If you live in a hot or humid part of the country, it’s wise to look into chicken breeds that will feel comfortable in your climate.
It can be a bit overwhelming and confusing to start, so I’m going to break down how to pick out chickens that will thrive in your area, keep them cool, and spot signs of heat stroke.
Then I’ll break down which birds are best for you and your coop.
You may be surprised by some of these; they’re pretty interesting. Let’s get into it!
How to Quickly Tell If A Chicken Does Well In Warm Weather
Below, we will share specific chicken breeds that do well in hot climates, but it’s important to know why these breeds are so heat-tolerant.
Here are common traits that indicate that a chicken can survive hot temperatures. The more physical attributes they have, the better they will do.
Strong signs a chicken will survive in hot climates:
Chickens that do not have feathered feet, feathered (muff) ears, or thick feathers are better suited for hot temperatures.
The Transylvanian Naked Neck (or Turken) is a special breed for this characteristic, as they do not have feathers on their necks or upper breasts.
Large Single Combs
Combs have a high concentration of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that cool the bird off.
Rhode Island Red chickens have single combs; Wyandottes have smaller rose combs that don’t release heat as quickly.
Brahmas have pea combs, which are also small and retain more heat.
Like combs, more prominent earlobes allow more heat to escape the bird, cooling them down. Birds with small or covered earlobes will not do nearly as well in a heat spell as those with large and uncovered earlobes.
Wattles serve the same function as combs and earlobes- they have high-concentration capillaries that cool the bird off quickly. The Minorca, originating from the tropical island of Minorca off the coast of Spain, is an excellent example of this.
Long Exposed Legs
Bare chicken legs (not covered by feathers) have a greater surface area that allows the blood to circulate some of the heat away from the bird. When chickens feel overheated, they often congregate in shallow puddles and streams of water to cool off. Their feet and legs can quickly cool the rest of the body when exposed to cold water. Malay chickens, primarily bred in sweltering Australia, are great examples of this trait.
Low Body Fat
A smaller body mass with less fat is much easier to maintain and cool in hot weather than a larger body with more fat.
Bantam chickens are an excellent example of this, especially when compared to heavier birds like the Cornish Rock Cross.
Light Color Feathers
Light feathers reflect heat from the sun more efficiently than dark feathers. White Leghorns are an obvious example of this trait.
Breeds Developed in Hot Areas
Breeds created in hot and humid countries will naturally do better in similar areas.
The Madagascar Naked Neck was developed in, you guessed it, Madagascar and is well accustomed to the heat.
Welsummers, on the other hand, come from Welsum in the cool Netherlands and can not stand up to hot temperatures.
Strange Bonus: Lays White Eggs
Just because a chicken lays white or cream eggs does not mean they are inherently suited for being hot.
Still, they tend to have many of the other favorable traits.
Usually, white egg layers are lighter in color, with exposed cream-colored legs, large single combs, and bigger waddles. Again, White Leghorns are the perfect example of this strange indicator.
How Do Chickens Stay Cool?
Many new chicken hobbyists are surprised to learn that chickens do not sweat. Instead, they pant like dogs.
The area beneath their wings usually has fewer (or sometimes no) feathers, so chickens commonly hold their wings out to circulate air.
Think of this as the equivalent of a marathon runner placing her hands on top of her head after a hot race.
Provide your chickens with sand or dusty areas for bathing. They will usually lay in these cooler dirt depressions with their wings extended for the same reasons.
Chickens will also wade through cool water if given a chance. I have a cold artesian spring that the chickens love to stand in and drink from when it gets hot in the summer.
How To Keep Chickens Cool During a Heat Advisory
The best way to cool chickens off is a combination of small acts of kindness.
Unless you provide them with an insulated and air-conditioned coop, you should implement several little strategies to make your birds more comfortable.
Here are some of the best options for you to pick and choose from:
- Give them shallow trays of cool water, with added ice blocks if possible. Kiddie pools are cheap, and several chickens can use them at once.
