The Poultry Book (1905) (1904)
Harrison Weir, et al.

RHODE ISLAND REDS*

*We are indebted to Dr. N. B. Aldrich, of Massachusetts, for many of the facts relative to the early history of the Rhode Island Reds. W. J. Drisko, Secretary of the Rhode Island Red Club, has made many valuable suggestions and furnished part of the illustrations used in this chapter. In his latest work, entitled "Our Poultry," Mr. Weir did not give this promising breed the prominence it should have had and deserved. Mr. Weir says: "Good as the Rhode Island Reds are said to be, and probably are, it is very doubtful, for many reasons, it they will gain a lasting position in England. But let none prophesy. Time will prove this as it does much else. As yet we have no English standard of the breed." This chapter has been entirely rewritten from an American point of view by the editor.

FEW new varieties or breeds of fowls have enjoyed a more quickly gained prominence than has come to the present up-to-date Rhode Island Reds. They have been brought into line by breeders known as utility men, who claim for them all the requirements that go to make the general purpose fowl. Ardent admirers do not hesitate, apparently, in sober honesty to claim that they are better egg-producers than the other American varieties. Breeders of Rhode Island Reds that have kept Leghorns under the same conditions claim they are the equal of a Leghorn in egg-production, and those that kill for market claim the carcass has a small percentage of entrails. No breed ever had a club all the members of which were more sincere admirers of its fowl. Dr. N. B. Aldrich, of Massachusetts, in an article in the catalogue of the Rhode Island Red Club for 1904, speaks of the origin of Rhode Island Reds. He goes back into history more than fifty years, and shows that Red Cochin China cocks and later Red Malay cocks were introduced into sections of Rhode Island and Massachusetts by certain sea-captains. He refers to a Dr. Alfred Baylies, of Massachusetts, who was a relative of Walter Baylies, the treasurer of the. Boston Poultry Association. Dr. Baylies, in July, 1846, imported Cochin Chinas, and, in Bennett's Poultry Book, published in 1850, is recorded as saying, "the cockerels are generally red."

Single-Comb Rhode Island Red Cock

A Mr. Taylor, who imported Cochin Chinas in May, 1847, says: "The imported cock was a peculiar red and the hen a bay or reddish-brown." We find thus a record of Red Cochin China males almost sixty years ago. The sea-captains brought home just such specimens to Little Compton, Rhode Island, and Westport, Massachusetts. Later, they brought home the great Malay fowl from Asia. In Little Compton was introduced what was spoken of as Red Malays. These Red Cochin China cocks and the Red Malay cocks were selected and bred with the flocks of fowls in Little Compton fifty and sixty years ago, the same as the red cock is selected there to-day. Later, in some sections, Rose-Comb Brown Leghorn blood was introduced. Whereas, it is quite true that other blood at times has been mixed in, the fact remains that the utility poultry farmer of this section for nearly sixty years has been selecting to head his flock a hardy red cock of a type that showed vigor. That this red cock, dates back to the origin given above seems to be beyond dispute.

There is no need of claiming the reds are a mixture of this, that or the other breed; they are the result of fifty years of careful out-breeding, and it would be better for the stamina of many of our breeds if they had been bred on the same plan, instead of in-bred. Dr. Aldrich states that there were practically no Pea-Comb Rhode Island Reds ten years ago. The combs that prevail are rose and single. In fact, these are the only combs that have been recognized by the Rhode Island Red Club. It is difficult to describe the color of Rhode Island Reds. The. Standard says the males are "rich brilliant red, except where black is desired. The bird should be so brilliant in luster as to have a glossed appearance." The females have the "general surface color lighter than in the male. Except where black is desired, the color is a rich, even shade of reddish buff, darker than the so-called golden buff. The female is not so brilliant in luster as the male."

