While chickens actually do better in colder climates than hot, there are definitely some breeds that do much better in the depths of winter than others.
Today we are going to take a look at some of the best cold hardy chicken breeds.
These breeds were picked based on their ability to tolerate cold weather and how well suited they are to a cold climate.
Physical attributes such as dense feathering and small combs all come into play here.
Chickens such as Brahmas and Faverolles could be considered here but are not because of their feathered feet.
All the breeds in our list below can survive even the coldest of US winters and some will even keep laying eggs!
Keep reading to learn more…
Contents and Quick Navigation
A-Z Best Winter Hardy Chicken Breeds List
|New Hampshire Red
|Rhode Island Red
The Chantecler is perhaps the quintessential winter chicken.
They were created early in the twentieth century by Brother Wilfred of the Oka monastery in Quebec.
He succeeded in creating a great dual purpose chicken that lays eggs well throughout the notorious Canadian winters. The hens are good layers of large brown egg and will lay 3 eggs a week.
Chanteclers are cold hardy as they have feathers that sit tight to their body with lots of under fluff to keep them warm. They also have cushion combs and extremely small wattles, so you do not need to worry about frostbite.
They do not do well in extreme heat because of their dense feathers.
She is a gentle and calm bird that enjoys confinement or free ranging.
You will mainly find them in either white or partridge, however buff is available but it is very rare.
Overall this is a lovely bird that is in need of dedicated keepers. They are currently on the Livestock Conservancy’s watch list and were almost extinct only a few decades ago!
10. Rhode Island Red
If there was ever a one bird fits all category the Rhode Island Red would be first on the list. They do hot, cold, dry, wet and all shades of weather and climate in between.
The Rhode Island was designed as a dual purpose breed back in the 1800s when breeders were trying to make the perfect chicken.
She has tight feathering with enough fluff underneath to keep her warm. You will just need to pay attention to their comb and wattles as they can get frostbitten if the weather is severe enough. However you will still find her out roaming even on the coldest days to peck through the snow for any tasty little treats she can find.
Hens are good layers and will give you 3-4 large brown eggs each week.
Overall this is a very hardy and dependable chicken that can flourish in conditions that are marginal or even poor. They are outgoing, talkative and can be a bit pushy but they do have bags of personality.
The Buckeye chicken is the only breed developed by a woman.
They were admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1904 and were developed in the late 1800s by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf.
Mrs Metcalf wanted to breed chickens that thrive in harsh winters, could forage well and also make good dual purpose hens.
She succeeded and created a large dual purpose chicken.
Hens will lay around 3 medium brown eggs a week – although there is a new strain of Buckeye that lays even more eggs.
They prefer to free range as this lets them forage for food. If you keep them in a run they get a bit snippy, so lots of room is the key here.
She has lovely dark red feathering that resembles the color of a buckeye nut (which is where their name comes from). Their plumage is dense with lots of fluff underneath for warmth. They also have a pea comb and slightly smaller than average wattles.
Overall this is an active but gentle and curious breed that is seemingly unafraid of humans.
Although the Australorp was created in Australia they do very well in chilly climates.
This breed has a dense, close feather coat with plenty of under fluff to keep them warm.
They were bred using British Orpingtons and turned out to be an even better egg layer – she will lay 4-5 light brown eggs every week.
Whilst they are a little bit shy, they are a gentle and sweet natured chickens that are great with children.
This chicken is the perfect addition for your flock as they are robust and quite hardy. Just make sure to pay attention to their combs and wattles during the colder months.
The Orpington is one of the most popular chickens around – you might have heard them being called English hens.
There are several color varieties but the buff is the most popular.
She is a great choice for families as kids love to pick them up and the Orpington never seems to mind being carried around.
They are also great for an urban setting as they are very quiet and not likely to fly.
She has lots of loose feathering which keeps them warm in the colder months. The feathers are incredibly insulating but if they get soaking wet a hen can quickly chill and die.
So make sure to keep them dry.
She will lay 3-4 light brown eggs a week and is prone to broodiness.
Overall the Orpington is a lovely hen for the small flock holder. They are well suited to live with other gentle breeds.
6. Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock is an old and faithful breed.
They have been around for a long time and are considered very dependable.
Plymouth Rocks were created in New England in the 1800s. At the time breeders were looking for a better chicken and produced the original Barred Rock.
The Plymouth Rock comes in several color palettes but the barred Rock is the most well-known.
She is a good hen for small homesteads that want a dependable layer.
They have lots of dense feathering which makes them cold hardy. The combs and wattles may need a little attention, but in general nothing seems to bother these vigorous birds.
