Icelandic Chicken – Breed Profile & Facts
The Icelandic chicken is one of the best free-range breeds out there. The breed is hardy and can thrive in different temperatures and conditions. Icelandic chickens are skilled foragers, although they enjoy feeding independently when they get enough space.
These friendly chickens are dependable layers, although they aren’t the most prolific layers such as Australorps, Rhode Island Reds, and Leghorns. They make awesome ranch and farm birds.
History of Icelandic Chicken
The first Icelandic chicken came to Iceland between the 9th and 10th centuries. During the Icelandic Settlement Era, the Norse and Viking settlers were the first to introduce this breed to Iceland. The settlers started developing the breed years later into a species with spectacular adaptability and the ability to lay even in the winter months.
Icelandic chickens were the only breed in Iceland until 1930. However, because of factors like parasites and diseases, the original Iceland chicken was under threat of extinction. The then Icelandic government implemented policies to protect and preserve this landrace breed.
Icelandic chickens started coming to North America in the 1970s. These chickens are quite rare, and the Livestock Conservancy considers them endangered chickens.
Icelandic Chicken Characteristics
Iceland chickens don’t have a definite look because they come in varied colors, sizes, comb styles, and patterns. However, thanks to its featherless legs, you can easily identify an Icelandic chicken. Iceland chickens also have yellow-colored legs, although some of the chickens can have green, gray, white or blue legs.
Icelandic roosters have bigger wattles than Icelandic hens. They have short, broad beaks and small heads. Icelandic chickens have smooth featherings that come in various patterns and colors.
Size & Weight
Icelandic chickens are small-sized birds. Adult Icelandic cockerels weigh between 4.5 and 5.25 pounds. Mature hens weigh between 3 and 3.5 pounds. These chickens are much smaller than the standard breeds.
Icelandic chickens exhibit a pleasant and friendly demeanor. These chickens are lively, curious, and independent. Although every individual Icelandic chicken has a unique personality, the majority of Icelandic chickens are pretty friendly.
They are awesome chickens to raise if you have enough space for these birds to roam around safely. Some of these chickens’ best features include ease of maintenance and great character. They don’t exhibit negative qualities, such as aggression.
Icelandic chickens are overly non-aggressive birds. Therefore, these chickens get along with humans, pets, and other breeds. Because they are friendly and calm, these chickens are ready to warm up to humans and other chicken breeds quickly.
Thanks to their social and docile nature, these chickens make the perfect pets for kids. They enjoy interacting with humans, and they are also capable of handling confinement, unlike most breeds. The Icelandic chicken is a highly adaptable breed. It has a remarkable ability to thrive in any environment and situation.
Icelandic chickens are a perfect free-ranging breed for people with plenty of space for their birds to roam around foraging for bugs, insects, and plant material.
The Icelandic chicken boasts the longest lifespan of all breeds. The breed can live for up to fifteen years in captivity. With excellent and specialized care, Icelandic chickens can live for over two decades. However, their lifespan could be remarkably shorter if they are subject to predators and poor living conditions.
Overall, Icelandic chicken is a good option for a chicken raiser seeking a breed they can raise for many years.
Icelandic chickens lay fewer eggs compared to other laying champs like Leghorns and Red Islands. However, Icelandic hens are dependable layers since they can lay approximately 100 to 180 eggs yearly. These chickens produce medium to large-sized eggs. Their eggs can either be white or pale.
The average Icelandic hen usually starts laying at four months old, although diet and environmental factors can determine the duration when an Icelandic hen starts laying. The main reason people keep this breed for egg production is that it can lay continuously for years.
However, the breed will take breaks from laying when it is molting, or rather losing feathers and growing a fresh set of feathers.
Although Icelandic chickens fair well on egg production, these chickens aren’t good meat producers. Their small size doesn’t make them ideal for meat production. Despite producing small meat, these chickens aren’t short of tasty meat. Their meat is pretty delicious and enough to satisfy a small family. Cockerels are better meat producers than hens, thanks to their relatively larger size.
Icelandic Chicken Care
Although Icelandic chickens are overly low-maintenance chickens, these chickens require appropriate care to thrive. The level of care you accord to your Icelandic chickens can affect their productivity, especially when it gets to egg production. Therefore, it helps to give these chickens the best care you can to make them a worthy breed in your flock.
Icelandic Chicken Feeding & Nutrition
Icelandic chickens are active birds, so they need to eat more frequently to boost their energy levels. Free-range chickens don’t need to eat a lot since they will forage insects, moths, and worms in your yard. However, your free-range Icelandic chickens will require additional supplemental nutrients to give them the requisite minerals and vitamins in winter.
These chickens hardly forage outdoors in winter, so owners have to provide their chickens with foods that can give the birds additional minerals and nutrients.
Icelandic chickens are omnivorous birds. Therefore, they can eat almost anything that comes their way. These chickens can meet their dietary needs when foraging in ranches, farms, and yards on their own. While foraging, these chickens will peck at various food items, including grubs, worms, moths, insects, seeds, and vegetation. Such food items will give your Icelandic chickens substantive amounts of protein and vitamins.
However, chicken owners who raise their chickens in coops don’t get the advantage of free-ranging their birds. Consequently, they have to feed their chickens with commercial chicken feed. A chicken feed should include essential vitamins, minerals, carbs, and healthy fats.
Icelandic baby chicks need to start on a quality chick feed that contains plenty of protein. Protein will help the baby chicks grow new feathers fast. Furthermore, protein will help the chicks grow muscle quickly, which is vital for accelerating their growth. Older chicks can thrive on a diet of pellets rich in protein.
