The Welsummer Chicken
Think of a regular barnyard chicken and you’re probably close to imagining a breed known as the Welsummer chicken (spelt ‘Welsumer’ in the Netherlands). The cock looks as though he has just emerged from a children’s picture book of farm animals and has a ‘typical’ farmyard chicken shape and colour.
This Dutch breed is originally from Welsum in Holland. Welsum is on the Ysel River north of Deventer. The Welsummer appeared around the same time as the Barnevelder ie from 1900 to 1913.
The local chickens of the area included birds sporting a huge range of colours and physical differences. Some had four toes, some five toes. There were even birds with yellow body feathering and blue tails.
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a practical model for working with
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A farmer’s son took on the challenge to develop a standardised breed which would suit local conditions. Cochin, Leghorn, Wyandotte(all Partridge types) were crossed with the local chickens followed by the introduction of Barnevelders and Rhode Island Reds. Once a consistent type was established, local farmers were happy to adopt the new breed.
The first public appearance of the Welsummer was at the first World Poultry Congress at The Hague, Holland. This was in 1921. The breed continued to be bred to a true standard and in 1927 the Dutch Association for the Improvement of the Welsum Poultry Breed was founded. The first Welsummers arrived in England in 1928.
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Like the Maran and the Barnevelder, the Welsummer lays a very dark brown egg although it is a matt flower-pot red (terracotta) compared to the glossy chocolate colour of the Maran egg. The breed is a reasonable layer although production figures have dropped somewhat following a focus on breeding for colour and/or size over production. It is a black/red breed with a most attractive bantam type in Silver Duckwing colouration. It is a soft-feathered breed and the hens often go broody.
The hens have a pleasing shape with a partridge pattern of rich colours. The body is a medium brown, there are etchings of gold round the neck and the tips of the tail feathers are a rich brown. Cocks weigh about 7 pounds and hens slightly less. It is a dual purpose breed and suitable for a backyard chicken where children are involved. The average production is about three eggs per week.
The Welsummer is an enthusiastic forager and is at his best under free range conditions. The birds are hardy and although they like to free range, they will tolerate confinement.