7 Chicken Breeds That Do Well in Cold Climates

7 Chicken Breeds That Do Well in Cold Climates Blog Cover

The winter weather here in upstate New York during the winter can be brutal, and certain breeds of chicken don’t survive here.

It’s crucial that when you’re considering which breed of chicken to get, you take into account your local climate in addition to the bird’s natural climate.

A mismatch of the two can prove a deadly combination!

chickens in cold

For instance, a breed like Minorcas will do great in hot climates but desperately struggle in colder climates. Whereas, Welsummer’s will thrive in the cold, but not so much the heat.

Surprisingly, this was a hard piece to do. There are so many good, cold hardy breeds to choose from!

In narrowing it down to seven breeds, I have used the following criteria to pinpoint those I believe to be the best bang for your buck!

  1. Cost of chicks- the average price of the chicks chosen here is $2-4/chick.
  2. Availability- some breeds are difficult to source (i.e., American Holland), so I’ve selected easier-to-source breeds.
  3. Early maturation of birds.
  4. Docility- it’s no good having birds that will be aggressive with each other, so I’ve chosen mainly docile birds.
  5. Broodiness- all birds selected here are not known for becoming frequently broody.

Please forgive me if I have left out your favorite breed- I had to leave out a couple of mines too! So, in no particular order, here are the Magnificent Seven.

chickens in cold

Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island Red Chicken Breeds

This breed was developed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island back in the late 1800s.

It was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1904 and is the State bird of Rhode Island. It has a reddish-brown plumage and has yellow legs.

It is a very prolific layer of medium/large brown eggs in 280 eggs/year. However, as we know, egg production will slow down after the first three years of laying.

These birds mature quickly; they are robust and cope in hot and cold weather well. They will tolerate being confined but really do best as free rangers.

They are dual-purpose birds; roosters weigh in at about 8.5lb and hens at 6.5lb. Although they are generally docile and calm, they can be ‘pushy’ with other more timid birds. They are friendly and curious and will follow you around the garden hoping for treats!

Plymouth Rocks

Barred Rock Pullet
Barred Rock Pullet

They originally developed this bird in New England in the late nineteenth century.

The breed now comes in seven different varieties: barred, blue, buff, Colombian, partridge, silver-penciled, and white.

It was developed as a dual-purpose bird and is a good layer of medium/large brown eggs, averaging 250 eggs/year.

They weigh in around 8lb for roosters and 7lb for hens. These birds are also quick to mature, are very cold, hardy, and dependable.

This is another bird that prefers to free-range whenever possible. They generally have a docile temperament, some hens may go broody, but it’s not common.

Buckeye

This is the only breed known to have been created by a woman- Nettie Metcalf of Ohio State in the late 1800s’.

The breed was admitted to the APA in 1904 as a dual-purpose breed. She created a very cold hardy bird with a small cushion comb.

The bird will tolerate some confinement but does better as a free ranger. They are said to rival cats as great mouse catchers!

It has a calm, friendly and curious personality, although some roosters can be aggressive. The hen lays 150-200 eggs/year and weighs around 6lb.

Welsummer

Cold Hardy Breed Welsummer

This beautiful breed comes from the village of Welsum in the Netherlands. The first imported it to this country in the 1920s.

The hens are good layers of large, speckled brown eggs, averaging 180-200 eggs/year.

They were originally developed as a dual-purpose breed, with the roosters weighing about 7lb and hens 6lb.

This bird is slightly slower to mature but is very cold tolerant and hardy. They are active and enjoy free-ranging. They are intelligent birds and can be noisy, but generally are a great fit with other birds.

If you are thinking about combining different breeds in your flock, make sure to read: How to Introduce New Chickens to Your Existing Flock.

Australorp

Flock of Australorp

This breed came into existence around the 1920s in Australia. They were developed from the black Orpington and crossed with several other breeds to create the current dual-purpose breed.

It is an excellent layer of medium-sized, brown eggs, holding the record of 364 eggs in 365 days! The rooster will weigh in at around 8-10lb, with the hen at 7-9lb.

This is another bird that matures a bit slower but is very cold, hardy, and docile.

The Australorp has a great temperament and is good with kids. It will tolerate confinement well but loves to free-range.

