The Leghorn chicken breed is one of the birds that is well-known for its egg-laying capabilities. If you are looking for a self-sufficient chicken to add to your backyard flock, this is it! This chicken breed and its ancestors are the most common chickens in America today.
How many of you recall Foghorn Leghorn? This cartoon rooster was the favorite character for most children that watched the Looney Tunes on TV. We would say without a doubt that he is the most famous Leghorn chicken globally.
The Leghorn chicken is described as a small and chatty bird that loves to move about most of the time. These birds are known to be good foragers and can regularly gather much of their régime from ranging over fields and yards. Unlike most chicken breeds, Leghorns tend to be flighty and will roost in trees when they get the opportunity to.
The Leghorn has red wattle, white earlobes, and either a single or rose comb.
In this article, we have gathered everything you need to know about the Leghorn chicken breed to equip you before you take your birdie home. From appearance to color variety, personality, egg production, how to take care of them, and price. You will find this very helpful.
Continue reading to learn more.
Leghorn Chicken Breed History
The Leghorn chicken breed has its origin in Tuscany, Italy. These birds were sent here to America around 1830 where they are thought to have been improved into a stable chicken breed. Later, Leghorns were sent back to Europe where they arrived in the United Kingdom in 1869.
Leghorns completely transformed the egg industry in the 1990s. To date, the White Leghorn is the trendiest variety of this chicken breed in North America for egg laying. We can attribute this popularity to the increased demand for white eggs in the American marketplace. The other types of Leghorns are less common.
The Leghorn chicken breed was added to the American Standard of Perfection in 1874 with 3 recognized colors that include white, black, and brown (brown and dark). The Rose comb light and dark brown were included in 1883 while the rose comb white was added in 1886. The single comb buff and silver variety came in 1894, followed by the red, Columbian, and black-tailed red Leghorn variety in 1929. The rose comb black, buff, silver, and golden ducking varieties were added in 1981.
A table for the Leghorn Chicken Breed
|Good for Beginners?||No|
|Weight||Hen (5 lbs.), Rooster (8 lbs.)|
|Egg Production||5 to 6 eggs|
|Color Variety||White, red, black-tailed red, light brown, dark brown, black, buff, Columbian, buff Columbian, barred, and silver|
|Good with kids||No|
|Are they Broody?||Rarely|
|Price||$3 to $5 per chick|
Leghorn Chicken Uses
The Leghorn chicken was developed as a dual-purpose bird. And while it is famous for being a productive egg layer, it also has enough meat to make it a decent table bird.
Most people, however, keep the Leghorn chicken breed for egg-laying purposes as it blesses you with 4 to 6 eggs per week. They are an excellent backyard flock for most homes.
What are the Different Breeds of the Leghorn Chicken?
There are many Leghorn chicken breeds available with different colors which makes their recognition differ from one country to another.
Both the American Poultry Association (APA) and the American Bantam Association (ABA) acknowledge various Leghorn varieties. These include white, red, black-tailed red, light brown, dark brown, black, buff, Columbian, buff Columbian, barred, and silver.
Leghorn Chicken Chicks
Leghorn chicks are a true beauty as they come in a range of colors mentioned above.
At this small stage, Leghorn chicks can be held but you have to be careful as they are fragile. As they grow older, you will notice that they are independent and will not like to be held. For this reason, they do not make good pets.
We shall learn more about their growth in the growth chart below.
Typically, Leghorns have a long, silky, and aerodynamic appearance with a large comb that give them an amusing look. Leghorns have a relatively slender body with a back that has a distinct U-shape outline.
These big hanging combs and huge wattles are the most unique identifiers of the Leghorn chicken breed. Developed here in the US, the combs are to help these chickens release the heat and cool when the weather is hot.
These birds have red wattles and come with either a single comb or rose comb. If you see a Leghorn with white earlobes, it is an indication that the bird will lay white eggs. Expect these chickens to have orange or red eyes and a yellow-colored beak. Their skin and legs are yellow with 4 toes on each foot.
Leghorns have an upright stance with a tail that is held relatively high. When it comes to the plumage, it will differ from one Leghorn variety to another.
Leghorn Chicken Size & Weight
Leghorns are considered to be on the smaller side of the standard chicken size spectrum.
A Leghorn hen weighs between 5 and 6 lbs. while a Leghorn rooster will weigh approx. 7.5 to 8 lbs. Bantam Leghorns tend to be smaller than the full-size variety with hens weighing 1.4 lbs. and roosters being approx. 1.7 lbs.
Leghorn Chicken Recognized Variety
There are twelve different varieties of the Leghorn chicken standard in the world with each country having its list of recognized colors.
Leghorns come in either the rose comb or single comb variety. You will find them in a range of colors such as black, white, silver, black-tailed red, golden, white, buff, light brown, dark brown, barred, Columbian, and red.
Read our complete Silkie chicken breed guide.
