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 just 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!

For instance a breed like Minorcas will do great in hot climates but would 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- average price of the chicks chosen here are $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 mine too! So, in no particular order, here are the Magnificent Seven.

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 the region of 280 eggs/year. However as we know, the 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 a dual purpose bird; 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

This bird was originally developed 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.


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.


Cold Hardy Breed WelsummerThis beautiful breed comes from the village of Welsum in the Netherlands. It was first imported 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, can be a bit 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.


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.


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 very good 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 very cold hardy and robust, laying throughout the winter.

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


Dominique Winter ChickenDominiques 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 of the 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.

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.
  • Give them a handful of scratch 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.


I mentioned at the top of this article that there are 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.

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  1. MN2MX says

    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?

  2. Linda says

    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?????

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      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…


    • Buck says

      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.

    • Doug Bailey says

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

  3. Joel says


    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. joe says

    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. Tess says

    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!

    • Kaitlyn LAURIE says

      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!

      • Starr says

        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 🙂

    • Sara says

      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. Starr says

    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. Susan A Ross says

    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. Maria says

    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.

    • Joy says

      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.

      • Janice Bonneau says

        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. Katie Miller says

    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. kat says

    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. Lila Moore says

    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. Ivy Campbell says

    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. Mira Lea Tardiff says

    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. Elle and Rick says

    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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