Overall this is a quiet and calm chicken that is always curious about things.
This is the oldest American chicken breed and it is said to have arrived along with the Pilgrims
They were created in New England just like the Plymouth Rock.
Originally these chickens were left to fend for themselves and did very well. Even today they are happy foraging for food
She is a hardy and robust little hen that tolerates cold weather really well. They have a rose comb so frost is not too much of a problem, although the wattles can become frostbitten. Also Dominiques have dense, loose feathering which keeps them warm during those cold winter nights.
Overall they have a very gentle and inquisitive nature which makes them well suited to urban living.
The Welsummer is a dutch breed that is very winter hardy.
They were initially bred as a dual purpose bird and can lay around 3 large eggs per week. These eggs are a beautiul terracotta color with some light speckles.
Wellies are friendly, calm and inquisitive.
They do tolerate confinement but are much happier when they can free range. They are excellent foragers and just love being outside exploring.
Welsummers are low maintenance and do not need much in the way of maintenance except for the usual chicken things.
They can be a bit raucous so urban living is not good for them.
The Wyandotte is one of the most beautiful chickens there is.
They have stunning plumage that comes in a variety of colors. They also happen to be very winter hardy as they were created to withstand the North American winters.
Their rose comb and dense plumage helps them shake off the cold easily.
She is the best egg laying chicken for cold climate.
Hens are good layers and can produce 4 large brown eggs a week – even through the winter months!
Wyandottes are known for their calm, docile and friendly personality. Although they can be a bit reserved especially with other breeds of chicken. They are child friendly but do not enjoy being picked up and held very much.
They do well in confinement or free ranging and if they can free range they will gather tasty morsels to supplement their feed.
The Delaware is a relative newcomer to the chicken world making its debut in the 1940s.
It was originally bred for the broiler industry but things did not work out and the Delaware was left on the sidelines.
They are quick to feather out and mature with hens weighing up to 6.5lb.
Although they were raised for the meat industry the Delaware hen can produce 4 large eggs a week.
They rarely go broody and devote their time to laying eggs.
This breed has a dense plumage to keep them warm and make them cold hardy.
Anyone who has kept Delawares will tell you they are exuberant and talkative. They love to talk with you and their curiosity borders on downright nosey-ness.
They are great foragers and despite being basically all white they are remarkably predator savvy.
Overall this is a calm and friendly chicken they will do well on a small family farm setting.
1. New Hampshire Red
The New Hampshire chicken is an offshoot from the Rhode Island Red creators.
Both breeds were created just a few years apart.
Sadly the New Hampshires never had the success that the Rhode Islands achieved and has lived in the shadow of their more successful competitor ever since.
New Hampshire Reds are low maintenance dual purpose hens that are well suited to a small family farm.
Hens will produce 3 large eggs each week – even in the winter!
Their dense feathering helps to protect them from the cold.
Overall they are known for being a calm and friendly chicken that is curious.
5 Tips For Keeping Chickens In Cold Climates
- Ventilation: The biggest problem during the winter is frostbite. Your chicken’s comb, wattles and feet can all suffer from frostbite. Proper ventilation is essential to stopping frostbite and respiratory problems. Having the correct ventilation will prevent the moisture from settling on the chicken’s exposed parts. Well placed vents will allow this moist air to escape to the outside. It also helps get rid of some of the ammonia fumes from the poop.
- Draft free: When the birds are sat on their perches they should not be sitting in any drafts. A draft blowing on your chickens can actually cause a them to die from hypothermia, so check for drafts in your coop.
- Dry: Your coop needs to be dry. There should be no water in the coop overnight (not even drinking water). If the floor of your coop is dirt make sure you have plenty of straw on the ground so that their feet do not get wet.
- Water: Chickens need clean and fresh water. When chickens do not have fresh water they will stop laying and their health will suffer. You have two choice either changing out water three to four times a day to stop it freezing or use a heated waterer.
- Treats: Each evening you can give them a handful of corn or scratch grains at night to help them rev up their metabolism. Turning their metabolism on can help keep them a little warmer at night.
So there you have our selection for cold weather climates.
It was difficult to pick just eleven contenders!
There are several more which could easily have fit the bill. Feather footed breeds were deliberately omitted as their foot feathers can cause problems in the winter.
I live in upstate New York which can have some fairly harsh winters and I have six varieties of those selected and they do very well by me.
If you live further north you might want to choose the Canadian Chantecler as your chicken of choice.
Whichever you choose I do not think any will disappoint you.
Just remember to keep their coop draft proof and well protected against the winter and predators.
Let us know your favorite cold hardy breed in the comments section below…