Deathlayer Chicken: Egg Production, Breed Personality and Care

deathlayer chicken featured image
Deathlayer chickens have a reputation that lives up to their name. These backyard chickens are said to have the ability to produce eggs every day of the year, up to the day that they die.

Deathlayer chickens are a 400-year-old German landrace breed. They are also a rare breed, with only 1500 Deathlayer chickens registered worldwide.

The German name for this breed is Westfalische Totleger which means “day layer”. It is also known as the Westphalia Deathlayer chicken, though most people shorten the breed name.

Two different varieties of Deathlayer chicken exist:

  • The Gold Deathlayer chicken has stunning black and russet with gold pencilled feathers.
  • The Silver Deathlayer chicken is black and white with silver pencilled feathers.

Both the silver and gold Deathlayer chickens have red wattles and a tight rose comb to prevent frostbite. While other cold climate chickens such as Silkies and Marans have feathers on their legs, Deathlayer chickens have bare blue or gray legs, and four toes.

Deathlayer Chicken Breed Overview

Recognized Breed NameWestfalische Totleger (in Germany) and Deathlayer Chicken (in USA)
Lifespan10 to 12 years
Coloring and PatternGold pencilled and Silver Pencilled
WeightDeathlayer roosters weigh 5 pounds, Deathlayer hens weigh 4 pounds
Comb TypeRose comb
Distinctive DetailsProdigious egg production
Feather TypePencilled
Heritage BreedYes
Tolerant to Heat?Yes
Tolerant to Cold?Yes
Meat Production Breed?No
Egg Production Breed?Yes
Egg SizeMedium
Egg ColorWhite

Egg Production

Deathlayer hens are prodigious white egg layers and produce medium-sized eggs.

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They tend to be fairly high egg-laying producers, with some flocks laying between 200 to 350 eggs per year. They do lay in winter, so you can expect to have fresh eggs all year long, while pullets reach the point of lay at just 18 weeks.


These chickens are naturally nervous and neurotic. They are definitely not lap chickens, though they can be friendly with their chicken keepers if they are handled frequently as Deathlayer chicks.

Deathlayer chickens are high-energy chickens, who love to explore and forage. They require a great deal of land to free-range.

Deathlayer Chicken Coop

Deathlayer chickens are not chickens that can easily be kept in confinement. These chickens love to roost in trees and prefer to be outdoors, year-round.

In lieu of building a standard chicken coop, it may be worth it to invest in predator-proof fencing around their chicken run area, and building a large aviary-type enclosure with a chicken wire roof, with a sheltered area that has nesting boxes for them to lay eggs.

If you are breeding Deathlayer chicks, or simply want to be able to easily collect their eggs in one place, you will need to build a sheltered area for them.

A standard chicken coop setup with nesting boxes that are 12×12 will be required for them, along with a fully equipped hatchery. Building the largest chicken coop you reasonably can will increase the likelihood of your flock being happy.

Most chickens require 12 to 15 square feet of space, while for Deathlayers, this amount should be doubled.

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You will also need an incubator to assist with hatching eggs, and a brooder in case the day old chicks aren’t being attended to by your Deathlayer hens.

Feeding and Health

Deathlayers are known for their hardiness and as a landrace breed, have excellent health with no known health problems aside from ectoparasites.

Feeding Deathlayers is a bit easier than many other chicken breeds because they are so good at foraging. If you allow your Deathlayers to free-range, you will definitely save on food costs.

Despite their foraging, you will still need to provide chicken feed that has 16 to 18 percent protein, fresh water, chicken grit, and oyster shells to laying hens, along with extras like mealworms or fresh fruit and veggies as healthy, occasional treats.

Deathlayer roosters will require the same as the hens with the exception of oyster shell because they don’t need the calcium boost since they don’t produce eggs.

Deathlayer chicks will need to be given chick starters as a mash or crumble for the first six weeks of their life, along with fresh water. Once they reach 7 weeks, they can switch to grower feed and chick grit that will help them develop into adults.


Where can you purchase Deathlayer Chickens?

Greenfire Farms has been providing straight-run Deathlayer chicks since the 1990s and is one of the most reputable Deathlayer chicken breeders.

Why are they called Deathlayer Chickens?

There is a bit of debate on why they are called Deathlayer chickens. One school of thought is that the German word “Totleger” literally means death layer, referring to the chicken’s ability to continue laying eggs until death.

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The other, more plausible explanation is that they may have originally been called “Dauerleger”, meaning “day layer” and over time, the pronunciation of low German shifted into “Totleger”.

What is the Difference Between a Deathlayer Chicken and a Regular Chicken?

Deathlayer chickens are said to lay eggs longer than most other breeds. Many egg-laying breeds will only produce eggs for 2 to 3 years before stopping egg production.

Additionally, Deathlayer chickens are a landrace breed. This means that they evolved naturally in their habitat and weren’t subjected to selective breeding programs by humans.

Most landrace breeds of chickens are closer to wildfowl and have fewer health issues.


A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Chicken Care Taker in 2022.

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