Winter should always be on a chicken owner’s mind. No matter if it’s spring or summer. Planning your flock according to your climate is the first step into preparing for winter. So for our Northern below freezing friends, we have the 10 top cold hardy chicken breeds. You can pick any chicken breed from this list, and rest assured your chickens are for the cold.
What Does Cold Hardy Mean?
So what does it mean to have cold weather chicken breeds? Contrary to what you might think, cold hardy doesn’t mean winter eggs. Instead, you should look at the build of the hen. Cold weather chicken breeds should have small combs and wattles to prevent frostbite. They should also be a considerably big size to keep them warm in winter.
You should also look at your chickens’ origins to determine if they are ready for the cold. Breeders have taken climate into account when creating the perfect chicken. So chickens from Northern states and countries are more apt to withstand the cold and snow. If you find a breed that checks out on all of these areas, you might have the perfect winter chicken.
How To Keep Chicken Laying In Cold Weather
When most people think of chickens and cold weather, they think of egg loss. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Some owners try to encourage winter laying with a few tricks.
The first trick is to increase light availability. Winter months have short daylight hours that significantly impact your hen’s laying abilities. So installing a 40-watt bulb in the coop could be a way to encourage laying.
Another tip for winter eggs is to keep up feeding your hens a balanced diet. You will have to make up for all of the foraging materials that your hens are missing out on. Grains, bugs, and healthy treats are essential to keep their energy up enough to make eggs.
And of course, choosing a breed that naturally lays in winter helps too. There is some chickens cold weather that shouldn’t be encouraged to lay throughout winter. These chickens could experience health problems and even shorter lifespans if they lay eggs all year round. So do a little research into your chicken breed first to make sure that it is possible.
Special Winter Precautions
Having cold weather chicken breeds doesn’t mean that you won’t have to take special precautions. Your chickens will still need a draft-free coop with proper ventilation. And just because smaller combs and wattles are less prone to frostbite doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You should check your hens daily for any signs of discoloration.
You will also need to take extra precautions for their food and water. Water can freeze within hours if you don’t insulate it. You will also need to feed your hens a grain-filled diet at night to keep them warm. The grains are slow to digest, and as their stomachs are churning, they are also producing body heat. So as you can see, chickens for cold weather don’t mean they are hassle-free.
Now, let’s look at the 10 top cold hardy chicken breeds!
1. Rhode Island Reds
This list wouldn’t be complete without the fantastic Rhode Island Red. It’s all in the name; these are chickens cold weather through and through. These chickens are plump dual-purpose hens that lay 200-300 eggs per year. They hardly ever get frostbite and don’t mind going out in the snow. But how is the egg situation in winter?
Winter laying is possible for some Rhode Island Reds. But most of them slow down when daylight hours shorten. Some chicken owners add a small low wattage bulb to the coop to keep the egg production up. But it’s not necessary, and your hens might like the break. They will be right back to laying come springtime.
2. Easter Eggers
Do you want beautiful eggs and cold weather? Easter eggers lay around 280 eggs a year that can be blue, green, or pink. And you don’t have to sacrifice beauty for winter tolerance. Easter Eggers have the pea combs that everyone looks for in their hens. And they get a decent size to insulate themselves against chills.
But don’t get your hopes up to always have gorgeous eggs. Most Easter Eggers stop laying eggs entirely in the winter. However, some hens slow to a crawl in the winter. You might get an egg a week, some weeks. But once spring comes around, these birds are excellent egg producers.
Small pea comb? Check. Large size? Check. Lays in winter? You got it! Orpingtons are perfect hens to have around the homestead if you need eggs throughout the winter. The average Orpington lays 200-280 eggs per year, and they don’t slow down much during winter. Most of these hens keep producing their delicious brown eggs no matter how much light you have.
With so many Orpington varieties, you might wonder which is best. While all Orpingtons do well, the Buff Orpington is the most sought after. The Buff is the most likely to keep laying eggs, and they are the largest variety. So if you live in colder climates, you need a few Buff Orpingtons.
4. Delaware Chickens
More cold weather chicken breeds include Delawares. These chickens originate from cold climates, and their creators considered that. These chickens all have small combs and wattles. And most of them keep laying throughout the winter.
Your Delaware hens will lay 200-280 brown eggs a year. And most of them don’t even slow throughout cold months. That makes the Delaware an ideal hen for any Northern farm.
A surprising cold weather chicken breeds include the Astralorp. While these chickens originate from Australia, they have all the qualities you need in winter hens. Australorps are hardy birds with small combs to prevent frostbite. They also grow to considerable sizes that keep them warm.
And what makes them even better is that most Australorps lay eggs throughout the winter. You will get 250 light brown eggs throughout the year. You might not even notice a slowdown in most hens. That’s why so many owners love the Astralorp. These chickens in cold weather are a dream, and they are perfect for warm climates too.
A list of cold weather chicken breeds isn’t complete without mentioning the Ameraucana. These beautiful hens have everything they need to survive a fridged winter. Ameraucanas aren’t prone to frostbite, and they keep warm with average winterizing. And most of them lay eggs all winter.
Ameraucanas lay 180-200 blue eggs a year. The first year, they won’t lay eggs due to late maturity and molting. But after the initial winter, your Ameraucanas will lay eggs every winter.
Buckeyes used to be a fantastic cold hardy bird that also produced eggs like no other. These chickens had it all-resistance to frostbite, keeping warm, and created in cold climates. And they made 150-200 brown eggs throughout the entire year. But something went wrong.
In recent years, it has become increasingly hard to find quality breeders. While it’s not impossible, you will pay a larger price than your average chicks. And once you have a good stock, you will want to breed them to keep your flock alive.
Next on our list of cold weather chicken breeds is the Welsummer. These chickens all have small combs and wattles and fair well in cold climates. They aren’t the best egg producers, though. You can only expect about 160 chocolate brown eggs a year, and they don’t lay in winter.
But those dark eggs are what make them so memorable. The rich color is perfect for creating unique egg baskets or breeding Olive Eggers. Not to mention their calm temperaments set them apart in our hearts.
9. Cochin Chickens
Another cold weather chickens breeds are the Cochin. Cochins are beautiful chickens that have everything you could want in a winter bird. These chickens have the desired pea comb and large bodies with fluffy feathers. Cochins don’t mind the coldest of winters, but their biggest downfall is egg-laying.
Cochins lay 150-180 light brown eggs a year. But they aren’t great at laying in winter months. You might be tempted to add a dim light to the coop to keep up with egg production. But we strongly advise against this. Cochins need winters to rest and recoup so that they can have high output in the spring.
To conclude the 10 top cold hardy chicken breeds, we have the Brahma. These hens are something extraordinary that every owner should have. The Brahma has a small comb, large body mass, and feathers to keep them warm. And to make them even better, they lay eggs throughout winter.
In fact, Brahmas only lay eggs in winter. From October through March, your Brahmas will lay 150 brown eggs. That averages 3-4 eggs per week. So if you want to have eggs all winter, you need a few of these! That’s why we saved the best chickens for cold weather for last.
It’s Hard To Choose Only One
Each of these 10 top cold hardy chicken breeds has a purpose. Whether your goal is eggs all winter or a hen that can withstand the cold, any of these chickens will do. You might even want a mixed flock of all of them!
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!