- Always give your birds free and unlimited access to clean water, no matter the weather.
- Improve air circulation. Ventilate the coop better, and ensure the hens have access to an open-air run. Plenty of fans on the market run off batteries, so a lack of electricity in your coop won’t be an issue.
- Add a screen to the mandoor of your coop. If you have a walk-in chicken coop, consider adding a screen door. This gives your chickens much more air circulation, and they will appreciate you.
- Give them cool ice blocks to lean on. Freeze water in bread pans or freeze water in used milk jugs and two-liter bottles, and place it in your coop. Chickens will stand on these or lay a wing over them to cool off rapidly. I strongly suggest using blocks rather than containers of ice because they will get filthy with manure, but that’s your choice.
- Provide shade for them, preferably under a tree or shade cloth (and never under a tarp).
- Give chilled treats with high water content, like strawberries, watermelons, pears, and apples.
- Chill their feed. You can also put their regular feed in your freezer about two hours before serving them. This encourages them to eat while cleverly lowering their body temperatures from the inside.
- Stop the deep litter method (at least for now). If you use the deep litter method to overwinter, make sure you completely clean the coop out when temperatures begin to rise. DLM traps a lot of heat, which you certainly don’t need in the summer.
- Let them free-range if it’s safe and appropriate. If all else fails, let your birds loose for supervised free-ranging, they will find a suitable place to cool off. Dense grasses, shade trees, cool spots in the earth, and wet areas by creeks will lower their body temperatures.
How To Tell If Chickens Are Suffering in the Heat
Chickens that are overheating will let you know by
- Acting weak, droopy, lethargic, or shaky. They will lie down and look exhausted.
- Completely stop eating. Reducing their food intake is normal, but eliminating it is an issue.
- Their wattles, combs, and ears will look much paler than usual and may also droop.
- Stop laying eggs entirely if they are under too much stress from the heat.
- Stop drinking water (this should be a big red flashing warning sign).
- Seeming confused or disoriented.
- Having seizures or fainting. These are significant signs that your chickens are suffering from heat stroke.
Other signs of heat stroke include standing with their wings outstretched and excessive panting. They are probably okay if these are the only signs of heat stroke they are exhibiting. Keep a close eye on them to ensure it isn’t progressing.
Bookmark this Chicken Heat Stroke Treatment Guide to keep your flock safe this year.
How To Cool a Chicken Coop in the Summer
If your birds can’t escape to a shaded open-air chicken run or free range, you’ll need to work on the coop.
This is how you can quickly cool off a chicken coop:
- Add and open windows (with screens or hardware cloth, so they don’t escape).
- Add a screen door to improve circulation if your coop permits.
- Provide fans for added ventilation.
- Give chickens cool water baths they can wade through within the coop, like a kiddie pool or old baking pans.
- Put ice blocks or frozen containers of water in the coop. The chickens will stand on these or lay a wing over them to cool themselves. I prefer ice blocks that will melt away because they don’t need to be washed between uses.
- Feeling desperate? Insulate the coop and add a small air conditioner. This should be a last resort, but it is a viable option. Make sure you educate yourself on the dangers of air-conditioning dependence too. If you ever lose power, your flock could suffer (or die) if they are too dependent on the AC unit.
Want to learn more? Check out the Summer Chickens Care Guide: How To Keep Chickens Cool and Safe.
Chicken Breeds That Can’t Take Hot Weather
These chicken breeds do better in cold climates because they cannot shed heat from their bodies well. Most of these will thrive in northern regions of the US plus Canada.
Some of the best cold hardy chicken breeds:
- Buff Orpington
- Cornish Rock Cross
- Easter Egger / Olive Egger
- Jersey Giant
- New Hampshire Red
- Plymouth Rock (Pilgrim Fowl)
Mixed Climate Chicken Breeds That Can Survive Hot and Cold Weather
What if you live in a temperate area where the summers are swelteringly hot and the winters are brutally cold? While you’ll likely have to make a few alterations to your coop and daily care tasks, you can still successfully keep chickens. Here are the best breeds for your area:
- New Hampshire Red
- Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Island Reds
The Best Heat Tolerant Chicken Breeds
This is the part you’ve been looking forward to– these are the best chicken breeds for hot weather.
