13 Best Cold Weather Chicken Breeds for Your Flock
If you live in a cold region, you need one of the best cold hardy chicken breeds.
Winters are brutal in many areas, and depending on where you live, some chicken breeds struggle with the low temperatures. Picking the best cold weather chicken breeds ensures your flock stays healthy and happy throughout the winter months.
Picking the right breed for your area is crucial. For example, Welsummers are a beloved chicken breed that thrives in cold weather, but these chickens don’t handle the heat as well.
Keeping chickens in the winter is hard enough; the last thing you want to do is mismatch your chickens with the wrong area. That’s why you need to find cold-weather chickens.
What Do Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds Have in Common?
Most cold hardy chicken breeds have features that help them handle living in the cold weather. Looking for these particular physical features help you create the cold weather chicken flock of your dreams.
The combs are the red or pink pieces of flesh that sit on top of your chicken’s head. All breeds have different styles and sizes of combs, and the large-sized combs increase the risk of frostbite.
While frostbite usually doesn’t kill chickens, it can disfigure them and cause significant pain. It does have the potential to kill your chickens, so those who want winter hardy chickens should pick breeds with smaller combs.
Related: Dealing with Frostbite on Chickens: What You Need to Know
Some of the best cold weather chickens have heavy feathering. That includes feathered feet or a thick coat of feathers, but in some circumstances, feathered feet increase the risk of frostbite.
These chickens do better in cold weather than other breeds. Think about it; they wear a thick blanket all day long.
No cold weather chicken has frizzles. Frizzles are a genetic mutation that causes the chickens to have curly feathers. While frizzles are adorable, these curled feathers don’t provide proper insulation for cold climates.
Larger in Size
Many cold hardy chicken breeds are larger than other breeds. For example, bantam chickens are lovely, but they don’t have large stores of body fat which makes it harder to withstand harsh winters. Smaller chicken breeds also lack muscle tone.
13 Cold Weather Chicken Breeds
These chickens aren’t in order based on best or worse or vice versa. All of these chickens are cold weather chickens, capable of handling low temperatures.
1. Ameraucanas – Best Cold Weather Chickens for Eggs
Let’s start with Ameraucana chickens that lay medium-sized blue eggs. This is the top reason why so many people opt to raise these birds.
Another benefit of Ameraucana chickens is that they’re exceptionally cold hardy with pea combs and tiny wattles. That means they’re less at risk for frostbite.
You have several options when you decide to raise Ameraucanas, such as blue, splash, silver, white, black, and brown. They even have little feathered beards under their beaks.
2. Australorp – Docile Cold Hardy Chickens
Australorps developed in Australia in the 1920s, crossed with black Orpingtons and several other breeds. They’re known for being excellent layers, laying over 300 eggs per year.
While Australorps mature slower than other birds, they are cold hardy and docile. They have a fantastic, docile temperament, known for being kid-friendly.
3. Brahmas – Fluffy Winter Laying Chickens
One of the largest dual purpose chicken breeds that withstands cold temperatures well are Brahma chickens. These winter hardy breeds have feathers all over their bodies including their feet.
Brahmas have fantastic personalities; they’re sweet, often kept as pets, and survive well in nearly any area of the world.
Something nice is that Brahmas come in a variety of colors, including light, dark, and buff. While Brahmas are often bred as bantam breeds, the full-sized standard version are better as a cold climate chicken breeds.
4. Buckeye – Small Comb Cold Weather Chickens
It’s no surprise that the Buckeye chickens developed in Ohio State in the late 1800’s. Ohioans like me all should have some Buckeye chickens in their flock.
Buckeye chickens are a dual-purpose breed, but Nettie Metcalf, the original creator of this breed, designed these birds to be a cold hardy chicken with a small cushion comb.
These chickens tolerate confinement but prefer free ranging. They’re calm and friendly, laying between 150-200 eggs per year.
5. Chantecler – Best Chicken Breeds for Canada
Here is another cold hardy chicken breed that you will love. These spunky, funny chickens have tons of personality, and they love to be at the top of the pecking order. Chantecler chickens make protective, fantastic mothers, going broody often.
You should consider Chantecler chickens; they’re cold hardy for several reasons. Not only do they have small pea combs, tiny wattles, and a large body. These chickens are native to Canada, so you know they do well in the cold weather.
