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MM 36

Hardiness Parameters

by | Jan 5, 2021 | Meyer Moment

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about the parameters that define heat versus cold hardy breeds. It’s a question we often receive, as customers seek out the magic temperature that deems a breed hardy for their climate. However, you may be surprised to know, there is no hard number to follow, rather, a variety of characteristics to consider.

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Coop with Meyer Hatchery – where we talk all things poultry in hopes of inspiring crazy chicken keepers and educating future flock owners. Each week we like to take a Meyer Moment to cover relevant happenings. 

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about the parameters that define heat versus cold hardy breeds. It’s a question we often receive, as customers seek out the magic temperature that deems a breed hardy for their climate. However, you may be surprised to know, there is no hard number to follow, rather, a variety of characteristics to consider. 

So what are these characteristics? While temperature does play a role, so do the breed characteristics including their weight, feather type, and comb. 

First know, a hen’s resting body temperature is between 105-107 degrees Fahrenheit. Chickens are fairly comfortable at the 70 degree mark, but can survive temperatures well into the teens and below. As always a protective coop well kept from the outside elements, with good ventilation is key for any breed. 

The high body temperature of chickens is a result of their fast metabolism. Meaning a good winter feed is important. As we discussed in previous episodes, adding cracked corn to their diet during the winter months can help in maintaining this heat throughout the night. 

Because of this, heavier breeds such as Orpingtons, Cochins and Brahmas do well in cold climates. More body mass and heavy feathering will protect them from frigid overnight temperatures. While lighter breeds can still sustain cold temperatures, your heavier breeds will thrive, often unphased by venturing outside into the snow during feeding time.

In addition to weight, consider their feathering. The beloved silkies are heat tolerant due to their smaller size and wispy semiplume feathers. These long soft feathers can not lock to form a web, resulting in what looks like fur. This feather type provides less protection from wet, cold weather. 

Lastly consider their combs, as this delicate area is most prone to frostbite. Breeds with pea, rose, walnut, or cushion combs do best in colder climates. Large single, carnation, or rose spiked combs are best for warmer climates. Again, as we discussed in previous episodes large comb breeds can handle cold temperatures but may need extra care. 

As you browse for new flock additions, you can find these individual breed characteristics on the Meyer Hatchery website listed under “more details”. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry, you can also use our new filter feature and select by hardiness. Here we’ve compared weight, feathers and comb characteristics for you, helping you to make flock selection an enjoyable process that also fits your climate.  

Enjoy the rest of your week and as always, thank you for listening to The Coop!

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