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by H Easom Smith,
 Past President of The Poultry Club
Reproduced from A History of Domestic Poultry Keeping, Printed 1976

Fashion in egg colour has always been a factor to influence choice of breed. Few housewives will accept that a white shelled egg can be just as nutritious as a brown shelled one and that quality of contents depends on adequate feeding. They want something to please the eye; they look for a brown shelled egg. In some cases egg shell colour commands a premium price.

This was realised by the Dutch long before it was so commonplace here. When local "fresh eggs" were displayed in a grocery shop window laid on a bed of straw, all sizes and colours in the basket together, the Dutch were exporting graded, dark brown eggs which got handsome rewards.

As a result of what they saw, British breeders wanted to know more about the birds which laid these brown eggs and it was not long before they ran them to earth, selected stock and brought them to England as additions to existing studs.

When Barnevelders were largely sought for their brown eggs many breeders found them to be relatively slow maturing and somewhat lethargic in habit. News filtered through about another Dutch breed which laid even larger eggs, of more solid and attractive colouring. The fowls were easier to breed, with less exacting plumage pattern and were more active in disposition.

Visits were paid to the area of Welsum and birds, sometimes selected,from laying flocks, were imported in 1928. They could, and did, lay eggs weighing around 3oz. with a solid, matt-brown colouring.

The torch was lit for the Welsummer with greater speed than had been the case for the Barnevelder. Of natural black-red colouring, with mottled breasts and underparts in the males, several astute showmen were quick to see the little El Dorado which could be enjoyed before fashion changed.

Admitted to Poultry Club Standards in 1930, Welsummers were seen at the Crystal Palace almost as soon as they arrived. Although classified as a middle-weight breed in Holland, it had to be content with the light breed label here. It took the Welsummer no more than four or five years to be adjudged "best utility bird in show" at Birmingham.

The fact is that it came to England after all the hubbub about classes for utility birds had died down. The same Welsummers could be shown in any classes for the breed and similar stock could, at first, compete in Laying Trials.

I remember visiting Harry Snowden's farm, when he was prominent with the breed (although a bantam breeder of long standing), and walking round the pens with him. He showed me excellent deep, brown eggs weighing up to 3oz. each. The birds were extraordinarily attractive and I commented, to his intense pleasure, that I had never seen such a level flock of the breed.

Not many years later we were both judging at the same show when our lunchtime chat reverted to that particular visit and he told me that each year, as plumage colour was just a little more fixed, egg size was just a little less.

Welsummers have kept a lot of their liveliness. They have a sensible standard and, as long as breeders and judges stick closely to it, the breed will come to little harm. There is still enough support to ensure a continuance of birds in competitive classes and a selection of matt brown eggs, where egg classes are a feature of the show.

Welsummer Table of Entries at National and International Shows.
1952 1954 1956 1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 1974
66 47 29 24 20 25 24 43 13 12

The cross between Partridge-bred Black-red Old English Game bantams and Welsummers was so obvious that early breeders made no effort to resist the temptation. In fact, they welcomed it as giving them another breed they could take to the shows. It was significant that some of the earliest winners with Welsummer bantams were breeders of Game.

Unfortunately, this set the breed away on the wrong foot because such a straightforward, plainly shaped, partridge coloured bantam had nothing in the way of extras if it did not have the proper deep-brown, large egg of the breed.

Doubly unfortunate, these early Welsummer bantams did not have a correctly worded standard, either. Their original requirement was for females with salmon breast colour and this led many breeders and judges astray. It paved the way for the Game crossbred, too.

I wrote, in Poultry World, regarding the lack of the true and typical egg and the description of breast colour. There were indignant rejoinders, some claiming that they had their bantams right and I should be made aware of it.

The outcome was a notice, published in Poultry World, 30th December 1954, which read, " Agreement has been reached between The Poultry Club and the Welsummer Club respecting the Standard of Welsummer bantams. It has resulted in the acceptance of the same colour and type Standard for bantams as in the large fowl. The Standard for bantams will, as a result, be amended in the next edition of 'British Poultry Standards'."

From this point on, I like to think, proper Welsummer bantams began to be preferred and many of them produced eggs which won in bantam egg classes.

It has also resulted in a breed which can satisfy both on the show-bench and in the nest box - a very happy state of affairs.

The three Dutch breeds which were imported after World War I were, basically, poultry bred to a pattern of performance rather than appearance. In this they differed markedly from those earliest Dutch breeds, like Chittiprats, which went to make up intricately marked Hamburghs, mainly bred for show. After the new Dutch breeds had been selected for plumage pattern the very large eggs which they originally laid, were not maintained at maximum size and the breeds took their place, alongside all other productive fowls, to be judged on all their merits, outward appearance playing a fair part in assessment of their worth.

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