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Welsummer Chickens: The Ultimate Guide To A Favorite of British Royalty

Welsummer Chickens: The Ultimate Guide To A Favorite of British Royalty

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The Welsummer is a light, soft feathered, active chicken that is an excellent forager and does very well free-range. In its native land of Holland, it is known as the Welsumer, with the spelling being closer to that of its place of origin, Welsum. This article will look at the Welsummer chicken in detail and see why it is the favorite of British royalty and backyard chicken keepers alike.

Is the Welsummer right for your flock?

  • The Welsummer is a good layer of large, dark brown, speckled eggs
  • Red Partridge color variety does not appear in any other breed
  • Does well in cold climates
  • Dual purpose breed that is good for beginners

Background & History of the Welsummer

The Welsummer chicken originated during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in the area of Welsum, a village along the banks of the Ijssel river in Holland.

The exact origins of the breed are not entirely known, but it is believed to be a cross between the landrace fowl that were present in the area at that time, and other foreign breeds, including the Malay, Brahma, Cochin, Faverolle, and Dorking.

As further development of the bird continued, additional breeds were added to the mix, including the Rhode Island Red, Barnevelder, and Leghorn. The main objective was to produce a fowl that could lay many large dark brown speckled eggs, which were in high demand and worth more than the white eggs produced by other Dutch hens.

At this point in their development, little concern was given to the breed’s appearance, and it varied greatly. In 1928 an association was created in Holland to support the Welsummer breed, and from that point forward, attention was given towards its color and type.

Welsummer chicken

In the beginning, much disagreement was had about the correct look of a Welsummer. Finally, the standard color of red partridge was agreed upon. This color is unique to the bird and does not appear in any other breed.

Despite the Welsummer being a good egg producer, it lost favor when the hybrid hens arrived, as they were true egg-laying machines. The Welsummer was sidelined, becoming only of interest to small breeders and enthusiasts, who continued to keep the bird for its many good qualities.

The Welsummer has two claims to fame. If you’re familiar with Kellogs Cornflakes, you may well recognize the rooster that was first emblazoned on the packaging back in 1957. The rooster, named Cornelius, or Corny for short, was designed to remind folks to “Wake up to Breakfast.”

The second immortalization of the Welsummer is a statue of two Welsummer chickens that stands in front of the church in Welsum in Holland, where the breed originated.

Welsummer Chickens: The Ultimate Guide To A Favorite of British Royalty 2

International Appeal

Welsummers were featured in a Poultry Congress and Exhibition at The Hague in 1921, where they captured the attention of many who were drawn to their large brown speckled eggs. The best examples were sold for high prices. Interest was also sparked in breeders from other countries, and hatching eggs were later exported to Germany.

By 1923 the Welsummer breed was officially recognized in Germany, and in 1924, the German Welsummer club was formed. The German type differs from the Dutch breed and is recognized in additional colors. The German Welsummer exhibits a longer tail and body, and the tail is carried very low, more like a game bird.

In 1928, Welsummers were imported into England and were accepted into the English standard in 1930. It was here that the Silver Duckwing (silver partridge) was developed, and an autosexing variety was introduced by adding the cuckoo factor, making male chicks lighter than females.

Welsummer rooster

The Welsummer club in England is very active, and its patron is HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles maintains his own backyard flock of Welsummers at his country home of Highgrove House in Gloucestershire.

Although Welsummers were introduced into the United States as early as the late 1920s, they did not gain great popularity and were overshadowed by other chicken breeds of the time. The American Poultry Association finally recognized them in 1991.

Because Welsummers don’t originate in America, they are not considered to be a heritage breed. However, they are the equivalent of a heritage breed in the Netherlands.

The Welsummer chicken is still very new to the United States, so it is relatively rare. In Europe, some of the color varieties are also hard to find.

