Choosing the right hen for your backyard coop can be tricky because there are hundreds of varieties from around the world. But, in our humble opinion, one of the best chicken breeds is Welsummer. In this guide, we will take a look at Welsummer chickens in more detail to help you decide if they are a good fit for your plans.
The Origins of Welsummer Chickens
Welsummer chickens are a relatively new breed and they have only existed for just under 100 years. The source of the name is Welsum, a village located near the town of Deventer in the Netherlands. This bird was originally bred as a dual-purpose chicken after World War 1. There are many landrace bird varieties in the Netherlands, and some were bred with other chicken breeds. including: Leghorn, Barnevelder, Chochin, Wyandotte and the Rhode Island Red. This became the Welsummer chicken breed. Although there is a little disagreement over the exact genetic contribution that Brahma, Malay and Croad Langshan may have made.
The Welsummer chicken made its formal debut at the World Poultry Congress held at The Hague in 1921. The bird was a big hit amongst the Dutch poultry enthusiasts, and it quickly earned a good reputation across the rest of Europe. By 1927 the Welsummer chicken had reached England and the earliest US exports arrived in 1928. In 1927 the Dutch Welsummer Breeders Club was formed to refine and continuously improve this well liked and durable bird. Back in the now larger town of Welsum a statue was even erected to this chicken breed due to the fame and fortunes that its breeding had brought them.
Welsummer Chickens Characteristics
Given the origins of the Welsummer chicken, it should come as no surprise that this breed has a prominent partridge feather pattern. This is a very attractive bird with an overall dark brown coloring that’s accentuated with white/light brown feather shafts. At the nape and neck, these feathers are a darker shade of golden brown that appears to be gold in strong sunlight.
The rooster has chestnut brown hacks and saddle feathers and the chest, sickles and under feathers have a deep lustrous green color. The eyes are reddish bay and the beak is short with a horn/black color.
There are four toes on each foot and the exposed shanks and skin of the bird is yellow. This is a single comb chicken breed with five points, the comb, earlobes and wattles are all a healthy red color. The rooster and hen weigh in at around 7 lbs and 6 lbs respectively. The Welsummer has a longer and flatter back than many breeds, the breast is full and they have an upright stance.
Welsummer Chickens Temperament
The Welsummer chicken is intelligent, docile, and friendly and with regular exposure, even a rooster will eat from your hand. These are sturdy and robust birds, but they don’t tend to bully other breeds in a shared run. It’s easy to think of them as at the upper end, but not at the top of any pecking order.
One drawback to this breed is that these chickens are pretty noisy and if they are unhappy, they will let you know all about it. They are not good flyers, and this makes it easy to confine them with lower fencing as required.
They enjoy cool weather, and this makes them a good fit for a Northern climate. However, the Welsummer can tolerate a certain level of heat as long as they have a cool spot to visit.
There is a large variation in reported egg production numbers due to a number of factors. The general consensus seems to be that a higher level of egg production can be linked to a less pure variety of Welsummer chicken. Egg production slows or even stops entirely during the winter, but as soon as spring arrives everything returns to normal quickly.
The average egg numbers can vary from 160 up to 250 eggs per bird annually. During their prime years, a hen may lay around four eggs per week and the quality of them is astonishing. A Welsummer egg has a dark terra cotta brown color with a spattering of dark speckles across the entire surface. Welsummers are not especially broody and they are pretty negligent mothers. If you want to hatch some eggs, you’re going to need your best brood hens on the case. After hatching the chickens will auto sex and you will know which sex they are immediately.
Possible Health Issues
The aforementioned larger combs and wattles on Welsummer roosters can be prone to frostbite in cold weather conditions. So, be careful to keep a close eye on them when the temperatures drop to a very low level. This is a very healthy and robust poultry breed under normal conditions. Aside from the usual parasites that can affect chickens in general they don’t have any particular health issues. When Welsummer chickens are well looked after, they can live up to the ripe old age of nine.
Who are the Welsummer Chickens Best Suited For?
The Welsummer can be a great addition to any flock if you want to get those gorgeous terracotta colored eggs. This breed was originally bred to be a dual-purpose hen and as such it will dress out at a decent weight for the table. As far as foraging goes they are certainly up in the top ten and they will certainly supplement their diet with tasty garden treats.
This breed can tolerate a certain level of confinement, but like most breeds, they are happiest when they have room to roam. They can be pretty self-sufficient, if they have a larger area to forage and their coloring is effective camouflage against predators. It would be hard to describe them as a pet or lap chicken, but they are friendly and they don’t mind being picked up. If you have treats on hand, they will be keen to follow you around.
This is one of Prince Charles favorite breeds, he’s the Royal Patron of the British Welsummer Club and he’s had a small flock of his own for many years. If this royal endorsement isn’t sufficient, it’s important to repeat that this is a steady, dependable, and well-tempered breed. The hens will lay reliably for approximately three years, but they will rest during the colder months and egg production will slow considerably.