In times past, criticism has been made that these fowls have a wide range of color. The answer to this statement is that they vary "only in shade of color"; and this variation is fast disappearing by the present careful breeding. The American Poultry Association has admitted the Single-Comb variety of Rhode Island Reds to the Standard; but the Rhode Island Red Club still recognize two, the Rose- and the Single-Comb varieties. Most members of the club are against the Pea-Comb Reds, and well they might be, if recent exhibits are fair samples of them.

STANDARD FOR THE RHODE ISLAND REDS

The following copyrighted standard for the Rhode Island Reds was adopted by the Rhode Island Red Club at its 1903 meeting, and is reproduced herewith from the club's catalogue by permission of Secretary W. J. Drisko:

"The Single-Comb variety was admitted to the Standard by the American Poultry Association at its February meeting in 1904. The Standard adopted by the American Poultry Association is substantially the same as below, differing mainly in the wording.

"Disqualifications.—Feather or down on shanks or feet or unmistakable indications of a feather having been plucked from the same; badly lopped combs; more than four toes on either foot; entire absence of main tailfeathers; two absolutely white (so-called wall or fish) eyes; wry or squirrel tails; a feather entirely white that shows in the outer plumage; ear-lobes showing more than one-half the surface permanently white. This does not mean the pale ear-lobe, but the enamelled white. Diseased specimens, crooked backs, deformed beaks, shanks and feet other than yellow or red horn color. A pendulous crop shall be cut hard. Under all disqualifying clauses, the specimen shall have the benefit of the doubt.

"Standard Weights.—Cock, eight and one-half pounds; hen, six and one-half pounds; cockerel, seven and one-half pounds; pullet, five pounds. Apparent vigor is to be regarded with the consideration of shape.

"SHAPE OF MALE

"COLOR OF THE MALE

"SHAPE OF THE FEMALE

"COLOR OF THE FEMALE

There is probably not another breed produced by fifty years of outbreeding. The Rhode Island Reds stand as the only proof of what outbreeding will do. We fanciers do not live years enough to compare a breed deliberately, unless we in-breed, but it was not so with the original Rhode Island Red breeders; they knew the red cock was the most vigorous, and, almost unconsciously, they made a breed. The Rhode Island Reds were first exhibited in New York city, by Dr. N. B. Aldrich, of Massachusetts, in the "any-other-variety" class in 1891-92. At this same show, R. G. Buffington, of Massachusetts, and Dr. Aldrich exhibited Buff Wyandottes and Buff Plymouth Rocks. They were composed almost entirely of Rhode Island Red blood. It was not until 1898 that the Rhode Island Red Club was formed by a few breeders at Fall River, Massachusetts. It was at this first meeting of the club that the fight against the Pea-Comb Rhode Island Reds began, and it has been kept up ever since.

There has been much criticism about the early standards, but, as the Hon. C. M. Bryant, president of the club, well says, in an article, "The trouble with all standards outside of the Rhode Island Reds at the present time is that altogether too much is said." It is true that the early standards for Rhode Island Reds were rather crude and somewhat indefinite, but this was intentionally so, in order that the breeders might, for themselves, gradually find out what they wanted, instead of being hampered by a standard that perhaps later would call for a very different fowl. The present Rhode Island Red standard is as clear and definite as that of any other breed. The following, taken from the Standard of 1901, shows the high aim of the breeders of Rhode Island Reds:

"The special aim of the promoters of this breed being to conserve vigor and prolificacy rather than immaculate perfection of color, black may find its place in sections enumerated; and the gradual fading of the red portions of the mature hen's plumage, which naturally follows upon prolific laying, shall not be discriminated against in the placing of awards."

In the 1903 Standard we find the following: "Apparent vigor is to be regarded with the consideration of shape."

