Three years ago my passion for Icelandic chickens began when Icelandic mix Stella hopped the fence and joined our flock. Today brought almost all of the last three year’s work to an end. A decision to add chicks from a different line of Icelandics to my flock two years ago proved very detrimental. That line had a feathering issue which would quickly show up in my flock and increase exponentially. In recent months I began hatching more chicks with the feathering issue. I thought it was fray at firs. It seems like it is not true fray, a condition which occurs when a male and female with the gene mate. Whatever the condition is, I decided several months a go to try to rid it from my flock. I started by eliminating all roosters except Isi. I grew out replacement roosters but the feathering problem was still present. It would be nearly impossible given the number of hens in my flock to have determined which hens carried the gene. By the time I made all the matings and hatchings had been done the hens would have died of old age. I have struggled with this for a long time and finally came to the difficult decision to re-home all of my birds with the exception of the first hen and rooster I got from Sigrid. To my knowledge there were never any chicks that hatched with feathering issues from the mating of my original birds. Last week I re-homed my two secondary roosters via the feed store. Today I gave all my girls to Farmer Fred, who takes all my extra roosters. He still has the first Icelandic roosters I gave him nearly two years ago when we first moved here. I called and explained the situation, asked if he would like to have the hens and he was thrilled. This morning he was to pick them up, all eighteen of them. I made my peace with what I had to do but the last few days have been really difficult for me. I was very attached to my flock and enjoyed them every day. My friend Kelly came over this morning with some roosters for Fred and she helped me through the process of downsizing my flock of 20 Icelandics to just two, Isi and Lukka. Stella doesn’t count because she is a mix and lays green eggs and I would never hatch them.
Last night Michael and I retrieved eighteen scared and angry hens from the roosts. We brought them up to the house to spend the night in cages on the screen porch until picked up this morning by Fred. I was surprised at the fight they put up but eventually they all settled in once I covered their cages and turned out the lights. This morning they just looked dazed and confused. Chickens are creatures of habit and very little change causes them stress.
Lukka is raising babies in a separate area with an enclosed run so Isi and Stella were alone in the coop when I opened the door this morning. Isi immediately ran out and looked for his hens. He was frantic, poor guy. He climbed on Lukka’s pen and crowed for them.
He climbed on the picnic table and crowed for them.
He was not going to find them because in the meantime Farmer Fred arrived and was moving the hens from my cages into cages in the back of his truck. I realize they look cramped but that was of their own doing. There was plenty of room to spread out.
My Icelandic hens and Kelly’s roosters were finally loaded in Fred’s truck, the cages secured, “goodbyes” and “thank you”s exchanged and Fred drove off.
All I could do was watch as three years of breeding Icelandic chickens turned the corner and disappeared from sight. Fred called later to say that the girls were settled in to their new home. They laid six eggs on the ride and another six after the arrived.
Stella gave me a scare though. Normally she hops the fence and wanders around the yard every day and today was no different. I saw her pass by my office window this morning but hadn’t seen her since. Michael and I went looking for her this afternoon and found her sitting on the pile of eggs buried in the shavings by the other girls. She must miss her friends. Tonight when we closed the coop she and Isi were side by side on the roost. She moved up 18 places in one day from the bottom of the pecking order to the top. When Lukka gets done raising babies she’ll have a fight on her hands. They will have to share Isi until we gets some eggs hatched and grown out. In August or September I will be getting eggs from Sigrid after she returns from Iceland. With the offspring from Isi and Lukka and the new blood from Sigrid’s flock I should be well on my way to rebuilding a strong Icelandic flock again. I am sad and excited at the same time.