The Asil breed hails from the Indian subcontinent region of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It was initially bred as a fighting chicken, though today, they are thankfully used as colorful backyard pets. These birds are small and lay about seventy eggs a year in total.
Though they don’t lay many eggs, they are excellent sitters and will probably hatch a clutch or two for your coop every year.
They do well in heat because they are light-colored with long legs, large waddles, and have a low body fat percentage.
This cute little four-pound bird from Switzerland sports a v-shaped comb and a forward-pointing crest. It is a light-colored bird with blue-cream legs.
They lay about three medium eggs a week, are active, and prefer to roost in trees. They are some of the best foragers and do well as free-range birds.
Appenzeller chickens are suitable for hot climates because they are used to those conditions, with long legs, decent waddle sizes, light colors, and small bodies.
Australorps were developed in Australia and are a concentration of “Australian Black Orpington.”
These stunning black chickens lay about 250 medium-sized brown eggs a year and have very few health conditions.
Even though they have dark feathers, they do well in heat because of their large waddles, single rose combs, exposed earlobes, unfeathered legs, and upright stances. These birds are prone to obesity if confined without enough space or stimulation, which can hinder their ability to overcome heat spells. Still, for the most part, they are solid birds who tolerate hot climate zones.
The Australian Langshan is a black, blue, or white bird resulting from crossing Croad Langshans, Orpingtons, Waker Chinese Langshans, and Modern Langshans in the early 20th Century. AP added them to the Australian Poultry standard in 1998.
Today, they are primarily used for laying brown eggs or as show birds.
They do well in heat because they are small.
They originate from a hot country (Australia). They have uncovered feet, long legs, large single combs, big hanging waddles, and exposed ears.
Barnevelders, or Barnies, somewhat resemble a Golden Laced Wyandotte but with much deeper colors that are flashier with more sheen.
Barnies come from Barneveld in the Netherlands, and the breed was standardized in 1923.
These great dual-purpose birds lay 3-4 brown eggs a week and weigh five to six pounds as hens or seven to eight pounds as roosters.
They do well in the heat because they have long, exposed yellow legs, a single comb, and medium waddles, and they tend to do well if shade and water are provided.
The Belgian D’Uccle is probably one of the more attractive chicken breeds (in my opinion) and is so small and friendly.
They originate from Uccle in Belgium and are classified as a Belgium Bantam. These birds are so low in fat that they can fly well, but most will only use this power to fly over to you and hop in your lap, as they are very social and want to be picked up.
They lay 150-200 small white eggs a year and are great at sitting and hatching clutches of eggs.
These sweet little birds tolerate heat well because of their small sizes, massive single combs, upright position, high metabolic rate, white skin, and smallish waddle.
Some varieties have feathered feet, but they still seem to do well in warm areas.
Campine Chickens are from Kempen, Belgium, and were initially used as barnyard fowl.
But later on, they became a hybrid fowl that lay 140 to 200 medium-sized white eggs (which are pretty large compared to the size of the Campine).
They forage well and make great free-range birds.
Hens weigh four pounds, while roosters are closer to six pounds. They come in two varieties: silver and gold.
They tolerate heat well because of their tiny bodies, white skin, and long legs.
They also have a single giant comb so tall that it often flops over, big waddles, and exposed earlobes.
These birds will suffer in cold climates designed to withstand hot temperatures.
Cream Legbars are beautiful chickens that produce pretty blue eggs. The breed was created by crossing South American Araucanas with Gold Penciled Hamburgs in England in 1931.
They produce about 230 creamy blue eggs a year, may or may not be broody, and weigh about six pounds.
