Welsummers are a highly sought-after breed for not only their brown eggs, but also for their both their temperament and their lovely personalities.
They are a preferred breed across the world and are a very popular breed with those keeping backyard flocks.
Welsummers are classified as a continent class of bird breed, as they are defined as large birds that have a Continental European origin.
Although they are a popular breed for backyard flocks, they are still somewhat under-represented. They have attributes to the breed that are beneficial for the small homesteader, many of which we will touch on below.
Welsummers are somewhat popular currently in the UK and in Australia, but have yet to come into their own here in the USA. In all honestly, they are a fairly recent breed, having only been ‘born’ in the Netherlands less than a century ago.
Many are not aware, but the Kellogg’s rooster, Cornelius, is a Welsummer rooster.
History Of The Welsummer Breed
The Welsummer breed of chicken has only been known to exist for a little less than a century.
Having been developed near the village of Welsum, near Deventer, Netherlands, in the era post World War 1 as a dual-purpose bird, for both the obtaining of eggs and for their meat.
The Netherlands is known for its abundance of landrace varieties, and it was these varieities that were bred with such existing breeds as the partridge Cochin, the partridge Wyandotte, the partridge Leghorn, and Rhode Island Reds, which then resulted in the current day Welsummer’s.
There are those that tend to disagree, feeling that the Brahma breed or even the Malay breed made some form of genetic contribution. Whether they did or not, we will assuredly never know, but the results produced a very durable bird.
Welsummer’s made their entrance onto the chicken scene, and were eagerly greeted, at the Hagues World Poultry Congress in the year 1921. After their introduction, the breed made its way to England in 1927, and then were subsequently exported to the United States sometime around 1928.
Because of the fame and small fortune they had acquired, the town of Welsum chose to memorialize the breed with a statue created of the lovely breed of bird.
Some fun trivia facts about the Welsummer breed:
- The breed has a different spelling the countries of Britain and the US—that of Welsumer
- The pigmentation that gives their eggs the dark shade that is so sought after can be rubbed off. This is due to the fact that coloring of the pigment is generally added at the end of the cycle of laying.
- They are one of the few autosexed breeds—with the females presenting with a darker shade on their head.
When first developed, the Welsummer breed was meant to be a table bird, and as a result has a considerable amount of meat on its bones for this very purpose. They soon were sought after for the rich pigment of the eggs that they lay.
Appearance Of The Welsummer Breed
When describing the Welsummer breed, many refer to its overall feather pattern as that of a partridge. This simple description proves to be a somewhat disservice to the breed. Even though there a patridge pattern, the beauty of the pattern is such in a commonly understated way.
The coloring of the Welsummer breed is mostly that of dark brown, with a scattering of light brown and white feathers shaft here and there. The areas of the neck and the nape of the bird are commonly golden brown in color, with the additional highlighting of a darker brown that presents with the pattern somewhat to a golden mantle.
The Welsummer rooster is inarguably different, and as a result is extremely handsome. He has free flowing saddle and hackles feathers in a chestnut brown color. Whereas, he presents with his sickles, under feathers, and his broad chest in a beetle green lustrous color.
As for the comb of the Welsummer, it should be single in nature, and have five individual points. His comb, his wattles, and his earlobes will all be the standard red color.
The Welsummer’s beak will be short and black in color. Their skins are yellow in color, and their shank will not have and will be clean of any feathers. Their feet feature four toes.
As for the breed’s eye color, it will present in a reddish bay shade.
The Welsummer breed is a full breasted, somewhat robust bird. They have long flat back and carry themselves in an upright stance.
The hens typically weigh in at approximately 6 pounds, where as the roosters at an estimated 7 pounds.
Welsummer Breed Standards
When determining the standard for the Welsummer breed, it was established in 1924 by the Dutch. Then, in 1930, the breed was officially admitted to the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
Following that, they won an award of British Best Utility Breed beating out all their competition in 1935. It wasn’t until almost six decades later, in 1991, that they were admitted to the American Poultry Association and were then officially classified as a Continental breed.
Although the recognized variety is that of partridge, there are also the varieties of both silver and gold duckwing. In these cases, several disqualifying factors have been determined to be the presence of white earlobes, the shanks having feathers, and the point of the comb being irregular in number.
When looking at the classification set down by the American Bantam Association, the comb is a single one, and the legs are clean of any feathers. The Welsummer bantam variety was created in the 1930s in both the countries of England and Germany. This variety is known to lay a lighter shade of egg that is seen with the standard counterpart.
Welsummers are known for their intelligence, their calm attitudes, and for being both docile and friendly. Many flock owners have told that their Welsummers will willingly take food from their hands, and they do not see them exhibit any type of problems with territorialism.
Even though this is a sturdy breed of chicken, they do not tend to be over pushy with other breeds in the flock. Flock keepers would say that they fall somewhere between middle and the top of the overall pecking order.
