Lately, our low temperatures have gotten into the negative numbers. Although many chicken breeds do quite well in below-freezing temperatures, many chickens start to struggle as the temperature nears or drops below zero.
But, some breeds seem to still thrive in the extreme cold. I have a flock of 18 chickens. There are 8 breeds among my flock. This has given me the ability to observe which breeds need the most help during cold weather and which breeds handle cold like a super-star.
Chicken Breeds That Do Well In Sub-Freezing Temps
The breeds that are the most cold-hardy have smaller wattles and combs. Rose combs and pea combs do better at protecting chickens from the cold.
The thickness and size of the feathering also make a difference. Some breeds, such as the Turken Naked Neck, Polish, and Silkie chickens have loose feathering. Polish and Silkie chickens don’t have water-resistant feathers.
This makes them more susceptible to cooler weather, even rain.
You may also consider is whether a chicken breed will continue to lay eggs in the dead of winter.
Some chicken breeds will slow down their egg-laying only slightly when it gets very cold and dark in January and December.
Roosters are the most likely to get frostbite. Roosters often like to patrol the coop, which keeps them out in the snow and wind more than the hens. Plus, they have larger wattles and combs, which also makes them more vulnerable.
- Cold hardy breeds have small wattles and combs
- Pea combs and rose combs fare better in cold weather
- Thick feathering helps chickens to stay warm in cold weather
- Cold hardy breeds often continue laying eggs in the dead of winter.
- Roosters are more susceptible than hens to frostbite
Many chicken breeds are listed as cold-hardy breeds, but that doesn’t mean they all handle the cold equally well.
If you live in an area where it gets to freezing, but not much below, then most of those breeds will do just fine.
But, if you live in an area that gets substantially below freezing, or stays below freezing for weeks on end, you will want to know which breeds are best suited to cold temperatures.
But, that doesn’t mean all chicken breeds fare the same in cold weather. I’ve sorted chicken breeds into 3 categories: Amazing, Good, and Fair In Cold Weather.
4 Amazing Chicken Breeds Built For The Coldest Weather
Among cold-weather chicken breeds, there are four breeds that are superstars. These breeds have small combs and wattles, which makes them highly resistant to cold weather. For the most part, these super-star chickens won’t need much extra care in the winter.
Chantecler Chickens Are The Hardiest Of The Hardiest Chickens
The very best cold weather chicken breed is the Chanteclers. Chantecler chickens can withstand sub-arctic temperatures for many months. They were bred by a monk in Northern Canada and as a result, do the very best among chicken breeds.
Chanteclers have almost not wattle and a very small comb. They are a much planer-looking chicken, but they do awesome in the cold and wet. They also have tight feathering, which helps to keep in the warmth when they fluff it at night.
Chanteclers will continue to lay eggs during the winter, but as an egg-laying chicken, they are average. They lay about 200 eggs a year.
Ameraucana / Araucana Cross Breeds
Ameraucana and Araucana chicken breeds are very cold hardy. The Araucana chicken was bred for thousands of years in the Andes Mountains in Chile. They do well in the cold but are rare as a purebred because of a deadly gene inherent in the breed.
Ameraucana chickens were bred from Araucanas and are also cold-hardy. In the US, most chickens sold as Ameraucana chickens are not purebred but are labeled such for sales purposes.
Even so, most cross-breeds of these two breeds are very cold hardy. My Ameracana (notice the spelling difference because it’s not purebred) do not get frostbite, even in sub-zero temperatures. They have also continued to lay eggs almost daily all winter long.
Among American-created chicken breeds, the Buckeye chicken is the only one that has a pea comb. They also have tight feathering, which helps to keep out the cold and wet of winter.
Buckeye chickens are moderate egg layers, laying about 3-4 eggs a week.
They are rarely susceptible to frostbite and will usually continue to forage in the snow and rain. Buckeyes are happier in a larger coop area and have a deeper voice than many other chicken breeds.
Wyandottes chickens are one of my favorite breeds. They are friendly and useful. Even during sub-zero temperatures, I haven’t had any issues with any of my Wyandotte chickens getting frostbite. Their rose combs protect them from the cold.