Cream Legbars fare so well in the heat because of their medium size with lower body fat, long, clean, and yellow legs, giant single red combs, and cream earlobes.
Croad Langshans originate from Nantong, China, so they are accustomed to heat and humidity.
The hens lay roughly 140 to 150 eggs a year and weigh 7.5 pounds; roosters weigh more at 9.5 pounds.
They come in three color varieties, black, white, and blue.
The blue and white Croad Langshans tolerate the heat a little better than the black varieties, but all are heat tolerant.
Dominique chickens are sometimes mistaken for Barred Rocks because of their distinctive black-and-white bar pattern.
However, the Dominique is considerably smaller, more lightweight, and not as blocky.
The black and white blends a bit better, creating a gray or roan effect, so the bars are not as vibrant as those of the Plymouth Rock Chickens.
Dominiques are considered America’s oldest chicken breed, as it was dual purpose and ideal for surviving those first few years of difficult colonization in the 1750s.
These birds grow fast and weigh five pounds as hens or seven pounds as roosters.
Hens lay 230 to 270 eggs a year and are occasionally broody. They make excellent mothers and are protective and attentive to their chicks.
Dominiques are suitable for mild to hot climates as they have:
- a tall single comb
- a medium-sized waddle
- short yet clean yellow legs
- low body fat
- mostly light-colored feathers.
Dorking chickens are so precious and cute, yet they bring a considerable amount of meat and eggs to the table (literally and figuratively).
They are among the oldest breeds in the world, believed to have dated back to 43 AD.
They have great flavor as a meat bird, weigh about eight pounds each, and lay 170 to 190 medium brown eggs yearly, but they take a while to mature.
Dorkings do well in warm climates because they are slender with backs that are gray or white.
They also have cream-clean legs, single giant combs, big waddles, and exposed ears which all help release heat.
Fayoumi chicken originates from Fayoum in Egypt. This ancient breed is slender, with long legs and very low body fat.
These pretty black and white birds are known to have a better immune system that protects them from viral and bacterial infections, much better than most American stock.
The Fayoumi Bantam variety is better at withstanding heat than the standard size.
They do well in heat because of their small stature, extra long clean legs, and familiarity with hot climates.
Hamburg chickens are so beautiful with their white bodies with round black speckles.
These petite birds are small for standard-size breeds and come in delightfully tiny bantam sizes.
The birds came from 14th-century Holland and were developed to produce high quantities of eggs.
They consistently lay about three white eggs a week, all year round.
Don’t let their fancy appearances fool you, though. They are intelligent creatures that thrive in free-range settings. They are considered extreme foragers.
Hamburgs are so lightweight they can fly.
They also have a wide red rose comb that lets a lot of heat escape, an upright position, clean gray legs, gray body color, and a large swooping waddle.
Because of these traits, they can easily handle most instances of heat.
The ISA Brown chicken was developed in France in 1978.
The ISA stands for Institut de Selection Animale.
They were first created by crossing Rhode Island Reds with White Leghorns (both of which do well in warm climates).
These homebodies are fine with being in the coop all day and laying an impressive amount of eggs.
Most hens produce about 300 large brown eggs a year.
It’s rare for the breed to act broody, though most hens make great mothers.
The ISA Brown tolerates heat well for all the same reasons that their look-alike Rhode Island Red relatives do.
They are upright chickens with less body fat, long yellow and clean legs, single combs, moderate-size waddles, and lighter feather colors.
These ornamental chickens are petite, primarily white in color, with black tail feathers.
It is one of the few true bantams worldwide and was never a standard size.
They are mostly for show, as they only lay about one tiny cream egg per week and do not have much meat on their bones.
On the bright side, they are quite broody and will likely hatch several clutches for your other hens.
They are docile birds that tolerate confinement and heat with ease.
They have impressive single combs, decent waddles, tall clean legs, and white skin.
