Hedemora is a small town in a frigid region of Sweden that lies roughly on the same northern latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Despite its modest size, the town’s history is rich and stretches back centuries in time; a time even before the official chartering of the town in 1446. The town’s emergence is intertwined with the beginnings of a rare breed of chicken that is uniquely adapted to the long and harsh winters of this remote area, and both town and chicken share the same name.
Hedemora are possibly the most cold hardy chickens in the world. Hedemora evolved over half a millennium in this ancient ice-bound pocket of Sweden, and during that time developed traits that make them perfectly suited to endure long bouts of cold weather. Their combs and wattles have been greatly reduced in size to limit the ravages of frostbite to their extremities, and the skin that is visible is often black to absorb the weak rays of the northern sun. But, their most striking adaptation is the layer of soft down that is extraordinarily effective as insulation. Experts in Sweden have told us that these chickens can routinely survive 15 degree nights without artificial heat in coops that are dry and draft free.
Hedemora are a landrace that over time split into three distinct varieties: a version that has fine, puffy feathering that covers its body and gives it the slightly unsettling appearance of a furry chicken; a feather legged variety with an under layer of down hidden beneath more conventional smooth feathers; and a clean legged variety with smooth outer feathers and the hidden under layer of down. Swedish hobbyists believe it is important to the genetic viability of the breed to keep all versions of the breed, and so Greenfire Farms imported the three varieties. Because of the extraordinary volume of their down, the birds appear larger than their weight would suggest. An average hen weights about 4 lbs. and a rooster about 5 lbs. The hens are prolific layers and will lay all year round. Colors of the birds vary considerably and include grays, blacks, browns, and whites. About 30% to 40% of the hens will become broody if given the chance to sit on eggs, and they are known to be superior at all aspects of incubation and rearing. Their pillow of soft down gives them the ability to incubate a very large clutch of eggs, and they are known as fierce protectors of their chicks.
The most recent population estimates indicate about a thousand hedemora hens remain in the world and, until Greenfire Farms imported this breed into the United States, all members of the breed lived in Sweden. Greenfire Farms maintains a flock of hedemora in Florida and a flock in northwest Montana where they are kept at an elevation of 3,600 feet to mimic their native climate. Hedemora may be shipped from either address depending upon availability.