Wyandotte

Silver Laced Wyandotte

This breed was first exhibited in the late 1870-80s. Initially created to be a great dual-purpose bird, a hen will lay 150-200 eggs/year, and the meat is said to be of excellent quality.

The male weighs in at around 8lb and a hen at 6lb. It has a docile and calm personality. Hens may occasionally go broody.

They are freezing, hardy, and robust, lying throughout the winter.

They rarely suffer from frostbite having a rose comb. Some keepers feel the birds are ‘aloof’ with humans.

Dominiques

Dominique Winter Chicken

Dominiques have the distinction of being the oldest American breed. They date from Colonial times when the Pilgrims first brought domestic chickens to the New World.

They are also known as Pilgrim fowl and Dominickers. They are a dual-purpose breed, better known for eggs than meat, laying around 150-200 eggs/year.

They have a pea comb which makes them ideal for cold weather. They are a robust little chicken, good-natured and calm.

If the hen is allowed to set on her eggs, they are apparently good brooders and mothers.

These breeds have been selected mainly for their ability to survive through cold weather. Many breeds are kept in Alaska and Canada, and I can’t think of anywhere much colder!

All of these breeds are, in fact, good all-rounders that can tolerate a wide variety of conditions.

Once you’ve selected your breed, make sure you prepare properly for their arrival.

Buff Orpingtons

Most Orpington varieties have similar traits that make them well-suited for cold climates. Their feathers are fluffy and not held tight to their bodies.

This makes for excellent insulation.

Buff Orpingtons have single combs, however, and frostbite is a risk in extreme temperatures. Aside from that, this fluffy chicken does fantastic in the cold weather.

The Buff Orpington is a docile, kid-friendly chicken that is considered a dual-purpose heritage breed.

chickens in cold

Tips To Help You Through The Winter:

  • Ensure you have good ventilation in your coop. The moisture from respiration and pooping will cause dampness in the coop if not vented.
  • Use clean, dry bedding, changing frequently.
  • Please give them a handful of scratches in the evenings. The digestion of this will help them to keep warm.
  • If your birds have large combs and wattles, a smear of Vaseline on them will help to keep them frostbite-free.
  • Ensure they have access to clean fresh water. A heated dog bowl or waterer will save you from making several trips to the coop with fresh water.
  • Pick up the eggs frequently. Otherwise, they might freeze and crack.

If you’re looking for even more advice, then make sure to read our Definitive Guide to Keeping Chickens In Winter.

Summary

At the top of this article, I mentioned many good cold-tolerant breeds out there to choose from. I narrowed down the list from an original twenty breeds!

It will, of course, depend upon what you what from your birds as to which breeds you choose.

The seven we talked about here are all-rounders that give great value for money, and they are also easy to care for if you are a beginner.

Once you are comfortable with your birds and their care, you may wish to diversify your flock and keep other breeds.

As always, do your homework and check to make sure the breed is everything you want, talk with breeders, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

READ NEXT: The Definitive Guide To Keeping Chickens In Winter

36 thoughts on “7 Chicken Breeds That Do Well in Cold Climates

  1. I found that chickens in the cold, frozen north country of the American Siberia actually thrived on snow, rather than open water…what’s your experience?

    1. I don’t have any open water near me so I’m not sure, but thank you for letting me know!

  2. Hello I have 2 yr old hen that has lost her toe nails & just have stubs on feet.. Dose any one know this has happened?????

    1. Hi Linda,
      Have you checked the coop and run for any sign of blood? It sounds to me like she could have torn them off in the mesh or something similar…
      Claire

    2. Frostbite possibly? Growing up in Wyoming with subzero Temps saw this happen to a few chickens over the years. One actually lost her whole foot but didn’t slow her down much.

    3. I found that chickens who nest on dirt, and subjected to tempretures around and below -20C are likely to lose toes and nails.

  3. Hi!
    Excellent article! We are raising chickens for the eggs. Our first group of hens were New Hampshire Reds. They are pretty durable in the winters (from Northeast Pennsylvania). I guess they are almost identical to the Rhode Island reds. Our second group of hens we got early this year. They are Silver Laced Wyandottes. Beautiful breeds as well.
    We will get more chickens early 2017. There are so many breeds I would love to get. But I owe it to them to make sure they will survive the winter. This article has given me choices. thank you.

