I've had chickens now for 3 years, I'm set up fairly well for around 10 birds, but would probably like 5-7.
Anyway, I've never been particular about the breeds I get from the local farm supply store, but this spring we'll be replenishing the flock with new chicks and I would love to know what breeds do better in cold weather. This has been the hardest part of raising chickens here in the land of snow and ice.
If there's a full feathered breed or maybe I should go with larger birds in general I'd love suggestions. Anyone know of a good "snow chicken"?
Light Sussex, dual purpose will lay eggs and raise young in winter, get your chicks in May to have them laying for the winter.
Here is a quote about them:
"Light Sussex chickens are a land race that arose in the 18th century from the well-mixed fowls in southern England. They were selected for 3 utility traits: winter laying, good foraging ability, and rapid growth to 16 weeks. During the 19th century the production of Light Sussex chickens became such a big business that a railroad line was constructed to speed up delivery of dressed birds to London! Light Sussex chickens were the premiere utility chicken of that era."
I am getting mine in May and will get the production reds in winter so they'll lay in spring/summer, ensuring year round egg production.
RIR have been the best and most reliable layers for me. Decent sized and very hardy. They are the first to get scratching when they think there is a worm to be found. Once in a while they go broody but not reliably enough to count on them maintaining flock numbers.
Buff Orpington are my second favorite. Not as large as the RIR but much more apt to go broody which is very helpful when you don't have time to mess with raising chicks. I had three hens that raised many chicks this past year. They know exactly what to do and they make great mothers even if they aren't hatching their own eggs.
That brings me to my third choice - Black Austrolorps. Good layers, hardy and broody from time to time. Not the best mothers but good in a pinch. They are the most likely to go out scratching in the snow and don't seem to mind the cold as much as some other birds.
The only one mentioned above that I have zero luck with was the Wyandotte. I bought 10 hens one spring and none of them even made it to the fall. It seemed to me that they utterly failed to forage at all and since I don't feed extra during the summer months, they just didn't thrive. By fall it was clear that they were not the bird for my situation. That being said... I've seen them on a lot of people's favorites lists.
I've also had easter eggers, barred rocks and black giants. Not bad birds but not really anything special either.
Another vote for Chanticlers! Good winter layers and built for the cold...no comb or wattle to get frostbitten. The Partridge Chanteclers are gorgeous, as well. Also, being an endangered heritage breed, by keeping them you will be doing your part to preserve breed diversity. The only all-Canadian chicken! (But you can find them in the U.S. too)
Emily Wilson www.blarnyardgarden.blogspot.com
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