New Hampshire Chicken 101 : What you need to know (2022 Guide)

The New Hampshire Chicken is a hardy, yet friendly bird that closely resembles the Rhode Island Red.

While the two share a history, there’s something unique about the New Hampshire breed that could earn it its place in your backyard flock.

If you’re interested in learning more about New Hampshire chickens, we’ll now discuss the breed standard, temperament, general health, and why they could make a great dual purpose chicken for any homesteader. Let’s start with the New Hampshire chicken background.

The History of the New Hampshire Chicken

Believe it or not, the New Hampshire chicken was actually first bred in Massachusetts, and then in New Hampshire where it received its name.

Some people call it the Hampshire Red for its red to orange plumage.

Considered a relatively new breed of chicken, these are not purely bred, but a result of selective breeding in the Rhode Island Red chicken between 1910 and 1915.

Breeding the New Hampshire

Around then, a New Hampshire poultry breeder, Professor ‘Red’ Richardson looked to produce a chicken that would provide a fair amount of meat, rapid growth, and better feathering than the Rhode Island Red

He chose the strains of Rhode Island Red hens that met these criteria.

This ultimately led to the official establishment of New Hampshire Reds or New Hampshire chickens! 

Popularity

New Hampshire Chicken at a Backyard
New Hampshire Chicken at a Backyard

It was during the next period of war in America that this chicken breed really made its mark.

Because the Hampshire breed provided excellent meat production at the time, breeders could keep up with the demand and give many families a quality source of protein.

Along with their table fare, the New Hampshire Red became popular at the Chicken of Tomorrow contests which, as a side note, also played an important part in expanding the broiler industry.

DID YOU KNOW

The New Hampshire Chicken was accepted as a standalone breed by the American Poultry Association in 1935.

Heritage Breed

Aside from getting recognized as a separate breed from the Rhode Island Reds. Another interesting fact about the New Hampshire Chicken is that it received the status of a heritage breed in 2018 when the Canaan Elementary school presented a petition to the governor of New Hampshire.

The governor went on to sign the state bird into law and today, this breed remains an important part of the state’s history.

What Cross Does It Take to Make a New Hampshire Chicken?

Hampshire Reds were carefully bred from selective strains of Rhode Island Reds.

These specimens from the Rhode Island Red breed included faster feathering, greater meat production, and more vigorous growth.

Consequently, this led to the development of the New Hampshire Reds.

Traits

When we look at the origins of New Hampshire chickens, we see that only the Rhode Island Red was a part of its development.

It all started when poultry breeders working at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station started choosing Rhode Island Reds based on specific traits.

So, the New Hampshire chicken isn’t a cross of a different breed, but rather came about through selective breeding and to satisfy the meat supply during the early to mid-1900s.

What is the New Hampshire Breed Standard?

If you are interested in show quality birds, then getting to know the American Poultry Association standards is a must!

According to the association, there is only one variety of New Hampshire chicken in both the large fowl and bantam categories.

Appearance

New Hampshire chicken 61 days

These chickens must be heavy-set, soft feathered, and possess a deep broad body.

They should also have overlapping tail feathers and wings that sit close to the body.

Standard New Hampshire birds have four toes on each foot, clean legs, and a single comb with smooth wattles and ear lobes.

Comb

The comb tends to fold over in the Hampshire hen but is upright and prominent in the Hampshire Red rooster.

Both hens and roosters have yellow skin and shank while some strains lay eggs with a dark brown shell.

NOTE

The APA categorizes the New Hampshire chicken as an American chicken that is medium in size.

Recognition

It is also recognized by the Poultry Club of Great Britain, which admires this bird for its full appearance and its popularity among hobbyists.

The American Bantam Association classifies this breed as clean legged with delicate feathering, and requires that the breed meet strict quality standards to contend at poultry events.

New Hampshire Chickens Size and Weight

The New Hampshire rooster weighs an average of 7.7 lbs compared to the hens, which generally weigh 5.7 lbs.

New Hampshire bantams are slightly smaller with a rooster weighing 3.3 lbs and the hen 2.9 lbs.

They are full in the breast and chest with a medium-length body that creates their characteristic rounded appearance.

New Hampshire Chickens Feather Colors

The color of New Hampshire chickens is described as a range of chestnut to buff or light red.

Both males and females must not have any outer white plumage or a single white feather across the chest, body, nor tail as this is considered disqualification criteria.

