As you may remember from last weeks facebook and blog posts, out Icelandic chicken flock has found a brand new home. I wanted to take some time to sit down and tell you why we are no longer raising Icelandic Chickens, and hope that it will be an educational experience for those of you hoping to get into the landrace. They are beautiful, spunky, self-sufficient and hands down one of my favorite breeds. But unfortunately, several factors came into play, some unforeseen, and we had to make the difficult decision to find a brand new home for them.
The Icies have settled in nicely at Walden Hall — a new Virginia Bed & Breakfast not too far from us. Their goal is to live a little more self-sufficient on the property — offering farm fresh breakfasts to their guests was top on the list. Our Icies are helping with that! You can find out more about Walden Hall by visiting their website, www.waldenhall.com. Or by visiting their facebook page.
We wish them much success and blessings on their new adventure!
Now, onto the purpose of this blog, to educate!
As I mentioned, it was a very hard decision due to the amount of work and time I’ve put into educating myself about these gorgeous birds, but it was a necessary move for the well being of our birds and our homestead.
Here are the reasons why we decided to stop breeding Icelandic Chickens:
- They can be wild and free. And rightfully so. We actually “homestead”, not just act like it. Everything here should live freely and as close to possible as they should, if our property allows. Unfortunately, we live on a half-acre, and this just wasn’t feasible enough for them. They like to roam and forage. This is why they are such amazing and self-sufficient creatures — because they absolutely love to forage, constantly. Our property only allows about half of what they truly need. Which brings me to my next point…
- They are amazing escape artists. Of all the chickens I have owned, none of them have ever mastered escaping the chicken run….ever. But every single Icie we owned could escape time and time again. They can clear a 10 ft fence. They can wiggle through the tiniest of holes. They can dig their way out after a few days if they are on solid dirt. And sometimes I’m convinced they teleport. We do not have an electrified fence. I am sure that if we had one, this problem would not have been as bad. But we try to use what we have, and electric fencing is not one of those things that we have laying around. We had already poured hundreds of dollars into a large chicken run, large chicken coop, and countless amounts of rabbit runs and hutches. We, personally, could not see the benefit in putting even more money into the chicken run and coop just for one particular breed (out of many) that we have. We needed to make a decision based on all of our chickens, not just one breed. And it would have been unfair for us to put countless amounts of dollars into Icie proofing our entire property rather than the other things that have been in motion here for well over 2 years.
- They aren’t as personable as the rest of our breeds. This honestly wasn’t a big issue for me, but it might be for you. They are not nearly as personal and friendly once they are adults if they have been allowed to forage and free range. If you are going to confine them their entire lives, then they will certainly be personable and friendly, like any other breed. Just slightly flighty.
- They are easy prey. And they were even easier because they didn’t stay in the run. I’ve had chickens free range for a few years now, only losing one to a hawk attack the first Summer we had chickens. ONE. Since getting Icies this fall, they have been picked off one by one. Day after day. This was an extremely big red flag for me. I was concentrating so much on their foraging abilities that I regretted to educate myself on their predator escape and attention skills (or lack, thereof?). This breed has survived for thousands of years by survival of the fittest, but apparently half of mine weren’t very fit! We had a coop attack one night — this is something we have never ever had while living here. Guess which chickens they took? If you guessed the Icies, you would be correct. None of it makes any sense to me, but every single attack this Winter happened on our Icelandics (even in the coop/run), with the exception of one Delaware that was attacked by an Eagle this Winter (that was a new one for us!). I even tested this theory by going outside one evening and pretending to be a predator. They were blinded by a flash light and my dog came with me (they hate him in the daytime). I walked into the coop and touched individual chickens. My regular heritage breeds flipped out — alarming, moving, etc. The Icelandics simply pushed their heads further under their wings and hoped for the best. They barely made a peep! Maybe this is a great defense mechanism in Iceland, but not in Virginia.
The fact that they were an easy target was the deciding factor for me. I could not have an animal on the homestead that was a complete wild card. My love for the Icies was so strong — they have such rich history and I really enjoyed the thought of conserving the breed. But how can I conserve a breed if I’m just watching them get picked off one by one?
That was it — they needed a new home built like Fort Knox, because I absolutely could not offer that to them. Not here.
I’ll admit that I miss them. I miss seeing them run back and forth across the yard. I swear, they don’t walk anywhere…they just run. I miss their wild fluffy heads and their little blue ear-lobes. But I am much less stressed knowing that they are in a new home where they can be confined and only let loose after they feel safe there. And that when they are in their run, they cannot escape from it!
Do not let this blog discourage you from conserving this gorgeous landrace.
Each homestead is different. We have different amenities for our animals — some are more equipped than others. This breed, while extremely loved when they were here, just didn’t fit in. One day, when we have a larger property and start fresh, we will have Icies for our personal table eggs. The conservation of this breed did not die in my heart when they left here!
Icelandics truly are a breed that every homestead should have if possible. They are amazing when it comes to foraging, and are incredible at self-sufficiently replenishing themselves. However, as with any rare breed, their characteristics need to be considered before jumping into them headfirst. Sometimes bloggers tell you all the good things — but I’m here to tell you about the REAL things — good and bad. We assumed that, as with all the breeds we have, they would be the same — just more self-sufficient. My word, were we wrong!
I hope to bring another breed that is on the Livestock Conservancy’s “endangered list” here soon (that would fit in MUCH better), but again, only as a personal project and to help the conservation of them. Only a few, nothing crazy, and we would not be breeding them. However, the project most likely won’t happen until next Spring, or possibly this Winter. We will see, if that time comes!
I hope that this information can at least bring some awareness to the new Icelandic Chicken craze. There are so many people getting into them now and they completely lack the education they need because people are afraid to tell you the bad things, for fear you will stray away from them. Every single thing has pros and cons — but you need to make the decision based on what you can offer them and if your property is sufficient enough for them….not just whether you “like” them or not.