Leghorn (White Leghorn): A Comprehensive Guide

by Kassandra Smith November 12, 2014

  white-leghorn-chicken-floppy-comb

Leghorns or ‘Leggerns’ as they are known as in the US, are a heritage breed that is incredibly popular around the globe. A productive bird in virtually every sense, the Leghorn was used as a foundation to create most contemporary egg-laying breeds - but the original breed Leghorn breed is still a great bird for the backyard!

Lifespan

Because Leghorn chickens are productive egg layers, their lifespan is less than the average of a bird - they live to be around 4-6 years of age.

Class

Leghorn chickens are classed as a dual purpose breed, as they have enough meat to make a decent table bird, as well as being a productive egg layer. (They aren’t as heavy as other dual purpose breeds like the Australorp).

Rarity

The Leghorn is a common breed in Australia, with many local breeders choosing to specialise in supplying this productive type of chicken. Therefore it shouldn’t be difficult to find Leghorn chickens from hatcheries and breeders around Australia.

Origin

This chicken originates from The Port of Leghorn (hence the name) in Italy. They were later shipped America in the early 1800s, and then to Britain in the white form (which has remained the most popular variety), followed by the brown. It has now become one of the most important commercial egg laying breeds in the US, and is definitely an important one in Europe and Australia.

Fun Facts

  • The Leghorn is the foundation breed for most chickens used in commercial egg production.

  • Are often known to roost in trees, if they can fly up to the branches!

  • The Warner Brothers character ‘Fog horn Leghorn’ is of course based on this beautiful breed of chicken!

Current Use/Purpose

Leghorn chickens are most popular for a dual purpose. They are a productive egg layer, producing between 280-320 eggs each year, they are a decent meat bird, and also make a sprightly garden pal!

white-leghorn-chicken

Personality and Temperament

Leghorn chickens have a lovely, sprightly temperament, however aren’t as cuddly or fond of being touched as other chickens. They prefer to just do their own thing and roam around the backyard, inquisitive and independent birds that they are. Not to say they can’t be tamed - they certainly can and often do become domesticated backyard chickens!

The Leghorn can be a bit flighty, and can muster the wing strength to sometimes flap over small fences - so you may need to clip their wings in order to stop them from escaping.

Because Leghorn chickens are such productive egg layers, they don’t become broody often, and are not reliable chickens for sitting on the eggs to term.

Incubating and Hatching

Because Leghorn chickens are such productive egg layers, they rarely display broody behaviour as this would cause them to cease laying. Therefore, if you want some little baby leghorns running around, you’ll either have to buy them as baby chicks or incubate them yourself, which is great fun.

Egg Behaviour

Leghorns are egg-stremely prolific egg layers, one of the reasons why they were used as a foundation breed for the modern egg laying hen. They lay between 280-320 eggs each year, medium in size and white in colour.

Appearance

The Leghorn is a strong standing chicken with a relatively slender build. They have a large red comb with large earlobes, and a tail that points almost directly to the sky.

Care

The Leghorn is a fairly hardy bird that doesn’t require much maintenance, however a few little extra bits of care should be taken with them.

The Leghorn can be flighty enough to clear low fences - so giving their wings a clip after every moult will keep them safe and sound in your backyard.

Also, if you live in an area with a particularly cold climate, be mindful of the Leghorns large comb, as it can be prone to frostbite. Therefore if the temperature reaches freezing, rub the chickens comb in vaseline - this can help protect it from becoming frostbitten.

two-moulting-leghorn-chickens

Health Issues

The Leghorn chicken is a fairly average bird when it comes to health issues, however because they have such a large comb and wattle, they can be prone to frostbite.

Their productive egg laying does mean that their body wears out faster and thus their lifespan is shorter than the average bird.

Hardiness

Leghorn chickens are fairly hardy creatures that can withstand most climates and temperatures, hot or cold - another reason why they’re such a great bird. Just remember, if the temperature hits freezing, keep an eye out for that comb!

Why We Love Them!

Leghorns are a beautiful bird that adds real personality to our backyard. Running around, happily foraging and free ranging, they’re a delight to be around. Plus, we can’t get enough of their delicious, fresh eggs that we enjoy all year round of course!

Sources and further reading




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