New Hampshires can have black feathering in the wings, the tail, and across the neck on hens.

Color Varieties

There are also different color varieties of New Hampshires, such as the blue tailed New Hampshire chicken developed in Holland.

The blue tail is a very desirable but rare color type and these chickens are generally more expensive than their standard counterparts.

What is the Difference Between the New Hampshire and Rhode Island Red Breed?

Rhode Island Red Appearance
Rhode Island Red Appearance

The New Hampshire breed is larger in size and width compared to the Rhode Island Red.

They also differ in the depth of their feather coloring, as New Hampshires are considered buff red or light red while Rhode Islands are deep mahogany or dark brown.

If we were to go way back to the development of these breeds, we could see that Rhode Island Reds were bred for egg laying purposes and today they remain the top egg layer in the world!

Purpose

The New Hampshire Red is a dual purpose chicken breed, but mostly a meat production bird that lays a moderate number of eggs. They also grow feathers faster than other breeds and tend to mature quickly.

Chicks

When looking at the baby chicks, there is a distinct difference between the two breeds. At only a day old, Rhode Islands have a dark red color on the head and back, along with a yellowish underbelly.

The New Hampshire chicks are light yellow all over without any hint of red coloring.

How to Sex a New Hampshire Chicken

The New Hampshire chicks are easy to sex because of the unique white spot on the wings of the males.

This white spot will only appear on the down of hatchlings, and as soon as the mature feathers start to come in, the spot will disappear! But, there is another way to tell the difference between the boys and the girls.

Rooster

Although New Hampshires are fast to mature, you can always spot a young rooster! At only 6 weeks old, a New Hampshire Red rooster has a large single comb and wattles that are either turning red or are already bright red in color.

Their single comb is much different compared to the pale yellow comb and barely-there wattles on the little hens!

FUN FACT

If you were to breed a New Hampshire chicken with a Barred Rock or Plymouth Rock hen, you’d produce a sexlink chick!

With so many interesting features and facts surrounding these orange birds, who wouldn’t want to add one to their flock!

To help you consider this gentle breed more, our next chapter explores the egg laying and meat purpose of the New Hampshire chicken breed.

Are New Hampshire Chickens Good Egg Layers?

While New Hampshires won’t be competing in the egg marathon against the Rhode Island Red any time soon, they are considered moderate egg layers, producing at least 200 eggs per year.

Some breeders and keepers have hens laying up to 240 eggs, but this will depend on the individual chicken, their diet, and their overall health.

How Old Does My New Hampshire Chicken Start Laying Eggs?

The New Hampshire chicken will start laying between 23 to 25 weeks of age. While every hen is different and some might lay earlier or much later, the 23 week mark is generally when you can expect her to prepare to lay.

Another sign your pullet is going to produce eggs is the change in the size and color of her comb and wattles.

Color Change

It will appear more pronounced than usual and turn a shade of bright red. She will also start to do a squat or sit when you reach towards her, which is known as the “egg squat.”

An egg squat is usually a sign of egg laying as the hen prepares for a mounting rooster.

New Hampshire Red Chicken What Color Eggs Do They Lay?

Half Open Egg Inside an Egg Tray
Half Open Egg Inside an Egg Tray

You can expect an egg from your New Hampshire hens to be the color brown, large, and within it a fairly sized yolk.

How Many Eggs Does a New Hampshire Chicken Lay Per Day?

New Hampshire hens will lay 3 eggs per week.

Her egg laying ability is not as prolific as other breeds; however, the large size of her eggs certainly makes up for her egg count.

Do New Hampshire Reds Lay in Winter?

Yes, even though New Hampshire hens were primarily bred for meat purposes, they lay a fair number of eggs throughout the winter season.

They also don’t need light to supplement their egg laying abilities compared to production hens.

What Does New Hampshire Red Chicken Meat Taste Like?

The New Hampshire chicken breed is popular as a meat-producing bird and with a New Hampshire rooster able to reach 7 to 8 lbs, it can provide a fair amount of meat for a small family. If you process chickens, having a plucking machine is extremely helpful.

New Hampshires are described as possessing darker color meat that is tender with a distinct flavor. They also tend to have more meat in the thighs and legs compared to the breast.

Chicken Temperament

The New Hampshire hen is the most common in the backyard flock because she is gentle, tame, and easy to handle when raised from a young age.

This also makes them exceptional pets and fun to watch foraging around your backyard or garden.

