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The state bird of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Red, is a successful farm chicken. This bird is very hardy and is able to produce 200 to 300 eggs per bird in a calendar year. They also start laying eggs as early as six months. Aside from their excellent egg-laying capabilities, the state bird of Rhode Island is also bred for its meat. They have dark red-brown feathers and yellow feet and reddish-orange eyes. Their chicks have a tan to light red color with vertical dark brown stripes down their backs.
The first contest to choose a bird to represent Rhode Island was held in 1931. It was sponsored by the Rhode Island Federated Women’s Club in partnership with the Audubon Society. The birds that were offered as candidates in that contest include the osprey, the tree swallow, the catbird, the flicker and the bobwhite quail. At the conclusion of the contest, the bobwhite quail had garnered the most votes, followed by the osprey, but neither was adopted by the legislature.
In 1954, the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, the Audubon Society selected another five candidates from which to choose the state bird of Rhode Island. The selected birds included the two top candidates from the previous contest and three new candidates: the ruby-throated hummingbird, the towhee and the Rhode Island Red. By the end of the contest, two birds had been selected to represent the State of Rhode Island in different capacities. The Rhode Island Red was favored by the American Legion and farmer’s groups, while the ruby-throated humming bird was supported by the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs.
In 1954, the Rhode Island Red was officially made the state bird of Rhode Island when governor Dennis Roberts signed the legislation that made it so. A portrait depicting the Rhode Island Red was presented to the governor by Author O. Schilling, a renowned poultry artist, who had created the painting in the 1920s. The bird was already well-known in Rhode Island because it had been developed in that state in 1854, mainly to produce eggs. A chicken plaque had been erected in honor of the bird in Adamsville, Rhode Island, as a sort of commemorative gesture toward the place the breed was developed. In addition to this, in the same year the second contest was held, the Rhode Island Red Centennial Committee marked the 100th anniversary of the breed.