Overall, a Leghorn rooster tends to have larger combs and wattles than the hen with prominent earlobes. Like most roosters from other chicken breeds, Leghorn roosters can be aggressive, a trait that comes in handy in warding off predators.
For this reason, the chicken breed is not a good choice for homes with small children as the roosters can attack them thinking of them as a threat when they want to play with them. These roosters have excellent meat and are good if you want to continue having quality eggs.
Leghorn Chicken Rooster vs. Hen
Are you wondering how to tell the difference between a Leghorn rooster and Leghorn hen?
Unlike other chicken breeds, it is not easy to tell whether your chick is a rooster or hen, especially in their early years.
However, there are a few features that you can look for to help differentiate between the two sexes.
Size & Weight
When fully grown, a Leghorn rooster tends to be 30 percent larger than a hen. Therefore, a rooster will weigh between 6 and 8 lbs. and hen a hen 4 to 5 lbs. This is identifiable after maturity when the chicken is an adult.
Wattles, Combs & Ear Lobes
Both Leghorn roosters and hens tend to have large wattles and combs which made them adapt to the warm Mediterranean region by helping them cool off. In some cases, the size of wattles and combs can be almost similar in both sexes.
In Leghorn roosters, the wattles and combs start to grow earlier (4 weeks old) than in hens and will tend to be larger with a redder color. Wattles and combs in hens start to appear when they are 8 weeks old. It is possible, however, for these features to be more prominent in some chickens than others.
Earlobes in Leghorn roosters are large compared to those of hens.
Hackle & Saddle Feathers
Like with almost all other chicken breeds, Leghorn roosters grow sex feathers when they reach maturity. The hackle feathers are on the neck while saddle feathers are located in front of the tail.
Leghorn roosters have hackle feathers that tend to grow longer and thicker with smoother adult feathers on the neck that give them a leaner appearance. The saddle feathers, on the other hand, are long and pointy. Expect a rooster to have long tail feathers.
We should start by saying that the Leghorn chicken breed is not a good choice for beginners.
While Leghorns make outstanding backyard chickens, they tend to be jumpy and restless which means they will enjoy spending most of their time outside. This applies to both roosters and hens.
Leghorn hens are not the broody type that will hatch their eggs. You might want to consider buying an incubator for this.
If appearance and temperament are harder to spot or confusing for you, how about looking at the behavior of your Leghorns?
Typically, Leghorn roosters will start to crow when they are between 10 and 12 weeks old and master their voices at 18 weeks old.
Leghorn hens, on the other hand, will start to lay eggs when they are 18 to 22 weeks old.
Check this Brahma chicken breed guide.
Leghorn chickens come in a range of plumage colors to choose from depending on what you desire.
As mentioned earlier, Leghorns come in 12 different color varieties and each country has its list of recognized colors. While red, brown, buff, and brown are common colors, white remains the most popular color for Leghorns globally.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, other relatively common Leghorn chicken breed colors here in the US are red-black tailed as well as silver gold duckwing.
That being said, however, White Leghorns and Brown Leghorns are the most popular color varieties in terms of production and exhibition.
The White Leghorn stands out as the most popular variety for eggs and shows. They are famous for their pearl white plumage standard that is easy to notice flaws during the exhibition. These birds are excellent egg layers but are not mostly used as table birds.
Unfortunately, their bright white color makes them an easy target for predators as they can be spotted from a distance, especially in a green field.
Leghorn Chicken Brown
The Brown Leghorn is by far the most preferred color variety by breeders that need show birds. They are not easy to breed but when you do, you will always win the contests.
This earthy tone of the Brown Leghorn’s fluff comes in handy in protecting them from predators as it is not easy to spot, unlike white. Brown Leghorns are good for meat.
Read our Wyandotte Chicken breed guide.
What is it like owning a Leghorn Chicken?
Depending on the variety, Leghorn chickens tend to be excellent layers although they are not broody. Unlike other breeds that eat a lot, this breed likes to forage and can survive on that alone which makes them economical.
Expect these birds to mature fast (hens start laying at 18 to 22 weeks and roosters start to crow at 11 to 12 weeks). In addition, Leghorns are highly fertile and are hardy birds that can tolerate both hot and cold climates pretty well.
However, Leghorn chickens are not the best breed for meat, tend to be flighty and noisy, with roosters having an aggressive streak. We shall cover this in detail below.
Personality: Leghorn Chicken Characteristics
Overall, the Leghorn chicken breed is not one of the friendly birds.
When around unfamiliar persons, Leghorns will be flighty and nervous, and they are also not the kind to cuddle. Unlike other chicken breeds, such as the Orpington, these birds do not crave human attraction and are not good with kids or beginners.
Why say so, you may ask? These birds have an independent streak and tend to be on top of the pecking order, especially roosters. This makes it hard for them to get along with other chicken breeds, especially the docile or quiet ones. Leghorns are not the type of chicken that loves being held.
Leghorns prefer a lot of space where they can range freely but can end up damaging even your flowerbeds in search of bugs and other goodies. So, watch out!