Easy To Raise

Because New Hampshire chickens are easy to care for, they have become the ideal choice for first-time chicken keepers.

Give them a secure coop, a nutritious feed, and with some friendly interaction, you’ll have a confident and healthy bird.

While a New Hampshire chicken is wonderful around their keepers, they are not shy about getting their grub first.

Bullying

A New Hampshire hen may exhibit aggressive behavior and  bully a quieter chicken breed during feeding and treat time but you can prevent disharmony in the flock by placing a few bowls of food around the coop to allow each chicken access to their meal without a squabble.

Is a New Hampshire Hen Broody?

New Hampshire Chicken Sitting
New Hampshire Chicken Sitting

A New Hampshire hen makes a fantastic mom to her chicks but she does tend to go broody quite often.

If you are interested in hatching your own eggs, you can rely on a broody New Hampshire hen to hatch and care for them!

Do New Hampshires Get Along With Their Flock Mates?

The New Hampshire is a relaxed chicken breed and is considered a must for the backyard coop. While individual chickens have their own personalities,

The New Hampshire chicken breed are tolerant creatures and tend to do well in a mixed flock.

New Hampshires can adjust well to confinement, but it is important to give these chickens time to free range and forage.

They seem to have inherited the strong foraging trait from the Rhode Island Reds that enjoy free range and spending time on their own.

How Healthy is a New Hampshire Chicken?

If you are looking for a chicken breed without special care requirements, then the New Hampshire chicken breed could definitely be for you!

They do well in confinement, but as I mentioned previously, a few hours spent outdoors to forage each day can do wonders for their well-being and personalities.

Proper Care

The New Hampshire chicken does not suffer from any genetic ailments and should just be provided a clean coop to prevent the pests that usually creep into the environment.

Allow them to sand bath to prevent mites and lice from infesting your flock.

Are These Chickens Expensive to Feed?

New Hampshire Chickens Foraging
New Hampshire Chickens Foraging

As generally hardy chickens, New Hampshire hens and roosters don’t need unique management or costly feed.

In fact, their feed to cost ratio is more economical than other meat or broiler breeds.

Free ranging will also allow Hampshire chickens to supplement their diet naturally with a variety of grasses, seeds, and insects of course!

What is the Lifespan of New Hampshire Chickens?

As a generally healthy breed, the lifespan of New Hampshire Reds ranges between 7 to 12 years, although most breeders and keepers have reported their longevity as closer to that 7 years of age.

How Much Space Does a New Hampshire Need?

Space in the coop should include 4 square feet per bird and 10-11 square feet in a run. New Hampshires are not large or energetic chickens; however, they need enough space to independently forage.

If too many birds are confined in a small space, it could lead to frustration and pecking order issues.

Special Coop Considerations

While these birds are considered winter hardy, the coop should provide shelter against extreme rain, snow, and frost.

Dry conditions in a spacious coop and run can protect them from frost-bitten combs and wattles!

Conclusion

You can distinguish a New Hampshire chicken by its chestnut and red plumage, fading into a light orange when exposed to sunlight.

Not to mention their full set of tail feathers! To produce a bird similar to the Rhode Island Red, breeders successfully created a chicken breed that provided more meat and fewer eggs.

Raising New hampshires

If you want a chicken that is easy to raise but looks exotic, consider the blue tailed or white New Hampshire chicken.

They are quite rare and may be difficult to find but certainly add interest and beauty to the flock.

While we know so much about the New Hampshire chicken, the question is this: are they the right breed for you?

Dual Purpose

The New Hampshire dual purpose hen is a moderate layer with a friendly nature.

The egg color can vary from dark to lighter shades of brown, and it’s large sized with a deep yellow to orange yolk.

They are healthy chickens, easily handled, and also economical to feed, making them a rewarding choice for anyone wanting to own an easygoing chicken.

Feel Free To Share!

Please feel free to share this article with your fellow chicken enthusiasts or those who are considering welcoming the New Hampshire chicken into their flock.

Whether you are a seasoned backyard chicken keeper or new to owning poultry, the New Hampshire chicken is simply a must for your coop!

If you want an alternative, another friendly dual-purpose chicken you might want to check out is the Salmon Faverolle.

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Jess Woods
Jess Woods
Founder of Chickens & You. I love raising chickens and creating a self sustainable homestead for my family. I like to spend my time writing and teaching skills for homesteading and self sufficient living. 🐓 👩‍🌾