Deathlayer Chicken Breed: Complete Guide

Looking for a unique chicken breed that will gift you with many eggs? Then the Deathlayer chicken breed may be exactly what you need. Aside from the cool name, the Deathlayer has plenty of benefits to those who want a beginner-friendly chicken. Easy to care for, the Deathlayer is good at what it does, so it comes highly recommended. Here is everything you need to know about the Deathlayer chicken breed, so you can decide if this chicken is right for you.

What is a Deathlayer Chicken?

deathlayer white chicken

Deathlayer chickens are also known as Westfalische Totleger, which hails from Germany, as many breeds do. Moreover, they are aptly named, because they are rumored lay eggs forever. This is not true for most breeds; older hens will often stop laying eggs halfway through their lifespan. Is this entirely true? No, but they do start laying eggs earlier and more frequently than most breeds.

Around a year old, Deathlayer chickens start laying their eggs. Despite being tiny in size, the Deathlayer chicken will lay up to 200 medium-sized eggs every single year. This makes the Deathlayer an excellent addition to the flock.

History of the Deathlayer Chicken Breed

Believed to be over 400 years old, the Deathlayer chicken breed is very rare outside of Germany. For a long time, the breed was found only in Westphalia. It is also believed that several European breeds were used to create the Deathlayer, including the Braekel and Ostfriesische Mowe. However, there is not a lot of history available about this breed.

Supposedly, it is believed that the Deathlayer name comes from the translation of the word “Totleger.” In German, the word “tot” means “dead”, and “leger” means “layer”. Yet, it is thought that the Deathlayer name came about through variations on the name. For instance, one of the first names was “Dauerleger,” or “day-layer.” This may also be a more true approximation to what these chickens do. Instead of laying an egg every day until death, they lay in the morning. There is some evidence suggesting that Deathlayers do lose some efficiency as they get older, as with most chicken breeds.

Greenfire Farms in the US was the first to originally import the breed into the country during the early 1990s. Currently, there are several color variations, but the first were silver-penciled and gold-penciled. The Deathlayer continues to grow in popularity, and more colors are being introduced.

Are Deathlayer Chickens Good For Small Farms and Backyards?

westfalische totleger chicken

If you are looking for an excellent egg-layer or two, then you are going to like the Deathlayer chicken breed. Small scale farming is precisely what these chickens are made for. Deathlayer chickens are friendly and get along well with other members of a mixed flock. Plus, since the Deathlayer chicken is on the smaller side, they do not take much space.

Roaming around is what Deathlayers like best. They are not the best with confinement, and they like to roost in trees inside of a coop. Understandably, this may not be the best idea, depending on where you live.

Deathlayer chickens are also not very friendly, although they are not aggressive. You cannot expect them to be companions. That said, they can become friendly towards those who routinely take care of them.

Physical Characteristics of the Deathlayer Chicken

Deathlayer chickens look stunning and have a very kingly stance. There are a couple of variations, with silver-penciled and gold-penciled being the most common. Deathlayer chickens also have black, purple, and green iridescent tails, and their eyes are obsidian black. They have red combs and wattles, rosy colored skin around the eyes, and bluish-gray skin on their legs.

The golden Deathlayer is considered the rarer version of the two most noted colors. Rather than have the green and purple shimmer, they are more orange and gold. Plus, their combs are flatter.

Both the silver and gold Deathlayers roosters have “capes,” meaning that their main color around the head drapes down their back and turns into the penciled pattern. Silver Deathlayers have white capes, and the gold Deathlayers have bronze-gold feathering.

Roosters are slightly larger than hens and weigh around 5 pounds on average. Hens weigh 3.5 pounds.

This video details what the golden version of the breed looks like:

Because this is not a breed that is recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA), there is no breed standard.

Deathlayer Breed Temperament

You might think that with a name like “Deathlayer,” these birds would be more quiet and reserved. However, this breed is known to be slightly neurotic in their energy levels. For this reason, you cannot expect them to take confinement well. Deathlayers want to roam around and will roost in trees whenever they have the chance. You may have some trouble rounding them up in the evening to lock them up in a coop!

Furthermore, these birds require socialization. They are not as domesticated as other breeds of chickens. While they are not aggressive towards people or other chickens, they also tend to be skittish around strangers. Getting Deathlayer chickens comfortable is very important, because if they remain on edge and unable to settle, they will not produce the volume of eggs that they are known for. In short, get your Deathlayer chickens earlier and spend time with them.

The more socializing they receive, the better these chickens will be for you and your flock.

Some breeders do say that these birds are talkative and curious, but they also tend to be less intelligent when it comes to interacting with people. On the other hand, there are some reports that highly socialized Deathlayers love to be held and will pull treats from your palms. It depends, then, on who cares for them and how often they interact with people or other animals.

Egg Laying and Broodiness of Deathlayer Chickens

The main reason people purchase Deathlayer chickens is for egg production. Due to their small size, Deathlayers cannot be used for meat. Furthermore, due to their unrecognized status, you cannot bring Deathlayers to any APA shows. Therefore, they are best used for producing tons of eggs.

On average, a Deathlayer hen will lay around 200 eggs a year. Some get as high as 250 eggs a year, but there are instances where they only produce around 150 eggs. Again, these chickens do not fare well in stressful situations and will not lay eggs until they are comfortable.

Deathlayers are relatively good mothers, but whether or not they go broody tends to be up in the air. Any Deathlayers that come from a hatchery tend to be less broody, in general. That said, it seems to be dependent on the bird’s personality, the strain, and the situation.

Caring For Deathlayer Chickens

A healthy Deathlayer chicken has a lifespan of between 10 to 12 years; they thrive in most climates and require little maintenance. In order to keep your chickens happy and healthy for all that time, you should invest in a slightly larger coop and run than you would assume. Deathlayers want to be able to forage for their own, so they need plenty of space to do that. The advantage to allowing them to free roam is that you can spend less on chicken feed.

Also, ensure that your Deathlayer chickens have plenty of water throughout the day. Deathlayers have small combs and wattles, making them more tolerant to the cold. In fact, they are very hardy and can survive easily in both hot and cold climates, but they need water. When chickens get dehydrated, they can get sick rather easily.

There are no known medical conditions that Deathlayers are vulnerable to developing. Like most breeds, they are susceptible to lice, mites, and other parasites. Be sure to keep their coop and run free and clear of excrement. Keep the coop ventilated during the spring and summer.

Where to Find Deathlayer Chickens

In the US, Deathlayer chickens can be extremely difficult to obtain; their numbers are also low in Germany. According to Greenfire Farms, which was the first to import this breed, the current population in Germany is around 1,500 registered birds. In other words, if you want to add Deathlayers to your flock, you may have to scour the internet or pay a slightly higher price.

However, once you obtain a breeding pair, you will have everything you need to keep a family of Deathlayers going for many years.

Reputable Deathlayer breeders include:

  • K Quarter Circle
  • B&B Cheek Cheeks
  • H&B Farmstead
  • Greenfire Farms

Bottom Line

The Deathlayer chicken breed is incredible for producing eggs and free ranging on a small farm or in the backyard. If you want to add a chicken that lays until the end of their lives, then you are going to love the Deathlayer. Do consider adding the Deathlayer to your flock, as this will expand their receding population and keep this incredible chicken breed alive. Plus, they are wonderful for beginners and are low maintenance.

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