National Avian Research Facility
National Avian Research Facility

Rhode Island Red

Closed outbred line held under SPF conditions


The Rhode Island Red is a domestic chicken breed, that in the past has been considered a dual-purpose breed, raised both for meat and for eggs. However, modern strains have been bred predominately for egg laying. Our Rhode Island Red chickens are maintained as a closed outbred population in our SPF (specified pathogen free) facility. These birds were relocated from the Pirbright Institute (Compton laboratories) in 2014. They were originally obtained from a commercial breeder in 1961. The NARF’s Rhode Island Red chickens are known to have MHC haplotypes; B142, 143, 144. Birds are resistant for ALV subgroups B and D (mostly), and segregating for A and E. The MHC haplotypes and differential resistance and susceptibilities of the lines to pathogens have not been validated in recent years.


Rhode Island Red chickens held under SPF conditions are a useful model in the study of avian and zoonotic pathogens.  SPF Rhode Island Red chickens have been used to better understand immunological responses to infection, how an individual’s genetics influence susceptibility to infectious disease and to help improve vaccination strategies against poultry diseases. Specifically, antiviral response to infectious bursal disease virus1, and vaccination regimes against Infectious bronchitis virus2,3 have been examined. In addition, how host genetics determine susceptibility to avian influenza infection and transmission dynamics4, and how antibody responses provide protection against infection with avian influenza (H9N2)6. Rhode Island Red chickens have been used to better understand the immunological pathways that induce immunosuppression during early Marek’s disease infection5. Also, Rhode Island Red chickens have been used to better understand the virulence of Salmonella Enteritidis after experimental infection7. As Rhode Island Red chickens are a popular domestic breed, they can be used to study various aspects of behaviour and physiology. 


  1. Dulwich, K. et al. The stronger downregulation of in vitro and in vivo innate antiviral responses by a very virulent strain of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), compared to a classical strain, is mediated, in part, by the VP4 protein. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 10, 315 (2020).
  2. Keep, S. et al. Limited cross-protection against infectious bronchitis provided by recombinant infectious bronchitis viruses expressing heterologous spike glycoproteins. Vaccines 8, 1–19 (2020).
  3. Ellis, S. et al. Recombinant infectious bronchitis viruses expressing chimeric spike glycoproteins induce partial protective immunity against homologous challenge despite limited replication In Vivo. J. Virol. 92, e01473-18 (2018).
  4. Ruiz-Hernandez, R. et al. Host genetics determine susceptibility to avian influenza infection and transmission dynamics. Sci. Rep. 6, 1–11 (2016).
  5. Lukosaityte, D. et al. Engineered recombinant single chain variable fragment of monoclonal antibody provides protection to chickens infected with H9N2 Avian Influenza. Vaccines 8, 118 (2020).
  6. Gurung, A., Kamble, N., Kaufer, B. B., Pathan, A. & Behboudi, S. Association of Marek’s Disease induced immunosuppression with activation of a novel regulatory T cells in chickens. PLOS Pathog. 13, e1006745 (2017).
  7. Barrow, P. A. Experimental infection of chickens with Salmonella enteritidis. Avian Pathol. 20, 145–153 (1991).