What Are The Best Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds?
If you’re venturing into backyard chicken keeping, selecting the right breed is crucial, particularly if you live in a colder climate. That’s where cold hardy chicken breeds come in, a specialty of some feathered friends who manage winter’s fury far better than others. In this post, we’ll explore the best cold hardy chicken breeds to keep your coop lively even when temperatures plunge.
We’ll also take a look at some ways to help them to stay warm so they won’t have to depend only on themselves.
Understanding Cold Hardy Chickens
Cold hardy chicken breeds have specific traits that help them survive, and even thrive, in frosty conditions. These include small combs and wattles to prevent frostbite, dense feathering for insulation, and a generally robust nature.
As we look at some of these robust examples, you’ll notice some other similarities in the breeds. Can you guess what they are? I’ll reveal the answer in a bit, but first, let’s look at some birds. Okay, I won’t make you wait. You’ll notice that they are all larger, dual-purpose birds typically.
Why You Need Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds
Survival Through the Winter
Cold hardy chicken breeds are designed to withstand harsh winters. They come equipped with a sturdy constitution and are less likely to fall prey to winter-related issues like frostbite.
Egg Production in Cold Months
Many cold hardy chicken breeds continue laying throughout winter, ensuring you get a steady supply of farm-fresh eggs even in the coldest months.
Top Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds
Let’s dive into the details of some of the top cold hardy chicken breeds:
Originating from the United States, Plymouth Rock chickens are known for their striped feathering and docile nature. Their dense plumage makes them an excellent choice for cold climates. They lay brown eggs reliably throughout the year.
Originating in Massachusetts in the nineteenth century, for much of the early twentieth century the Plymouth Rock was the most widely kept chicken breed in the United States. It is a dual-purpose bird, raised both for its meat and for its eggs.
On average, mature Plymouth Rock roosters weigh about 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg), and hens weigh about 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg).
Plymouth Rocks are known for their brown egg production. A healthy Plymouth Rock hen can lay between 200 to 280 eggs per year.
Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Reds, another US breed, are popular for their hardiness and adaptability. Their dark feathers and a good layer of subcutaneous fat provide insulation against cold weather. They are prolific layers of medium to large brown eggs.
Rhodies are also excellent foragers so they do very well in a free-range setup. In the early1900s the Rhode Island Red was raised as a dual-purpose chicken, and still is a decent choice for that, but their breeding since the 1940s has been primarily directed toward egg production.
These chickens are excellent layers, known for their brown eggs. A healthy Rhode Island Red hen can lay between 200 and 300 eggs per year.
While they are often friendly, some individuals can be more aggressive. They can also be a bit more independent compared to other breeds.
Hailing from England, Sussex chickens are beloved for their friendly demeanor and versatility. Their thick feathers offer good protection against the cold. They are consistent layers and produce eggs of various colors, including brown, white, and tinted.
Sussex chickens originate from the county of Sussex in England, where they have been known for centuries. They’re one of the oldest English chicken breeds.
Sussex are large and robust. They have a rectangular body with a broad, flat back and a deep, wide breast. They have single combs and white earlobes. The breed comes in various colors including white, red, speckled, silver, and more.
Being excellent layers, a healthy hen can lay around 250 to 275 large, brown eggs per year, although some may lay even more.
Sussex chickens are considered a dual-purpose breed, which means they are valuable both for their egg-laying capabilities and for their meat.
They are quite hardy and adaptable, capable of living in various climates and conditions. They are also good foragers, which can help reduce feeding costs if they are allowed to free-range.
Hens can be occasionally broody, meaning they may want to sit on their eggs to hatch them.
Of course, there are many other cold hardy chicken breeds. Here’s a short list:
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you a list of breeds you can look into if you are looking for cold hardy chickens.
Tips for Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter
Even with cold hardy chicken breeds, extra care during winter is essential.
Insulating your chicken coop helps keep your flock warm. Strive for a balance between insulation and ventilation to prevent moisture build-up, which can lead to frostbite and respiratory problems. The Spruce has great tips on winter-proofing your coop.
Providing a balanced diet helps chickens generate body heat. Corn and other grains can be a great supplement in winter due to their heat-generating properties.
Fresh, Unfrozen Water
Chickens need access to fresh water, even in winter. Heated waterers can prevent freezing and ensure your flock stays hydrated.
Choosing the right cold hardy chicken breed can make a significant difference in the success of your backyard flock in colder climates. Take the time to research different breeds, their characteristics, and their adaptability to your specific climate before deciding. And remember, no matter how cold-hardy your chickens are, always provide proper winter care.