Winter layers and Cold hardiness – NOT the same thing! December 28, 2012
One of the mistakes I initially made years ago when choosing my chicken breeds was that I didn’t understand that there was a difference between cold hardy breeds and winter layers. To me, a breed that was described as cold hardy was bound to be a winter layer, too. But that’s not true.
It’s just not the case that cold hardiness equates to good winter laying. Chickens may be cold hardy—that is, they may bear the winter cold well—without being good winter layers. For instance, Ameraucanas are quite cold hardy. They are notoriously terrible winter layers, too. And Marans: they bear cold well, too, but I seldom see chocolate eggs from my Marans in the West Virginia winter. And Brahmas don’t give me eggs, either, even despite the recommendation of a good friend.
Unfortunately (in some ways, at least), Wheaten Ameraucanas and Cuckoo Marans comprised half of my first flock. Don’t get me wrong—they are great birds. Winter layers they are not. I also started with a Salmon Faverolles (great winter layer!) and a Golden Laced Wyandotte. The wyandotte would have helped my winter pantry… except that she turned out to be a he. That winter, our whole family was dependent on one hard working Faverolles hen.
Now, I know better, though. When I add to my flock, I know to choose not just cold hardy breeds, but also good winter layers. Other than the Faverolles, my favorites for winter laying are probably Speckled Sussex. Sussex are so pretty, so friendly and such good layers, year round.
I also love the Welsummer, although they don’t seem to lay as well in the winter as the Sussex–at least not around here. When they do lay, though, they lay fabulous, dark brown speckled eggs.
Certainly breeds that lay well in winter will vary on your latitude and climate. Which breeds are the best winter layers in your area?