Welsummer chicken

Temperament and Personality

Welsummers are generally calm, intelligent birds with a friendly yet busy nature. They love to forage and are incredibly efficient at finding food if permitted to be free-range.

They are not generally aggressive and will integrate well with other chicken breeds if introduced correctly. Within the pecking order, they fall somewhere in the middle and don’t tend to be bossy.

They can fly but are not the best flyers, so confining them isn’t too difficult if that is what you need to do.

Although they tolerate heat, provided they are given somewhere cool and shady to retreat to, they prefer colder climates.

When something upsets them, Welsummers can become quite noisy, so they may not be best suited for anyone with close neighbors. Other much quieter breeds would be better.

The ease of care that Welsummers require makes them a good choice for beginners. However, they are not sitters and don’t usually become broody or raise chicks well. If that is a requirement, you would need to incubate a Welsummer egg or find a broody hen to do the job. Bantam Welsummers are known to go broody occasionally.

Although friendly, they are not lap birds, so they wouldn’t be the best choice for children.

Welsummer chickens

Breed Specifics and Traits

Welsummers can be used as a dual-purpose bird, being an acceptable meat bird, but they are best known for their wonderful brown speckled eggs.

The Welsummer is lively by nature, and although sturdy, it is not heavy. The Welsummer hen can weigh between 4 to 6lbs, while a male is between 6.5 to 7lbs.

The comb of the male is of medium size, single and bright red in color. It will be firm, upright, and have five to seven points. The ear lobes are also red, with closely positioned red wattles of medium size. Females’ combs and wattles are smaller in comparison.

The legs are clean and yellow, with four long, straight toes. These should be well spread out. The skin is also yellow, while the eyes are red.

Both males and females have a flat, medium-length back. The Brest of the hen is well developed, and she should have a fairly short, flat tail. The Welsummer cockerel has a well-developed, elegant tail of black, blue-green feathers.

Welsummer rooster

In the Netherlands and the United States, only the red partridge color is recognized by the breed associations. Therefore, it is unique to Welsummers.

The feathers of the male’s neck are intensely colored in deep red-gold, the saddle is a deeper red, and they have few markings. The black color on the breast, belly, and thighs can have a slight mixture of brown. The tail is black with an iridescent blue-green sheen.

The hen’s neck feathers are golden and have a black lace pattern that also continues in the darker brown saddle feathers. The breast plumage is a paler reddish-brown with a cream colored feather shaft.

The German red partridge color is quite different, and work is ongoing to align the two more closely.

Other than the red partridge, other colors recognized in England, Germany and France include the yellow partridge and the silver partridge, also known as the gold duckwing and silver duckwing.

Welsummer bantams

The first bantams came from England and were created by crossing bantams of Old English Game with Rhode Island Red bantams and small-sized Welsummers. German breeders later developed a better dwarf by introducing German and Wyandotte bantams.

The bantam Welsummers also produce brown eggs, although they are smaller and in proportion to the bird. They are not typically as deep in color as the full-size bird’s eggs.

Welsummer chicken

Welsummer Health

The Welsummer has no predisposition to any particular health issues. 

As with all other chickens, they are prone to lice, mites, and worms, and a treatment plan is essential to help stop any problems from arising.

They typically live between 6 to 9 years, depending on the conditions in which they are kept.

Predators

The brown coloration of the Welsummer can help it be less noticeable to predators than white chicken varieties. Their ability to fly may also help them evade predators to some extent. It is, however, essential that as much protection as possible is afforded to them, as they are quite docile.

Welsummer Chicks

It is possible to sex Welsummer chicks at a day old. Females are darker than males. They both have a brown stripe running along their backs on a paler gold background. In females, the stripe is much darker and continues up and over their heads. In males, it is lighter and finishes at the neck with just a dot of color on top of their heads. There are sharply drawn eye stripes that on female chicks are much darker and more defined.

Unfortunately, not all chicks are clearly marked, so there will always be some room for error.

Welsummer baby chicken chick

Welsummer Chicken Eggs

Welsummers are known for their large dark brown egg. The dark eggs and rich brown speckled egg color of a Welsummer chicken comes from a dark brown substance called Porphyrin. It is a kind of dye applied to the egg during its passage through the oviduct and creates a colored egg. The speckles visible on the eggs are places where this dye accumulates more densely.

The gland responsible for producing the brown dye can’t always keep up with the number of eggs a hen produces, and eggs become lighter and lighter in color as the season progresses. The dark brown speckles will continue to remain, and it is possible for the chicken egg to eventually become very pale with dark brown speckles. For this reason, only the darkest brown eggs are selected for breeding purposes.

The large brown egg produced by the full-sized fowl can weigh between 2.3oz and 3oz, while those coming from bantam hens are 1.4oz to 1.6oz. Standard size birds have good egg production and lay 160 to 250 eggs per year, while bantams lay 150 to 200 eggs every year.

Welsummers are seasonal layers and don’t naturally produce eggs during the winter months.

Hand holding speckled egg

Welsummer Overview

Breed NameWelsummer or Welsumer
TypeDual-purpose, primarily for eggs
SizeLarge
Heritage BreedRare Breed in the United States, not heritage
Average WeightHen 4 to 6 lbs, Rooster 6.5 to lbs
Weeks To Maturity 21 to 24 weeks
Average Life Span6 to 9 years
Color variationsRed Partridge, Gold Duckwing, Silver Duckwing
Egg SizeLarge
Egg ColorBrown with dark brown speckles
Egg Production160 to 250 per year (seasonal)
Dual Purpose Yes, but mostly used for eggs
TemperamentActive, calm and friendly
Beginner FriendlyYes, but non-sitter
Kid FriendlyNot ideal
Heat TolerantYes if given shelter
Cold TolerantYes
Comb TypeSingle
BroodinessNot broody
FlightinessCan fly poorly
Noise LevelQuite high
Unique TraitsOnly chicken of red partridge coloration. Favorite chicken of HRH Prince Charles of England.

Buying Welsummer Chickens

You can find Welsummer chicks and fertile hatching eggs by searching online at eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or looking for hatcheries. It is always best to find sources that are as close to you as possible to reduce losses during transportation.

Cackle Hatchery sells day old chicks starting at $2.70, with a minimum order of 3 chicks.

Cackle Hatchery is our preferred and recommended hatchery. While most hatcheries require orders of at least 25 chicks, you can buy as few as 3 chicks from Cackle. They are also highly rated on Google and have been in business since 1936. 

Summary

Who could resist the beauty of the handsome Welsummer rooster? Not only is he a pinup for Kellogs Cornflakes, but is even kept by British royalty.

If you want a chicken that is an excellent forager, cold hardy, lays large brown speckled eggs abundantly, and is easy to keep, then the Welsummer chicken breed could be a great choice.

But, if you’re after something very quiet, that you can cuddle and will mother lots of chicks, you’d be better looking elsewhere.

FAQ

Are Welsummers good layers?

Welsummers are known for their large dark brown egg. Standard size birds have good egg production and lay 160 to 250 eggs per year, while bantams lay 150 to 200 eggs every year.

What color eggs does a Welsummer chicken lay?

Welsummers are known for their large dark brown egg. The dark eggs and rich brown speckled egg color of a Welsummer chicken comes from a dark brown substance called Porphyrin. It is a kind of dye applied to the egg during its passage through the oviduct and creates a colored egg. The speckles visible on the eggs are places where this dye accumulates more densely.

Are Welsummers aggressive?

Welsummers are generally calm, intelligent birds with a friendly yet busy nature. They love to forage and are incredibly efficient at finding food if permitted to be free-range.
They are not generally aggressive and will integrate well with other chicken breeds if introduced correctly. Within the pecking order, they fall somewhere in the middle and don’t tend to be bossy.

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