6. Dominique – Dual Purpose Cold Hardy Chickens
One of the oldest American breeds is Dominique chickens. We know that they date back from the Colonial times when the Pilgrims brought chickens to the New World.
Dominique chickens are a dual purpose chicken breed as well as a cold weather chicken breed. They lay between 150-200 eggs per year.
One of the reasons these chickens do so well in the winter is that they have a pea comb, reducing the risk of developing frostbite. We believe that settlers brought this breed over specifically because of their ability to survive throughout cold weather. Alaskans and Canadians keep these chickens; those places are darn cold!
Chicken owners love that they’re robust, docile, and relaxed. These are also known for being good broody hen and mother hens.
7. Faverolles – Hardiest Chicken Breeds for Pets
Faverolles developed in France as meat birds, but now, many chicken keepers regard them as pet chickens. These chickens weigh up to eight pounds with small combs close to their heads; this helps them retain heat and avoid frostbite.
Another benefit of Faverolles is that they have dense, warm feathers, feathered feet, and even cheek muffs. Intense feathering is the reason why these chickens stay warm on winter nights.
Aside from that, Faverolles are friendly, perfect for a mixed flock, so they’re great for kids and family.
8. New Hampshire Red – Best New England Chicken Breeds
It’s easy to mistake Rhode Island Red chickens with New Hampshire Red chickens; they’re close relatives. However, one of the difference is that NHRs are quite larger, so they’re perfectly suited for cold climates.
New Hampshire Reds are prolific egg layers, but they’re a dual-purpose breed. Roosters are larger and ideal for raising them for meat birds.
9. Orpington – Kid-Friendly Cold Hardy Chickens
Doesn’t it feel as if Orpington chickens make it onto every list? That’s because they’re one of the best all-around chicken breeds to raise. Most Orpington varieties are well-suited for cold climates because of their fluffy feather, providing excellent insulation.
Surprisingly, they also are one of the best chicken breeds for hot weather too!
The only downside to keeping Orpington chickens is that they have a single comb which increases the risk of frostbite. If you ignore this, these fluffy chickens do well in cold weather.
Orpingtons are docile, kid-friendly, and dual-purpose.
10. Plymouth Rock – Best Dual Purpose Winter Chickens
Plymouth Rock chickens developed in New York in the 1800s as a dual-purpose chicken. Not only do they lay an average of 250 eggs per year, but the average mature rooster weighs 8lbs and hens weigh 7lbs.
These chickens mature fast and are one of the best cold hardy chicken breeds. They free range well, even in the cold weather. Compared to other chickens, these are docile and kid-friendly.
11. Rhode Island Red – Best Laying Hens for Cold Weather
Rhode Island Red chickens developed in Rhode Island (surprise!) in the late 1800s, recognized by its reddish-brown plumage and yellow legs. Most chicken owners associate RIR’s with being one of the best egg-laying chickens because they lay around 280 eggs per year, but that’s not the only reason to add this breed to your flock.
Rhode Island Reds are a dual purpose bird; roosters weigh up to 8lbs and hens close to 6lbs. They mature quickly and handle both hot and cold weather well.
Expect these breeds to range outside in cold weather like a champ.
Welsummer chickens are native to the Netherlands and lay gorgeous eggs, making them a fantastic choice for those who want unique eggs. This breed is a cold-hardy, dual-purpose breed that weighs between 6-7lbs.
One thing to note is that Welsummers are slower to mature than other breeds; they handle cold weather well. They’re active birds that free range well, getting along with all of the other birds in the flock.
13. Wyandottes – Best Winter Egg Layers
This breed developed in the late 1870s as a dual purpose bird. The hens lay between 150-200 eggs per year, and the birds weigh between 6-8lbs.
Wyandottes are some of the best cold hardy chicken breeds. They handle cold weather well, laying consistently throughout the winter. Also, Wyandottes have a rose comb, reducing the risk of frostbite. Their personality is docile and calm, and some hens go broody.
Raising Cold Weather Chicken Breeds
Keeping chickens in the winter involves picking the best cold weather chicken breeds. These 13 breeds are cold hardy and handle cold climates better than most species. Make sure to include some of these breeds in your flock if you live in a cold region.