With that said, there is a negative to be aware of with this breed—they tend to be quite a noisy bird. They will shout out loud when they are upset or just when they find themselves in the mood.
Welsummers are happy to be able to forage for bugs, and since they are not that great at flying, they can be confined with a minimal amount of fencing to a specific area if needed.
Welsummers are a cold hardy bird, and as such prefer the cooler, chilly climates of the North. However, they are apt at tolerating heat as well, as long as they have ample shade or a cool area to get out of the heat.
Egg Production And Broodiness
Depending which source you access for the information, there is a huge variation as to the numbers when it comes to egg production. They number can range from approximately 160-250 per year. The thing of note is that if the flock has a higher output of egg, then this indicates that the bird is less “pure.”
Welsummers, like most of the breeds of poultry, will drop or stop egg production all together over the colder winter months. However, when spring roles around they are right back in full swing.
As for the egg’s appearance, it should present as a dark, rich, terra cotta brown, and can at times be covered in speckles. When cleaning the eggs, if not handled carefully, the strong pigmentation can be easily wiped off with your fingers.
Welsummers are not a particularly broody breed, and that is a good thing as they are known to be the worst of mothers to their young chicken. If you are thinking of hatching some chicks, it is advised that you find the best broody in your flock, and let her be your go to hatcher.
When it comes to Welsummer chicks, they are an autosexing breed. This means you are able to tell which sex the chick is minutes after it has hatched.
Autosexing Of Welsummers
The practice of chicken autosexing was first studied in Cambridge, England as far back as the 1920s. by a Dr. R Punnett.
During his studies, Punnett discovered that the male of the breed would acquire two genes from the barred, whereas it was learned that the female would only receive one.
It was then that he came up with theory that the genetic makeup of the chickens, and its control of the how the barred color patterns were expressed, would appear different in the male and the female of the breed. He found that the males of the breed were lighter in shade than those females were.
It turned out that his theory held merit, and was eventually proven to be correct. It was after that that he was able to create a method of autosexing other breeds, such as the Cream Legbar.
Welsummer hens will present with a much darker and distinct pattern with a darker head as compared to the roosters which present with a more broken, fuzzier pattern.
At this time, it is estimated that approximately two dozen breeds currently exist in the word that are autosexing.
Autosexing vs Sex Link
These two terms are quit often misunderstood by most flock owners as having the same general meaning. However, they have very different definitions.
Autosexed chicks are chicks that have parents of the same breed. Some examples of autosexed include:
- Barred Plymouth Rocks
- California Greys
Whereas those chicks referredto as sex link will typically come from two different breeds of parents. Some examples of sex linked include:
- Golden Comet – Rhode Island Red or a New Hampshire rooster crossed with a White Rock hen
- Black Rocks – Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a barred Rock hen
The important fact to remember about autosexed chicks is that they are breed with parents from the same breed, and therefore will always be a true breed.
Sex linked chicks, on the other hand, will have parents from two different breeds, so they will never be a true breed of chicken.
Issues Known To Welsummers
Welsummer roosters present with rather large combs and wattles, unlike many other breeds. As a result, they are more prone to developing frostbite on these areas in the winter. It is essential that you keep an eye out for any possible development of frostbite during those colder days and nights of winter.
As for other health concerns, Welsummers prove to be both robust and healthy birds. They have no known usual concerns regarding health or health issues. In fact, other than your run of the mill parasites that most poultry are prone to, Welsummer’s are one of the significantly sturdier breeds.
Welsummers, under normal circumstances and conditions, have been known to live up to nine years of age.
Are Welsummers A Good Choice For You?
So, now the question is—are Welsummer’s a good breed for your backyard flock? If you are looking for dark brown, spotted, terra cotta eggs, then you will not be disappointed. Add in the fact that the hens were originally developed to be dual purpose in nature, they are excellent at dressing out as a somewhat respectable weight.
They are know to be wonderful forages, and as a result will, if allowed to, supplement their feed on their own. This in turn will aid in cutting down on the cost of feed to maintain these birds. Although they are happiest when they are wandering, or free ranging, they are also tolerant of being confined. Their coloring works well in protecting them from predators, when they are allow to forage and free range.
Welsummers are not tolerant of becoming a so called “lap chicken,” but they are friendly and are very tolerant of being petted and picked up If you have treats for them, they will follow you around much as a puppy would.
The Take Away On Welsummers
Britain’s Prince Charles has been known to have kept a flock of Welsummrers for many year. He has also been named the Royal Patron of the British Welsummer Club.
When asked about his beloved flock members, he once said: “I have enjoyed my small flock of “Wellies.” They are very personable although they are now getting to be “old ladies.”
If is important that like with all chickens, they need to be allowed a rest from their egg production in the colder winter months. If their bodies are allowed this resting, they will be able to lay eggs for around three years of their life.
The most important features of the Welsummer is that it is for the most part a quiet, steady, and somewhat reliable bird.