Additionally, their feed and legs are feather-free, which helps them to avoid frostbite on their feet. They are one of my breeds that venture out first in the mornings and goes into the coop at night.
Plus, they continue to lay during the cold. On average, a Wyandotte chicken will lay about 260 eggs a year.
The Best Chicken Breeds For Extreme Cold:
In addition to these 4 super-star cold weather chickens, there are several other breeds that do pretty well in the cold.
8 Chicken Breeds That Do Great In The Winter
The chickens in this list of good cold-weather chicken breeds do well in the cold but may need some precautions taken to keep them healthy.
Orpington chickens are cold hardy. They don’t have feathered legs or feet. The breed also comes with either a single comb or a rose comb variety. Rose combed Orpingtons will fare better in the cold than the single-comb variety.
Orpingtons do well in the winter and will continue to lay during the darker days of winter. They are also super friendly and great with kids.
New Hampshire Chickens
New Hampshire chickens are very cold hardy. They will continue to forage in the snow and cold even while less-hardy breeds stay inside the coop.
They do have a single comb, which can be susceptible to frostbite, but otherwise will do well in the cold.
They lay decently well in the winter.
Dominick, Plymouth Rock and Barred Rock Chickens
The Dominique Chicken breed was considered the same breed as the Plymouth Rock. It has a rose comb, but the Plymouth Rock has a single comb. Barred Rock is a specific coloring within the Plymouth Rock breeds.
These chickens are great in the cold. Traditionally, they were Pilgrim chickens and left to forage on their own all year round. The breed became used to fending for itself and doesn’t get too rattled with bad weather.
Dominiques chickens can lay as many as 270 eggs a year and Plymouth Rocks will lay as many as 220 eggs a year.
Australorp chickens have been known to lay as many as 360 eggs in a year. More modern versions usually lay nearly 300 eggs a year and will still lay during the cold winter months.
Australorp chickens do well in the cold and wet weather.
Rhode Island Red Chickens
Rhode Island Red Chickens are one of the most versatile chicken breeds. They do well in almost any weather. Even in cold climates, they can lay as many as 280 eggs a year.
They do have a single comb, which means they may need a little extra attention during extremely cold weather to protect them from frostbite.
Lohmann Brown Chickens
In the United States, Lohmann Brown Chickens haven’t caught on in popularity. But, they are very popular in Europe and Africa. Lohmann Brown chickens lay about 300 eggs a year.
They continue to lay during the cold winter months.
Lohmann Brown chickens have a single comb. Some chickens will have a larger comb than others and will need to be watched for Frostbite.
A more wild breed, Ancona chickens are also rare. But, they do well in the cold and are great at foraging and taking care of themselves. They lay about 220 eggs a year.
They sense danger better and also fly better than other breeds. This can make it harder to contain.
Andalusian chickens are susceptible to frostbite on their combs and wattles. Otherwise, they are very cold hardy chickens. They are curious and often prefer to roost in tall trees.
This can make caring for them during the cold winter months problematic because they are harder to contain.
Great Cold-Weather Chicken Breeds
- New Hampshire
- Dominique or Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Island Red
- Lohmann Brown
I’ve also seen a couple of other breeds listed as “cold weather” chicken breeds, but they are less hardy as the 12 I’ve listed previously.
Breeds That Do Ok, But Can Struggle In The Cold
Austra White – Great free-rangers that lay 250+ eggs a year
Barnevelder – Dark Chocolate eggs, do well in cold wet conditions, but not the snow
Dorking- Larger wattles, need more care
Leghorn – Large comb and decreased egg-laying
Brahma – Larger with feathers needs a little more care in the cold, feathered feet
Cochin- Lay good in winter, but feathered feet makes them liable for frostbite
Hamburgs – watch the comb for frostbite
Langshan- feathered feet
Most chickens will do well in freezing temperatures as long as they have the resources to stay dry and get plenty of water. But, when temperatures get into the teens, or even below, then it’s best to have chicken breeds that do well in even colder temperatures or to take the steps to protect chickens from frostbite.
You might find these articles helpful in caring for your flock during winter months.