Leghorn chickens are one of the most popular chicken eggs in any grocery store. This breed is ideal for this business set-up as they are strong egg producers of large white eggs.
White eggs have become a staple in United States grocery stores due to marketing. Consumers tend to view the white egg as sanitized and clean whereas brown eggs tend to be viewed as "dirty."
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Leghorn Chickens are one of the most popular purebred chickens in commercial egg farms across America and on farms all around the world. This breed has been gaining notoriety since the 1800's for their egg production and color as well as their gentle temperament.
Their exact lineage and origin are unclear due to recordkeeping at the time. Leghorns are believed to have originated in Tuscany, Italy. It was not until the mid-1820's Leghorns were first exported North America.
Heritage or Hybrid?
Leghorns are one of the most commonly known heritage breeds of chickens. Leghorns were one of the first chickens recognized by the American Poultry Association in the 1870's. This recognition of perfection was for several varieties including white, brown, and black.
Leghorns can have a variety of features based on their exact variety The American Poultry Association recognizes twelve (12) distinct varieties of leghorns including Barred, Black Buff Black-Tailed Red, Buff Columbian, Columbian, Dark Brown, Light Brown, Silver, and White.
A few common features of this breed include:
Single or Rose Comb
While there are numerous recognized leghorn breeds, the white variety tends to be the most commonly recognized and associated variation with the breed as a whole.
Our Leghorn chickens are of the white variety and fit the "classic" appearance. They have large floppy red combs (even the hen), sleek white feathers, yellow legs and an upright tail.
Note that due to the size of their combs they can be floppy. In some breeds this is a sign of an illness, which is not typically the case with Leghorns. Their combs are so large and there is not enough support to hold them upright that they flop to one side.
Roosters weigh 8 pounds on average, hens are closer to 5 pounds on average. This makes them an average sized breed as an average sized rooster is 6 pounds and a hen weighs 5.7 pounds.
Our leghorns tend to be a smaller breed than the other breeds of chickens we have. We suspect this is due to the fact that our other breeds are more cold tolerant/hardy such as our Columbian Wyandotte's.
Similar to Isa Browns, Leghorns have a shorter life expectancy is related to their high production of eggs as it takes a toll on their bodies and reproductive system.
Since leghorns are commonly used as commercial egg layers, it should be noted that these chickens tend to live shorter lives of 2 to 3 years due to decreased production as they age.
Egg Color & Production
Egg production starts between 20 and 24 weeks (5 to 6 months), which is typical of most breeds, but they have been known to lay as early as 18 weeks.
You can expect 4+ large white sized eggs a week. In their first year, they can produce 280-320 eggs with proper diet and care.
Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.
Leghorn chickens are seldom broody as breeders have made careful selections to breed this tendency out.
While they may not have strong maternal instincts, Leghorns are able to breed naturally and prolifically without human intervention or insemination.
Leghorns are not known for being a disease resistant or a particularly cold hardy breed. They are better known for being heat tolerant. This is in part due to the large wattles and floppy comb that allows body heat to cool down when exposed to the air when circulating through their system.
While they are tolerant to the heat, they do need access to shade in hot and sunny weather. For more tips on keeping your chickens cool in hot weather check out our article.
In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to water, and are not showing signs of frostbite. They may require a few accommodations such as a heater or brooder during severe cold.
On a cold winter day where we hit -22 with wind-chill, our leghorns did not have any problems in the enclosed and unheated chicken coop.
Leghorns are not ailed by any notable diseases. The illness that is most common is frostbite on their comb and wattles. It is important to ensure they have adequate housing during cold and harsh winters.
We also offer free choice oyster shells as a source of grit and to strengthen the shells of eggs. If a chicken (especially a strong layer) is deficient in calcium, it can lead to severe health complications and a shortened lifespan.
We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock.
Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.
As an average sized chicken, they are not considered good for an abundance meat production. Leghorns are more commonly recognized for their egg laying abilities.
Leghorns are known for being a noisier and more vocal breed. This makes them a good candidate for more rural farms rather than more densely populated areas.
Since the hen make an abundance of noise as they frequently squawk, not to mention the roosters were constantly crowing and generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed for densely urban communities.
Gentle is a word often used to describe Leghorn chickens.
We don't agree with this as our leghorn hen is fifth in the pecking order after our Barred Rock and Maran chickens. I would add that leghorns tend to be flighty and skittish even if consistently held.
We have had several leghorns ourselves and we did have some issues with an aggressive rooster. He became very protective of the flock and did not allow female visitors inside the fenced run and would charge and attack.
Due to their dominance, they also tend to be the hardest and most aggressive towards new chickens to the coop. They will also chase our other rooster when he mounts a hen and they think he is hurting one of their girls.
Based on additional research, they are generally gentle but can be aggressive at times. With this information in mind, they are suitable for children that are comfortable around animals.
I would recommend a more docile and less skittish breed for children or adults with less exposure to animals and farm life.
As an average sized breed Leghorns require 4 square feet per bird in the coop. Our coop is secure without drafts but is unheated. Our Leghorns did not have any issues during the coldest days of winter.
In an enclosed run 10 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds.
During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.
Are They Right For You?
Leghorns can be a suitable option for beginners due to their strong egg production, heat tolerance, and their beautiful white eggs.
Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Leghorns do not produce an abundance of meat, but they produce more eggs than many other breeds.
If you are looking for white eggs, chickens that do well in warmer climates, or produce an abundance of eggs they may be a great choice for you!
On the other hand, if you are seeking a more family and children friendly chicken or live in a colder climate it may be worth considering other breeds.
Leghorns some of the first chickens we got, and we have not have any issues with health, but we did have to cull an overly aggressive rooster.
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