Barred Rock Chickens, a Quiet Breed for
SuburbiaThe Plymouth Rock was developed in New England in the middle of the 19th century and was first exhibited as a breed in 1869. Several individuals claimed its invention, using crosses of Dominiques, Black Javas, Cochins, and perhaps Malays and Dorkings. John C. Bennett (1804–1867) has been credited with either creating or popularizing the breed. Plymouth Rocks were bred as a dual-purpose fowl, meaning that they were valued both for their meat and for the hens' egg-laying ability. The first Plymouth Rock was barred and other varieties were developed later. The breed became popular very rapidly, and in fact, until World War II, no breed was ever kept and bred as extensively in the United States as the Barred Plymouth Rock. Its popularity came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat.Most of the other varieties were developed from crosses containing some of the same ancestral background as the barred variety. Early in its development, the name Plymouth Rock implied a barred bird, but as more varieties were developed, it became the designation for the breed. The Barred Plymouth Rock was one of the foundation breeds for the broiler industry in the 1920s, and the White Rock continues to be used as the female side of the commercial broiler cross. The Barred Plymouth Rock is also raised for genetic hackle used extensively as a material in artificial fly construction.
The Plymouth Rock had its moment of fame also in the scientific world: it was used as a study object of virus-induced oncogenesis. Francis Peyton Rous, a pathologist working at Rockefeller University in New York City discovered in 1911 retrovirus (called nowadays Rous sarcoma virus) responsible for chicken neoplasm, characteristic for that breed. This discovery brought him a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1966.
In terms of temperament, both roosters and hens are calm and will get along well with people and other animals such as pets. The hens often will go broody if in the right environment, and are good mothers.