultry Press. If a judge brought such a large fowl bird up to champion row he would really hear about it from the exhibitors of the show and it is my appeal to not only Rhode Island Red Bantam Breeders but breeders of other breeds to yell Fowl Ball when such off type bantams are being awarded Champion SCCL or best of breed R I Red at the shows. I will continue to cull hard on my Red Bantams and breed them as I was taught by the mentors of mine such as R. Paul Webb, Kenneth Bowles, Robert Purvis and Lee Roy Jones. If I should ever see a Red Rock Bantam on my farm I have only one place for it to goes and that is on the table. As Ken Bowles would say OFF THEIR HEAD GOES when he had an off type Red Bantam. Paul Webb use to say every time you go into the chicken house you should be coming out with a cull under your arm. These great breeders where the Kings of Red Bantams years ago and when they showed a sting of Red Bantams they looked and walked like they were breed by the standard.

I urge each and every one of you not to be offended by this article, but just consider this article as a wakeup call just as Ken Bowles, Arthur Schilling R. Paul Webb or even George Underwood would just be passing friendly advice to you when you asked what do you think of the Red Bantams in this month’s Poultry Press. Think about it. Set new Goals in breeding for type and let’s push and promote this most wonderful dual purpose bantam the Rhode Island Red.

 

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