The Leghorn Chicken Breed

White Leghorn hen pictured above from mypetchicken.com

   The Leghorn chicken breed is the standard breed that most commercial egg farms keep. This is because the breed matures fairly quickly and has a very high annual egg production rate…

Productivity

Leghorns are very productive chickens. However, there are two strains of Leghorn: production and ornamental. Production Leghorns are most commonly sold in white. Ornamental Leghorns come in more colors and are usually prettier/fancier. However, they lay less (being bred more for looks than eggs). Production Leghorn hens can lay 300+ eggs per year (for the first few laying years). Non-production Leghorn hens lay 150-200 egg annually (for the first few laying years).

The Leghorns’ History

The Leghorn originated in Northern Italy, where it was commonly called the ‘Livorno’ or ‘Livornese’. After being imported to the United States, Leghorns where commonly called ‘Italians.’ They later became known by their most common and current name. The most common color that they come in is white. However, the first leghorns imported to the US in 1852 where brown. Since, then, many other color variations have been created… Because of the Leghorns’ adaptability, hardiness, cost efficiency, high egg production and fertility, the breed became very popular in the U.S. In fact, the Leghorn is still the choice breed for a large percentage of chicken egg farmers today. Other popular Egg-laying Chicken Breeds Include: Gold/Black Sex-Links, Australorps and Rhode Island Reds.

Physical Characteristics

The breed is slightly built. Leghorns hens weigh 4-5 pound and Leghorn roosters weigh 5-6 pounds. Leghorns’ legs are yellow and clean (no foot feathers). Their beaks are also yellow, often with orange markings on the upper portion.

There are two comb types recognized by the APA (American Poultry Association): Rose Combed and Single Combed.

Single Comb Color Variations (recognized by the APA):

Dark Brown, Light Brown, White, Black, Buff, Silver, Red, Black-Tailed Red, Columbian and Golden Duckwing.

Rose Comb Color Varieties (recognized by the APA):

Dark Brown, Light Brown, White, Black and Silver.

Above: Splash Leghorn Cockerel. Although it is not a legally recognized color variation for the breed (in the US), it is pretty. Though somewhat rare, splash leghorns are bred by some poultry breeders

Maintenance, Activity Level & Hardiness

Leghorns are very hardy, adaptable chickens. They love to forage and scratch pretty much wherever they find themselves. However, Leghorns reputably do not eat as much as many other egg-laying breeds. This combination makes them very cost efficient and practical for free range chicken-keepers/egg-farmers. However, something to note is that Leghorns are superb fliers. For this reason, tall fences are optimal.

Temperament

Leghorn hens are generally friendly, inquisitive chickens. However, they also have exceptional natural predator instincts. Largely for this reason, some leghorns can be  flighty. Some Leghorn roosters have a shadowy reputation for being aggressive towards people. However, not all, or even most Leghorn roosters are this way.

Above (left-to-right): Splash leghorn and white leghorn cockerels

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