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Deathlayer Chicken Breed: Everything You Need to Know

Deathlayer chicken

Have you ever heard about the Deathlayer chicken?

Its sinister name might put some people off, but contrary to it, this ultra-rare breed with over 400 years of history is pure eye candy.

With its shimmering gold hackle, pretty comb, and solid black eyes, this breed can surely steal your heart.

However, despite its striking coloration and beautiful qualities, this breed is actually underrated in the poultrydom.

But why?

In this article, we’ll bring you to the Deathlayer chicken’s world and show you their:

  • origin and history
  • unique characteristics
  • and egg-laying capabilities

You’ll also discover why it isn’t as popular as other breeds and if it’s worth adding to your flock.

So, if you want to know more about the Deathlayer, join us as we uncover every detail you should know about this German breed and help you make wise purchasing decisions.

Deathlayer Chicken Breed Overview

Breed Name: Westfälische Totleger
Origin: Germany
Primary Purpose: Egg Production
Average Size: Hens: 4 pounds
Roosters: 5 pounds
Egg Produced Per Year: 150 to 250 per year
Egg Color: White (medium-sized)
Hardiness: Cold and Heat Hardy
Temperament: Nervous, active
Lifespan:  10 to 12 years
Color Varieties: Gold and Silver
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered


Deathlayer Chicken Origin and History

The Deathlayer chicken’s roots can be traced back to the land of Germany. Therefore, it is a German breed.

They were named Westfälische Totleger in German, which means “Westphalian Deathlayer.”

Although not much is known in their history because its real origin is still a mystery to this day, it’s said that this breed has been around for over 400 years.

Why Are They Called Deathlayer Chickens?

There are two theories about the breed’s name.

The first theory is that it got its name due to the fact that they’re prolific egg layers and can lay an egg a day until the day of their death.

The second and probably the more accurate one is that the breed was once called ‘Daudtleijer’ in Low German, which translates to ‘Long-term Layer’.

But later on, due to different name variations, the name evolved to “Totleger“, meaning “Deathlayer”.

It was probably misheard due to different dialects, thus making “long-term layers” become “death layers”.

And according to historical documents, Totleger chicken came from the cities of Bielefeld and Herford.

The breed was known as “everyday layers” back then.

The Rise and Fall of Deathlayer

Deathlayer chickens are prolific layers.

And that may be the reason why it became popular in Germany.

But its popularity was short-lived because it got outshined by more productive breeds like the Leghorn chicken in the 1880s.

And sadly, chicken keepers and breeders lost interest in this landrace breed.

The numbers were still declining despite the efforts of building an association that aimed to preserve the breed in 1904.

But we can’t blame the people because there was stiff competition between chicken breeds at the time.

The breed was considered an endangered chicken breed by the German Poultry Association in 1994.

And in 2005, there were only 343 male and 1492 Deathlayer hens in the world—and still endangered up to this day.

The Deathlayer chicken found its way to the United States through Greenfire Farms, the original importer of the breed to the US.

This breed is so hard to find in the United States, which explains why the American Poultry Association does not recognize it despite being an established breed in Germany.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that Deathlayer is closely related to the “Braekel” and the “East Frisian Gull“? That’s why they look similar to Deathlayer chickens, and the only difference is that Deathlayer breed boasts a rose comb.

Deathlayer Chicken Breed’s Standard and Appearance

Despite Deathlayers’ strange name, this breed boasts a striking appearance and regal aura, making it a pleasant addition to ornamental chicken collections.

But how do these birds look?

Standard Appearance

There’s no specific breed standard for Death layer chicken because it’s not registered with the American Poultry Association(APA).

That’s why it can’t compete at APA poultry shows and exhibitions.

So how can you identify Deathlayer chickens?

Deathlayers feature solid black eyes, which creates a beautiful contrast with the white, brown, or silver feathers on their head.

They have medium-sized wattles that perfectly go together with their flat, rose-colored comb.

Their limbs are either blue-grey or slate, and their legs have four toes on each foot.

