A Guide to Heat-Tolerant and Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

Learn How to Protect Chickens From Frostbite and Heat Exhaustation

A Guide to Heat-Tolerant and Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

Although it’s easier to keep chickens warm vs. cool, it’s important to choose the correct breed for your location, whether that be a cold-hardy chicken or a heat-tolerant chicken breed. Because let’s face it, the weather plays an important part in our lives. There’s a reason it’s the most-watched part of our nightly news. It affects us and it affects our chickens. Every year there are stories of folks that bought the wrong breed for their climate and experience losses, have unhealthy chickens, or end up bringing their birds inside where the climate is more moderate. Don’t let this happen to you! Make sure to pick a breed that will live comfortably in your climate. Your birds will thank you for it!

What Makes a Cold-Hardy Chicken Breed? 

A cold-hardy chicken is often nicely feathered along with small combs and wattles that reduce frostbite chances. While we find cold weather to be a pain, always having to bundle up when we go outside to refill chicken feeders and waterers, our birds often adjust quite well. In winter you’ll find your birds will roost closer together creating lots of body heat. You’ll also find them hunkering down on their roosts making sure their legs and feet are tucked under for extra heat and protection. Many birds will fluff their feathers keeping body heat closer to the skin.

While it’s always important to make sure your coop is clean and dry, it’s key in winter. Moisture build up, from dripping waterers and excrement, can lead to high levels of ammonia which can damage your chicken’s lungs. Also, excess moisture leads to chicken frostbite. Make sure your coop is not drafty but does have ventilation allowing moisture to escape. And, for cold-hardy chickens with feathered legs and feet, make sure they have a place to get those feathers dry. Otherwise, those areas are more prone to frostbite with wet, frozen feathers. Frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes, so make sure to monitor your birds and their environment.

cold-hardy-chicken

Popular Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

Black Australorp
Brahma
Buckeye
Cochin
Delaware
Dominique
Easter Egger
Jersey Giant
Naked Neck
New Hampshire Red
Orpington
Plymouth Rock
Rhode Island Red
Salmon Faverolles
Sex Link
Sussex
Welsummer
Wyandotte

Chickens

What Makes a Heat-Tolerant Chicken Breed? 

You’ll find that many heat-tolerant chicken breeds have a large comb and wattles; especially the Leghorn which is known for its heat tolerance. The comb and wattles act as air conditioners. As warm blood is pumped to those parts, heat is lost as it is dispersed over a large surface area.

Heat is probably the hardest weather condition to deal with when it comes to chicken keeping. You can warm up in winter in a variety of ways. But cooling down is much harder. Heat alone can be tough, but heat and humidity are the worst. Chickens will naturally seek out cooler areas of a backyard and then hunker down during the hottest part of the day.

You can help your chickens stay cool by providing shade areas with plants, trees, or structural overhangs like decks. Also, provide a few more waterers during warm weather and place them in shady areas that are cooler. That way your chickens don’t have to move far to get hydrated. Hang a fan in the coop to promote air movement even during the summer nights when temperatures don’t cool much. Give your birds some cool and hydrating treats like chilled blueberries and watermelon. And make sure not to play with them too much. The more active the bird, the warmer the bird!

cold-hardy-chicken

Popular Heat-Tolerant Breeds

Black Australorp
Brahma
Delaware
Leghorn
New Hampshire Red
Plymouth Rock
Rhode Island Red
Sussex

Which type is best for your location, a cold-hardy chicken breed or a heat-tolerant one? And which specific breed is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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