Some chicken breeds are more heat tolerant that others. They typically are lightweight breeds with large combs and wattles, sparse feathering, and clean legs. Other breeds are more cold hardy. They generally are the heavier breeds with tight combs, small wattles, and dense feathering. Some breeds, however, are able to handle both warm and cold weather with equal ease. Among the latter are the following 8 all-climate chicken breeds.
The Crevecoeur originates from Normandy, France. The maritime climate there is basically temperate, but also wildly unpredictable within any given 24-hour period. Summer highs can be in the 80s, while winter lows hover around freezing.
The Crevecoeur has black plumage that absorbs heat from sunlight in cold weather. It also has tiny wattles and a small V comb to minimize frostbite, and crest feathers that offer head protection in cold weather. On the other hand, the crests must be watched in wet winter weather, since wet crests can possibly freeze.
As a mid-weight breed with clean legs, the Crevecoeur handles warm weather well. And its docile temperament protects this breed from excessive excitement that can result in overheating.
The exact origin of the Hamburg chicken is a matter of some contention. It possibly originated in the Mediterranean and was later developed by Dutch and German poultry enthusiasts. It has therefore been exposed to a variety of climates during its development.
This breed has a rose comb, which compared to a single comb is less susceptible to winter freezing. The breed is also extremely active, which helps generate heat body in cold weather.
The Hamburg is small to mid weight and has clean legs. The light colored plumage of the silver spangled, the most popular variety, reflects heat from summer sunlight.
The Houdan hails from Houdan, France, which has an oceanic climate. Temperatures during the long, cold winters can drop below freezing. During the short summers the temperature can spike above 100°F. The Houdan is much like the Crevecoeur, with similar features that put it among the all-climate chicken breeds.
The Plymouth Rock was developed in Massachusetts, which has a continental climate. Summers are warm and winters are cold.
This breed’s large size and active nature help keep it warm in cold weather. The large single comb and dangly wattles of the rooster are vulnerable to frostbite in winter, but help keep the bird cool in summer. The Plymouth Rock’s clean legs contribute to its tolerance of summer heat.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red hails from Rhode Island. Like Massachusetts, this state has a continental climate. Although different in type from the Plymouth Rock, the Rhode Island Red bears many of the same features that make it one of the all-climate chicken breeds.
The Spitzhauben comes from the Swiss Alps, where Europe’s cool northern climate meets the warm southern climate. The weather is therefore extremely variable, with seasonal temperature extremes as well as unpredictable daily weather.
The Spitzhauben is a mid-size breed with clean legs that help keep it cool in summer. It has a V comb and a bit of head feathering, and is extremely active, all pluses for cold weather tolerance. For more info on the Spitz, see Breed Spotlight: Appenzeller Spitzhauben Chickens.
The Sumatra chicken comes from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. These islands have a tropical climate with warm temperatures year around.
So what lets the Sumatra do so well in cold weather? The breed is smallish in size. It has a small pea comb and tiny wattles. It has dark plumage, and the breed is extremely active.
The Welsumer comes from the village of Welsum, Holland. The temperature there can dip below freezing in winter, yet can reach as high as 90°F in the summer.
This breed is mid weight with a large single comb and rather large wattles, and clean legs for dissipating summer heat. Yet it is a dark-feathered bird that is relatively active, which help generate winter heat.
Choosing the right breed for your climate can be tricky, especially if you live in an area with seasonal extremes. By selecting one of the many all-climate chicken breeds, your flock will come equipped to deal with the whims of the weather.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.