Note what John Crowther, a prominent breeder of Rhode Island Reds, says: "More than what the famed Faverolle is to France, the Rhode Island Red is to America—the best all-purpose fowl of a practical and progressive people. And, as Myra V. Norys, an able writer on general poultry topics, has a well said, 'In richness and harmonious blending of tint, there is nothing in domestic fowls to equal the color of the best Rhode Island Red males.' These fowls are certainly destined to attract fanciers almost as much as those who admire them simply as profit-getters. Their quick growth, early maturity, tinted or brown eggs, small proportion of bone and entrails to the weight of the body, fine motherly qualities, without being persistently broody, found favor for them at once. Their well-shaped and compact bodies, long keel-bones, and plump, wide breasts made them unequaled for market poultry at any stage of growth 'from the hatch to the hatchet,' as expert poultryman Cochran has very cleverly put it. They proved a match as layers at any time of the year for any mere 'egg machines' that were tried against them, but as winter layers they were peerless. Their development on the lowlands made them hardy and proved that 'high and dry' situations are not indispensable to the health of fowls."

One of the most frequently quoted writers on poultry in this country, H. S. Babcock, says: "The Rhode Island Red has gained its reputation upon its economic merits. Farmers have kept it and reared it in great numbers because it paid better than other breeds. Its size is desirable. Medium-sized fowls lay better than the very large ones and invariably sell better in the market."

I. K. Felch, known the world over as an expert judge and breeder of poultry, says: "As carcasses for poultry, they are equal, and, I think, may be safely said to be superior, to the Plymouth Rock, for they are free from dark pin-feathers, and their bodies and their shape are better, for they grow nearer one shape all the way up."

Again, Wm. P. Shepard, one of the oldest breeders of fancy poultry in this country and an unusually practical man, says: "I have demonstrated that Rhode Island Reds can be kept at less cost than any other breed, not excepting White Leghorns. While it costs $1.20 to keep a Plymouth Rock, a Rhode Island Red can be kept for from 85 to 90 cents per year, which I consider a very important item."

Dr. Aldrich says: "In shape, the Rhode Island Reds are squared better in body-lines than the other American varieties. Their wings and back are carried horizontally, they have a long keel-bone, a tail carried quite well back, and yellow skin and legs."

MATING AND BREEDING

On this important subject, P. R. Parks, of Massachusetts, says: "First of all, study your birds carefully, and train the eye to see type, recognizing the male or female that most closely conforms to the standard; which would be described as oblong, without the square corners; a long, nearly flat back in the male and female. The long, flowing hackle at the shoulders and the full cushion at the tail-base of the male soften the lines and deceive the eye, making a good, long back appear only medium in length.

"In selecting the male, get one that is well rounded at every point—in fact, there should not be a line on him that does not curve gracefully. Such birds usually are more prepotent and get more uniform progeny. The breast should be especially full. This is doubly important, for here is where so many of the other breeds 'fall down.' With a full breast, and long keel-bone extending out a good distance behind the legs, the wide, full tail well set, fully cushioned out, leaving no square corner, we have a fairly good profile started.

"The neck may be of medium length, but well carried. Many times, cockerels that have not been mated will carry themselves so much better after they have run with females a week or two that their owners would hardly recognize them. The only difference is in the way they carry their heads. Did you ever see the second male that was the under dog running in a pen that carried his head to suit you? Thus, in making your selections, be careful that the birds from which you are choosing have had an opportunity to fully develop before discarding an otherwise good specimen. After being mated, cockerels carry their necks much more gracefully, are less upright, and seemingly 'get together.'

"The crowning glory of a good male or female is the head, and upon its proper proportions depends the beauty of the specimen in a large degree. However good the bird in other ways, if the head is misshaped the otherwise good effect is apparently lost. Seemingly, nature comes to our rescue here, for we seldom have a really good specimen with a great many imperfections in the head. The long hawk-head in the female is usually accompanied by an ill-shapen roach-back -and a bird out of proportion in other ways. A male or a female with a neat, short head, a strong, well-curved beak, will nearly always be of fairly good type. Keep your birds up on a medium-length leg, not so short as to make them appear squatty. A really good flock of layers will be found usually with fairly good length of leg. At the same time, avoid the long legs with the Game-like carriage, seeking a happy medium for most satisfactory results.