Silver Deathlayer hen and rooster
Credits to: Akers Family Farm

Color and Plumage Patterns

In this section, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between silver and golden Deathlayer’s plumage patterns and the distinguishing characteristics of each bird.

Silver Deathlayer Chickens

The Silver Deathlayer rooster features a cape of white plumage and a black tail with an iridescent sheen in a greeny-blue shade.

What makes this breed even more eye-catching is the irregular black penciling which fades to dark gray on the belly.

The silver Deathlayer hen, on the other hand, has a silvery-white feathering with more refined penciling than its male counterparts, which makes her look like she’s covered with black dots.

The silver Deathlayer chicken variety is more common, but the golden ones stole the heart of many poultry enthusiasts.


Golden Deathlayer Chicken

This variety is covered with orange and gold plumage but with a similar striking pattern to the silver Deathlayers.

They’re also adorned with green and purple sheen, which creates a beautiful contrast with their gold feathering.

But how big are these penciled chickens?

Deathlayer Chicken Size

Deathlayer chickens are medium-sized landrace birds.

The hens are around 4 to 4.5 pounds or 2 kg, while the Deathlayer roosters weigh around 5 to 5.5 pounds or 2.5 kg.

There’s no bantam version of this breed, but they’re adorable nonetheless.

Deathlayer Chicken Temperament and Personality

If you’re considering adding Deathlayer chickens to your flock, their personality is a factor worth considering because nobody wants an aggressive chicken.


Deathlayer chickens are active foragers that enjoy being out and about more than being confined in a coop all day.

They can be skittish toward strangers, but they’re not aggressive.


These birds tend to be nervous around strangers but friendly to their humans, especially their fellow feathery companions.

But they’re not lap chickens because they don’t like being held or petted.

So if you’re looking for a sweet and cuddly chicken, this is not for you.


Deathlayer chickens are both cold and heat-hardy. Therefore, they can thrive in any weather or climate when given proper care.

They’re highly resistant yet low-maintenance, and they’re not prone to frostbite, thanks to their comb’s structure.


Most Deathlayer chickens are good mothers, but some are broody while others aren’t.

It all depends on the bird’s strain, personality, and environment.

Some breeders reported that Deathlayers raised in hatcheries are less broody than others.

Uses of Deathlayer Chickens

Deathlayer chickens are mainly bred for egg production, but they also offer tasty meat.

However, since they’re medium-sized, they don’t produce much meat, so they’re not ideal for meat production.

How Many Eggs Do Deathlayer Chickens Lay?

Deathlayers can produce an average of 200 eggs every year, and they can lay eggs until they die, which is a huge feat considering that most chickens can lay for only 3 to 4 years.

However, some hens can lay as many as 250 eggs per year, but others can only produce 150 eggs.

It’s worth noting that this breed doesn’t lay well when they’re in a stressful situation until they’re comfortable enough.

What Color Eggs Do Deathlayers Lay?

This breed produces white medium-sized.

Yep, nothing fancy.

The Deathlayer chicken egg color is simply white, but it’s just as nutritious and protein-rich as other chicken eggs.

German Deathlayer chickens are generally good mothers.

But their broodiness depends on their personality, strain, and environment because most of those coming from hatcheries don’t lay well.

Common Health Issues of Deathlayer Chicken Breed

German Deathlayers are low-maintenance birds, but apparently, they’re not immune to sickness and death.

They can still experience several health issues that are common among egg-laying hens, which include:

These diseases affect the chicken’s ability to produce eggs and their overall health and well-being.

These birds are also prone to developing bacterial infections such as:

  • Mycoplasma
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli

Furthermore, they’re also susceptible to mites, lice, and infestation of other poultry parasites.

However, you can protect your birds from these parasites and diseases and increase their lifespan by ensuring their clean environment and providing high-quality chicken feed.

Female Golden Deathlayer Chicken
Credits to: Mitchell Comwall Chicken Farm

How to Care for Deathlayer Chicken

If you’re planning to purchase German Deathlayer chickens, how should you raise them to help them thrive and be productive?

Well, we got your back!

Here are some tips on how to raise Deathlayer chickens the right way.

