If you live in a cold climate you should look into raising cold hardy chickens. So here are some of the best chicken breeds for cold weather.
A fun fact about chickens is that they can all survive the cold winter much better than they can an extremely hot summer.
So while raising cold hardy breeds is smart if you live where it is extremely cold, it’s more important to have heat tolerant breeds that can survive the heat if your summers are hot.
I live where the winters are pretty mild but the summers are extreme.
So I try to raise breeds that do well in both the hot and cold weather, although some of my favorite chickens ever, like Cochins, do not do well in the heat but they do excellent in the cold.
11 Best Chicken Breeds for Cold Weather
1.) Australorps – This is a quiet and gentle breed that can tolerate confinement really well. They are considered one of the best breeds for tolerating the cold and they have a good heat tolerance as well. They are good egg layers with large brown eggs.
2.) Barred Rock – These are one of the all time most popular breeds in the U.S. They’re just steady, reliable chickens which makes them a great choice. They are excellent brown egg layers who do not slow down in the winter. Plus they handle the cold temperatures excellent, as well as the heat.
3.) Buff Orpingtons – This is a breed I always have in my flock and they are definitely a favorite of mine. They are quiet, sweet, and they are great layers even through the winter. Buff Orpintons also tolerate both the hot and cold weather very well.
4.) Buff Rocks – These are a standard American breed. They lay large brown eggs and they are fine winter layers as well. They handle the cold excellent and have a good tolerance for the heat.
5.) Cochins – I absolutely love my Cochins. They are large, feather-footed chickens with the best disposition. Cochins are extremely gentle and sweet which makes them the best addition to your backyard flock. They are okay layers, but they are the perfect cold weather chicken. But they do not tolerate the heat very well.
6.) Columbian Wyandottes – These are really pretty chickens with white bodies and contrasting black and silver feathers. They are good layers with medium brown eggs. They are tolerant of both the hot and cold weather.
7.) Delaware – This is considered one of the better dual-purpose breeds. They lay large brown eggs and make a good meat bird once they are done producing eggs. They have an excellent disposition and are excellent in cold climates. Although they will still do well where it’s warmer.
8.) Light Brahmas – These are another favorite in my flock. They are extremely gentle, quiet, and easy to handle. They are one of the absolute best breeds for cold winters, they’ll handle the heat, and they are good egg layers.
9.) New Hampshire Reds – These are another standard American breed. They lay large brown eggs and make excellent meat birds as well. They also do great in both hot and cold temperatures.
10.) Rhode Island Reds – These are one of the most well known and popular chicken breeds. They are a dual purpose breed and are known for being one of the greatest brown egg layers of all time. They are great cold weather chickens and will do well in the heat.
11.) White Orpingtons – These are large, beautiful white chickens. They are gentle and quiet and make for great layers even through the winter months. They can handle both the hot and cold temperatures.
Cold Hardy Characteristics
While there are chicken breeds that have an excellent tolerance for the cold while also having large combs and wattles, breeds that have small combs and wattles are perfect for being out in the freezing temperatures.
A chicken’s comb is prone to getting frost bit and so small combs such as the pea combs and rose combs are great traits.
Wattles and combs are the control center for chickens to regulate their body temperatures. For example, in the summer they will diffuse some of their body heat through their comb. And in the winter their comb helps prevent the loss of heat.
Another characteristic to look at is whether or not they have feathered feat. Feather-footed chickens are known for being very cold tolerant, such as Cochins.
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for Winter
The most important part to your chicken coop when it is winter is that the coop has a good roof preventing rain or snow from coming in, and that it is draft free.
If your coop has windows, shutters come in handy so you can shut them to prevent cold drafts of air from flowing inside.
You don’t want to provide heat lamps because first off, they can be a fire hazard. But second, the chickens get used to the heat and it prevents them from growing in the sufficient amount of feathers needed for winter.
Pretty much as long as you give your chickens a covered, safe place to get out of the weather they will be just fine. And if you have the chicken breeds that do best in cold weather, they should all survive without any worries.
Just be sure that they always have access to food and water and then sit back and enjoy the winter!
Are you interested in learning more about raising chickens?
I wrote an entire book, The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and it talks about all the important things you need to know if you’re new to having backyard chickens. Or if you haven’t taken the leap yet it tells you all that you need to get started!
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