Iowa Blue ChickensThe Iowa Blue Chicken’s origins are shadowed in mystery and intrigue. One day a hen emerged from underneath the henhouse with a brood of chicks unlike any ever seen before. This amazing dual-purpose bird is one unique-looking chicken. Never a hugely popular breed despite its many appealing characteristics, the Iowa Blue Chicken is on the brink of extinction. If more farmers don’t take an active role in preserving the breed, it will soon disappear.
Origins of a Legend
While no one knows for sure exactly how the Iowa Blue Chicken began, there is a legend that claims the breed resulted from the mating of a Pheasant and a White Leghorn hen in Decorah, Iowa, in the early 20th century. The story claims that the White Leghorn hen went broody and hid under a building to raise her chicks. When she came out, she had with her chicks unlike any ever seen. Some were chestnut colored while others looked like pheasant chicks. They were sold from Iowa Hatcheries until the 1960s but the hatcheries slowly ceased selling them and the breed nearly disappeared. The American Poultry Association has never officially recognized the breed. Iowa Blue Chickens have been kept alive in small numbers by dedicated enthusiasts. In the 1980s, Ken Whealy discovered the few remaining Iowa Blue Chicken flocks and set out to find interested farmers to raise the birds and save the breed from extinction. The breed began to grow in popularity again in 2011.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists the Iowa Blue Chicken as “Study.” This means that the breed is of conservation interest but that the documentation doesn’t exist for it to be firmly categorized.
One Good Looking Bird
While its name is rather misleading, the Iowa Blue Chicken is a distinctive looking bird. Its head is a silvery white color while its body is brown and silver. The specific pattern is called “penciling.” Roosters are silvery white and black with a red comb, wattles, and earlobes. Roosters grow to weigh 7-7 ½ lbs and hens grow to 6-6 ½ lbs.
It’s a Boy… or Girl!
The Iowa Blue Chicken is one of those rare breeds that creates a sex link chick. This is extremely useful for farmers who want to maintain a certain hen-rooster ratio. When a sex link chicken hatches, it’s immediately possible to tell whether the chick is a male or female. Iowa Blue Chickens crossed with the New Hampshire Red and White Plymouth Rock also produce sex link chickens.
The Small-Farmer’s Best Friend
The Iowa Blue Chicken is a dual-purpose backyard bird that loves a free-range environment. They are excellent foragers, lay brown eggs, and enjoy brooding their own chicks. They like foraging and are not overly flighty. Roosters happily guard the flock and grow quickly into good-sized birds producing a fair-amount of meat.
While this bird is extremely rare and hard to obtain, they make the perfect hobby farm chicken or backyard fowl. They’re great producers with good personalities. Not only will you get a lot out of them, but by raising Iowa Blue Chickens you’ll also help this breed beat its march toward extinction.