Minorca chickens hail from Spain, where they were bred to lay giant white eggs, and about 120 of them a year.
They are considered a dual-purpose breed because they weigh about eight pounds at full maturity.
The meat-to-bone ratio is quite high, too, meaning they are efficient birds to keep in your coop.
They strongly prefer warm climates over cold ones. Their large combs, waddles, and earlobes help them shed heat quickly, as do their long clean legs.
They have a good metabolism, too, and don’t have a bunch of fat on them.
They are very used to the heat and find it the most suitable.
Naked Neck chickens are some of the most heat-tolerant chicken breeds on the market today.
Originating in Romania, these oddballs have 50% fewer feathers than standard chicken breeds.
Despite common belief, they are not a cross between a turkey and a chicken; they are 100% chicken.
Most weigh about seven pounds, and the hens produce three medium-light brown eggs weekly.
They are excellent dual-purpose birds (that are very easy to pluck at harvest).
Naked necks have fewer feathers, light-colored feathers, a giant single comb, big waddles, and long clean legs, so it’s easy for them to tolerate heat waves.
Old English Game Chicken
Old English Game Chickens were developed initially as cockfighters; however, today, they are show birds in various colors and types.
Oxford and Carlisle are the two most popular kinds.
All these birds have white skin, but their feathers can range from black to dun to white, brown red, brassy to spangled, and black-breasted red.
As you may surmise from their history, these birds are aggressive and should not be kept with other, more docile breeds.
The perk of this is that the roosters are excellent “watchdogs” who will protect their flock of hens at all costs.
Old English Game Chickens do well in high temperatures because of their slender upright bodies, white skin, light feathers, tall single comb, big waddles, and exposed earlobes.
Penedesencas are beautiful brown Mediterranean birds that lay deep, rich, medium, and dark brown eggs.
They lay about three eggs a week and weigh a small four to five pounds at full maturity.
They have a unique carnation comb that is sometimes called a “king” comb. This comb prohibits them from surviving in cold temperatures, as it is quite susceptible to frostbite.
Penedesencas have a large comb, small waddle, long exposed legs, a small body, almost no body fat, and light to dark feather colors.
These features make them perfect contenders for hot climate coops.
Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock)
Plymouth Rock Chickens are temperate-tolerant birds that do well in hot and cold climates.
It is one of America’s oldest breeds. It is such a dual purpose that it became an icon amongst victory gardeners and homesteaders during World War II.
They lay around 200 eggs a year and are resourceful foragers.
Impressively enough, they can lay eggs for up to ten years.
These black and white birds have sharper barring patterns than the similarly colored Dominique chickens.
Bantam Plymouth Rocks weigh a tiny 2.5 to 3 pounds each. Standards weigh 7.5 to 9.5 pounds.
They do well in heat because of their big waddles, combs, and exposed earlobes. Their feather colors and loose feathering allows them to do well in hot areas.
New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire Reds are the underrated cousin to the Rhode Island Red.
The primary difference between the two birds is that New Hampshire chickens are a brighter shade of red with occasional yellow highlights.
New Hampshire chickens are marginally more docile, with slightly slimmer bodies.
New Hampshire chickens are friendly and easy to tame but don’t come between them and their meal, as they are a bit food aggressive. They lay about 200 tinted light brown eggs yearly and weigh 6.5 to 8 pounds at maturity.
They deal with heat well because of their tall single combs, drooping waddles, exposed earlobes, and long clean legs.
Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red chickens were developed by New England poultry farmers interested in creating a dual-purpose bird.
They free-range well, but also tolerate confinement in the coop. They are primarily single-combed, but the APA accepted a rose comb variety in 1906.
Rhode Island Reds are mahogany to a deep rusty red in color. Black tail feathers are fine, though not preferred by the breed standard.
They weigh 6.5 to 8.5 pounds at full maturity; hens will lay a crazy impressive five to six light-brown medium to large weekly eggs.