Icelandic hens also need a moderate amount of protein in their daily diet. Since these hens are typically egg producers, they require protein to boost their production. The protein doesn’t necessarily have to come from layer feeds.
You can get other natural protein-rich foods from food like seeds, frozen insects, mealworms, and fishmeal. Icelandic roosters too require protein to develop, making them reliable meat producers. However, cockerels don’t need too much protein. They can do with the protein in commercial chicken feed, although you must supplement their diet with other protein sources.
Icelandic chickens have a high food intake in winter when foraging isn’t an option for these chickens. Fruits, grains, and vegetables are great diet options for Icelandic chickens in cold weather. Grains, especially corn, are suitable for Icelandic chickens in the winter because it gives your chickens plenty of fiber.
Some good vegetable sources for Icelandic chickens include leafy greens because they have vitamins that will keep your Icelandic chickens healthy. Vitamins like vitamin K, D, and C boost your chickens’ immunity. However, avoid providing your Icelandic chickens with excess leafy greens because the water in these greens can cause the birds to have diarrhea.
Like other breeds, Icelandic chickens also need clean and fresh water to help these birds combat the adverse effects of dehydration, especially during the hot months.
Although Icelandic chickens can eat virtually everything, some foods aren’t safe for these chickens in the long run. Foods such as avocados, citrus fruits, raw beans, and onions are toxic and unhealthy for Icelandic chickens. Vegetables like garlic have strong flavors that can affect the taste of the eggs when your Icelandic hens consume such vegetables.
Table scraps can be good for Icelandic chickens since whatever you consume is healthy for your chickens. However, table scraps may contain spices and additives, which can harm your Icelandic chickens. Most table scraps, especially meat scraps, have plenty of fat that can make your chickens overweight.
Housing Icelandic Chickens
Good housing is crucial for Iceland chickens. Those who keep free-range chickens equally need proper housing for their Icelandic chickens. After all, these chickens will retreat to their cage at night to roost. They won’t feel secure roosting outdoors because they will be an easy target for predators.
Fortunately, Icelandic chickens don’t have specialized housing needs. These small-sized chickens can live comfortably in small coops, provided the cages aren’t congested. Ideally, the best cage for your Icelandic chickens must provide every Icelandic bird with about 2 square feet.
Nonetheless, there isn’t a standard coop size for Icelandic chickens because it depends on how many birds you want to house. If you are housing many birds, for instance, it means you need a spacious coop to accommodate your birds comfortably. Chicken keepers with a few Icelandic chickens don’t require large coops to house their birds.
Besides providing enough living space for your Icelandic chickens, a good cage should have perches. Like most birds, Icelandic chickens like sleeping on perches. They detest spending the night on the floor because they aren’t safe from threats, especially predators.
Therefore, install a couple of perches in the cage. The perches should be high enough from the floor. However, they shouldn’t be too high because the chickens will ultimately struggle to climb on the perches.
Icelandic hens need safe spots to lay, like other chickens. It is vital to have sufficient laying boxes for your Icelandic hens. Place the boxes at designated places throughout the coop. Keep the boxes tidy and comfortable to provide a clean laying environment for your Icelandic hens.
Your cage should also have good ventilation, lest your chickens suffocate because of overheating during hot days. You can also insulate the coop to keep your chickens warm in winter.
Icelandic Chicken Health Problems
There is no doubt that Icelandic chickens are pretty hardy and can thrive in almost any condition and situation. As hardy as these chickens are, they are still vulnerable to many health concerns like any other breeds.
For instance, Icelandic chickens can suffer from parasitic infestations from notorious internal parasites like mites and lice. Furthermore, they are also vulnerable to internal parasites like hookworms, which affect their quality of life and make them vulnerable to illnesses.
Icelandic chickens also fall victim to poultry diseases like coccidiosis, Avian cholera, Fowl Pox, and Salmonella. These diseases can lead to a reduction in egg production or even death.
How Much do Icelandic Chickens Cost?
Icelandic chickens are some of the most affordable breeds. Icelandic baby chicks cost under $10, while adult chickens can cost between $15 and $30 per chicken.
Are Icelandic Chickens Good for Beginners?
Yes, Icelandic chickens are an excellent breed for beginners. These chickens are docile, calm, friendly, and easy to handle. Since they are low-maintenance birds, these chickens are suitable for novice chicken keepers with little experience rearing chickens.
Are Icelandic Chickens Hardy?
Icelandic chickens are pretty hardy birds. They can withstand harsh environmental and climatic conditions. Furthermore, Icelandic chickens have a robust immune system and are less likely to suffer from common chicken diseases.
Tips on Keeping Icelandic Chicken
Keeping Icelandic chickens isn’t as challenging as keeping other exotic breeds. These birds have few care requirements and can thrive in almost any condition without requiring specialized care. These tips will guide you on successfully keeping Icelandic chickens for domestic or commercial reasons.
- Eliminate any stressors that can stress your Icelandic chickens, ultimately diminishing their productivity. These stressors include predators and harsh living conditions.
- Provide your Icelandic chickens with the right food to ensure they get complete nutrition to propel their growth and development.
- Keep predators at bay while keeping Icelandic chickens
- Vaccinate your Icelandic chickens against common chicken conditions
- Have the best possible living conditions for your chickens
- Let your Icelandic chickens free-range to ensure they peck at various food items that will meet their nutritional requirements.
The Iceland chicken is an excellent breed for seasoned and novice chicken raisers. This breed will thrive in any conditions and situation. Most importantly, the breed needs only a handful of requirements to thrive. Icelandic chickens are hardy and will ultimately make a wonderful breed for novice chicken raisers.