When we’re ordering chickens, it’s easy to get caught up in choosing the most colorful and exciting breeds without paying attention to practicality.
Luckily for me, I live in a fairly temperate area, which means most chickens will thrive on our farm. First learning about the best chicken breeds to purchase for your area, can help save you a decent bit of frustration further down the road.
Why Selecting the Right Chicken Breed for Your Climate Is Important
“So really, why can’t I add that adorable Sicilian Buttercup to my Alaskan homestead?” Honestly, you could, it’s just a matter of what will work best depending on your climate, and how happy your chickens will be – if they survive Alaskan winters.
Choosing the best chicken breed for your climate is crucial to maintaining a healthy flock. A chicken in the right environment will remain happy, healthy, and laying eggs on a regular basis. When chickens aren’t suited for their environment, their health can suffer in severe weather.
A good example of adaptability to climate is that some chickens have exceptionally large combs that will easily get frostbitten on colder nights while other breeds have pea combs that sit close to their heads to stay warm even on the coldest of nights.
Breeds with small pea combs are then better suited to colder zones.
Does Breed Classification Matter?
One thing that can help you determine the best chicken breed for your climate is knowing your breed classes. Different classes originated in different parts of the world, which means different classes will fare well in different climates. Of course, breed classification isn’t everything, but it’s a pretty good bet that a Mediterranean breed won’t do too well in Canada.
Poultry from the American class originated from, surprise, the United States and Canada. Generally speaking, these chickens are good with temperate climates and can handle some of the colder winters. Chickens from the American class include breeds such as Rhode Island Reds, Buckeyes, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes.
English chickens originated from England, as one would expect with such a name. Some chickens classified as English birds also came from Australia, which is somewhat surprising to most people. These chickens are well suited for temperate climates, leaning more towards cold tolerant than heat tolerant. Breeds belonging to the English class include Cornishes, Australorps, Orpingtons, and Sussex chickens.
Coming around to the Asiatic chickens, many of the breeds belonging to this class originated from or around China. When you’re shopping for cold-tolerant chickens, Asiatic breeds are good chickens to look out for. Brahmas and Cochins are both Asiatic breeds with feathered legs to keep them looking and feeling cozy.
When I think of Mediterranean chickens, I immediately think of flighty birds that can survive the hottest of days. This class has many interesting breeds originating from Spain and Italy. For those searching for a heat-tolerant chicken, Mediterranean chickens will likely serve you well. Penedesenca, Sicilian Buttercups, and Minorcas all belong to the Mediterranean class of poultry.
Continental chickens originated around Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. This class of poultry is another one that contains breeds that are comfortable in temperate climates. Barnevelders, Welsummers, and Faverolles all belong to this chipper class of poultry.
Best Chicken Breeds For Cold Climates
When considering breeds for frigid winters, your biggest concern will be frostbite. Frostbite can easily affect combs, wattles, and sometimes toes in especially harsh cases. If you have a decent bit of snow, you’ll also want to look for a chicken that isn’t too scared of venturing out into the snow.
Brahmas are one of the very bestchicken breeds to keep in cold climates. This chicken not only sports a pea comb that sits close on its head to prevent frostbite, but Brahmas also have cozy feathered legs.
To help them brave cold winters, Brahmas have a large body mass, which makes them a perfect dual-purpose breed if you’re after both meat and eggs.
Although Wyandottes belong to the American class of poultry, they do pretty well in chilly weather. This attractive breed has a walnut comb atop its head, which is another excellent comb-type to look for in chickens if you need cold tolerance.
Cochins are a fearless breed when it comes to snow and cold. These adorable birds have feathered boots and an impressive amount of down on their plump bodies to help them brave cold winter nights. The only thing you’ll need to look out for with this breed is their single combs. If you have a Cochin rooster, he may be a special concern in very cold weather.
Best Chicken Breeds For Temperate Climates
For those in well-balanced climates, you won’t need to worry quite as much about checking the weather tolerance of the breeds on your wishlist. As someone in a temperate climate, I’ve had some breeds from every poultry class and never had a single issue.
1. Plymouth Rocks
Plymouth Rocks are a timeless breed that will do well in any weather, even warmer summers and chilly winters. This breed is a champion layer that is sure to provide you with an abundance of eggs. If you like friendly chickens, Plymouth Rocks are an excellent choice.
An Orpington will do well in any temperate area and they’ll even do okay with a few chilly winter nights as long as their single combs don’t get frostbitten. This breed is an old standby and can still be found in many feed stores, making it easy to find in the springtime.
This Australian chicken is another breed that will never fail to disappoint when it comes to egg production. Australorps can handle just about any weather you throw at them, as long as especially cold winters are avoided.
If you need a perfect chicken, Australorps may be as close as it gets with their friendly dispositions, perfect egg production, and tolerance of almost any weather.
Best Chicken Breeds to Keep in Hot Climates
If you’re keeping any Mediterranean chickens, you’ve definitely got perfect candidates for free-ranging. These chickens are not only heat-tolerant, but they’re also predator intolerant. Mediterranean breeds are usually flighty chickens that don’t tend towards being too friendly towards anyone. One thing you’ll notice on all these chickens is their especially large combs, which help them to cool down on hot days.
Minorca chickens are interesting at a first glance due to their impressively large comb, wattles, and earlobes that help them keep their cool. This breed certainly would not do good for a cold winter, but they can brave the hottest of summers.
Andalusian chicken breeds can handle a little more cold weather than most Mediterranean breeds, but they’re still best suited to warm weather. These chickens are a small and wiry breed to help them remain cool on hot days, which works out perfectly as long as you aren’t expecting any kind of meat.
I will never forget the flighty and fidgety Fayoumi that I raised, who was appropriately named Pharaoh after her Egyptian origins. These chickens are also a small breed to keep cool in hot climates, which also means they are excellent at flying. If you’re looking for a predator wary and heat tolerant bird, Fayoumis are undoubtedly worth looking into.
Chicken Keeping in Every Climate
You don’t have to get too discouraged if your dream chicken isn’t best suited for your climate. Sometimes exceptions can be made, but it’s best to do your research on chicken breeds and try your best to choose with your climate in mind.
Setting yourself up with the right chicken breed for your climate will give you an excellent jump start on keeping a healthy flock of chickens!