Last Updated: March 23, 2021
If you live in a climate where it gets really cold in the winter, you’re probably worried about the prospect of trying to raise chickens. What if the chickens freeze to death? Or what if they get frostbite? While these are very real possibilities, some breeds are well suited to the cold and won’t suffer these consequences.
For those in cold climates who wish to raise chickens, there are many choices. We’ve gathered 15 of the best breeds for cold climates so that you can read about each of them and decide which breed sounds like the best fit for your flock. We’ll even discuss the factors that contribute to the ability of these breeds to resist the cold.
What Makes Some Breeds Cold-Resistant?
It’s no accident that the breeds on this list are resistant to cold. In fact, many of them were created with that purpose in mind. Just because you live in a cold climate doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from raising chickens. But you’ll find that these breeds all share some commonalities that contribute to their incredible cold-resistance.
You know that red or orange flesh that protrudes from a chicken’s head? That’s called its comb. Each breed has its own unique comb shape, size, and style. When it comes to cold weather, some types of combs are superior to others. Namely, small combs win the day. Large combs are at risk of frostbite, but chickens with the smallest combs have little to worry about in that department.
What do you do if you wish to go outside when it’s very cold? Most of us will put on extra layers, such as a winter coat. Well, things aren’t much different if you’re a chicken, only, you can’t decide to just add more layers. Some breeds naturally have more protection from the cold via their feathers. The more heavily-feathered a chicken is, the less susceptible they are to the cold.
We all know the saying “the strong survive.” Well, at least with chickens, this tends to be the truth; particularly when talking about cold weather. Large chickens tend to be hardier than smaller chickens. They also have more protection from the cold in the form of extra meat. Small chickens don’t have much body fat or muscle, both of which can help protect a chicken from cold temperatures.
15 Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds
Now that we understand some of the features that make particular breeds better suited to cold climates than others, let’s look at the specific breeds that do well in the cold.
One of the coolest things about Ameraucana chickens has nothing to do with their ability to resist the cold. These dual-purpose birds lay blue eggs! They also do have an unusual resistance to cold temperatures. They have pea combs, which are very small and not likely to get frostbitten.
As you might guess from the name, Australorp chickens originated in Australia. These birds are famous for holding a world record for the most eggs laid in a single year. Just shy of one a day, an Australorp once laid 364 eggs in a year. They’re also great for meat with roosters weighing up to 10 pounds, though they mature slowly. Like the other birds on this list, they do well in very cold climates.
Large and versatile, Brahmas chickens are perfect for keeping in cold climates. They’re such hardy birds that they can be raised practically anywhere in the world. Along with heavily-feathered bodies, Brahmas chickens also have feathers on their feet for added warmth in the cold. They’re great for both meat and eggs and come in multiple color varieties.
You’ll probably never guess the most unique thing about the Buckeye breed. In the whole world, Buckeyes are the only recognized breed that was created by a woman. They’re known for being one of the best dual-purpose breeds around. Moreover, they have small cushion combs that are perfect for cold weather and they’re known for their ability to handle the coldest temperatures with ease.
5. Buff Orpington
Buff Orpingtons are one of the most popular breeds among homesteaders and backyard flock raisers, and there are many good reasons why. Among those reasons is the fact that they’re incredibly resilient to the cold, with tiny single combs that aren’t very susceptible to frostbite. They’re also great egg layers and sizable birds that produce just as good meat as their eggs.
Chanteclers are extremely cold averse for many reasons. The breed originated in Canada, which isn’t a country that’s known for its hot summers. These birds have tiny pea combs, small wattles, and plenty of girth to protect them from the cold. You’ll also find that Chanteclers have more personality than most other breeds.
When you see how heavily-feathered Cochin chickens are, you won’t question their ability to withstand cold temperatures. They’re a very beautiful breed that comes in a variety of colors. They have feathered feet, small combs, and come in both frizzled and non-frizzled types. Frizzled feathers aren’t great for the cold though, so if you want a cold-resistant bird, opt for the non-frizzled Cochins.
First brought to the New World by Pilgrims back in colonial times, Dominique chickens are considered to be the oldest American chicken breed. You may also hear them called Pilgrim fowl or Dominickers, but they’re all names for the same birds. These robust chickens are friendly and docile. You’ll find them being raised in some of the coldest parts of the world due to their excellent cold-resistance, including Alaska and Canada.
Most people who raise chickens keep them as livestock for meat or egg production. While Faverolles chickens were created originally to be used for meat in France, Americans decided they make better pets and are now commonly kept as such in the US. They have small combs, feathered feet, cheek muffs, and a dense coat of feathers to help them stay warm in even the coldest of temperatures.
10. New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire Red chickens are very similar to Rhode Island Reds. They were bred from Rhode Island Reds but intended to be superior for meat production. They’re larger and grow much faster, helping them to be even more cold-resistant than Rhode Island Reds, which are already renowned for their ability to thrive in cold climates.
11. Plymouth Rock
These birds were created in New England back in the late 1800s. They’re some of the best dual-purpose chickens you can find, which is why they’re still popular today. They mature very quickly and roosters reach weights of eight pounds. Hens lay more than 250 eggs annually, and they thrive on free-range feeding.
12. Rhode Island Red
The Northeast United States where the Rhode Island Red was first created is known for its freezing cold winters, which this breed handles without issue. Docile but curious creatures, these chickens are relatively calm around people but can be more aggressive around other birds. They can lay 280 eggs each year and produce excellent meat as well.
13. Speckled Sussex
One problem experienced by many who raise chickens for their eggs is that production tends to slow down or even stop completely in the winter months; even for many cold-resistant breeds. But Speckled Sussex chickens will lay all year long. They’re excellent dual-purpose birds that are great for eggs and meat, but it’s their resilience to the cold that makes them so popular.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Welsummer chickens are incredibly resilient to cold weather. They’re a dual-purpose breed with roosters that weigh seven pounds on average. They do mature slower than other breeds, but they’re also some of the most beautiful chickens you’ll find.
Wyandottes are beloved for their calm, docile temperaments and versatile usage as a dual-purpose breed. They were the first dual-purpose breed created in America. Hens continue to lay throughout the winter months and are considered to be some of the most cold-hardy chickens around.
No matter where you live, there’s a breed of chicken that’s perfectly suited for your environment. The 15 chickens on this list are all built to withstand cold winters with no problem. You won’t even need to make special accommodations for them, and many of these breeds can even withstand subzero temperatures with ease. So, your cold climate is no longer an excuse for not raising your own backyard flock. Just pick one of the breeds on this list and get ready for some delicious eggs and meat, grown right in your own backyard.
Featured Image Credit: Amy Kerkemeyer, Shutterstock
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.
- What Makes Some Breeds Cold-Resistant?
- 15 Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds