One of the most important things you can do when choosing which breeds you want for your flock is to choose breeds appropriate to your climate. With cold winter weather on the way for most of the US, let’s have a look at cold hardy chicken breeds. Our website makes it easy to choose from a list of cold hardy chicken breeds, but if you live in the bitter, bitter north, you may need the MOST cold hardy chicken breeds.
Here are the top five most cold hardy chicken breeds:
- Ameraucana – Ameraucanas have small pea combs making them resistant to frostbite on the comb–however after their first year, they don’t tend to lay especially well in cold winter areas. (They are the only breed on the list laying blue eggs, though! (Easter Eggers, while not a breed per se, also make the list for the same reason–and they can lay blue or green). True Ameraucanas can be difficult to get, though. The vast majority of hatcheries advertise Ameraucanas or Araucanas–but sell you Easter Eggers.
- Buckeye – The Buckeye also has a pea comb, and deals with cold very well. In addition it’s a good winter layer and a good forager.
- Chantecler – The Chantecler is a breed developed for long, cold Canadian winters. It lays well in cold weather, too!
- Dominique – Dominiques have flat rose combs, and lay well in the winter. However, they don’t tend to be especially heat hardy.
- Wyandottes – Wyandottes are very good year round layers, and deal well with heat, too.
What features make cold hardy chicken breeds? There are a few. For one, a chicken needs a small or flat comb. Large combs or combs with points (like the stereotypical single comb of a leghorn) can be prone to frostbite. Secondly, larger chickens do better in the cold than small bantams. And thirdly, feather legged breeds can be problematic–at times. While the feathered legs provide additional insulation, in wet winter areas, mud or slush can get embedded in the leg feathers and then freeze–again, a risk of frostbite. In cold dry areas, feathered legs don’t present the same problem, so breeds like the Brahma will do well.
In addition, the Welsummer, Rhode Island Red, Sussex, Orpington and Cochin can also do quite well in very cold areas, even if they don’t do as well as those top five.
Remember, of course, that your chickens will need proper care and shelter whether they are cold hardy or not.