Landnamshænen: Icelandic Chickens

Landnamshænen: Icelandic Chickens

I have a project I’ve been working on for a while now, but didn’t want to mention too much detail on until things got to a certain stage. It’s been in my Upcoming Projects list as “Secret Project #2 (codename: feather)” for a while now. As of last week, I’ve been clear to post about it, but due to a trip out of town for a cornea transplant for my husband, I haven’t had the chance to write or take photographs until now. But it’s finally time for details!

When my husband and I first moved to the north-eastern BC area, we originally only planned to stay about 5 years, but within a few months, we had fallen in love with the area and changed our minds, and in the process, decided we wanted to buy an acreage and start a hobby farm. We bought our first house in August of 2015, which was on a double lot and in an area where backyard chickens and bees were allowed, since we weren’t able to find a small acreage within our price range. That first fall we were in the house, we built a small chicken coop, and in the spring of 2016, I brought home a few hens. At first I just got mixed breed chicks, and then when I got tired of waiting for them to grow up enough to lay, I got my hands on a couple of year-old Silver Laced Wyandotte hens, which are beautiful chickens, and excellent winter layers (which I didn’t even know when I got them), and have been enjoying owning chickens and eating fresh eggs from my backyard since then.

But somewhere along the line, I discovered something I thought was really cool, and that I absolutely had to have. Icelandic chickens. There are Icelandic chickens. They are traceable back to the chickens brought to Iceland by the Vikings who settled Iceland. This is SO COOL.

Technically, they are what is called a Land Race, not a breed. A breed can be identified by physical characteristics – for example, my Silver Laced Wyandotte chickens can be identified by how they look, as well as other things. A land race is a “domesticated, locally adapted, traditional variety of a species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species” (quote from the wikipedia page for Landrace). In particular, the fact that the population of Icelandic chickens were isolated from the rest of the world by being on an island has contributed to the development of the Icelandic chicken landrace. They’re still domestic chickens, Gallus gallus domesticus, just like all chickens, but they have developed characteristics because of being isolated.

Being a landrace rather than a breed, Icelandic chickens don’t have a standardized appearance. There are all sorts of colours and patterns that they can come in, which makes for a lovely variegated flock.

In Icelandic, they are called Islenska hænan (Icelandic Chicken), Haughænsni (pile chicken) or landnámshænan (hen of the settlers).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *