good cold weather chickens?

family flock

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 9, 2014
Massachusetts, USA
hello! i am new to the forums and a soon to be new chicken owner.

i wasn't really sure where to to put this thread as this forum is set up differently from other forums i am on.

i live in MA and our winters can get down to single digits and 0 (*F). i would like to know what breeds are best for cold weather and how you keep them in the winter. :)

to simplify things, i will tell you what i know:
- smaller combs are better so the risk of frostbite is less
- the coop still needs ventilation in the winter
- moisture in the winter is not good for the chickens
- heat lamps are ok, but if the power goes out and the chickens are not used to the cold, they could get sick or die

i have read that these are hearty chickens in the cold
o Plymouth rocks
o wyandottes
o chanteclers
o orpingtons

You might want to google Henderson Chicken Breed Chart which will redirect you to SageHenFarm who is now hosting it. It lists all sorts of cold-weather chickens under the Breed Hardiness column.

Secondly, use the Search bar at the top of the BYC page and type in "Cold weather" or "Chickens in Cold" or a myriad of other thinngs. You'll find all sorts of threads of folks that have covered this topic before. There's probably a section under the forum site of "Managing your flock."

Good luck!

i know pine shavings are good for inside the coop, but i read that its not the best for in the nest boxes because the hens might kick it out. is hay or straw an appropriate nesting material?

As far as breeds, if you stay away from the Mediterranean breeds like Leghorns, Andalusians, should be good. Even smaller straight combed birds do okay in cold weather, and hens do better than roosters. Several breed were developed in New England, way before there was electricity--any breed named for a state/area there should do fine for you.

Don't use a heat lamp. Chickens can easily handle sub zero weather as long as they're dry and out of the wind. They'll eat a little more to generate more heat, fluff up and huddle together and be just fine.

For nest boxes....I pretty much use whatever I'm using for bedding. Usually that's pine shavings, right now it's a mix of shavings, grass hay and grass clippings. My nest boxes are rubbermaid tubs or milk crates. The crates are too high for them to kick bedding out. The tubs I lay on their sides ( when I tried to stand them upright the hens would try to jump on the edge and tip them over) and sometime I just have to push bedding back in the box--no biggie. They will lay on the bare surface, and the eggs don't break or anything so I don't stress it.
so in theory, in the spring i can use the thatch from when we thatch the lawn as nest material? i would love to see a pic of your milk crate next boxes if you have one!

what do you feed your chickens? are pellets better than the crumble?

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