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New Hampshire Chicken All You Need To Know: Color Varieties and Temperament

New hampshire chicken

Although they look very similar to the Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire chicken never attained the Rhode Island Red’s runaway success.

It was overshadowed by the success of the Rhode Island Red, even though they created the two just several years apart. The fact that they look very similar may have had something to do with it.

This is a shame since this bird has much to offer the modern homesteader as a true dual-purpose hen.

Today, we will discuss this often overlooked bird and see if it would fit into your flock.

We will look at its history and origins, before discussing the known color varieties, temperament, egg-laying abilities and much more…

New Hampshire Chicken

New Hampshire Chicken Background

The origins of the New Hampshire hen are less than one hundred years old. It was developed in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as a separate strain of Rhode Island Red chickens.

Around 1910 or so, poultry breeders of New Hampshire were selecting hens for faster feathering, faster growth and maturity from the Rhode Island Red strains that were around at the time.

The honor of creating this breed went to Professor ‘Red’ Richardson, who was working in one of the Agricultural Experimentation Stations at the time.

They were also selecting for good egg laying ability but especially good meat production.

To promote the breed, they initially used it in the ‘Chicken of Tomorrow’ contests popular in the US in the late 1940s.

A short documentary called ‘The Chicken of Tomorrow’ was produced in 1948 to educate the public about the improvements to the chicken industry.

To realize the new importance of this, chicken had been a steady source of meat protein through the war years and now people wanted more so the broiler industry went into top gear to produce enough birds to feed America.

While the New Hampshire breed didn’t win the contest, it did become one of the first breeds to establish the broiler industry. They also used them to create the Delaware chicken breed, another short lived star of the broiler industry.

In 2018, they presented a petition organized by the Canaan Elementary Schools to the Governor of New Hampshire to make the New Hampshire the state’s official bird. The Governor signed it into law the same year.

Appearance of New Hampshires

The New Hampshire is roughly the same size as the Rhode Island Red but the body has a more triangular form to it.

It has a deep, broad body and is an all-round large, meaty bird; plump would be the word of choice.

The feather coloration is quite different from the Rhode Island bird. Feathers are usually a lighter shade of red. While the Rhode Island coloration could be said to be mahogany, the New Hampshire is nearer to a chestnut shade with occasional pale yellow highlights.

In sunlight the feathers do bleach out to a lighter shade of red.

The hens’ neck feathers are black tipped as are the tail feathers too. Under feathers are a light salmon color. The red comb is single which can be quite floppy with the hen. Ear lobes and wattles are also red.

Eyes are orange while the beak is a reddish/horn color.

Shanks are clean and there is a reddish line that runs down the shanks to the toes, of which there are four. Shanks and toes are yellow in color, as is the skin.

There is also a bantam version of the standard bird. While the standard birds weigh 8lb for the rooster and 6.5lb for the hen, the bantams weigh 34oz for the boys and 30oz for the girls.
It is often used as one half of the sex link industry.

If you read our previous breeds article you will remember making that sex link chicken with sure parents. The New Hampshire rooster over a Barred Rock hen will give you a black sexlink chick.

Or a New Hampshire rooster over a white Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island White will give you a red sexlink chick.

In the initial phases of experimentation with the New Hampshire, a few sports with white feathers and occasional black feathers were created.

These sports were gathered together, bred and eventually became the Delaware breed.
Finally, there are two other varieties of New Hampshire:

  • The blue-tailed was created in Holland and remains very rare.
  • The New Hampshire white is also now quite rare and it is very hard to find a good breeder of this lovely bird.

New Hampshire Standard

New Hampshire Chicken RoamingIt took several years of development and several generations of birds for the New Hampshire breed to be significantly different from the Rhode Island Red (its’ forbears).

Work on the breed started around 1910 and the breakthrough came in 1918.

Through further refinement and a drawing up of standards, the New Hampshire was finally admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1935 as a separate breed.

  • The APA classifies the bird as American.
  • The American Bantam Association classifies it as single comb, clean legged.
  • The Poultry Club of Great Britain designates it as a soft feathered, heavy breed.

Egg Laying and Temperament

The New Hampshire is a good egg layer of around 200 large tinted/light brown eggs per year; this equates to about 3 eggs each week.

They also can go broody fairly frequently and are good setters. If allowed to hatch their own they make great mothers too!

Some broodies have been known to accept other chicks under them too, but naturally this will vary from hen to hen.

The New Hampshire is a family friendly bird, making great pets as they are easy to tame.

As a medium sized bird, they can be quite food aggressive and are willing to push and shove flock mates out of the way; certainly not a good thing if you have shy, docile breeds already.

However,r you can reduce this bullying behavior by having several feeding stations spread apart from each other.

Obviously their personalities will vary greatly so be aware they can be docile and lovable to unfriendly and aggressive.

