A few days ago, we posted a picture of an Icelandic chicken on our Cluck, Cluck, Doo! Facebook page. Several followers commented they were unfamiliar with the breed. We didn’t know much about these beautiful birds, either. Of course, we had to investigate.
There’s a reason that not much is known about the Icelandic chicken. It is a rare breed, indeed. Although they have been around since earliest times – when Scandinavian explorers ventured across the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans – there presently are but a few thousand that exist throughout the world.
When Vikings arrived in Iceland, it is very likely that they observed these chickens doing a bit of exploring of their own as they can be rather curious of their surroundings. As their country of origin suggests – this is one weather-resistant and hardy breed. The harshest conditions and coldest temperatures cannot keep them in their coops. Even babies are taken out into the ice and cold by their mama hens. If you were to clear a path in the snow, your Icelandic chicken would surely follow. Where no path exists, an Icelandic rooster will forge his own.
Regardless of the time of year, Icelandic hens can become broody. Females will sit on their eggs only once they have found the absolutely perfect nesting place. This breed can be rather persnickety about where they lay their medium, cream or pink-tinted eggs. Most breeders find that their hens prefer bushel baskets (or small laundry baskets) filled with straw as opposed to more traditional nesting boxes.
While out in the elements, it would not be unusual to find Icelandic hens or roosters at the highest point in the chicken yard. They will roost on the peaks of coops, the tops of fence posts, and even in trees. Trees? Yup, you guessed it – this breed can fly better than most. Ironically, they are also small enough that they get into some unusual spots around the yard or barn where they may be found ranging and foraging.
A not truly standardized breed, Icelandics are found in a variety of colors, patterning, and comb styles. A few can be found with crests. Regardless of color or pattern, all have white earlobes.
Only a few breeders of pure Icelandic chickens can be found outside of Iceland; but they do exist. If you live in a colder climate where the weather may be harsh or unpredictable, and if you are interested in preserving a rare breed, consider the Icelandic as an addition to your flock. Even cross-bred Icelandics tend to maintain their hardy, though docile nature and affinity for the outdoors.
Can’t you just picture this beautiful bird sitting atop a lofty perch watching the Viking longboats approach the shore?
Photo Source: Featured image: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/icelandic-chickens; group photo: Yahoo Images; all other photos: mackhillfarm.com