The Best Cold-Tolerant Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead
Cold-tolerant chicken breeds are a hardy livestock choice for northern homesteads! There are many things to consider when choosing chicken breeds. Most homesteaders want breeds that lay a lot of eggs. Some prefer to keep hens that go broody and raise their own chicks. Another important consideration is how hardy your hens are for your climate.
So if you live in an area with cold winters, you might ask yourself ‘What is the best breed of chicken for cold weather?’ I’ll share a list of 16 cold-tolerant chicken breeds plus a bonus suggestion for you to choose from. Plus I have tips for helping all of your chickens get through the winter safely!
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Check out my ebook How to Keep Backyard Chickens for Farm Fresh Eggs: Getting Started with Laying Hens. You might also like my Egg Tracker Freebie for a free printable egg production tracking sheet!
Cold-Tolerant Chicken Breeds
Here are some of the best chicken breeds for cold climates:
- Rhode Island Reds – Best layer and heat tolerant too!
- Buckeye – Bred specifically for cold climates
- Ameraucana or Easter Egger – Also heat tolerant!
- Black Australorp
- Buff Orpington
- Barred Plymouth Rock & White Plymouth Rock- Also heat tolerant!
- Golden Laced Wyandotte & Columbian Wyandotte
- Black Jersey Giant
- Light Brahma
- New Hampshire Red – Good meat producer
- Speckled Sussex
- Cuckoo Maran
- Turken or Naked Neck – Also heat tolerant!
Bonus! Icelandic chickens are also very cold-tolerant, but they may be difficult to find and purchase.
How to Help Your Flock Deal with Cold Weather
Provide your chickens with a draft-free coop, water that isn’t frozen, and good-quality feed to help them deal with cold weather. Some cracked corn or black oil sunflower seed may be fed to your flock in the evening. This will help increase their body temperature during cold nights. Don’t feed too much or their body fat could interfere with laying!
Want to keep those egg yolks a deep golden color all winter? Learn How to Grow Fodder for Your Chickens!
When temperatures dip, coat their combs and wattles with homemade petroleum-free jelly to protect them from frostbite. Be careful not to get the jelly on their feathers. It will prevent the feathers from fluffing up to hold in their body heat. For this reason, I do not put jelly on their legs and feet.
Provide your chickens with a 2×4″ for their roosting bar instead of a round pole. The flat surface allows them to tuck their toes into their feathers to prevent frostbite on their feet overnight.
Supplemental heat may be necessary if you live in the extreme north. Heat lamps can be dangerous if not used properly. Read my post How to Heat Your Chick Brooder Safely for tips on using a heat lamp or another source of heat.
Some homesteaders use the deep litter method to help keep the coop warm over the winter. Be sure to use bedding that absorbs moisture and be sure to provide adequate ventilation if you try this.
Homesteaders who live in a fairly mild climate may not need any supplemental heat at all and should consider keeping breeds that do well in the heat.
Make sure that your chicken coop doesn’t start to smell like ammonia. This can lead to respiratory disease and discomfort for your flock. If you do notice this scent, clean the coop and open the windows to allow fresh air in, and close them if the temperatures drop too low.
It’s Easier to Keep Hens Warm in Winter Than to Keep Them Cool in Summer!
Cold-tolerant chicken breeds will fare much better in cold weather than any breed will when the weather gets hot and humid. You can add a heat source to the coop and feed them extra corn or sunflower seeds to increase their body heat in winter. However, in summer you can lose chickens to extreme heat if you aren’t careful.
In my area, we have cold winters and hot summers. One of my favorite breeds for dealing with these conditions is the Rhode Island Red. They also lay lots of beautiful brown eggs to pay for their keep.
What are your favorite chicken breeds for cold climates?