The popularity of the Icelandic hen stock, known as the Settlement Hen because it has remained unchanged since it was brought to the island during the Settlement in the ninth century AD, is growing every year. Demand has exceeded supply at the biggest breeder.
Icelandic “Settlement” hens. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The largest Icelandic hen breeding farm in Iceland is Tjörn, located on Vatnsnes peninsula in northwest Iceland. The Tjörn stock is approximately 30 years old. When the farmer, Júlíus Már Baldursson, bought his first fowl, the Icelandic hen had almost gone extinct, RÚV reports.
Today, the Tjörn stock counts around 200 hens and 25 roosters. All of the fowl roam around freely and none of them looks the same—a characteristic of the Icelandic hen stock is multicolored feathers.
“I have hatched a couple of hundred of chicks every year for a number of years and I’m always discovering new colors,” Baldursson said. For the first time, Tjörn boasts an absolutely white hen.
The Icelandic hen has now become so popular that this year is the first that Baldursson didn’t have to advertise. “It’s the crisis, isn’t it? People get a very beautiful and versatile bird, which can serve as some sort of pet. […] It can be tamed.”
“It is fun for the kids in the house, or the grandchildren,” Baldursson stated. “Apart from the fact that in contrast to dogs and cats the hen rewards you with eggs—it lays one egg per day for more than three years.”
As for those who cannot accommodate hens, it is possible to foster hens at Tjörn and have eggs delivered regularly.
For further information, visit the farm’s website and click on the “Haena í fóstur” page. (The website is only in Icelandic but contact information can be found at the bottom.)