The New Hampshire is a wonderful chicken that often gets overlooked by more popular breeds. However, this chicken deserves the spotlight and has a lot to offer to anyone looking to keep a beautiful and productive bird.
If you’re interested in the New Hampshire chicken, then we have all the information you need right here. We’ll look at the history and appearance of this chicken, while also finding out why it’s a great chicken to keep and how you can care for them. Let’s go!
History and Origin of the New Hampshire Chicken
In the long history of chickens, New Hampshire is a relative newcomer. Also called the New Hampshire Red, it was bred nearly 100 years ago and created by a man called Professor ‘Red’ Richardson. It took him around 30 years to get his vision of the perfect chicken.
Commonly confused for the more famous Rhode Island Red, the New Hampshire is a separate strain of chicken and unique in its own right. Unsurprisingly, New Hampshire is named after the state in which it was developed, even though it was also partly developed in Massachusetts.
Sadly the New Hampshire chicken has fallen out of popularity, with many people preferring other breeds. While it’s not regarded as at risk of extinction, it’s thought that there are only around 3,300 of these birds in existence.
Physical Characteristics of the New Hampshire Chicken
New Hampshire has a broad chest with a large body, which is partly the reason it makes such a great dual-purpose chicken. They are quite similar in appearance to the Rhode Island Red but do have a slightly more triangular body.
There is no doubt this is an attractive chicken too with its beautiful light red feathering. While almost all red, they also have stunning black tips on both their neck and tail feathers. They have an elegant straight red comb, with their wattles and ear lobes also being red.
Added to this, they have yellow legs and beaks to complete their great looks. New Hampshire hens generally weigh around 6.5lb but there is also a bantam version, which is much smaller.
Uses of a New Hampshire Chicken
As we mentioned before, the New Hampshire is a dual-purpose chicken but what does that mean and what else can this chicken be used for? Let’s find out.
A dual-purpose chicken is one that is great for both eggs and meat. If you are looking for a chicken that can provide you with both, they are a fantastic option. If breeding these birds, then you can use the roosters for meat and the hens for egg laying, for example.
The New Hampshire was one of the most important chickens in the early establishment of the broiler industry. However, it’s not used commercially today as other breeds are favored, which has caused a drop in its popularity.
The likes of the Cornish Cross are more economical to feed and grow to their plump size incredibly quickly. While not the best broiler breed in the world, its dual-purpose nature means that New Hampshire is great for young families looking for sustainable living.
Many don’t like the idea of killing their own chickens for meat, and that’s perfectly understandable. But even if you have no interest in their meat, your New Hampshire hen will be a reliable layer that will give you a plentiful supply of eggs.
On average, you should receive around 200 large eggs per year. It’s worth noting that some hens will produce more than this, and others less. A great aspect of this breed is that they will also lay eggs throughout the winter too.
The only issue with New Hampshire when it comes to egg laying is that they can go broody. When they do, they will become more protective of their eggs and stop laying. This lasts for a maximum of 21 days but there are ways you can break their brood.
- Eggs per Year: 200
- Eggs per Week: 4
- Size: Large
- Color: Light Brown
You may be interested in the dual-purpose nature of these chickens, but do they make good pets? The answer is a resounding yes. While not at loving as some species of chickens, they are easy to tame and will be friendly.
Due to this, they make a great option for families who want to set up a small backyard coop. You don’t need to worry about them being aggressive around children, and they are fairly docile in nature and don’t get skittish.
The only potential issue that you can get is these chickens being aggressive with each other, especially over food. This is rarely a big issue and if you have a small collection of hens, they are sure to get on with each other just fine.
Feeding and Housing a New Hampshire Chicken
If you are looking to keep one of these chickens, then it doesn’t really matter where you live. They can stand both hot and cold temperatures, therefore you don’t need to worry about them too much in those summer and winter months.
There is only one real concern as their combs can be prone to frostbite when temperatures drop below freezing. It’s important to be on the lookout for this and you can always add a coop heater. Now you know what conditions they like, let’s take a look at how to house and feed them.
The New Hampshire Red is a medium-sized chicken that doesn’t mind confinement. Due to this, you can get away with having a smaller coop than with some other chickens. Here you’ll need to allocate 4 or 5 square feet per chicken.
While they are quite happy with confinement, they do like to be free-range. Due to this, it’s a good idea to have a large run or let them out of the coop during the day. They are quite good at evading predators and therefore the risk is minimal.
Their preference to be free-range does come with an additional benefit as they are good foragers. This means they’ll happily find their own food if given the space to do so. This can help to cut down on your feeding costs.
As mentioned, the New Hampshire chicken is a good forager and therefore you can let it roam around and it will happily find its own food such as flowers and worms. However, you’ll also want to make sure they have access to high-quality feeds.
There are no special requirements for the New Hampshire chicken except for the usual rules on chicken feed. Those rules are that chicks will need a high protein diet of at least 19%, and prolific egg layers will need extra calcium in their diet, such as from crushed oyster shells.
Thankfully there are no concerns here as the New Hampshire chicken has no genetic conditions or issues you need to be aware of. They will happily live for around seven years on average but it’s a great idea to give them a dust bath and a clean coop to reduce the chance of parasites.
Along with this, it’s also a good idea to ensure your chicken is vaccinated. If you’re buying a young hen, they may have already had their vaccination, so it’s important to ask. Vaccinations will protect from a wide range of serious health issues such as Marek’s disease, salmonella, and coccidiosis.
Reasons to Keep a New Hampshire Chicken
Excited about the prospect of raising a New Hampshire chicken? Great! If you’re still not sure, we thought we’d round up all the reasons to keep this great chicken.
- Rare Breed – The popularity of the New Hampshire chicken has been declining for a long time. If you like the idea of keeping alive an important breed, then having a New Hampshire chicken is a great idea.
- Dual Purpose – Want a brilliant chicken that can provide you with both eggs and meat? If so, this chicken gets a huge tick in that box.
- Attractive – If you’re looking for a beautiful bird, then look no further than the New Hampshire chicken. While there are fancier breeds out there, this chicken has an elegant shape with stunning feathering.
- Health – New Hampshire is a healthy bird with no known genetic issues. Trips to the vets will be minimal and you can expect them to live for at least seven years.
- Efficient – These chickens are excellent foragers if given the space to roam. It means you have the output of eggs and meat for very minimal input.
- Docile – You’ll find your New Hampshire chicken to be friendly and docile. They make great family pets and are perfectly safe around children.
Reasons to Not Keep a New Hampshire Chicken
While the advantages are great, it’s also important to set your expectations. Here’s why keeping a New Hampshire chicken may be a bad idea.
- Can Go Broody – Unless you want your hens to hatch their own eggs, them going broody can be a big inconvenience as hens will need extra care and egg production will stop.
- Average Egg Production – New Hampshire is a very good egg layer, but there are many better breeds out there. If you want a chicken solely for its eggs, you may want to consider a hybrid such as the Golden Comet.
- Aggressive To Other Breeds – While not aggressive to humans, they can be aggressive to other breeds. They often aren’t the best choice for a mixed flock.
- Can Be Noisy – The New Hampshire chicken will happily cluck away for most of the day. While not a huge problem, it may be an issue if you have sensitive neighbors close by.
There is no doubt that the New Hampshire is a great breed of chicken. However, it’s now often overlooked for more productive breeds. But if you want a friendly dual-purpose chicken that is easy to keep, then look no further.