advice on choosing a breed for extreme climates

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by cssmith, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. cssmith

    cssmith Hatching

    Jun 4, 2011
    I'm interested in starting a backyard flock, and I have a few questions regarding breed selection. I live in a part of the country with a fairly extreme climate and am looking for birds that would be tolerant of fairly wild shifts in temperature. I live at around 7,000 feet on the southern colorado plateau in New mexico. Weather here is very dry and often really windy. Winters can be extremely cold (especially at night) Summer temperatures can get into the 100's for short periods but are normally in the 90's during the hot part of the summer. During winter and spring the difference between daytime highs and nightime lows can be quite extreme.

    I often see breeds described as cold hardy or heat tolerant and what I need is really a bird that can deal with both. Of the breeds that I am generally interested in, rhode islands and plymouth rocks seem to be the most weather tolerant. I'm pretty sure I've seen PRs in yards around here so I'm taking that as a good sign that they may be a suitable breed for the area. Are there any other breeds I should be looking into for my climate?

    I'm interested in having a small flock (maybe around 6-8 birds) that will produce eggs for the family but also want birds that will be fun and enjoyable to keep. I grew up in southern california and we kept chickens in the backyard when i was a kid, but keeping chickens comfortable in the mild mediteranean climate of the california coast doesn't require much effort.

    I'd love to hear suggestions for a good high desert bird. I'd like a good egger but am willing to trade production for weather hardiness and temperment to some extent.

    Thanks for your help,

  2. chickendales

    chickendales Songster

    Feb 24, 2011
    bird with large comb and single comb breed dont so as well in the cold there comb freeze off
  3. TK Poultry

    TK Poultry Songster

    May 25, 2009
    Greencastle, Indiana
    Not to be a breed advocate but the Ameraucanas they are pretty hardy. They do well until temps hit about 107*. Its about 100* here today in Indiana with the humidity and the lack of a breeze. I give the ice water every hour or so (I've been home all day) and they are fine. When I'm not home I do it as much as I can. They are also very cold tolerant as well. I don't usually have problems with them unitl the single digits. Buckeyes also do well in both as well as Chanteclers. I have bantams and they don't do as well in the cold weather as the LF.
  4. Oldhound

    Oldhound Songster

    Jan 21, 2011
    South Carolina
    Try Feathersite , no opinions just facts on most breeds. Many breeds such as Buckeyes, Wyandottes, Dominiques, Icelandics etc were designed to cope with weather extremes. Chickendales is right about frozen combs.
  5. Sorin

    Sorin Songster

    Jul 15, 2010
    Glenfield, ny
    Plymouth Rocks might be a good choice. They handle cold very well. I have some, (barred rocks) I live in Northern NY and sometimes in the summer we get in the 90's plus high humidity, and as long as they had shade and water they were fine. Also, they are a fairly friendly breed. You may also want to consider Turkens (naked necks) The bare neck helps with heat, but despite that they handle cold quite well, I know some people around here have them. How cold can it get where you are? We routinely have winter days near 20 below zero, and mine still wanted to go outside, even though I didn't let them when it got that cold. Not to say that chickens don't mind cold, but they are much more tolerant of it than people, even the ones that aren't "cold hardy". Also, as far as frozen combs, a little Vaseline on the comb every few days goes a long way to prevent that. I haven't had to resort to that yet, and I have a few chickens with pretty large combs.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2011
  6. Sugar Sand Farm

    Sugar Sand Farm Songster

    Apr 24, 2007
    North Florida
    We live in northern Florida and believe it or not we have extreme temps here. It can go and has this past week over 100 degrees and in the winter we have had days when the high was 14 degrees. I have all kinds of birds jersey giants,brahmas,cochins,bantam japanese they all do well in either climate. I do offer lots of shade in the summer and a closed coop in the winter. I havent had any deaths related to the temperature yet. We have brabanters in the incubator now the eggs came from colorado so I guess they will be OK as well.
  7. cssmith

    cssmith Hatching

    Jun 4, 2011
    Thanks for all the help. I'm still leaning towards plymouths since that what we had as kids but The wife is wanting fancy ornamental things like silkies, which I'm hoping to talk her out of (no offense to the silkie lovers :)

    we get nightime lows into the single digits fairly regularly in the winter. Unlike the northeast and midwest we warm up a bit more in the daytime since it's usualy sunny. It's not unusual to swing from the low 50's during the day to the teens at night. We also don't get much snow here so I can't depend on a thick blanket to help insulate the roof of the coop. Currently shade is in pretty short supply in my yard (no trees here) but I intend to build a ramada where the birds can cool off in the summer. I'm not as worried about summer here since we are at a high enough altitude to avoid the really punishing heat of the lowland southwest. Plus we have low humidity, so as long as the birds have water and shade they should be fine.

    As far as a coop goes I'm still thinking that over. I have an old adobe outbuilding that I use to store garden tools. I'm considering trying to convert it to a coop because adobe is a great insulator. I just need to figure out the ventilation and cleaning issues for a building like that. It's not like a wooden shed where you can just have at it with a sawzall. The other issue is that the oubuilding may be too big for a small group of birds to keep warm in without supplimental heating. I don't want to run electricity out there (nor pay to heat a chicken coop) so I may just scrap the idea and build a smaller coop from scratch.

  8. chickendales

    chickendales Songster

    Feb 24, 2011
    youll never talk he out of silkies lol but rember you can keep silkies with your rock
  9. fshinggrl

    fshinggrl Songster

    May 1, 2009
    the edge of insanity
    I am from Minnesota. In the summers we get up to 100 degrees at times and down to -20 frequently in the winter. I have had silver laced wyandottes, barred rocks, Easter eggs and many others are sold here as egg layers. Plymouth rocks sound like a good choice.
  10. pdsavage

    pdsavage Sussex Monarch

    Mar 27, 2008

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