With a cordial, docile demeanor and lovely, gleaming plumage, the Welsummer chicken is one bird that will stand out for its good looks in your coop. However, there is more to this breed of chicken than meets the eye. Welsummers can also add value to your chicken flock by its egg laying and meat abilities.
Learn if raising Welsummer hens and roosters is right for you and where you live. They do better in a cooler climate in areas in which neighbors aren’t close by.
Welsummer Chicken History
The origins of the Welsummer chicken lie in the nation of the Netherlands. During the years after World War 1, breeders in the Netherlands began tinkering with breeding a new dual-purpose chicken. They wanted birds that would feed out for table meat while laying a respectable number of eggs per year.
The Welsummer was created from many chicken breeds including the Cochin chicken, Wyandotte, Barnvelder, and Rhode Island Red. The Welsummer was named for the tiny village from which it originated called Welsum.
In 1921, the breed was exhibited at The Hague’s World Poultry Congress and eagerly accepted by poultry breeders, including the British Royal Family. Even now, Prince Charles is a patron of the Welsummer society in Great Britain. He also keeps a flock of his own Welsummers.
In 1928, the Welsummer was imported to the United States. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the American Poultry Association officially recognized the Welsummer and admitted it. It was classified as a Continental breed of chicken.
Welsummer chickens have unmistakable good looks. The main color pattern is called partridge. This color is a dark brown, with light brown and or white streaks throughout the color. The neck feathers of the bird are golden brown with some dark brown coloration. The colors of the head and neck of hens give the appearance of a flowing mane coming from the head.
However, the roosters are the standouts for good looks in Welsummer flocks. The saddle feathers as well as those of the hackles are a chestnut color. The sickles, chest feathers and under feathers are a gleaming beetle green. The flowing tail feathers of the Welsummer roo are that same black-beetle green. The flashy color pattern of the roosters make the Welsummer a memorable bird.
The Welsummer rooster is so memorable that it has been used as a logo. The Kellogg company reportedly used a Welsummer rooster as a model for “Cornelius,” the rooster on the box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
The Welsummer has tan colored beaks with yellow skins and clean, white or yellow legs. Their feet have four toes.
Welsummer chickens have large, bright red single combs. Their earlobes and wattles are a lustrous red as well, and their eyes are a cheery red-brown.
In the United States, the only color pattern recognized is the partridge coloration as noted above. However, other breeders and breeders overseas have bred Welsummers in other color patterns. Two alternate color patterns are called silver duckwing and gold duckwing. Generally, the duckwing versions of the Welsummer are found mostly in Europe.
Proper body form for the Welsummer includes a full, meaty breast and an upright stance. Their overall appearance should be that of a full-bodied meat bird. Their backs are flat and long.
Welsummer Chicken Weight
While the Welsummer chicken is considered a light breed, they actually weigh in around the same size as many heavy breed kinds of chickens. Welsummer hens weigh between 5 and 6 pounds. Welsummer roosters weigh between 7 and 8 pounds.
There is a bantam version of these lovely chickens. Bantam Welsummer roosters weigh around 34 ounces. Bantam Welsummer females weigh 30 ounces.
Temperament and Activity Level
Welsummers are very active birds, particularly for a breed that was created to be a good source of meat. They love to forage and do very well raised as free-range chickens.
Welsummers are not delicate, sensitive chickens. If you have a few, you will find them outdoors in almost all weather conditions, rain and sun or ice and snow. These chickens are such good foragers that, if you have enough space for them, they may be mostly self-sustaining in the warm summer months.
Welsummers are friendly, docile birds, but because they are such “busy birds” they are not quite as affectionate as some other breeds. They have work to do and may not be interested in hanging around for scratches and petting sessions. These chickens are smart and curious. Therefore, you may be able to train them to do simple tricks if you come with the right treats to bribe them.
Welsummers are not an aggressive kind of chicken. However, they do not tolerate bullies and will peck back if another chicken is trying to push them around. Generally, though, they will not stir up trouble. They like a peaceful coexistence with other chickens.
One thing to note is that Welsummers can be a bit vocal. They will let you know if something is not right but will settle down once you have filled the food and water dishes or opened the chicken coop door that blew closed in the wind. They are quite proud of laying eggs and will announce their accomplishment to the rest of the flock when they are finished laying.
