Top 5 Chicken Breeds for Cold Climates

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

02 July 2014

You may be well accustomed to chilly temperatures, but will your prospective chickens be able to withstand the harsh elements of your climate?

If you’re thinking about becoming a chicken keeper and live in an area where freezing is a way of life, rather than a momentary feeling, there are certain chicken breeds that would suit your backyard better than others.  Certain chicken breeds can be very temperature sensitive - so having the right flock for your climate and researching your breed beforehand is crucial to ensure your feathered friends stay healthy and happy!

What do we mean by ‘cold climate’?

One person's definition of cold can be very different to someone whose situated further down south. We’re sure most Tasmanians would disagree with what North Queenslanders consider a blistering winter!

Some chicken breeds are hardy creatures, and can comfortably live in environments where the temperature reaches almost freezing temperatures. Chicken keepers in Canada and the colder areas of America have noted that their flocks have even fared well in temperatures as low as -20 degrees, with certain chicken breeds seeming to cope even better than humans!

What features do chickens have that help them with cold weather?

Certain chicken breeds are born with features that help them combat the cold weather - so if you look out for these physical attributes when choosing your prospective flock, it should give you a good indication as to which chicken breeds will fare well in winter - and who may not!

Some of these features include:

  • chicken breeds with small combs: the comb is the large piece of flesh on the top of the chickens head.  Generally, the larger the comb, the more susceptible the chicken is to frostbite - something that can be potentially fatal.
  • chicken breeds with heavy feathering: breeds with feathered feet or a thick coat fare better in cold weather than those who don’t - the feathers are essentially like wearing a comfortable duvet all day long! This acts as a jacket to protect them from the cold weather.

So, without further adieu, here are some of the best chicken breeds for those in colder climates.

Chicken breeds that are most suited to cold climates.

1.  Australorp

The Australorp is a great breed for the cold, as they have a thick plume of heavy feathers perfect for shielding them against the harsh winter breeze.  In addition, they are brilliant egg layers - so you can expect a steady supply of large brown eggs!  They’re very gentle creatures, and are a delight to have in any backyard flock - regardless of being a temperature hardy breed!

australorp chicken is comfortable standing in the snow

2. Silkie

They aren’t super strong egg-layers, and are mostly kept as an ornamental breed, but any chicken keeper who has Silkies in their backyard is a happy one!The Silkie is a gorgeous, furiously feathered breed with a coat from their head to their feet! Also, instead of a comb, they have a nice pom-pom of feathers - therefore will not be as prone to frostbite as other breeds who do.  Not only are they winter hardy, but they are one of the sweetest, tamest chicken breeds you could ever come across.  They’ll even snuggle up in your lap, so you can keep each other warm!

3. Plymouth Rock

The Plymouth Rock has a beautiful coat of patterned feathers perfect for warmth, and also has a track record of being raised in some typically cold areas of the world - including England and parts of North America.  They are also one of the lovely chicken breeds that have a beautiful temperament that will keep you entertained for hours.  With the Plymouth Rock, you can expect a lovely lot of large brown eggs to grace your breakfast table.

plymouth rock chicken-has no problems in the cold

4. Dorking

If you can get your hands on a Dorking, you’ll have a bird that not only does well in cold conditions, but makes an amazing mother should you wish to hatch little chicks into the world! They are a truly lovely, relatively heavy breed that will lay you a decent amount of eggs, and be a true companion to your family.

5. Cochin

You could mistake the Cochin for a walking ball of puffy feathers, such is their unique appearance! The Cochin’s incredibly feathered coat and heavy weight keeps the winter chill at bay, and makes them an intriguing animal to look at.  They aren’t great egg layers, but are very peaceful animals who can be handled with ease.

cochin chicken's feathered feet aren't fussed by snow

Is there anything I can do to help keep my chickens warm?

Yes! There are little tips and tricks you can do to give your chosen chicken breeds a helping hand to stay warm. We’ve outlined some ways in detail in our Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Chicken Warm in Winter and How To Help Your Chickens Beat the Elements articles, but here’s a quick recap of ways you can help!

  • ensure your chickens’ coop isn’t letting excess moisture inside, and is well ventilated.
  • add a heat lamp to the inside of the coop to make the temperature inside more comfortable. Don’t make it too hot, otherwise the hens will sense the change is unnatural, and become stressed.
  • if you’re an avid knitter, maybe you could knit your flock a stylish range of chicken jumpers! Suits all chicken breeds, looks great and will keep your feathered friends warm and toasty.

Most chicken breeds are hardy creatures, often tolerating cold weather better than their human owners!  If you do live in chilly climates and are considering entering the rewarding world of backyard chicken keeping, then the breeds listed above will adapt to your environment with ease.

The best way to ensure your chosen chicken breeds fare well in the weather is through them having a well ventilated coop, that protects them from any drafts and excess moisture.  Every one of the Backyard Chicken Coops enclosures are designed to keep chickens warm in the winter and cool in the hotter months - and are all egg-ceptionally ventilated!

Sources and further reading

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