"Get your best birds together. You cannot make progress trying to grade up your entire flock, putting your very best females with your second-best males, or putting your inferior females with the best males. When you have chosen your male bird, select a small pen of your very best females, choosing those that correct his faults by their own strong points. For instance, if he carries his tail a little too high or too low, select females that do not have the same faults, but rather lean the other way. By selecting a pen of only four or five, you will not breed as many culls, the eggs will be more strongly fertilized, the chicks live well, and much evener flocks result.

"It matters not whether you have fifty or five hundred females to select from. In that number, there are four that are better than any other four; in fact, probably greater breeding value exists in this small number than in one-half the balance of the flock. Let your male run with these females until the season is over; then place him alone until he is wanted for breeding another season. In this way, his breeding life is prolonged for several years. If matings are a success, which they are sure to be if no mistake has been made, you then have chicks of which the ancestry is known and upon which one can rely.

"Every egg should be marked as gathered. Each chick toe should be punched before it leaves the nest, so that there may be no guess-work the following year. Aim at perfection, but do not expect it the first, second, or fifth season. If you can breed birds slightly better than the other fellow, he is sure to want some of them, and is perfectly willing to pay any reasonable price. He is doubly willing if you can point to this bird as being the sire and that as the grandsire, showing him a line of blood that is correcting the faults that are bothering him most. There is no value on a really good male bird, for, if properly handled, he will continue to throw good, strong chicks for four or five seasons, in which time you should have his strong points so woven into your flock that they will continue to reproduce for generations to come. An extra $5 or $10 judiciously invested in a stock male will often repay the expenditure a thousandfold in a few years' breeding. In fact, there is scarcely a price named that will not be cheap if the bird is of a long line of careful breeding. Such a bird cannot fail to be prepotent. If properly mated, he will produce many sons and daughters his equal or superior in type.

"After having gotten the type fairly fixed, we must put the proper-colored clothes on our pets, or we lose much of our labor. Judges, breeders, and the public all disagree in the color-description of a good Red, but when once they have seen one of those gorgeous-colored males in the sunlight, all descriptions fade away, and in its place comes a desire to possess one or more that will approach or equal him in color. Nothing in our domestic poultry approaches him in beautiful blending of all sections, rich red, terminating in a tail of beautiful bottle-green black, adding a wealth of strength to his color, which completely overshadows the neutral, indifferent shades of his buff cousins.

"Experience proves that the dark mahogany birds are not reliable as breeders, and that their continued use gives mottled females, with mackerel backs and an almost barn-yard fowl appearance. It is those gorgeous, lustrous, medium-colored males of the same uniform color from head to tail-base that throw the beautiful soft-brown females, uniform in color and breeding true each generation. In color-mating, avoid the extremes in both sexes, also the 'shafty' feathers having a quill lighter than the body of the feather, also the tendency to deposit a ring of color around the tip, giving a laced appearance not at all pleasing. Select females with color extending evenly to the tip of the web and shaft, so colored as to make it almost impossible to tell just where the one feather begins and the other leaves off. This point should be looked to in the male's breast as well. Avoid smut, smoky or mouse-colored under-color in both male and female. See that the undercolor in the male is distinctly salmon or pink at the base of tail as well as in the middle of the back and under the hackle. See that females have clear backs, with no pepper spots of black either here or on the shoulders, that they carry red quills with even surface-color, and no smut. Color should carry well around on the breasts, with as little weakening as possible. Shanks and feet of best specimens will be found quite red or horn-colored in both male and female. Females that do not fade badly with early laying and moulting should be given the preference over better-colored pullets that lose a large part of their beauty as soon as laying begins. Stick to the rich black tails in the male line, and do not expect too much progress with a year's mating. The Reds are going to be a power in the next twenty years, and we are now laying the foundations upon which to build a mighty structure—how mighty depends upon how well we do our part right now. So build carefully, do not make radical out-crosses, but correct faults as they appear to you, and be careful, in making these corrections, that you do not let down the bars to other defects much greater."