  4. I had welsumers and they did not make it through the wiinter I am in the high desert in southern California so I have extremely hot summer and extremely cold winter

  5. I live in ND and this will be my first year for chickens. I am super excited, have everything ready just trying to figure out the best breed. I would like one who is cold hearty, kid friendly, and that is able to be pretty equal on confinement and free range. I will have a garden for them ro roam in. Any suggestions please?
    Thank you!

    1. I like Barred Rock for exactly what you have listed. They are gentle, cold hardy and free range is their choice.
      Astrolorps a strong second. Even my rooster is polite and gentle. Good luck. Chickens are wonderful!

      1. I’m wondering if all the different types of Plymouth Rock have the same qualities you mentioned..or just the barred? I’m new to all this and trying to get my plan in order. Thanks 🙂

    2. I also live in ND and last winter was my first winter with laying hens.
      I have a mixed flock of pretty birds that free range during the day and were confined to the unheated coop on super cold days. I have 2 buff Orpington, 2 barred rocks, 2 Rhode Island reds, 2 golden comets, 2 black stars, 1 production red and 1 Welsummer. All of them are calm, docile and friendly birds. They all survived the winter no problem and I averaged 7-9 eggs per day through the winter. I’d say you couldn’t go wrong with any of these breeds.

  6. We just bought our (upstate NY) farm and I’m doing my research so we can add our chicken family. What if we started with one of each of the seven listed above..as chicks..and raise them (for the eggs)? We have two dogs and two small children so we’d like to make sure EVERYONE gets along (lol). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. thanks! 🙂

  7. I use a tower heater in the coop part. The run holds 2 heated water containers. I also line the bottom of the coop with pine shavings and then put straw over the top. When we had the polar vortex last winter and it dropped to a -55, I set up 2 dog kennels inside my house and had them inside for a full week. They adjusted well, and even laid eggs.

  8. I have one chicken (golden comet) that is not finished molting. She has a bunch of pin feathers on her tail/rump that are about 3/4 inch long and a few spots on and under wings also with 3/4 inch pin feathers. The new feathers seem to be growing a little each day. Tonight its supposed to be unseasonably cold getting down to low 20’s over night. I have heated roosting perches. Its still cold when the chickens come out of the coop in the morning. Should I be worried or possibly bring the molting chicken into the basement which seems overkill because the hens should be warm in the coop overnight from the combined body heat + heated roosting perches.

    1. Hi..it’s about 8 degrees here at night. I have a hearing lamp (same one used when my chickens were chicks) on at night. I have it shining off to the side, not directly on them. They have a winter coop which is insulated but 8 is cold. I don’t turn the heater on unless it’s under 25 degrees. I just recently purchased a warmer for the coop from Amazon. It looks like a TV. I am going to mount it behind their roost when it’s cold. Otherwise, I don’t add any warmth. Biggest deal is keeping clean fresh water and allow the chickens adjust to the weather. I have 4 chickens and 1 rooster. 3 enjoy the snow and exploring in it.

      1. Be very careful with the heat lamp! If your chickens are like mine they fly pretty good, but they tend to crash land. If they hit the heat lamp they could cause a fire.

  9. What happens if my chickens do get frostbite? My first winter with them and they are used to us but still won’t let us handle them. 🙁

  10. I think that your list should include the Chantecler, a very cold hardy breed developed in Quebec. They are larger birds with a sponge comb and a very docile disposition

  11. I have learned some good points from everyone. I have seven girls no rooster. So far they are doing great.. I lve in the southern part of northern Kentucky in beautiful scenery….. My hens seem to like the cold weather. I love my girls.

  12. I live in Central Oregon, and there can be a very cold climate in the winter and pretty hot here in the summer, what chicken breeds are best for those two climates? We are wondering what kind of chicken to get

  13. Another cold-hardy breed is the Canadian heritage chicken, the Chantecler.
    The Chantecler, a dual purpose breed that make good roasters and are also winter layers, was developed in Quebec to handle Canadian winters.

  14. Experience with RI Reds for 11 years because cold hardy for our area, New England. New to Happy Chicken Coop, glad to be here! Our last girl passed away last year still laying eggs at 11 years old, our favorite who outlasted her bullies. She lost her favorite pal the year before last. We will get more hens after we get a big project completed this year, soon I hope.
    We’re looking for a more docile breed, so found this site and this great article. We love hearing about other chicken lovers’ experiences and ideas.

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