Chicken Breeds: Leghorns
Several varieties of Leghorn (pronounced “leggern”) exist, including brown and black breeds, but the most familiar is the White Leghorn. When most people are asked to picture a chicken, this is the bird that comes to mind. Along with the Rhode Island Red, Leghorns are used most often in commercial egg production with good reason. Although this common breed has a reputation as overly-excitable, they handle confinement well and are extremely prolific, laying large white eggs on a nearly daily basis. But is it a good choice for your backyard flock?
Although their stark white plumage and bright red combs are pretty, the Leghorn will not turn heads in the way some exotic breeds do. Part of the fun of populating a backyard coop is the chance to include breeds that will “wow” the neighbors. Other keepers look for chickens that are docile or friendly, appreciating chickens that like to be held or perhaps follow them around the yard as a puppy might. While there are exceptions, Leghorns fail on that front too, as they nervously avoid human contact and are quick to create cacophony in the coop as they scramble to the corners when eggs are collected. Leghorns are intelligent and over time may adjust to regular contact, but it is not their natural inclination.
Social or not, Leghorns are still a good choice for many backyard flocks and here’s why—eggs. And plenty of them. A full-size breed and not prone to broodiness, Leghorns consistently lay large eggs nearly every day. Some “pet quality” breeds lay small eggs and as few as a hundred over the course of a year. The average hen lays about 250 eggs a year, but Leghorns are serious about laying and it is not unusual to see over 300 eggs a year from these production birds. That’s a lot of omelets.
For those serious about breakfast, a flock of Leghorns may be the perfect choice, but the casual hobbyist may miss a clutch of multi-colored eggs, the companionship of docile breeds or the “wow factor” that comes from keeping exotic breeds.
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Fortunately, one of the best things about a backyard coop is that it’ll house birds of many feathers. Adding one or two Leghorns to an existing coop is an easy way to keep the eggs coming without sacrificing the “wow” of a colorful and diverse flock.
Striking Features: White standard with classic body-type.
Egg Quality: Large white
Productivity: Very high
Temperament: Intelligent, but excitable and tend to shy away from humans.
Hardiness: Tolerate both hot and cold climates well.
Degree of Work: Easy
Aesthetic Appeal: 6 of 10
Envy Rating / Wow Factor: 4 of 10