REDS, OLD AND NEW

In a recent letter to Secretary W. J. Drisko, of the Rhode Island Red Club, Lester Tompkins, of Massachusetts, says: "My experience with Reds dates back some thirty-five years to the time when my father was one of the largest breeders of poultry in Rhode Island. He kept about two hundred Reds, exclusively—a large flock for that time. It was a custom with my father, and also with some others in that neighborhood, to get male birds, and occasionally females, from the whaling-ships that brought them from the South Pacific and Indian oceans. These birds were a rich, brilliant, even red (no yellow, no chocolate) from comb to sickle, long keel, broad heavy breast, heavy thighs and wide between the legs, with bodies somewhat upright like our present Games. They were called in that neighborhood 'Red Games,' or 'Yellow-legged Red Games,' and sometimes 'Malay Games.' I think they were all single comb.

"Flocks of fowl in that section soon became red, whatever their blood might have been for this reason—the 'Red Game' was a vigorous fighter. As soon as one was put with a flock, he felt it a self-imposed duty to kill every other male in the flock. During my years of experience as a breeder, I have handled and closely observed quite a number of different strains of Reds. I have always noticed that those strains which were directly descended from the Red Game were the most hardy and vigorous, bred the truest to type and color, had the richest yellow skin and legs, and were the most prolific layers. The early flocks of Reds were practically all single-comb, and, I think, the short 'pugged' rose-comb, sometimes called the Malay comb, came from the 'Red Shanghai' blood. There were no pea-combs (and in my opinion there never should be) until crosses were made with 'Light Brahmas.' With pea-combs came poorer type, feathered legs, and a decrease of prolificacy. Those strains which had a dash of Cochin blood also threw feather-legged chicks.

"The introduction of Brown Leghorn blood was also a detriment to the breed on the whole, I think, for it decreased the size, diminished the hardiness, and gave us most of the smut in under-color which is so objectionable now-a-days. It also gave us a lighter colored and a less uniformly colored egg. The original 'Red Games' laid a finely colored egg, not so brown as a Brahma's or a Langshan's, but more of a pink or reddish brown. It has probably been necessary to have a tinge of all these different bloods, Buff Cochin, Red Shanghai, Brown Leghorn, and Dunghills, to give us a genuinely American breed; still I firmly believe that the good old Red Game blood is a very essential foundation. My experience in breeding has led me to believe that males should be just as near the ideal color as possible and should be free from marked contrast between hackle and back, or back and saddle, for to the male side we must look for color. Females fade very soon after moulting, and it is difficult to judge of their true virgin color. I look for size, vigor and good type in females, for to them, and not to the male, should we look for size. I believe it is a mistaken idea to think that an oversized male mated to a flock of immature, under-sized females will show a pronounced increase in size of offspring. I always avoid heavy fluff in females and short-bodied males, preferring a long keel and consequently a long back in the male, with just enough cushion, as seen in profile, to avoid an abrupt angle where the back joins the tail.

"Generally speaking, my best males and best females have been produced from the same mating. In some instances, certain matings produced fine females, with a tendency to rather light-colored males, while certain other matings have thrown choice males, with only moderately good females. I have had no success from mating extremes of color; the offspring lacked very much in uniformity of color. There is a great future for the Reds, and I believe progress will be more rapid now that we have a definite standard to which all should breed. Although the breed is old from a utility point of view, it is in its infancy as a fancier's breed. We can produce as large a percentage of show-birds as any breed, but we can not yet produce as uniform a flock. If we stick to the standard, looking well to size and type as our first essential, brilliance and permanence of color as our second, we ought to develop a breed that should possess more good points, both useful and beautiful, than any other in existence."

