I have become totally obsessed with Icelandic Chickens. These birds are amazing foragers that thrive in a free-range environment, terrific mothers that raise their own young, make for a small yet tasty meal, are consistent egg layers, are a heritage breed worth preserving, tolerate winter weather, and are stunning birds. As I said, I have gone off the chicken loving deep end. These birds are perfect for those looking for a self-sustaining flock of chickens.
Icelandic chickens are the original chicken of the Norse. As they traveled and established settlements, they brought these birds with them. They are a landrace, meaning they have been selected for specific traits, rather than a breed standard. That means I get to enjoy a wide range of colors and appearances while still maintaining a single breed. I also enjoy keeping birds I can tell apart making it easier to track their individual personalities.
Because of the quality of the eggs, It is important to me to have free-range chickens. Icelandic chickens behave more similarly to wild birds and are capable of foraging for their own food sources. While we still offer traditional chicken food, observing the birds makes clear their foraging instincts. Because I live in an area with harsh winters I also needed chickens that would do well in cold conditions.
In the past, I have had a fairly wide variety of chicken breeds carried by our local feed store. Although I was pleased with the quality and quantity of egg production, I was really surprised that even after I got a rooster and my hens were laying fertilized eggs I could not get my hens to successfully sit on and hatch out chicks. My hens very rarely went broody, and even when they did always seemed to give up near the end. We have had a single chick hatch live to date, but unfortunately, the hen did not care for it and it did not survive. As a homesteader type with romantic ideals of self-sufficiency, my goal is to have a self-propagating flock of birds. Our farm needs birds that provide a long term egg and meat supply. I do not have personal experience yet, but Icelandic chickens have a reputation for superb mothering skills.
I also love the idea of a heritage breed. By keeping a healthy, reproducing flock of Icelandic Chickens on my farm, I am helping to ensure that this breed continues on. A good practice is keeping only Icelandic Chickens on the farm to ensure any chicks do not have the possibility of being from another breed. Because we are still establishing our flock, we recently took on four Golden Sexlink hens. However, our rooster is an Icelandic, and the Icelandic and Golden Sexlinks lay different colored eggs. The Icelandic a small cream-colored egg, and the Golden Sexlink and medium brown egg. This should allow differentiation between the two.
My hope is as soon as my young Icelandic pullets begin to lay I will be able to incubate their fertile eggs. If that does not work out I will purchase more hatching eggs in the spring. While the goal is a self-propagating flock of chickens we first need to increase the number of birds.