Keeping Chickens In Hot Climates

“I live I Spain (Andalusia) are there any recommended breeds that do well in what can be a very hot place 40 c.+.” ~ Dave Clifford

Thanks for the great question. Our family raises chickens in an area where temperatures get over 40 c. for about 100 days each year. It’s not clear whether you want your chickens for eggs or meat so I’ll do my best to address both.

We have had a lot of luck with Rhode Island Reds and this breed would be my first recommendation. They are a very versatile bird suited for both meat and eggs. With the right conditions, they can produce 250 to 300 eggs per year. Their eggs are large and brown in color. Rhode Island Reds are moderately early maturing, by 6 months. Hens weigh in around 6 and a half pounds with roosters about 2 pounds more.

They are friendly for the most part but could possibly be aggressive with strangers or if they are afraid. Reds are not only heat, but also cold tolerant. When temperatures are extreme either way, their egg production will significantly slow down. Rhode Island Reds are adaptable to both confinement and free range. If you are raising chickens for meat, the time to butcher is before they start to lay or immediately thereafter. If you wait, the meat will start to get tough.

Another heat tolerant, high producing egg layer is the Leghorn (often pronounced leg-ern.) This is the most common commercially used layer because they give a nice white, medium to large egg, mature at 5 months and can lay up to 275 eggs per year. They will continue to lay until 10 to 12 years of age with production slowing down by 15-20% at around 8 years.

Leghorns are also not sitters so you do not have to fight with them to get your eggs. They can be confined or free range. They are active birds, capable of considerable flight. If they have an opportunity they will even roost in trees. They are noisy, nervous birds and will typically avoid human contact. A rooster will weigh about 6 pounds and a hen 4 and a half. Because of their smaller size, leghorns are not good to raise for meat. They have good feed to production ratios and because they are good foragers, they can glean a portion of their diet by ranging if given the opportunity.

Finally, I’d recommend the Naked Neck (or Turken). Although they are awkward looking, they are very hardy birds. Naked Necks are thought to have originated in Hungary but were perfected in Germany. The name Turken, comes from the misconception that the birds were a cross between a turkey and a chicken. This is of course, a fallacy. Their necks and face have no feathers and their skin turns red when exposed to sunlight, paralleling the appearance of a turkey. Naked Necks, known as “Kaalnek” in South Africa, have less than half the feathers of other birds their size. This makes it easier to pluck if you are raising them for meat.

Hens average 6 pounds while roosters are closer to 8 pounds. Despite their limited feathers, Naked Necks do well in cold climates, providing they have some shelter. They are also very heat tolerant, seemingly unaffected by extremely high temperatures. They adapt well to either free range or confinement and are calm, friendly birds. They lay a medium size, creamy brown egg. Although they are not the egg machines that Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns are, they are a reliable and vigorous dual purpose breed.

With any breed, and in any climate, it is important to make sure your chickens have fresh, clean water and shade. In a hot climate like yours, it is even more important. If you are able to position your coop so that it will receive a regular breeze, I’d recommend that as well. We installed a misting system in the run area. It is very simply PVC pipe, attached to a garden hose with small emitters spaced about 3 feet apart. When temperatures are extreme in our desert climate, the mister not only cools our birds but provides important humidity. This can help to keep egg production closer to normal in extreme heat.

There are hundreds of chicken breeds. The three listed are breeds that we have personally raised and do well in our extreme desert temperatures. They are common in our part of the world but I believe they are widely available. We do not get extremely cold temperatures here but I know that most breeds are susceptible to frost bite on their combs and care must be taken in that regard.

I hope this has been of help to you and good luck on your new adventure.

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