Vorwerk chicken (Vorwerkhuhn) is a breed named after Oscar Vorwerk, a merchant from Hamburg, Germany, who created it. Even though the new breed was officially established in 1919, it almost died out after the Second World War.
This fast-growing and hardy chicken breed is highly appreciated nowadays, primarily thanks to its dual purpose. They live 5 to 10 years and lay 170 to 190 medium-sized tinted eggs. Unfortunately, it is a rare and underestimated breed, despite the high quality and delicious meat.
Vorwerk chicken (Vorwerkhuhn)
|Climate tolerance||All climates|
|Lifespan||5 to 10 years|
|Standard weight||Cock – 5.5 to 6.6 pounds (2.5 – 3 kg)
Hen – 4.4 to 5.5 pounds (2 – 2.5 kg)
|European bantam weight||Cock – 2 to 3 pounds (910 g – 1.35 kg)Hen – 1.5 to 2.5 pounds (680 g – 1.15 kg)|
|The US bantam weight||Cock – 1.70 pounds (770 g)Hen – 1.45 pounds (658 g)|
|Feather color||Buff-colored body with black head and tail|
|Leg color||State blue|
|Leg type||Clean, without feathers|
|Purpose||Meat and eggs (dual purpose)|
|Egg size||Small to medium|
|Egg color||White, cream, tinted|
|Annual egg production||170 to 190|
|Flying ability||Fly up to 6.5 feet (2 m)|
|Temperament||Alert, friendly, active, calm, and tame|
|Achieving full size||8 months|
|Start of egg production||8 months|
|Beginning of the meat harvest||7 to 8 months|
The Vorwerk breed was created in Germany when Hamburg merchant Oscar Vorwerk decided to breed chickens with buff plumage at the beginning of the 20th century. He developed stable and well-utility birds with black belted markings.
Oscar crossbred a few chicken breeds to get the final combination named after his surname, including the main five:
- Ramelslohers and Lakenvelders for character and strength
- Andalusian for productivity
- Buff Orpington for nesting qualities
- Buff Sussex for docile temperament
The goal was to get a productive and original chicken type. Oscar showed the new breed with deep, rounded breasts and broad backs in 1912 for the first time, and it was standardized by 1913.
After 1933 when Oscar Vorwerk died, other breeders helped chickens survive. Unfortunately, the breed was almost lost after 1945 when used for food due to famine in the western German regions. Enthusiasts saved it from disappearing, but it is still rare and almost non-existing outside of Germany.
In 1966, Wilmar Vorwerk, a chicken breeder from Minnesota, decided to restart Vorwerk production. Since this breed had never been exported to the US, he started from the beginning and created similar chickens after combining:
- Buff and Blue Wyandottes
- Buff Columbian Rosecombs
- Black-tailed Buff
That way, he got the bantam variant with characteristics similar to the original German breed. On the other hand, some European breeders independently established the miniaturized bantam Vorwerk type.
The APA never recognized the Vorwerk large fowl, but the American Bantam Association included the US Vorwerk bantam version in the list of recognized breeds. Nowadays, you can find even a blue variety unrecognized outside the US.
Vorwerk Chicken Traits
You can recognize standard and small Vorwerk chicken breeds. Besides size and weight, they look pretty similar and share the same traits, including:
Vorwerk chickens are soft-feather light German poultry that thrives in all climates and lives approximately 5 to 10 years. This large breed is rare nowadays and almost nonexistent outside Germany. Unfortunately, people are often unaware of its existence because of inadequate popularization.
Even though numerous enthusiasts give their best to bring this breed back from the brink of extinction, it is uncertain whether their population will ever increase. On the other hand, American chicken keepers prefer this breed and plan to help it survive.
These sturdy, fast-growing, active, and quickly adaptable chickens are easy-to-grow, particularly in a free-range setting. They enjoy roaming and exploring the environment but can also do well in captivity.
Be prepared that these birds can fly up to 6.5 feet (2 m) and effortlessly fly over the fence when you forget to clip their wingtips. Vorwerk bantam is a miniature version that produces fewer eggs, has fewer capabilities, and is more prone to fly from the yard.
Average Vorwerk chickens have broad, deep, and rounded-rectangle-shaped bodies covered by glossy, voluminous, and soft plumage attached to the body. You can recognize full, broad, rounded breasts, slightly sloping back, and powerful, lower-positioned carriages.