DEFECTS AND DANGERS

Of the defects and dangers to be -avoided, Secretary W. J. Drisko, in the "Red Hen Tales," says: "It appears only just to breeders to have a fair statement made of some of the common defects, and points which are to be avoided. The following remarks are the results of experience, information gathered from personal interviews with prominent breeders, and partly from a very large amount of correspondence regarding the good and bad points of Reds. The first careful examination of Rhode Island Reds I ever made was in 1898. Most of the males were very brilliant red, a light cherry-red, fairly uniform, with greenish-black tails showing russet or reddish edges to the feathers. I began breeding them shortly after this time, and, from numerous interviews with the most prominent promoters at that time, I learned that 'the darker the bird, the better, provided there was no smut in under-color.' There was a prejudice against white in wings, but light, almost white, under-color was not regarded as a serious defect. The females which produced these chocolate-colored males were described as 'mahogany red.' Most of them showed a decided contrast between hackle, which was more of a golden red, and back, a duller hue. They also had rather light-colored breasts. The following characteristics usually, not always, accompanied these extremely dark strains: strong tendency to both smut and white in under-color, and white in wings; less hardiness than the more brilliant, lighter-colored strains; very early maturity and, consequently, rather small birds, which were not satisfactory as soft roasters, as they often hardened before they were large enough to roast. They usually had clean, yellow legs, were excellent layers of a not very dark egg, and were not much inclined to broodiness. I have often been told by breeders who were 'on the spot' where such strains originated that they possessed an excess of Brown Leghorn blood, and my experience leads me to believe that, as a general statement, that is true. There was a mistaken idea of the desirable size for market poultry which got possession of some of the early Red breeders. Any one who has kept track of the fancy market on soft roasters knows that it is an impossibility to get soft chickens too large. The Boston market is always open to fancy soft roasters; the bigger, the better, provided they are plump, yellow and soft. A breed that gets 'hard' or 'staggy' before they dress nine or ten pounds per pair isn't a breed for 'killers.' I saw a crate of poultry, many of them capons, but sold as soft roasters, ranging from twelve pounds per pair to nineteen and one-half pounds per pair, sold at wholesale for 37 cents a pound in Boston in May, 1903. On the same day, small roasters were selling at 28 to 30 cents per pound.

"Many of the practical Red breeders who realized the market poultry situation began breeding larger birds: At about the same time, fanciers started the pendulum swinging the other way, by emphasizing 'brilliance' and 'uniformity of color.' The straw-colored hackles with chocolate wingbows of males were shelved. In 1900, 1901, and 1902 there were more good, large, vigorous, evenly colored birds seen than in previous years. These strains generally possessed the following distinctive marks: better meat-type—that is, longer keel, broader, deeper breast, no 'hatchet breast' of the Leghorn; but they showed more tendency to broodiness, more stubs on legs and toes. They also laid a darker; more uniformly colored egg. It is often remarked that such strains have a larger percentage of the Red Malay Game or the Buff Cochin in their make-up. It may be that, or they may have been the result of selection and careful mating.

"At the present time, I fear there is a tendency toward the darker color. All agree that the present standard weights are satisfactory. I know of several breeders who have exhibited birds darker than they really thought ideal, simply because many judges show a tendency to favor dark birds. I find the most progressive breeders just as strongly opposed to the chocolate or dull-brown males, on the one hand, as they are to the buff or yellowish-red males on the other hand. Colors can only be described by comparison. As there is nothing in nature comparable with the coloring of a good Rhode Island Red male, we can't describe his color. It is sometimes compared with the color of a cherry just before it is fully ripe—that is, a little lighter than a fully ripe red cherry. The Reds have had two potent enemies—first, the established breeders of the other American breeds, and, second, the great popularity of the Reds. The howl of 'scrubs' and 'mongrels' is fast disappearing, but the popularity we have still with us. However, there are so many reputable breeders of Reds now that one need not fear the trickery of 'poultry brokers,' unless he deliberately patronizes them.