Leghorn Chicken Egg Production
The Leghorn chicken is considered one of the best egg layers for anyone that need a reliable breed for commercial purposes or in your backyard. As mentioned earlier, white Leghorns tend to lay more than other types so, the plumage is a factor to consider when choosing.
On average, however, Leghorns will bless you with 4 eggs per week and 5 to 6 eggs per week for the White Leghorn variety.
|Eggs per week||5 to 6 eggs|
Leghorn Chicken Eggs
The Leghorn chicken egg color is white for all plumage colors and comes in a large size. Since they are active birds, Leghorn hens are not broodies. You might want to consider an incubator if you want to hatch your own eggs.
Check out the image below of Leghorn chicken eggs:
The Leghorn chicken breed tends to be noisy and loud which is why it is not recommended for people living in urban areas. You should not keep them if you have close neighbors or there are regulations on noise in the area. If you need a quieter bird, check the Sapphire Gem chicken breed.
Leghorn Chicken Facts
Below are Leghorn chicken interesting facts:
- The Leghorn chicken breed is not a good choice for meat.
- These birds are noisy and raucous making them good for people living in rural areas
- Leghorn chickens originate from the Mediterranean in Italy but were perfected in the US and shipped back.
- White Leghorns are the best layers than other types of Leghorns.
- Leghorns have a low life expectancy compared to the standard chicken.
- This chicken breed prefers foraging making them an economical bird to keep in your backyard.
- Leghorn hens are not broody.
- The White Leghorn chicken is more common than all the other varieties.
Leghorn Chicken Care Guide
Are Leghorn chickens healthy? How much space do they need?
Taking care of your Leghorn chicken starts with understanding whether they have any breed health issues. You then need to understand their coop setup and the amount of space you need for each chicken.
Let us look at this comprehensively below.
The Leghorn chicken breed is considered strong, healthy, and adaptable.
Leghorns are sturdy birds with no health issues apart from the usual external and internal parasites that attack birds. As such, you need to deworm them regularly and check them for lice and mites. That way, you expect to have a strong bird.
These independent birds will thrive well in both hot and cold climates. However, they were bred for the warm weather of the Mediterranean which is why they have a large comb to release heat. This huge comb, however, is highly prone to frostbite during harsh winters. They are best suited for people living in Northern America.
As stated earlier, Leghorns are not the type of chicken that waits and relies on commercial feed. These birds are light eaters and like foraging better in search of fresh foods to supplement their daily diet. As such, your chicken feed bill will not be high.
When they are fully grown, however, a Leghorn hen’s daily diet should consist of 16-percent layer feed. These birds tend to molt and should eat a diet containing 20 percent protein content. Remember to serve oyster shells and insoluble grit in separate bowls, as well as clean, fresh drinking water.
Check the YouTube below on how to raise Leghorn chicks
Coop Setup and Roaming
Although Leghorns are not on the large size end of the spectrum, these birds tend to be super active and flighty. As such, each chicken should have 4 square feet of coop space to give them enough space to move around.
These birds are flighty and like to spend time on roosts most of the time. Therefore, make sure there are perches with different heights where they can rest. Each bird should have at least 8 inches of roosting space. Make sure that the roosts are strong enough to hold these birds as they tend to snuggle up during winter to keep warm.
Leghorns need nesting boxes of 12 by 12 inches as it is spacious enough to give them moving space but discourages two birds from nesting inside one box.
Leghorns are active birds that love to range freely and also tend to be flighty. Surprisingly, they can tolerate confinement despite having high energy levels. When outside, make sure that they have access to 20 square feet of space and provide perches with different heights to roost on.
These birds would also appreciate it if you provided them with things to keep them busy and engaged.
Read our article on Rhode Island Red Chicken breed.
Leghorn Chicken Lifespan
The life expectancy of a Leghorn chicken is relatively lower than that of the standard chicken as it tends to live between 4 and 6 years.
Leghorn Chicken Price
Expect to spend more than $3 for a well-bred Leghorn chicken from a reliable and responsible breeder.
It is worth reminding you that you should avoid buying Leghorn chicks or adults from online sellers. Most of them are not well-bred and might end up having an unhealthy chicken in your backyard.
Leghorn Chicken for Sale
Are you interested in adding the Leghorn chicken breed to your flock and wondering where to buy it?
You can find Leghorn chicken breeders in Australia, NZ, the US, and the UK. If you live here in the US, you can check with the Cackle Hatchery. Please avoid buying chicks from online sites such as eBay and the likes as most of them are not bred to the set standards.
Should you keep this breed?
If you are looking for a reliable egg layer, the Leghorn chicken breed is a great choice for you. These birds, especially white Leghorns can lay up to 6 eggs in a week. Even better, they are light feeders and love gathering most of their required nutrients from foraging in your yard.
Do not keep Leghorn chickens if you have small kids at home or if you need a bird that enjoys cuddling.
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