I met a chicken farmer recently in Gamla Uppsala, with a particular flock of birds unlike any I have seen or farmed with myself. Naturally I took curiosity, and knocked on the side door to ask about his chickens, to which he was overwhelmingly informative on his birds, and told many stories and information about the breed.
Called Hedemora Chickens, they are a native Swedish breed, that he has kept for three decades on a small tract of land beside an ancient Viking settlement. The breed itself has been around since the 17th century Medieval times. One of his oldest chickens was seventeen years in age. He also has interesting looking Musk ducks from south America with a red mask of feathers around the eyes. He told me about their unique feathers which are nearly like fur on some of the lower parts of the body, and have both normal plumage, and down, like that from eider ducks. This is the warmest natural animal material you can get, and he also was highly enthusiastic about the meat quality, being only second to a type of wild Swedish forest bird, related to the grouse.
They are extremely cold hardy and can free-range in -20c, or lay eggs at -5c. They live in a part of Sweden that is close to the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Besides this, their color variations are many. You can have a completely black bird, with black beak, wattle, comb, feathers, bones, and meat, by carefully crossing the birds with the bluish/purple features. Though he said farmers in Sweden never breed for the looks, rather for the quality of the eggs, and the meat. I was given 5 eggs, which are just waiting to be boiled and eaten.
I have looked far and wide for chicken breeds that I would like to own, and have bee favoring towards Icelandic chickens, and possibly guinea hens, but before now I had never known of this breeds existence, and would love to have a few in my future flock, whenever I can build my own farm. Until then, I will have to stare at these beautiful birds, and learn their ways, while they scratch and peck on another man’s land.