"Experienced breeders know that there is no danger from judicious inbreeding. They also know that defects, as well as desirable qualities, can be accented by inbreeding. Farmers, as a rule, can not select and make special matings, so they usually 'swap roosters' or buy a cockerel for 'new blood.' The farmer knows that it is not safe to inbreed. The fancier knows that it is not safe to outbreed; but the semi-fancier of the city back-yard has neither the precaution of the farmer nor the knowledge of the fancier. The farmer keeps up vitality and hardiness, though he has not uniformity in either size, type or coloring. The fancier keeps up both the exhibition points and vitality, while the town-lot breeder often fails in both. The Reds owe their vigor and snap to their outbred origin, but it has taken much longer to establish them along this line.. There is danger now from too much injudicious inbreeding in the haste of breeders to fix certain characteristics. Make haste slowly should be our motto, and our inbreeding should be coupled with the most careful selection, so that, in fixing a desirable characteristic, we do not also fix many undesirable ones.

"There is one peculiarity of Reds, and also of Buffs, that is not usually allowed for by their enemies—that is, the ease with which culls may be picked from a flock: I mean the culls from a color point of view. In a flock of white birds, a brassy back or wing-bow or a fine black lacing in the hackle doesn't appear to the untrained eye. In Barred Plymouth Rocks, the brown-black instead of blue-black, or the flights without barring, and the very brassy birds are seen only by the trained eye. Very few casual observers of a flock of black birds would notice whether the sheen appeared green or purple. Our eyes, being very sensitive to change of hue or shade of red, orange and yellow, at once detect variations in color in a flock of Reds which, if present in the Barred Plymouth Rocks, Blacks, or any of the duller-colored breeds, would be entirely unnoticed, except by experts. Then, again, the fading incident to laying makes an apparent contrast in Reds which, though equally great, is less noticeable in many other breeds. It is difficult to maintain uniformity among Reds for the above reasons; but I believe that careful breeding from the best, using care to select the females which show least fading—that is, breeding for permanence of color—will largely overcome this apparent variation. Breeders who have bred Reds in comparison with other breeds know that they will throw as large a percentage of show-birds as any breed; which shows that the apparent lack of uniformity is only the natural variation common to any breed.

"Probably one of the greatest dangers to Reds is the probability of color being placed paramount in importance to type and vigor. I believe our best breeders put type and vigor on an equality, with color as second. Many judges in all breeds reverse this order. It is very unfortunate that a poor-shaped bird should win on such a minor point as ticking in hackle, slightly better under-color, or a deeper-colored eye, over a bird superior in type with only a slight defect in some of these minor points; but such is often the case. The Single-Comb Reds are still throwing pretty high combs, and there is considerable complaining of Rose-Comb Reds throwing single combs. This is believed to be due to the craze for small, neat, smooth combs. The Wyandotte breeders have had the same difficulty. A prominent breeder of that variety told me that he had more single combs last year than in all previous years combined, and he attributed it to the prevalent idea of small, smooth combs. Our Standard calls for a comb that is oval in outline, as seen from above, and 'covered with small points terminating in a small spike at the rear.' Smooth combs, then, are not standard. Judges please note.

"The following troublesome defects need careful study in mating: Hazel, greenish or bluish tinge in eye; white in base of hackle and at roots of tail, and sometimes over the 'hips,' usually accompanying very brilliant surface; russet or reddish tails in birds showing great strength of color; shafting, especially in females, and feathers edged with color a few shades lighter than the rest of the feather. The finest surface color is generally accompanied by either smut or white in under-color, perhaps only a trace, and the very excellent under-color is generally accompanied by a lack of richness in males and a 'mealy' appearance in females with lack of brilliance in both. Nature seems to put about so much coloring into a bird, and, if it is concentrated in the ends of the feathers, it is a more striking picture. But how about the breeding qualities of such concentration? 'Rather uncertain,' is the general verdict. The surest method of improving is by careful selection, using great precaution in introducing new blood, lest it fail to nick. There is one best pullet in every clutch, and one best cockerel in every flock. If such best birds are only slightly better than either ancestor, the road to improvement is open. It will take years to breed out all the defects. It can be done only by persistent effort."

Notes on Rhode Island Reds (1901)


CybeRose note: It is interesting to compare the origin of this breed with the Lancaster Surecropper corn. Both were improved by repeated outcrossing rather than by strict line breeding.