Your Ultimate Guide to New Hampshire Chicken

Are you looking for the ultimate dual-purpose chicken breed? Or maybe you’re researching whether New Hampshire Chickens are better than the Rhode Island Reds. If you are, then you’ve come to the right place. Read this ultimate breed guide on the New Hampshire chicken, and find out if their strong personality can soar its way into your backyard. 

New Hampshire breed in a nutshell

Country of OriginAmerica
Purpose for BreedingDual purposePrimary: meat, secondary: eggs
Size / market weightMedium heavy (6.5 – 8.5 pounds)
Notable FeaturesGolden bay to chestnut red feathering single comb with 5 pointsBright red medium- moderately large wattles and earlobes
Egg productionGreat (200-240 eggs per year)
Egg color & sizeColor Brown, egg size large
Broodiness levelProne to go broody
Ease of careLow maintenance
Ideal meat production timeRoaster: 16 weeks
Pullet Maturity time17-40 weeks
Space RequirementsAdaptable to coop/ free-range but needs ample space
Activity levelActive
TemperamentUsually docile, but has aggression tendencies
Sociability with other chickensNot usually friendly, competitive
Sociability with peopleGood
Conservation statusWatch

A Brief History of The New Hampshire Chicken

The New Hampshire chicken is a true United States American chicken breed developed in, yes, you guessed it, New Hampshire! They came from their New England relative, the Rhode Island Red, but are more superior dual-purpose chicken, valued primarily for meat. Breeders then started to isolate traits that later produced a chicken that grows, matures, and feathers faster.

In 1935, breeding efforts paid off, and the American Poultry Association accepted the New Hampshire Chickens as a breed of their own. Since then, New Hampshire paved the way for the modern broiler industry. Contest winners of the Chicken of Tomorrow, a contest for developing the best meat chicken breeds) used the NH chickens as their parent stock (1).

What Does New Hampshire Chicken Look Like?

This breed, or let’s call them NH chicken for short, is also called the New Hampshire Red. True to its name, this chicken breed’s plumage color is medium to light red and often fades in the sunshine.

They also have bright red wattles (medium to large) and rather long earlobes. They have a single comb that is also red and stands upright with 5 points. The comb size in the females is, of course, smaller and often droops to one side. Their legs and skin color are a rich yellow, and they have short tails that are mostly red with black ends.

These red birds have a deep, broad body and a full, round chest, making them great for meat production

New Hampshire chicken is a medium breed, similar in size to the Wyandotte, weighing between 6.5 – 8.5 pounds. The NH bantams weigh between 30 – 34 ounces (2).

what It’s Like To Own A New Hampshire Red

As the saying goes, “Looks only go so far, and it’s what’s on the inside that matters.” This applies to New Hampshires too. Let’s go beyond superficial characteristics and get to know more about what the New Hampshire Red can do for your backyard.

Pros

  • Fast feathering
  • Fast-growing
  • Early maturity
  • Good meat source
  • Cold-hardy

Cons

  • Competitive with food
  • Can be flighty
  • Medium-large space requirement

NH’s Personality And Temperament

Don’t let the simple looks of the NH chickens fool you. They are hardy and intelligent birds. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu mentioned that the bird’s hardiness and intelligence reflect the state’s citizens. Being dubbed as New Hampshire’s official state poultry is an honor (3).

They’re very well suited to New Hampshire and the cold, and they’re smart.

The hens are prone to go broody and make good mothers. They generally have a good temperament. Oh, except for the roosters. They get quite competitive, especially when it comes to food. 

They also get pretty clucky and make excellent backyard buddies with other New Hampshires, but they rank themselves high in a mixed flock’s pecking order. You may want to keep docile chicken breeds like Silkies or the Speckled Sussex in a different chicken coop or area, so they don’t get bullied by these reds.

New Hampshire Chicken Egg And Meat Production

This breed is great for meat production compared to the Rhode Island Red. One study compared the weights of 16-week old juveniles from both breeds. The study found that New Hampshire Reds weighed about half a pound heavier than the Rhode Island Reds, with the difference slowly evening out as they got older (4). 

There was very little difference in the weight of the New Hampshire and the Rhode Island Reds at the age of 40 weeks.

With that fact-checked, other studies moved on to compare New Hampshire meat chickens to other breeds. One study, in particular, found that the NH Red was the 3rd cheapest to produce, behind the White Plymouth Rock and Naked Neck and was also noted as the second favorite in terms of meat taste and texture, next to the Speckled Sussex and tied with the Dominique (5). 

Now let’s talk about eggs. New Hampshire chickens are one of the Chickens that lay colored eggs. New Hampshire hens are known for their large brown egg size. The eggs’ color varies in the shade as some strains lay eggs of dark brown shell color. Although egg production is only a secondary purpose, New Hampshires are great for their brown egg size, shell color and are among the best egg laying chickens

New Hampshire Reds produce at least 200 eggs per year.

