Leghorns are a great egg producing breed that are highly economical – providing you lots of eggs for a relatively small cost. These birds are highly active and independent creatures that aren’t fond of handling. As a result, if you are looking for a moderately sized bird that will be a great family companion, Leghorns probably aren’t for you. However, their moderate size and highly economical and plentiful egg laying makes them a winning breed if you’re aim is to put eggs on the table!
Very good egg production
Moderate-poor meat production
Not overly family friendly
Cold climate hardy: Yes
Rare breed: No
Quantity: 5-6 eggs/hen/week
If you grew up watching Looney Tunes, you might be more familiar with Foghorn Leghorn, the popular cartoon character based of this heritage breed. Leghorns originated from Tuscany, in the city of Livorno. This breed was transported to Britain and America in the 1800s and the ‘Livorno’ was anglicised to ‘Leghorn’. The Leghorn is an extremely popular breed in Australia and all around the world for its laying abilities. It’s laying abilities were recognised very early on, and as a result, Leghorns were one of the breeds primarily used to develop modern chickens seen in the battery egg industry.
While Leghorns are broadly considered dual-purpose birds, they are relatively small (hens ~ 2.5kg; roosters ~ 3.4kg) and muscular birds that are predominantly utilised as egg layers rather than as table birds. However, their small size actually plays to the Leghorn’s favour as an egg layer. By investing less energy from feed into growing large in size, more energy is directly invested into egg production, giving them a high feed to egg ratio. Additionally, Leghorns are highly active birds that are keen foragers – often able to sustain themselves and obtain most of their nutrition from foraging. Together, this makes Leghorns a highly economical bird for the purposes of egg production. You can expect between 250-320 medium to large white eggs.
Leghorns come in many different coloured varieties, both recognised and not recognised by the American Poultry Association. White Leghorns are the most common variety with other colours on the rarer side. Additionally, Leghorns can be sourced in either standard or bantam varieties. As typical with breeds developed for prolific egg laying, the lifespan is often somewhat reduced, with Leghorns typically living for 4-6 years. However, they mature quickly, can tolerate hot and relatively cool climates. Leghorns rarely go broody and aren’t known to be great mothers. Furthermore, they are loud and proud birds, so if noise is a concern, this might not be the breed for you.
When it comes to behaviour, Leghorns are relatively independent birds. While they can be tamed, they rarely become comfortable with handling. Due to their light weight and being highly active, Leghorns have been noted to fly over small fences with relative ease and roost in the branches of trees. For this reason, it is recommended to clip their wings after each moult. One additional consideration that should be mentioned is that while their large comb is able to effectively remain cool in hot weather, it can render them susceptible to frostbite in freezing conditions. This can be prevented by applying Vaseline to the combs if temperatures near 0°C.