Icelandic Landrace Chickens

Visit our Icelandic Chicken Sales Page for details on purchasing chicks, started birds and hatching eggs and be sure to check out our Facebook page 'Icelandic Chickens of Whippoorwill Farm' for more photos and information about our flock. 

Íslenska landnámshænan - "Icelandic hen of the settlers."

Considered an Old World treasure, Icelandic chickens were brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th century AD and were found on most farms for centuries. Indeed, one of their Icelandic names -- Íslenska landnámshænan -- means Icelandic hen of the settlers.  With the advent of the commercial type chickens, the Icelandic breed was nearly extinct by the 1950s.  All the birds now existing are descended from a very small group of fowl saved in the 1970s. The Icelandic chicken is significantly different genetically than modern chicken breeds.  According to an interview with the former president of the Icelandic preservation association (Júlíus Baldursson), a 2004 study of blood samples from the Icelandic chicken, done in Britain, revealed that 78% of the DNA of the Icelandic chicken was unique and could not be found in any other chicken breeds in the world.  It is for this reason that crossing with other breeds is strongly discouraged, once crossed, the offspring and descendants from these crosses can never be considered Icelandics.  

"Keeping them pure is the only way they can be preserved. They have been around for over a thousand years. We must be responsible keepers of this treasure." - Lyle Behl

A landrace, with no set standard, Icelandic chickens come in a variety of plumage colours, comb types and skin colours.  They're excellent layers of richly flavored, ivory or tinted coloured eggs. The perfect farmstead chicken for those that like to have the diversity of a colourful flock, but want to keep just one breed. Known for their hardiness, prolific egg laying and docile nature, Icelandic chickens are adapatable to many climates and thrive in almost any type of management program.  They really shine when allowed to free-range and are capable of foraging for much of their own food.  


Check out the links below for more information on Icelandic Chickens: 

Landrace Description 

Mother Earth News article  

Farm Show Magazine

History of Íslenska landnámshænan

ERL Website

Whippoorwill Farm, is a small, Scandinavian inspired farmstead and art studio in northern Wisconsin.  We selected Icelandic sheep and Icelandic chickens to breed and compliment our farm because of their hardiness and adaptable nature.  We maintain genetics of all four imports (lines) and take a limited number of individual hatching orders for our Icelandic chicks, we also sell hatching eggs and started birds when available. We’ve been raising Icelandic chickens since 2006 as a farmstead preservation flock and because of our experience and proactive breeding program, Whippoorwill Farm's Icelandic Chickens are considered by many to be one of the most colourful and genetically diverse preservation flocks of Icelandic Chickens in North America.  Our flock is NPIP certified and we do not keep any other breeds of poultry on our farm to ensure the purity and genetic antiquity of our birds. 

By 2006, at the time we begain raising Icelandic chickens, it was estimated to be only 3000 Icelandic landrace chickens left in the world with most of them residing in Iceland.  They're now listed as 'threatend' by The Livestock Conservancy.  It's reassuring for the preservation of landrace to know that we now hatch and ship around  3000 chicks each season to nearly all parts of the country. 

Our chickens are from four imports representing five preservation farms in Iceland.   The U.S. Icelandic chicken lines are named after their importers and /or the farm in Iceland where they originate and are referred to as the Behl line or Kolsholt Import,  Sigrid's Line or Steiner II Import, Hlesey Line/ Import and Husatoftir Line/Import.  Whippoorwill Farm manages and maintains the genetics for two of the four recognized imports, Húsatóftir and Hlésey, for the North American gene pool.   

We have spent 13 years collecting genetics for our flock and maintain genetics of all recognized lines or imports, selecting only the best individuals for our breeding programs.  What we usually put together and recommend to our customers is a mix of these imports for the most genetic and colour diversity.  We rotate roosters frequently through-out the breeding season.  No two hatches or seasons are ever the same.  There should be no concerns about receiving too closely related individuals, or enough genetic diversity to start your own flock. We have one of the largest genetic pools in North America and specialize in putting together colourful, sustainable flocks for our customers.  

Considering that all of the lines in the U.S., developed from very small populations of birds, we feel that mixed Icelandic lines are the best option for those looking for a self-sustaining farmstead flock for longterm health and vitality.  Using the clan mating system, or spiral breeding program, one could essentially go on for their lifetime and beyond with an order of our chicks. 

In Iceland, it is now common for preservation farms to exchange birds (mainly roosters) every few years amongst themselves as a way to bring in new genetics. Historically, Icelandic chickens would have been kept as isolated, tightly inbred flocks as most farms were cut off from each other by geography.  As a result, though it's discouraged,  it's been proven that Icelandic chickens do have a high tolerance for inbreeding. However, our breeding goals have been to maintain  genetic diversity, produce pure, healthy, representations of the landrace, keep the individual characteristics of each line intact and stay true to the landrace description.