Provide High Quality Chicken Feed

Feeding your chickens with high-quality feed can help your birds to optimize their egg production and maximize their lifespan.

But if you’re on a tight budget, you can also let them free-range so they can forage for their own food.

You must know, though, that their appetite increases during the cold season to maintain their body temperature.

And when the hens start laying eggs, it’d help if you could give them protein-rich and calcium-fortified layer feed to help them have thicker and stronger egg shells.

You can also give your Deathlayer chickens some delightful morsels to boost their egg production capabilities, such as:

  • Watermelons
  • Japanese beetles
  • Cracked corn
  • Mealworms
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Scratch grains
  • Sunflower seeds

Aside from those chicken treats, your chickens will surely feast and rejoice if you could give them cucumber, apples, carrots, and blueberries.

But you must eliminate the apple pits because they contain toxins that are bad for birds.

Give Them A Comfortable Home

Since the environment affects Deathlayer chickens’ productivity, you must build a spacious, clean, and comfortable chicken coop for them.

But how much space does Deathlayer Chicken need?

The minimum coop floor area is 4 square feet per chicken to feel comfortable and safe.

But you need to install barriers to protect your birds from predators.

It’d also help if you could add a roosting place for these chickens because that’s what they’re used to in the wild.

You can utilize a broom or ladder as a roosting place but make sure they’re dependable and secure.

You also need to ensure there’s enough ventilation in their coop so they can rest comfortably and avoid developing respiratory diseases.

Vaccinate and Supplement Them

Despite being a hardy breed, Deathlayers still need protection against various diseases, such as:

That’s why you must visit your vet to get your birds vaccinated and provide supplements to strengthen their immune system.

Where to Buy Deathlayer Chickens?

Since this is a rare landrace chicken breed, it’s challenging to find Deathlayer chicken for sale in the US, and the price is quite expensive.

According to Greeenfire Farms, which was credited as the first to import this breed from Germany to the US, the current population of Deathlayer in Germany is only around 1,500 birds.

So, the easiest way of finding silver and gold Deathlayer chicken for sale is through a hatchery that imports stock from Germany.

But the best source of Deathlayer chickens is by going to reputable breeders such as:

How Much Are Deathlayer Chickens?

There’s a huge discrepancy in Deathlayer chicken cost from different poultry farms.

For example, a single, unsexed day-old Deathlayer chick, whether silver or golden, costs around $59, while each silver Deathlayer chick from Star Hill Farm costs $30.00.

Are Deathlayer Chickens Rare?

Yes, this breed is ultra-rare, especially in the US. Even in its country of origin, its number is incredibly low.

In fact, there are only 1,500 registered Deathlayers in Europe.

Although it’s beginning to gain some attention from poultry enthusiasts, more efforts are needed to preserve and promote this centuries-old breed.

How long do Deathlayer Chickens live?

Deathlayer chicken breed’s lifespan ranges from 10 to 12 years.

When given proper care, a safe and clean environment, and quality nutrition, you can maximize their lifespan, and they can accompany you for 12 long years.

Pros and Cons of Raising Deathlayer Chicken Breed

To help you weigh in if this breed is for you, we summarized the pros and cons of this breed below.

Pros & Cons of Raising Deathlayer Chicken

  • Stunning Plumage
  • Good Layer
  • Excellent Forager
  • Good Mothers
  • Cold and Heat Hardy Breed
  • Not Acceptable to Shows
  • Broodiness Varies
  • Not Ideal for Meat Production

Gold deathlayer hen

Final Thoughts: Is Deathlayer Chicken Right For You?

If you’re a poultry-lover looking for ornamental birds with striking plumage, this breed is right for you.

Despite its bizarre name and rarity, it has several beautiful qualities that make them a great addition to your flock.

Yes, they’re more than just their pretty face and weird name!

They can lay up to 200 eggs, they’re good mothers, and they’re active foragers who can search for their own feed and requires less feeding.

The downside is they’re not affectionate or cuddly, and they produce less meat than others.

But if you think the pros outweigh the cons and this breed is worth a space in your flock, you’re making them a huge favor because your decision to welcome them can help save this landrace breed.

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