Welsummer hens are a pleasure in the barnyard. Their personable natures mean that these hens may allow you to pet them or even feed them from your hands. They are calm and gentle.
These lovely hens are not the best egg layers, but they do tend to lay fairly well, especially in the warmer months. However, they probably will slack off on egg laying in the cold, dark winter months.
Welsummer hens are non-setting and not very likely to go broody. However, if they are going to brood, they will do so in the early spring months. If you do end up having a broody Welsummer hatch out a clutch of eggs, you may want to take the chicks away. Welsummer hens are not great mothers, and the chicks may not make it. Put the chicks in a brooder and raise them yourself. Alternatively, you can pop them under another breed of broody chicken while she’s sleeping.
Welsummer roosters are very calm roosters. As with any breed of chickens, there might be outliers that are aggressive, but overall, Welsummer roosters have a reputation for being rather docile.
Roosters will grow to be 7 – 8 pounds.
One great thing about Welsummer chicks is that they are naturally sexed. This means that the male chicks have different feather colors and patterns than the female chicks. If you are raising Welsummers as a breeder and want to sell chicks, this trait is a definite advantage, since customers may pay more for hens than roosters.
The female Welsummer chicks have dark heads and a darker, more distinctive feather pattern. The male chicks have feathers that have less distinct patterns. While you can get chicks that are sex linked, Welsummer chicks are considered auto sexed.
Auto sexed chicks have parents of the same breed, and the male and female chicks also look different at hatching. Welsummers are one of only a few breeds of chickens in the world that have auto sexed chickens.
Sex linked birds have parents that are of different breeds. The male and female chicks look different at hatching.
The advantage of auto sexed birds over sex linked birds is that auto sexed birds will breed true to the parent chickens. Sex linked birds will not necessarily breed true to the parent birds.
You can buy day-old chicks from hatcheries or feed stores. Before you purchase a rooster, be sure the regulations in your area allow them.
Welsummers are a good dual purpose chicken, but the difficulty of dual purpose birds is that they neither lay as well as the egg laying breeds nor do they grow out as large or as quickly as a solely meat breed. Welsummers do follow this general pattern.
Your Welsummer cockerels will eventually get to a respectable slaughter weight, but they definitely will not get there very quickly. It may take you between 4 – 6 months to get your Welsummer cockerels to slaughter weight. By that time, most of your roosters will yield about a 5 pound roasting chicken. If you have excess pullets, you can likewise slaughter them, but they will not be as large as the cockerels.
One thing, however, that you can do, if you like the breed and want to tinker with bloodlines, is to improve your own flock, selecting for meat growth. By keeping and breeding the roosters and pullets that grow and fill out more quickly, you may be able to improve your flock and have a shorter time to slaughter.
Welsummers are considered a heritage breed, so unlike many modern meat birds, the ratio of dark meat to light meat is higher. You won’t get the large, full breasts that a Cornish chicken is bred for. However, if you have a market for heritage meat in your area, they may like the Welsummer roasting chicken.
One thing to keep in mind as you market your birds, however, is that their skins are yellow. Some clients may find that unappealing.
While Welsummers are typically average egg layers, only producing an egg about every other day or every third day, their eggs are gorgeous. If you have customers who value appearance over volume, Welsummer chickens may be just the breed for your market. The eggs of the Welsummer hens are large and a gorgeous dark brown color with even darker speckles. They truly are eye catching and memorable.
Sources vary widely in the average number of eggs that the Welsummer can produce. Some places report as few as 160 eggs per year, while others report about 250 eggs a year. Generally, the higher the number of eggs, the further from “pure” Welsummer stock you have gotten. However, for a dual-purpose chicken, the Welsummer does fairly well in the egg laying department.
Bantam versions of the Welsummer do not lay the deep brown, speckled eggs. Bantam Welsummer chickens lay light brown eggs.
Welsummers are very hardy birds with no particular health concerns unique to the breed. They are very cold hardy if given adequate shelter, but they may struggle a bit in the summer heat. However, if you give them plenty of shade and cool water, they will manage the heat fairly well.