They carry wings close, while their medium-sized tails are partially spread. Medium-long legs with delicate bones have four strong and un-feathered toes.
Moderately-sized heads are broad with bright, alert eyes on faces lightly covered with short feathers. Combs are single, with only one strand and four to six serrations. Their necks are positioned upright and with an abundant hackle.
You can recognize the standard and two Vorwerk chicken bantam versions, the US and European. They vary in weight significantly, so you can expect a standard cock to reach 5.5 to 6.6 pounds (2.5 – 3 kg), while hens are 4.4 to 5.5 pounds (2 – 2.5 kg) heavy.
European bantam cocks weigh 2 to 3 pounds (910 g – 1.35 kg), and hens are 1.5 to 2.5 pounds (680 g – 1.15 kg) heavy. The US bantam chickens weigh slightly less. Roosters reach 1.70 pounds (770 g) on average, while hens never weigh more than 1.45 pounds (658 g).
Vorwerk chickens have unique buff-colored bodies with black feathers on their heads and tails. Their skin is white, while their legs are clean, without feathers, and colored slate blue. However, you can notice some variations depending on gender.
Males come with grey under-fluff under deep buff-colored feathers. Their heads, hackle feathers, and tails are black-velvety, while you can see light striping between buff-colored saddle feathers.
Their wings are a combination of dark grey to black and buff feathers. Other characteristics include red combs, white earlobes, greyish-blue beaks, and orange eyes.
Females have buff-colored bodies with grey under-fluff and black hackles at the head back. Wings include a buff and greyish-black combination with buff secondaries, while their tails are black with buff details.
Their legs are slate, their combs red, and their beaks greyish-blue. Besides orange to orange-red eyes, you can notice white earlobes.
These chickens sometimes have rangy or thin bodies with highly positioned tails on overly-high carriages. You can also notice individuals with miscolored hackles. Males can come with almost black saddles, while the most common defects in hens are excessive spangling feathers and the absence of black color in their necks.
These well-tempered, friendly, and tame chickens spend most of their time foraging for food. Since they are not particularly cuddly bred, keeping them as pets is impractical.
On the other hand, it is easy to domesticate this docile poultry type. Since they are non-aggressive, you can keep them in the same space where children play.
These chickens are confident but friendly, so you can keep them with other breeds and form mixed flocks. Interestingly, roosters are unexpectedly tolerant of each other, allowing keeping more than one in the same yard.
This breed is an excellent option for free-ranging at smallholding and farm yards, thanks to its low appetite, fast growth rate, and quickly reaching maturity.
You can expect annual production of 170 to 190 small to medium, white, cream, or tinted eggs weighing approximately 2 ounces (56.7 g). Hens lay eggs during the whole winter, plus you can grow these chickens for dual purposes since their meat is delicious.
They achieve full size within eight months, which is also a moment to start egg production. Meat harvest is expected to begin within 7 to 8 months.
Vorwerk chickens are rare, and their farming can be profitable. You can breed them when you have enough space and plan to invest time and money to get easy-to-care meat poultry.
Besides keeping this breed for your needs, you can raise them commercially and develop a profitable business. The best of all is that even beginners with adequately located farms can buy quality chicks, effortlessly start with a small flock, and multiply it quickly.
Health and Care
Vorwerk chickens are utility and self-sufficient poultry that enjoy roaming freely, making them suited for smaller farms. An ideal flock consists of a rooster and about ten hens. Always provide a well-protected shelter since cocks can be prone to comb frostbite.
A proper housing system includes a cozy and properly ventilated coop. Since it is a sizable chicken breed, each individual requires about 5 sq ft (0.46 m2) of the dwelling area.
They typically find food in the yard, but you should increase its nutritional value for better egg production. Remember that quality ingredients also improve immunity and reduce the possibility of contagious diseases.
It is also necessary to timely vaccinate your poultry and free it from common internal and external parasites.
Vorwerk chickens are an active, strong, and tame breed that requires minimum attention, making it an ideal option for beginners. Farmers breed these profitable chickens for eggs and meat. You can keep both standard and bantam versions in your backyard, but be prepared that this breed is pretty rare and relatively hard to find.