Health Issues of the New Hampshire Chicken

They are robust, sturdy hens with no major problems noted in the health department. The usual health checks for parasites and other nasty’s should be all that is needed for this breed.

If you’re planning to keep New Hampshires in a cold environment, the usual winter preparations will apply.

You can expect them to live for around 7 years.

New Hampshire Chicken Are They For You?

If you are looking for a dual purpose hen that leans towards meat production, the New Hampshire could be your breed.

Quick to feather out and mature, a decent layer of 3 eggs per week and dresses out to a table weight of around 8lbs for the boys and 6lbs for the ladies; a great all round bird for the family.

New Hampshires will tolerate confinement but do like to free range. If allowed to free range this will help reduce your feed bill since they are good little foragers.

They are said to be a people friendly, intelligent bird that is reliable, cold hardy and robust.

In addition, they will tolerate hot weather but need shady spots to hide in.

As they can be quite pushy with food, it would be best to not put them with more docile, easy going breeds.

New Hampshire Chicken Summary

The New Hampshire seems to have lived its’ life in the shadow of its more famous parent bird the Rhode Island Red.

This is sad because this bird has a lot to offer.

These birds are not too noisy, and happy to forage around your yard looking for tasty treats.

They are thrifty birds that are well worth considering if you wish to raise birds that are truly a dual purpose hen.

If you keep New Hampshires we would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments section below…

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New Hampshire Chicken

28 thoughts on “New Hampshire Chicken All You Need To Know: Color Varieties and Temperament

  1. I have 25 of these..they are quite friendly and sturdy. Last winter these New Hampshires had no obvious problems with the cold Western MA winter…and they get along very well with my Delawares and Pearl Leg Horns. I would recommend them as a backyard chicken – for either beginners or “old hens” like me.

      1. This is our first flock ever. We accidentally stumbled upon the New Hampshire Reds and I have been pleasantly surprised. They are fairly quiet, low maintenance, and very docile. We have 6 hens and get 2-3 eggs a day now.

        1. I wonder, Megan, if you ‘accidentally stumbled upon” them the same way we did. We got our two NHReds in early July 2020 also. They are now 4 months old, but not laying yet. They are beautiful, curious birds, bonded tight to each other, and are quite funny together! They scurry and run around, rile each other up… but hate to be separated.

  2. I have New Hampshire and Rhode Island reds. I find the burgundy color of the Rhode Island red better but find the New Hampshire a much more agreeable bird. Agree they are a great all around bird and do well in the Minnesota cold in a unheated coop.

  3. Hello we bought some pellets at the local tractor supply and ended up with a male and female new hamshire, very excited.we thought at first we had bantam in comparing the sizes. We already had a small flock just about 9months older then this ones and they all adjusted together quite well we already have a Grey bared rock rooster up until this point they have been really really good, but the new hamshire roo started to crow about a week ago and has been trying to get mount the girls, not just the female new hamshire but the other smaller ones too, I watched him today quite desperate and sloppy about it, I’m concerned about injuries he could cause and also about possible fight with our Grey bared rock since they’re quite different in size? Should we separate the 2 new hamshire, but even the female was frightened today, not sure if it’s just until he learns what to do…the thought of separation sadness me since I know they’re social creatures….please advise… I should mention we have a total of 12 girls one of those a new hamshire and 2 roosters a total of 14 to a very large coop.

    1. We have had the same experience several times, the girls will start settling down once the new hampshire improves his control and grows larger. So give it some time, soon hopefully he will be guiding them out to pasture and scratching patches.

  4. Can you have New Hampshire Red’s and Rhode Island Red’s growing up and living together.

  5. We have 2 NHR’s in our flock and one of them is quite aggressive. Bit/nipped me yesterday and attacked one of my Auracana as I was holding it. They hatched out 1 May so they are just shy of 5 months. Ordered some pinless peepers to hopefully chill her (we think it’s a her) out.

  6. I have one NH, she is very good egg layer. A friend give me as Easter present since last Easter in 2019.
    She layers egg since mid if October 2019 until now non-stop.
    I feed her egg shells everyday also. Believe egg shell and brown rice did help.

  7. I am looking for some good quality New Hampshire chicks or hatching eggs from breeders rather than a hatchery. If you know of anyone who sells and ships, I would greatly appreciate a recommendation. I usually am up for a road trip, but not this year. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement
    account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    However, how can we communicate?

  9. The personality of the New Hampshire chicken is docile. They are a gentle breed that makes for the perfect beginner chickens and they are not difficult to breed.

  10. I just got 3 chicks that are suppose to be New Hampshire Reds, all are a different color, a yellow, a light red and a very dark brown one so we shall see ?