You don’t need to spend money on a good incubator for New Hampshire Red chicks. After 21 days of hatching, the chicks, later on, exhibit fast growth and feathering. 

Like other chickens, New Hampshire Red chicks’ feathering process starts with the pin feathers emerging, replacing the initial fluff. However, there’s one distinct difference – the New Hampshires’ pin feathers are the same color as their plumage. Unlike the usual white or black that stick out, the pin feather color blends in, which means they don’t look awkward growing out their feathers.

How to Take Care of New Hampshires

At this point, you probably think that the New Hampshires are a great choice for your flock. Before you ultimately decide, let me point out some specific care needs of this chicken.

1. Place Them In A Good-Sized Coop Or A Free-Range Setting

Being on the larger side of the size spectrum, New Hampshire chickens need quite a bit of space. As a chicken keeper, you have the choice to either keep them in a good-sized coop or free-range them.

New Hampshire chickens bear confinement  well and are also great foragers.

Whichever system you choose, keep in mind that you will need a safe enclosure to keep them in at night, preferably a predator-proof chicken coop. Speaking of night time, remember to set up roosts that are a comfortable height for them, around 2 – 4 feet high for these flighty chickens (6).

For smaller flocks or bantams, you can check out some A-frame chicken coop plans. Some designs, like the A-frame tractor, allow you to let your chicken forage safely.

2. Give The Best Organic Chicken Feed

You need to give the best organic chicken feed that you can get your hands on, especially when you’re raising dual-purpose chickens like New Hampshire Reds. Good quality feed ensures that they grow properly with no synthetic substances in their system. After all, whatever they eat gets passed on to you when you eat them! Egg-laying hens also need the most nutritious feed to make tasty and good quality eggs. Chicken feed is one thing you don’t want to skimp on.

3. (Although Not Sickly Bird) Keep An Eye Out For Common Health Issues

These are hardy birds in all aspects. New Hampshire Reds can tolerate a wide range of temperature, they’re not sickly birds, and oh, remember when we said they had simple feathering? Well, that is a good thing! 

Simple feathers mean less maintenance. You don’t have to worry about feet feathers getting wet and frozen as they walk through the snow, like the Brahma, or sight issues with the Polish’s dramatic head feathers. A poultry expert will ask you to watch out for their combs developing frostbite if you live in a place with extreme snow. 

Where Can You Buy New Hampshire Red Chickens?

With the popularity and practicality of this breed, the chickens aren’t hard to source. They are carried on stock by many reputable hatcheries and farms. Here’s a couple with good reviews:

Aside from hatcheries, you can also contact registered breeders of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) through their Breeder’s Directory.

The Verdict

The New Hampshire Chicken is truly an all in one breed. They are very productive dual-purpose birds. Due to their versatility and hardiness, New Hampshires are ideal for both beginner and expert chicken keepers alike. If you and your current flock can get past their competitive nature, they make a great addition to your backyard or homestead.

FAQs

The primary difference between New Hampshire Reds and Rhode Island Reds is their appearance. Here’s a summary to help you out.

Characteristics of New Hampshire Red
Plumage color: Light to medium Red / shiny golden bay to chestnut, Tail has some black
Comb: single comb only

Characteristics of Rhode Island Red
Plumage color: Rich, shiny dark red, Tail is mostly black
Comb: Single AND rose comb are acceptable

New Hampshire pullets start laying eggs between 23-28 weeks. It is important to note that the age at which the pullet lays its first egg is very circumstantial. You can have pullets lying as early as 18 weeks or have a 30 weeks old chicken that hasn’t laid a single egg. To get a better idea, join forums like Backyard Chickens. This is helpful because actual chicken keepers share their own experiences.

NH Roosters are not usually aggressive. They do, however, tend to be aggressive, especially towards other roosters. This is just because of their competitive nature, which is often manifested in the presence of food. Other chickens, beware: Do not stand in the way of a New Hampshire rooster and his food. If you want to prevent fights from breaking out, all you have to do is feed New Hampshire roosters separate from other breeds.

  1. New Hampshire Chicken. Retrieved from: https://www.cacklehatchery.com/product/new-hampshire/
  2. A Comparison and Evaluation of Heritage Breed Broiler Chickens on Pasture. Retrieved from: https://projects.sare.org/project-reports/fnc12-866/
  3. The Normal Growth of Chickens by H. L. Kempster. Retrieved from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/62792646.pdf
  4. ‘New Hampshire Red’ Becomes Official State Poultry. Retrieved from: https://www.nhpr.org/post/new-hampshire-red-becomes-official-state-poultry#stream/0
  5. Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds, p.70-71, 97-98. Retrieved from: https://ia800501.us.archive.org/9/items/Storeys_Illustrated_Guide_to_Poultry_Breeds_Complete/
  6. Poultry Breeds – New Hampshire Red Chickens. Retrieved from: https://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/newhampshirered
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