Chickens are some of the most adaptable animals around, and probably the single most adaptable livestock species. If they’ve got a warm coop, food, water, and a little bit of time to roam every day, they are good.
But intense cold will put any animal to the test when it comes to endurance. And especially in the case of chickens in the winter time, frostbite and hypothermia are ever-present dangers if their shelter is inadequate or conditions are harsh.
If you live someplace that’s really cold year-round, or maybe just a place with brutal winters, it’s understandable that you might think twice before committing to a flock of chickens.
But you don’t have to go without a flock to call your own if you just choose breeds that are known to be cold hardy.
I’ll tell you about 21 chicken breeds below that tend to do really well no matter how cold it gets outside.
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The Ameraucana is a popular breed of chicken, one that is cold weather-worthy because of its overall resilience and good health, and also because it has extra fluffy feathers around the head and neck, often referred to as muffs and beards. Both make for excellent cold-weather protection.
Even better, the Ameraucana possesses very small wattles and a small comb in hens and roosters alike, meaning these delicate parts of their anatomy are far less prone to suffering from frostbite in frigid weather.
2. Plymouth Rock
A dual-purpose breed raised for meat and eggs, the small combs, overall good health, and thick layer of feathers makes the Plymouth Rock, sometimes referred to as the Barred Rock, a good inclusion for any cold-weather flock.
These chickens are also famously adaptable, so if your home state suffers from somewhat variable winter weather, they are a picture-perfect and handsome choice.
A striking rust-red breed that originates from Ohio, the Buckeye was bred in a state that’s known for its rough winters so they do just fine pretty much everywhere.
Known to be excellent and independent free-ranging chickens, it’s common to see them going about their business in deep snow with no concerns whatsoever!
Further improving their cold weather readiness, Buckeyes also have small pea combs, and the greatly reduced height and mass of that notoriously vulnerable body part makes it far less susceptible to getting chilled or frostbitten.
Although rarely seen in America, the Canadian Chantecler is yet another breed that was born and bred in blisteringly cold conditions.
Chanticlers have thick, highly insulating feathers, small pad-shaped combs and are generally highly resilient in even sub-zero weather. A dual-purpose breed, they can keep you in both eggs and meat.
Among all the chickens on our list, this breed is one of the very best when it comes to sheer cold weather hardiness, so if you live in the frozen reaches of the Far North or just putting up with intense New England winters, the Chantecler is a fine choice.
The English Sussex is a magnificent heritage breed, and one that’s obviously suited to withstanding the cold, wet and rainy weather of its native homeland.
These birds have tightly crimped and slick feathers that help keep them warm, but they also repel water and dampness much better than most other breeds.
They likewise have a small, inconspicuous, single comb that’s not at much risk of frostbite.
That’s definitely a plus, and they also have a tendency for being calm and tolerating confinement well.
That means if you do need to put them up during harsh weather, you can count on them to endure stoically.
Almost totally unique among all other chicken breeds, everything you need to know about the Silkie is in the name: they are covered, from tip to tail and head to foot, in a fluffy, soft and unbelievably silky coat of feathers.
Feathers so fine that they lent these birds their name! Though they are small, this incredibly insulating plumage gives them remarkable resistance to cold.
Silkies, like Orpingtons, are also famously friendly and people-centric, and this is one of the best “backyard” birds for cold weather.
But, you must be prepared to keep them clean, because if moisture or mud freezes on their feathers they will have problems.
A greatly beloved ornamental breed known for its frilly, fluffy feathers and friendly, gentle disposition, the Cochin is a born showbird but they have a practical side when it comes to enduring cold weather.
As pretty as they are and as pleasant as they are to pet, those downy feathers serve as a remarkable protection against cold weather.
These big birds can easily maintain their body heat thanks to their plumage, but you’ll have to be cautious to keep them clean and free of mud, feces and other debris that can freeze and spoil their insulation value.
This is a somewhat high-maintenance bird, but it might be worth it for the right owner.
A stocky, broad chicken that’s typically raised for meat, these birds are muscular, hardy and easily capable of withstanding serious winter weather.
Although their feathers aren’t particularly noteworthy when it comes to cold resistance, the overall good health of these birds combined with their small pea combs means they will only rarely suffer from frostbite if given a little bit of care.
However, they are not invulnerable to cold or as resistant as some of the other cold-weather bred breeds on our list, so make sure they’ve still got a warm, dry coop to retreat to.
9. Easter Egger
The Easter Egger is not really a breed, but it is rather a category of crossbreed, or crossbreeds, that can be created from the intermingling of several other official breeds to produce chickens that are healthy, hardy and prolific layers of brightly colored eggs- hence the name.
For our purposes, they also happen to be pretty good cold weather birds…
They also may lay eggs in wintertime, though it should be noted that their production often slows down dramatically after their first year of life, so keep that in mind.
These little dual-purpose chickens are more than capable of putting up with the infamous winters that their namesake state is known for.
Friendly, docile and clad in extremely thick and tightly fitted feathers, the Delaware chicken cares very little for cold weather unless they are stuck outside in sub-zero temps for a long time.
Their plumage protects them, but the breed also has a single, small comb which presents less of an overall frostbite risk.
It might seem like a fringe benefit, but ask any chicken keeper who has bird forced to endure cold and they will tell you: chickens are far more likely to suffer from frostbite on their combs and wattles than any other part of their body.
