The Isbar chicken breed is a fascinating one! This hardy naturally green layer would make an excellent addition to your flock.
Isbar chickens are known for their hardiness, beauty, and egg-laying capabilities. They are becoming increasingly popular among small farmers, hobbyists, and urban agriculturalists alike.
The Isbar is one of the only chicken breeds to naturally lay green eggs.
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A Swedish pastor with a passion for breeding poultry began the breed by breeding a small framed New Hampshire rooster to a productive Rhode Island Red hen to develop a smaller framed bird with a high egg production capacity. The resulting offspring were then bred to Cream Legbars to add the blue egg gene to the base flock.
The Isbar breed name was officially changed by the Swedish Cultural Hen Society to Silverudd's Blue, in honor of Martin Silverudd, who developed the breed in the 1980s.
The name changed from Isbar in part due to the word 'bar' in the name, generally, a chicken with the word breed name indicated barred plumage. The Isbar was never barred - but I personally think that the 'bar' in the name is a call back to the Legbar lineage.
These striking birds are still commonly known as Isbar chickens around the world.
What Makes A Green Layer?
A quick primer on chicken genetics may help explain the importance of a quality breeding program.
Green egg layers are a really neat phenomenon. We're used to white eggs, brown eggs, and blue eggs, but no combination of those gives a green egg color, right? Wrong!
Chickens have 2 egg color bases - pure white, a lack of pigment, and pure blue. Each egg is white or blue, respectively, throughout. Brown shells are white on the inside with a brown bloom layered over top. Green eggs are blue eggs with a brown bloom.
In order for a hen to lay a pure blue egg and pass on the genetics for blue eggs, it must carry a homozygous set (2 copies) of the dominant blue shell gene, and be bred to a rooster that also carries 2 copies of the blue egg gene. This gene means that the hen's body applies a pigment, called oocyanin, to the egg during the shell production process creating a completely blue egg.
The Isbar chicken is the result of a homozygous blue shell gene coupled with a brown pigment overlay gene. The difficult part of developing a breed of chickens that reproduces true, instead of a hybrid like an olive egger (which is a blue egg laying chicken bred to a brown laying one), is that each hen and rooster must be grown out and bred to see the results. This ensures none of the offspring hatches and lay undesired tan-colored eggs!
Over time, the chicks that hatched with desirable traits were bred together, and over generations, this created a consistent breed, with expected results and consistent genetics. This is known as selective breeding and helps to ensure all chicks hatched from two Isbar parents will breed true.
Swedish Isbar chickens come in 3 main colors:
- blue black splash
Black hens of this breed are pure black throughout with a beetle-green iridescence, while roosters share the same glistening black feathers they are also adorned with birchen hackle and saddle feathers.
Blue Isbar hens may be a solid grey color all over, have darker areas on their neck and head, or have darker-tipped feathers giving the appearance of lacing. Blue roosters will also have birchen hackles and saddles like the black versions. We have 2 blue Isbar hens in our flock.
Splash hens are white with black "splashes" all over. The roosters will also be splashed and may have blue or birchen hackle and saddle feathers. We have 3 black and white Isbars in our flock.
Other physical characteristics of this breed include dark legs, single combs, and dark eyes.
These birds are excellent producers! They lay around 250 large green eggs per year. Isbars are cold hardy and continue to lay in the cold months, which is a huge benefit to cold climate chicken keepers like us!
Thier beautiful eggs vary from mint to moss green and sometimes have a brownish speckled overlay. I've actually had a couple of Isbar eggs with a white-speckled overlay!
I absolutely love having Isbar eggs in my basket, not only do they add a lot of eggs to my bottom line, they are almost too gorgeous to eat!
Isbar hens reach laying age around 20-24 weeks.
Isbars are known for their calm and docile temperament, making them great for backyard flocks. They are friendly and curious birds that enjoy human interaction, ours never miss an opportunity to visit with us. Our Isbars don't love to be held, but they love to follow us around to see what we're up to, and they come for treats every time!
This breed is great at foraging and is predator aware so it can do well in a free-range flock. Ours do just fine in our large fenced run.
As previously mentioned, Isbar chickens are very hardy to both the cold and the heat. They are small framed, sleek feathered birds. The only concern during bitter cold is frostbite on their single combs. Ours fared very well through some bitterly cold weather last winter - as low as -40c/-40f.
Where To Buy Isbar Chicks
I choose to buy my chicks from small, local breeders who specialize in birds hardy to my area, but if you're having a hard time finding Isbar chicks locally, you can always check Greenfire Farms - they are the original importers of Isbar chicks to the United States wayyyyy back in 2011. Every Isbar in the USA is a direct descendent of their genetics - neat huh?
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