What are good breeds for California High Desert region?


10 Years
Oct 5, 2009
Parthenon, Arkansas

I live in Joshua Tree, CA where the temps get into the 20's at times in the winter (rare) with an occassional snow and about 112 in the summer. I want to get a small flock mainly for eggs but perhaps a couple for meat. I will have them in a coop but also space for free range (they will be protected from predators). I want to know if there are certain breeds that do better for the type of region i'm in? i would like to get heirloom breeds or older breeds that have not been genetically manipulated. I just don't want to get some birds and be responsible for them dying because I didn't do my homework. Also, for the coop, when they have their laying area in the coop, does that not get too hot for them in the summer? It seems like the coop in general being enclosed mostly would get too hot... but maybe not for a chicken? Any information would be sooo appreciated! Thanks so much.

I live in Palm Desert and my chickens do just fine in the temps here. I have lighter weight chicken breeds. I don't think it's fair to have Jersey Giants, Brahmas or even the Orpingtons as its too hot.
Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Easter Eggers, sumatras, barred rocks, delawares and the mediterranean breeds like the minorcas do well.

My henhouse is in the shade and I have the house area 2' above the ground with the area under the perches covered with hardware cloth. The front is covered in hardware cloth and I have a 4" strip of hardware cloth on the sides up at the roof level. In my nest boxes I also have a little ventilation on the sides.

I once tried the poultry misters but the girls hated it and the damp ground attracted all manner of flies - and the smell was atrocious!

Here's a picture of it I posted earlier today. Message #30

I suggest Turkens (aka Naked Necks) as they are hardy, heat & cold tolerant and disease resistant as well. Turkens are also good egg layers and produce a good meat carcass.

Another breed you might consider is Egyptian Fayoumis (light weight, prolific egg layer & practically feral)-- not as good at being a meat bird though.

I think Brahmas are tolerant of both hot & cold weather.
Your best bet are the Mediterranean breeds (leghorns, andalusians, minorcas). These all have large combs that help them cool off in the hot weather. I've also heard turkens are good, but I always wondered about them getting sunburn on the "bare areas." The Mediterranean breeds to tend to be more noisy and flighty than your average Rock or Brahma.

Large combs usually increase the chance of frostbite, but i doubt you will have that problem unless their is a nuclear winter. And if that was the case, frostbitten chickens would be my least concern.

You could also add a misting system in their coop on a timer for the hottest part of the day to cool them off.
110-120F summers here. Turkens did great. I agree, stay away from big heavy breeds. The hatchery turkens can get pretty heavy, but they still handle the heat very well though.

Often people think their only appeal is "looking funny" but they can be good layers, my hen from hatchery a long time ago laid HUGE eggs. A lot of people comment on their wonderful personality too.

Also people often worry or wonder about sunburning(Henderson's chart even says they sunburn.. sigh..).. they do not sunburn. Various exposed areas do turn red.. but it is the same reaction to sun as on combs and faces on any chicken. A turken rooster with cherry-red face and neck is actually just a very healthy, vigorous rooster!
I got my chicks this spring and I am in the Ridgecrest area and the hottest it got this summer was 118, I have had no problems with all of the different kinds of chickens I have. Then again I may have gone overboard to provide them with shade as well as a misting system to help keep them cool and happy during the summer..

All of my animals are spoiled rotten and well taken care of.
I live in Hesperia (near Victorville)...not far from you. I have Barred Rocks, Easter Eggers, salmon Faverolles, Delawares, Buckeyes, mottled Javas, Welsummers and black Jersey Giants. All of ours have done well. You're pretty safe on chickens as long as they are not a heavey feathers breed like cochins, etc, where they have heavily feathered feet. Our coop is closed; however, we have large window that are left open all summer (and closed up for winter too keep the coop warm).

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