Rhode Island Reds handle the heat because of their tall single combs, drooping waddles, exposed earlobes, and long clean legs.
Sebright chickens look like the more petite and fancier version of silver and golden-laced wyandottes.
These sweet little birds took nearly twenty years to perfect, and the breed standard, as a result, is quite strict.
They have a prominent upright chest that resembles a pigeon, a slender body, and a squarish tail that may remind you of a pigeon.
It’s estimated that fewer than 1,000 breeding-level stock of these birds exist in the United States today.
Most lay sixty to eighty small cream eggs a year. The birds themselves weigh a tiny 1.3 pounds at full size.
They do well in hot areas because of their small size, upright position, clean cream legs, light feather colors, and wide rose combs.
Seramas are another bantam chicken that does well in warm weather.
Still, its claim to fame is being the world’s smallest and most expensive chicken breed.
The tallest they can be is ten inches, though most stand around six inches tall.
Micro Seramas are a half pound to a pound, while C class are just barely over a pound, at one pound and two ounces.
These birds came from hot and humid Malaysia in the 1600s when farmers crossed Japanese bantams with local Malaysian Bantams.
Since they originated in a hot part of the world, heat waves are no issue for this tough little show bird.
They are short-backed with a prominent upright V posture, long yellow legs, a tall single comb, big red waddles, and exposed white (or red) earlobes.
Sumatra chickens are some of the most stunning heritage breed chickens you’ll ever lay eyes on. They absolutely break the light-colored rule when it comes to surviving the heat, but that isn’t an issue.
Sumatras came from the Isle of Sumatra and were first imported to the US in 1847.
They are easy to spot with deep black feathering and a rich green beetle sheen.
Even their skin and bones are black, and their tails flow behind them, running almost parallel to the ground.
Hens lay about a hundred white eggs a year and weigh four pounds as adults.
Sumatras strongly prefer hot and humid climates, as it is what they are accustomed to. Don’t let their thick black feathers and small rose comb fool you; they enjoy the climate.
Sultan Chickens originated in hot and humid Asia but developed and finished in modern-day Turkey in the 19th Century.
Most poultry experts agree that this pretty white chicken was likely created by crossing Yokohamas with Sebrights.
The most distinctive feature of the Sultan is its unique crests which closely resembled the turbans that Ottoman sultans wore at the time.
It also has five toes, a rare trait only a few chicken breeds possess.
They lay fifty to one hundred eggs a year, which is not a lot, but they are excellent at hatching clutches on the plus side.
A little Sultan is the way to go if you want a natural incubator for your coop.
Sultans are likely the least heat-tolerant breed on this list.
Still, they can do pretty well so long as you provide them with plenty of shade, cool fresh water, and some air circulation.
These birds have white feet that are clean and long, plus white feathers that reflect heat well. Their only issue is that the feathers are pretty thick, which can cause problems for them on sweltering heat-wave days.
White Leghorns are probably your go-to breed when you think of heat-tolerant birds.
The tall white Mediterranean bird lays an impressive 280 to 320 large to extra large white eggs a year. They also weigh 6-7.5lbs at maturity, making them decent meat birds.
They can have a single or rose comb, though most have tall single combs. This comb, which may flop to the side because of its height, big waddles, and long clean yellow legs, makes it easy for them to regulate their body temperature.
The Best Chicken Breeds for Hot Weather: Final Thoughts
Choosing birds for your flock can be complicated enough.
Factoring in heat tolerances adds another layer of research you need to conduct as a responsible chicken owner.
If you live in a hot area, you should know what characteristics to look for in a heat-tolerant bird.
Personally, I think that understanding the preferred traits is more important than memorizing breeds that are suitable for your coop.
Realistically, it’s all about the care and resources you’re willing to provide for your birds.
If you’re willing to go the extra mile to ensure safety and comfort (i.e., insulation and air conditioning), you can likely keep any bird you would like, regardless of its natural heat tolerance.
I hope this helps you on your journey. Enjoy your flock!