Icelandic Chickens Breed: Everything You Should Know

Icelandic Chickens Breed

  • Country of origin: Iceland
  • Primary uses: for meat and eggs production
  • Lifespan: 15
  • Eggs:
    • Production: 180 eggs
    • Size: medium
    • Color: white to pale tan
  • Weight:
    • Cock: 4.5 to 5.5 pounds
    • Hen: 3 to 3.5 pounds
  • Colors: Yellow
  • Useful to know: friendly and trusting. Besides, they are a genetic treasure which should not be crossed with other breeds.
  • Photos:
Icelandic chickens
Icelandic chickens

The flavorful meat and great egg production along with the high adaptability even under harsh conditions make Icelandic chickens become an ideal option for many chicken raisers.

If you are new to chickens and are looking for a suitable type to raise, let’s read to understand more about Icelandic chickens and figure out whether or not this is the right choice for you.

You may also like: 21 Best Chicken Keeping eBooks

Background and history

Icelandic chickens originate from Iceland in the ninth century. They can be known as the Icelandic chicken of the settlers. That is because the Norse settlers were the first ones who introduced those chickens to the whole island.

Since 1970, many efforts have been made to conserve the native population of Icelandic chickens. Many countries have tried to import those genetically special birds to keep them still existing.


There is no standard for the appearance of Icelandic chickens. They have a wide variety of plumage colors and patterns as well as comb styles.

For Icelandic chicken comb styles, you can figure out different types including rose, straight, pea or any combination. Besides, some of the Icelandic chickens do not have feather crests.

In spite of the popular yellow shanks, their legs would have different colors such as green, blue, slate grey or white. About their ears, their lobes would be white or off-white with some red streaking.


Icelandic chickens are flexible and have the ability to survive under different living conditions. They can become friendly and reliable when you raise them in a calm way. Therefore, it can be a good choice to have Icelandic chickens as pets in your house.

Besides, they are able to react quickly to any potential danger from wild animals, hawks or dogs. Their favorite activity is to dig in the manure and compost piles.

Icelandic chickens can fly quite well. Many cocks fly to higher places at night to roost. In addition, they love to be petted and surrounded by humans to get much more connection.

Environment requirement

Even though Icelandic chickens are highly adaptable, it is important to give them the best care with suitable methods.

With their origin, Icelandic chickens prefer cooler temperatures so you can keep them outdoors under the cool weather. The suitable range of temperatures for their survival is from  -22 F to 86.9 F. However, when it becomes frigid and freezing, a warm and covered shelter is necessary to help them go through the winter months well.

Icelandic chickens are highly adaptable
Icelandic chickens are highly adaptable

They also require low sun and low light living environments. There is no need for any heating and lighting equipment like other chicken breeds. Therefore, when the temperatures become higher and hotter, you should prepare a cool place for them to escape the heat.

Icelandic chicken productivity

Is the Icelandic chicken good for eggs?

Icelandic chickens are able to lay eggs at four and half months. The process would take longer based on the hatching date and season. On average, an Icelandic chicken can give 180 eggs each year.

The Icelandic hens can lay an egg per day during the first two years. However, when they get older, this laying process would slow down. They can give 3 to 4 eggs per week for many years later.

Each hen will be able to take care of 9 to 10 eggs and chicks at the same time. In addition, some Icelandic hens would stop laying eggs a few years before their lives are over.

Their eggshells come in different colors from white and cream to light brown. Their egg size is not too large but only medium or sometimes smaller.

They are considered as one of the good layers. They would bring many benefits for farmers with their good egg production ability, especially in the winter.

Is the Icelandic chicken good for meat?

In addition to the great egg production, Icelandic chickens can be raised for meat.

Most of the Icelandic chickens are medium-sized. Their carcass weight is around 2.5 pounds for a 5-month old cock. With a delicious meat quality like this, those chickens are commonly used to cook many recipes having long, low and moist heat.

Eating Icelandic chickens, especially cocks, can give you a lot of health benefits. They contain a high level of protein as well as other necessary nutrients.


For the Icelandic chickens, some hens will go broody and become a skillful mother in every flock.

When hens start going broody, they receive clutches of eggs every couple of days. Both fertility and hatchability of Icelandic eggs are higher compared to others up to 94%.

After that, hens still show their good mother skills. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to keep them off their eggs when they are not supposed to hatch at the right time.

They can feed their babies the same way as feeding themselves, give many natural foods such as worms or grubs for their chicks, and sometimes lead them to the feeder. In addition, hens always try their best to keep their eggs and chicks safe from outside predators.

How to raise the Icelandic chickens?

Even though they can adapt well to many living conditions, you should consider some factors based on their own characteristics to help them grow better.

Further reading: Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Chickens

Nesting place

As mentioned before, Icelandic hens love to lay their eggs so it is useful to get them a nesting space in the coop.