A distinctive and ancient dual-use American breed, the Dominique remains a particularly healthy and independent chicken, and they are one of the best foragers you can own.
If you have enough property with good biodiversity, they can take care of much of their own food requirements if you let them roam.
Even better, the Dominique is highly adaptable, and seems to do just as well in very hot and very cold conditions.
Their cold tolerance is especially good because they have a small rose comb and fairly heavy feathering, but not so heavy that they’ll struggle in warmer environments. One of my favorite breeds, and I hope to see more of them!
Friendly, regal, and covered from crown to toe in extremely fluffy, dense feathers, including on their legs and feet, it is hard to imagine a chicken that is more capable of dealing with winter’s chill.
Raised for both meat and eggs, the Faverolle has dense feathering that covers its neck, referred to as a beard. This is especially good protection against wind chill.
Best of all, these chickens are known for being sweet, docile, and easy to handle meaning you won’t have any difficulty getting them put up or taking them out even in the middle of winter.
You’ve got enough to deal with, the last thing you want is a belligerent chicken!
13. Jersey Giant
The Jersey Giant is a chicken that absolutely lives up to its name…
These chickens are huge and powerfully built, and even though they only have modest feathering compared to the other cold weather breeds on this list they generate so much body heat that the cold doesn’t really seem to affect them.
They also happened to be highly independent most of the time, and pretty capable foragers even though they were developed for meat production.
It should be noted, though, that they have combs and wattles of average size, which can be problematic in seriously cold weather or if they get wet or damp.
Protect those parts against frostbite and you won’t have any trouble out of them.
These French heavyweights are famous for laying plenty of dark brown eggs that are the color of mahogany or chocolate, and like so many of the European breeds they are entirely comfortable in cold weather.
A stocky build and thick, heavy feathers give them truly superb protection against the cold, and this is one breed that seems to be truly comfortable even when there’s deep snow on the ground.
If you want lots of unique eggs that will make your neighbors envious, good cold weather resistance and all in a unique heritage chicken that happens to be quite friendly, the Maran is a fine choice.
The Australorp chicken breed is an Australian chicken developed from Orpingtons, and accordingly, you might think they do best in hot weather but surprisingly enough they are quite adaptable birds.
There are prolific layers, and theyir glossy, dense feathers give them excellent insulation even compared to other chickens and birds.
These are stocky chickens tend to do just fine in the winter even with snow on the ground, so don’t let the fact that their country of origin is a hot place throw you off.
Brahmas are huge and imposing chickens, but luckily they are very gentle. Even luckier for our sake is that they have incredibly thick feathers that go all the way down their legs to their feet.
This is a level of protection from cold that other birds would envy, and combined with their large overall size and high metabolism, Brahmas will stay completely comfortable even when it is bitterly cold out.
But, there’s one thing you’ll need to be aware of: those feathered feet are prone to getting covered in mud and muck, and in cold weather that muck can freeze and then easily give their feet frostbite.
Make sure you stay on top of hygiene or keep the snow pulled back out of their run or coop and they’ll do fine.
17. New Hampshire Red
Not to be confused with the Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire Red is another American breed that is big, bold, healthy and thickly feathered.
Of course, this means they can laugh off winter weather that would send other breeds packing for the coop.
The New Hampshire Reds, despite their size, are most known for being excellent (and sometimes year-round) layers, so if egg production is what you’re after, these chickens are a great choice…
But, do keep an eye on their comb: it’s again of typical size, and vulnerable to frostbite even though the chicken might otherwise be at a comfortable temperature under its feathers.
It’s not out of the question that a Rhode Island Red could stay out too long even when their body temperature is okay.
One of the most beloved chicken breeds there is, the handsome, friendly and intelligent Orpington has even more to commend it in the form of good cold weather tolerance.
Orpingtons are a larger breed already, and that means a corresponding amount of body heat being generated from their muscles, but this combined with their thick feathering means they will stay warm in all conceivable wintry conditions.
Even better, they likewise have small combs and wattles, so there isn’t much that is going to trouble them as long as they don’t get muddy or wet and always have a place to get up off the ground.
19. Rhode Island Red
A truly robust breed, and one with famous good looks thanks to that dark brown-red plumage, we can see immediately that the small combs and lobes of the Rhode Island Red present little vulnerability to frostbite.
More than this, these prolific layers are known for excellent health overall, and their feathers are likewise known to be extraordinarily good insulators, even compared to those of other chickens. This gives them a huge advantage in cold weather.
Wyandotte’s are some of the cutest chickens around, known for their plump, round body shape and thick feathers that help to ward off the chill.
This is another larger breed that generates a considerable amount of body heat and so won’t struggle to stay warm even when outside of the coop.
Generally healthy, and a good egg layer, the Wyandotte chicken breed is another classic choice that will do wonderfully in cold weather.
Another breed that is rarely encountered in the US, the Welsummer hails from the Netherlands and, as you might imagine, is a chicken that’s almost totally adapted to chilly weather.
The Welsummer chickens have a particularly thick coat of feathers, and each one has a slightly fuzzy, downy texture which is supremely insulating.
Surprisingly, they have a somewhat larger comb than you might expect for a chicken that’s expected to endure cold weather for much of the year, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for this breed.
They also happened to be energetic and inquisitive chickens, and very good layers, meaning they are a wonderful addition to any flock.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.