However, one thing to consider is that the large red combs, particularly of roosters, may give you problems in very cold weather. The big single combs are prone to frostbite in cold weather, so a light coating of petroleum jelly can protect the roosters’ combs in winter. If you live in an area with extremely cold weather that lasts for months, a space heater set on low in the hen house might be appreciated by your chickens. Just be sure to secure the heater to protect against fire hazards.
Don’t bring in new chickens if you don’t know their prior health record. You don’t want to introduce a disease to your existing flock. It is recommended to purchase similar age birds from a similar species at one time.
Who Shouldn’t Raise Welsummers?
Remember that there are no bad breeds of chickens. However, there are some breeds that are ill-suited for particular situations. Welsummers may not be well suited for backyard chicken keepers in typical neighborhoods.
Because they love to forage and will range far and wide in search of insects and seeds, if you try to keep them in a neighborhood without a good fence, the neighbors will complain. Your chickens, in looking for worms, may scratch up your neighbors’ prized flowers or scatter their mulch over the sidewalks.
Also, because the Welsummer is rather vocal, neighbors may complain about the noise. Not everyone enjoys the sounds of happy chickens!
If you are looking for a bird to lay many eggs all year round, Welsummers are definitely not the chicken breed for you. Yes, for a dual-purpose bird, they lay fairly well. However, if your market depends on each hen laying 5 or 6 eggs a week, the Welsummer chicken will disappoint you.
Who Should Raise Welsummer Chickens?
Welsummer chickens are a good choice for homesteaders who want to market specialty eggs to customers. The eggs of the Welsummer are quite distinctive, and some customers might be willing to pay more for the flashy good looks of these eggs. Also, the Welsummer habit of foraging leads to eggs that are tastier than chickens that are poorer foragers.
If you have a market for home-grown meat, or you just want some birds for your family table, the Welsummer is a good choice for you too. The roosters in particular grow to a size that makes a respectable roasting hen. Keep in mind that the Welsummer has yellow skin, and some customers may not like that.
Another great thing about the Welsummer is that, if you use an incubator or another breed of broody hen to raise chicks from Welsummer eggs, your chicks will be auto sexed. You can separate hens and roosters at younger ages than many other chickens and raise the roosters for meat.
You can then sell the female chicks as layers to other homesteaders. If you have an abundance of young roosters after selling chicks, just raise them in a pen, and you will soon have poultry for your freezer.
Are Welsummers aggressive?
Welsummers are fairly easy-going chickens but are not considered to be lap chickens by any means. They are in the middle to a little higher in the pecking order but won’t typically assert their dominance. It is best to give them enough space with free-ranging opportunities to minimize stress and to keep them active.
What color eggs does a Welsummer chicken lay?
Welsummer hens and pullets lay reddish brown to dark reddish brown eggs. Some will have dark brown spots as well which is called speckled.
Are Welsummers good layers?
They are decent and reliable layers but not considered to be among the best egg laying chickens. While they have a steady production, their egg production varies between hens. Some may lay close to 150 eggs a year while others 250 eggs annually. If you want to get an egg or two a day, Welsummer chickens are not the best choice for your farm.
Are Welsummer chickens good eating?
As far as meat production is concerned, their carcasses are medium-sized. They aren’t considered ideal to solely raise for their meat production and are not considered to be among the best meat chickens. However, the Welsummer meat is tender and tasty. You can certainly butcher the no-longer-productive older hens and the males for meat if you don’t want to raise roosters.
Beautiful Chicken with Dark Brown Eggs
Welsummers are good breeds for homesteaders who want a low maintenance, excellent foraging chicken. They do well in a mixed flock. If the chicken feed budget is tight, you can save a great deal of money in the spring, summer, and fall by allowing your Welsummers out to scratch all over the barnyard and fields. They will prefer scratching for their own feed over eating layer pellets.
The beautiful partridge color of the Welsummer allows them good camouflage from predators, and they tend to stay with the flock.
Homesteaders love getting more bang for the buck and the Welsummer is one chicken that has much to offer for your operation. Welsummers are easy-to-raise chickens that can feed your family both meat and eggs. They don’t need much special care or any kind of fancy food. If you need a good dual-purpose breed on your farm, the Welsummer might be exactly what you need.