Unlike other chickens, some common nesting options such as milk crates, boxes, and half doors set up in the dark wall in the dark corners of the coop are not attractive to them.

Instead, they prefer the apple baskets set waist high as well as filled with hay inside. With a suitable nesting place, hens can feel more comfortable laying their eggs.

raise the Icelandic chickens
Raising the Icelandic chickens

Dietary feeds

The Icelandic chickens can eat almost any food for humans. They love to forage and dig in any manure and compost piles in your backyards.

However, to offer them sufficient protein, you should feed them regular laying feed or any other specialized food with a high level of protein.

In general, they do not cost you too much to raise your Icelandic chickens well. Any leftover food from your family can be their favorite food throughout the day.

Protection methods

Icelandic chickens are free-rangers who do not want to stay in a specific place for so long. They would like to walk around and dig up a lot of food on the ground. Even though they are alert and have quick reactions, they are still not immune to many predators like wild animals, hawks, or dogs.

Therefore, you should set up good fencing or even electric fencing with a suitable hiding place to avoid any flying predators. In addition, a livestock guard dog would be a good option to keep your chickens safe.

Common issues of the Icelandic chicken

Icelandic chickens have quite strong immune systems and do not have to suffer any serious disease. However, it is important to vaccinate your chickens to protect them from any potential issues.

Especially, when you bring a new chicken to your home, you should check it carefully to make sure that they do not have any existing issues. That is because a sick chicken can have a negative impact on your whole flock.

To vaccinate your Icelandic chickens, you should contact the poultry vet for suitable advice about:

  • Which types of vaccine your chickens should get
  • How many times you should have your chickens vaccinated each year
  • How to recognize any unusual signs after each vaccination

Benefits and drawbacks of raising the Icelandic chicken


The Icelandic chicken can give you a lot of advantages as belows:

  • High capacity of egg production: As stated, the Icelandic chickens are known as one of the good layers. They can offer you 180 eggs per year even in the winter.
  • Good quality of meat: Many Icelandic cocks are used for many dishes which are not only delicious but also nutrient-rich.
  • Easy to raise: This chicken breed does not have many requirements about living conditions. They are able to withstand extremely hot and cold weather. Their diets are also simple because they can eat almost everything.
  • Be friendly: Most of the Icelandic chickens are very friendly and get along well with their caretakers. With a medium-sized body, even your children can handle them easily. They can socialize well with your kids all day. This makes them become one of the most ideal pets for your home.


  • The number of Icelandic chickens is decreasing gradually. These chickens are so rare that the Livestock Conservancy considers putting them into Threatened status. Many countries including the US have been trying to improve their popularity as much as possible.
  • Some of the Icelandic roosters can become aggressive and fight with each other. Especially, a dominant rooster would cause some conflicts in your flock or even your neighborhood.
  • The laying egg capacity of Icelandic hens would slow down significantly when they get older. Over the first two years, they can lay one egg per day. But since then, they just would give you 3 to 4 eggs per week.

Some common questions about the Icelandic chicken

How many types of Icelandic chicken breed?

It has 4 main varieties of Icelandic chicken including the Sigrid line, the Behl line, the Hlesey line, and the Husatoftir line. Those names came from the families who owned the farm and developed each type of them.

Do Iceland chickens have any other names?

Actually, those chickens come with different nicknames. In Iceland, they can be known as “chickens of the settlers” or “settlement chickens” or maybe “Viking hen”. Meanwhile, in the US, they are famous for the names “Icies” or “pile hens” due to their special habits.

Which Icelandic chickens should be culled for?

There are some types of chickens that should be culled in your flocks including:

  • Aggressive cocks
  • Leg feathering, fray feathering, or barred feathering
  • Overly sexually aggressive roosters
  • Misshapen eggs
  • Hens without broodiness and poor mothering skills
  • Any other traits seem to be a genetic or physical deformity

Final thoughts

So, is the Icelandic chicken a good choice for you? If you are looking for a chicken breed which is flexible with different environments, The Icelandic chicken would be the best option you should take.

Besides the high adaptability, they can give you good egg production as well as high meat quality. Icelandic chickens can lay 180 eggs each year even in extremely cold weather. And the roosters are used for many delicious and healthy recipes.

It does not take you too much money and effort to maintain your Icelandic chickens. It is useful if you give them some basic protection and care against freezing temperatures and other potential predators.

In addition to those benefits, they still have some disadvantages such as low popularity or some aggressive roosters in a flock. However, you can still deal with those issues well.

Hopefully, this article can sum up some necessary and key information which can be useful and contributes to your right decision.

Links to useful resources:

  1. Army Y. Conry Davis,, February 2021
  2. Johanna Hardardottir,, 2010