  11. I have a New Hampshire red about 2 months old. I love her she’s actually my favorite out of 4 of my chicks. I had to separate her because she has a bald spot on her neck, I’m not sure if the other chicks were pecking at her or she keeps scratching her neck herself. Her new feathers are coming in but her neck is still bald. I haven’t seen live or mites, if she had them I feel the other chicks would too. Plus she’s been indoors. Regardless I have dusted with D.E and also made a dust bath. I tried no peck tar, didn’t help. Now she’s separate and I’ve even tried scarlet red antiseptic as well as a purple poultry fungal spray. Still no feathers on her neck. Just tiny pores with feather about to come out but never grow! Any help would be appreciated

  12. I have (5) 8 week old NH pullets, got them as chicks.
    They are all sweet and great birds for a newbie like me. I think they have established the pecking order however hard to tell who is boss. I am hoping none of them are roos.
    They seem to tolerate the heat in San Diego.

  13. I believe i have 5 New Hampshire Hens . I thought I was buying Rhode Island Red. These are Nice 8 Month old chickens . no eggs yet? I live in South Texas. Very Hot Here.
    Pat Kopecky, June 28, 2020

  14. I have a New Hampshire Red Rooster. He has so much personality — he is rather like a dog. He knows his name, likes to be held and to be the center of a gathering.
    He is very caring with the hens. He loves to find them food and make nests for them.
    He comes to the back door and hits on it. He likes to walk in .. look around … and leave.

  15. My favorite hen is a NHR. She is 7 years old and no longer lays, but is the quiet and calm leader of my laying flock that includes multiple breeds.
    If you start handling your female NHRs shortly before they are ready to go into the coop with the other birds, and continue by spending just a little time picking them up every day when they are young, they will be very calm and friendly for life. On the other hand, we once had a NHR rooster who for the first 2-3 years was fairly well-behaved, also amazingly devoted to his females, but later became extremely aggressive toward me. Any time I turned my back on him he would run up and spike me. It was a relief when he died.
    We live in agricultural zone 3-4 with very cold winters and although we have a nice, elevated coop it still gets below zero inside during in the winter at times. Unlike other birds, the NHRs never have had any frostbite.
    To answer a question posted earlier, NHRs mature a bit later than other hens bred primarily for egg laying.

  16. I have a 4 year old NHR named Peanut and she is the absolute light of my life. I got her when she was about 6 months and she was never loud, very introverted but loves to eat. She was very overweight at one point. Now, she is the most affectionate chicken I’ve ever had. Loves to cuddle, will fall asleep in my arms and likes to rest her foot on my leg or hand at all times. She has a bit of an attachment issue LOL but I find it adorable. I got lucky that her natural personality made her easy to train. Also, during her prime egg laying time, she would lay an egg everyday for three months every year. I was very surprised to read they only lay 3x/wk. She’s had water belly for months now that I am currently trying to treat but I’ve always kept her healthy so it wasn’t too fatal for her. I do worry though that her aging won’t help. The coldest I let her sleep outside Is about 43-49 degrees but any day hotter than 83, I take her inside bc she is visibly uncomfortable

  17. If you’re looking for a great egg layer and some family friendly chickens, look no further than a NH Red. My hens (4 of them) are about 7 months old and have been laying 3-4 eggs a day – well out performing what most people say they will produce. Their temperament is awesome, they love the sun, their humans, their K9 friends and handle the southern california heat well (we get up to 110). Obviously keeping a tub of water, plenty of shade and a little ice bath refill is needed. I couldn’t recommend this breed more to a newbie or veteran, super easy breed just keep them fed well with whole foods and plenty of water – they will return the favor with plenty of eggs and cuddle time.

  18. New Hampshires have always been my favorite breed of chicken.. I had a pet New Hampshire hen that I bought in a live poultry market in Brooklyn when I was a child. She hung out with me and my dog and would walk down the street with us, something that you did not see in NYC. Now that we live upstate NY I keep several breeds of chickens, but New Hampshires are always among them and are still my favorite. I had a hen named Gladys who was like a puppy. She would come running from wherever she was when called by name. I have a large, beautiful New Hampshire rooster named Harry. I keep him in the house on bitterly cold nights so that his large comb does not freeze. Years ago, I had a reserve American Champion New Hampshire named Ulysses. Once the threat of Covid is over, I plan on showing Harry as he really is a beauty and has become very docile since he has become used to be taken in the house on bitter cold nights. My friend has a farm with a large flock of New Hampshires and is crazy about them. I could not recommend any breed more highly. I love them.

  19. They are called New Hampshire’s, not New Hampshire Reds.

    You keep referring to this variety as if it only produces hens. This breed was more about producing broilers as it was the first broiler breed. Broilers are usually roosters.

    NH bred for utility can’t be beat as a sustainable breed. If you want eggs though… go with another variety.

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