Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

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WOW! Did we have some crazy-cold weather this winter?!

I don’t know about you, but some of our cold nights had me rethinking my chicken breed choices. Luckily, most of my ladies are pretty hardy to begin with. But my lightweight, giant-combed Lakenvelder rooster and my dear, sweet rooster Rasputin had me a bit worried. And as I discovered, when it came to Rasputin, I was right to be worried.

You can read more about the plight of my poor frostbitten chicken, Rasputin, here:

Read More: “The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned about Prevention and Treatment”

Now, read on for some recommendations to help you choose chicken breeds that will come through the cold with flying colors!

When picking chickens for cold weather, there are three simple things to keep in mind: weight class, feathering, and comb size.

Let’s look at weight class first.

Weight Class

Choose chicken breeds that have a fair amount of fat. Heavier birds tend to have more cold tolerance than lean birds. In most climates, dual-purpose breeds that are good for egg and meat production are usually sufficient for cold temperatures just above single digits, and maybe even a little below, on the Fahrenheit scale.

Consider these breeds for winter-friendly fattiness:

  • Plymouth Barred Rocks
  • Black Australorps
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Delawares
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • New Hampshire Reds

If you live in conditions where you also have warm summers to contend with, these breeds tend to have decent heat tolerance as long as they are given sufficient access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water.

Feathering

For even more winter protection, choose chicken breeds that have extra-heavy feathering. The feathering gives a few more degrees’ worth of cold tolerance. However, in some conditions, feathery feet may actually be more at risk for frostbite if wet feathers ice over. So, in extreme conditions, take measures to keep your chicken’s feet feathers dry.

Consider these breeds for extra feathers:

  • Cochins
  • Favorelles
  • Brahmas

Comb Size

One of the biggest risks to chickens in cold weather is frostbite on their combs. In warmer temps, combs are actually a cooling device that helps regulate the rest of a chicken’s body temperature. This is why roosters, who often have more fat and more feathering, tend to have larger combs than hens. (Well, that, and because those great big combs are like flashing neon signs of virility and masculinity that help attract the beautiful ladies.)

Unfortunately, in wet, windy, and icy conditions, large combs are a liability. They are more prone to losing circulation from the cold and becoming frostbitten.

Choosing chickens with compact combs, such as pea or rose combs, can cut down on the risk of frostbite. Also, paying special attention to the condition of larger rooster combs in winter is important.

Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds - Buckeye

Consider these breeds for compact combs:

  • Buckeyes
  • Dominiques
  • Wyandottes
  • White Dorkings*

*Note: The Dorking breed may have either single or rose combs. If you are looking for cold-hardy combs, choose the White Dorking with a rose comb.

The really wonderful things about all of the cold-hardy breeds above is that they are great egg layers, excellent backyard chickens, and happen to be beautiful to boot! So, you don’t have to compromise chicken cuteness, productivity, and good disposition, to also get great all-winter birds.

Regardless of which breed you choose, if you live in areas with potential cold conditions, you want to make sure you give your chickens a coop that offers sufficient protection from the elements, while also being well ventilated.

Additionally, you want to be prepared to offer your chickens some emergency cold-condition remedies if you have weather that’s more extreme than normal (as many of us did this year). You can read more about some easy ideas for increasing chicken comfort in winter here:

Read More: “Cold Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort”

Also, remember the lessons learned from Rasputin, the frostbitten chicken. And make sure you have a plan for how to prevent and treat frostbite.

In our next installment of our cold-weather chicken care series, we’ll cover methods for keeping water from freezing in the coop. In the meantime, though, you can check out these general tips on winter livestock watering for inspiration.

Read More: “7 Ways to Keep Livestock Water Tanks from Freezing”

Thanks for reading, and please share your comments about your cold-weather-breed favorites using the comments section below.

 

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The post Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds appeared first on The Grow Network.

Which Chicken Breed Is Right For You?

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Which chicken breed is right for you? I have never owned a chicken in my life, so I asked a friend, Jorie, to write about them because she raises them with her family. First of all, I like the free-range idea and controlling where the feed comes from that they are fed. I feel strongly that we need to be self-reliant, and if we have the knowledge of raising one or more chickens that’s one step ahead of the game, so to speak. My girls grew up on egg salad sandwiches. Eggs are high in protein and fairly inexpensive. I live in a controlled HOA so I couldn’t raise chickens, but I would love to learn more about which breed would be good for people to raise. If you can learn how to raise a chicken or two you can barter the eggs and be ahead of the game!

If you are interested in owning chickens, this will be a helpful guide to learning about each breed and its personality. Chickens are great as pets, but also are an essential part of your homestead. There are so many chicken breeds in today’s society, so which chicken is right for you and your particular homestead? Here are ten different chicken breeds and some fun facts about each one. Egg Salad Recipe by Linda.  The best way to cook hard boiled eggs: Hard Boiled Eggs by Linda

Chicken Breed Choices:

1. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Reds are the most popular breed to buy. They are one of the easiest breeds to own and won’t take up much space! They produce brown medium-sized eggs and have beautiful rust-colored feathers. Fun fact about this bird: the Rhode Island Red is Rhode Islands state bird.

2. Leghorn

Leghorns were introduced in the 1800’s and originated in Italy. This breed lays a good amount of white eggs each year and is very active. If you have children, Leghorns may not be the best to buy as they are not easily tamed. Unlike many breeds, Leghorns come in a variety of colors.

3. Buff Orpington

Buff Orpingtons are large birds who have beautiful coats of feathers. These good looking chickens make great pets because they are friendly, but their egg production is slower than other breeds. Keep that in mind while deciding what your purpose for owning chickens is.

4. Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rocks are very active birds. They have a decent egg production and are extremely friendly. They are at their best in a free-range environment with lots of space. Children will love feeding them with their hands!

5. New Hampshire

Named after a beautiful state on the East coast, New Hampshire’s are hefty and produce large brown eggs for their owners. This breed tends to be competitive and aggressive, so make sure you are buying this breed for their egg production.

6. Araucana

Araucanas are known for producing ‘blue’ eggs. The unique color and large size of eggs are two reasons to buy these sweet chickens! There is no historical documentation of where these birds originated from, but they were commonly seen in South America throughout the early twentieth century.

7. Silkie

Silkies are frankly, well, adorable! These sweet chickens make great pets but only produce about three eggs per week. If anyone is getting chickens strictly for eggs, these might not be the chickens for you! But if you are looking for a lovable and easily tamed chicken, Silkies are perfect for you.

8. Brahma

The Brahma chicken is one of the largest breeds. Originating from Shanghai, these chickens are massive and create brown eggs. There are three different colors this breed comes in: light brown, white, or cream.

9. Australorp

The Australorp is a human-friendly breed, but not necessarily the friendliest around other chickens. If you buy an Australorp, it is recommended to keep them separate from other chickens in your coop. They start laying eggs around 22-24 weeks old.

10. Speckled Sussex

This breed is the heaviest layers, producing more than 300 eggs annually. In contrast to their weight, they don’t need a large space. They do fairly well in confined areas, but with every animal, they need the time out in the open as well. They have specks of white on their feathers, giving them their unique name.

Overall, chickens are a great addition to any homestead. They are a comfort to have because of their egg production, but also because they are lovable animals! They are great to have because anyone can have one, whether your homestead is acres wide, or you are operating a backyard homestead. Use the tips above when choosing the breed that is right for you!

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