That’s ‘Hello Beautiful’ in Italian and the only way to greet any gorgeous Leghorn that graces your garden path.
Descending from Tuscany in Italy, Leghorns are incredibly popular because they are just sooo darn good at what they do. Leghorn hens lay A LOT of eggs: 280 - 320 a year! 😱
Before you think about legging it to buy a Leghorn for your backyard, you ought to know a little more about her than just her morning hit rate. Never forget that behind every egg, there’s a chicken.
The Leghorn’s Italian heritage has never really left the breed. They always look fabulous, they’re extroverts, they speak loudly, they’re intelligent, fun, and like to challenge the rules. Leghorns are resourceful foragers and have an amazing ability to whip up a meal out of nothing, and just like a fine Italian wine, they get better with age. I’ll egg-splain later, so stay with me!
White Leghorns are champion poultry poppers. They’re so good that they’re the chicken breed of choice for commercial egg production. Knowing how amazing and intelligent the ladies are, makes it even more painful to picture them cooped up in poor conditions as industrial layers.
That needn’t be the Leghorn life though. If you bring home some hens of your very own and show them the TLC they deserve, they’ll make the most amazing, entertaining, thrifty, nifty egg-gifting pets you could wish for.
Top up your chicken-knowledge here and get answers to the top 30 Leghorn FAQs leaving you with nothing left to do but “Add To Cart”:
- Why Are Leghorn Chickens Popular?
- Are Leghorns Record Breakers?
- What Are Leghorn Chickens Like?
- Do Leghorn Chickens Make Good Pets?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Suitable for Beginners?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Good with Kids?
- Do Leghorns Make Good Backyard Chickens?
- How Do I Say Leghorn?
- Where do Leghorn Chickens Come From?
- Who was Foghorn Leghorn?
- Which Breeds of Chicken Do Store-Bought Eggs Come From?
- What Are Leghorn Chicken Eggs Like?
- When Will a Leghorn Chicken Start to Lay?
- How Long Do Leghorn Chickens Lay For?
- How Big are Leghorn Chickens?
- How Big are Leghorn Bantams?
- What Varieties of Leghorn Chicken Are There?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Easy to Sex?
- Are Leghorn Roosters Aggressive?
- How Long Do Leghorn Chickens Live For?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Good for Meat?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Broody?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Noisy?
- Can Leghorn Chickens Fly?
- How Much Space Do Leghorn Chickens Need?
- How Much Do Leghorn Chickens Eat?
- Are Leghorns a Healthy Chicken Breed?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Cold Hardy?
- Are Leghorn Chickens Right for You?
- Should I Buy Leghorn Chickens?
- Leghorn Chicken Pros & Cons
AN INTRODUCTION TO LEGHORNS
Why Are Leghorn Chickens Popular?
Leghorn chickens are fun, entertaining, and beautiful, but I think we need to be honest. It’s those impressive stats – 320 eggs a year – that makes Leghorn ladies so popular with poultry keepers.
Leghorn chickens popped straight to the top of the popularity stakes by being such thrifty, reliable, productive egg layers. They mature early, retire late, lay all year round, and ask for little in return. They’re low maintenance, and they don’t need a lot of feed since they prefer to peck their days away free-ranging and foraging.
In a recent survey conducted with poultry keepers, at the time of writing this article, 89% of keepers said they received 6-7 eggs per week from their leghorn chickens and 83% said they would keep Leghorn chickens again.
Leghorns Are Egg-Laying Champions
The record number of eggs laid by one hen is held by a Leghorn who was not-so-lovingly lovingly named ‘No. 2988’.
“The highest authenticated rate of egg-laying is 371 in 364 days, laid by a White Leghorn (No. 2988) in an official test conducted by Prof. Harold V. Biellier ending on 29 August 1979 at the College of Agriculture, University of Missouri, USA.”(The Guinness Book of Records)
What Are Leghorn Chickens Like? You know, characteristics and personality traits.
Leghorn chickens are constantly buzzing! They’re active, busy, intelligent, and inquisitive. They can handle confinement, but are happiest free-ranging, foraging, and exploring.
All that energy needs an outlet, and Leghorns who can’t stretch their wings stretch their beaks instead! They get loud!
They’re nosey, (although us chicken keepers much prefer to call them chatty) and they’re flightier than your average hen. If you wanted to keep them confined you would need a very large, secure run so they still had plenty of room to roam and stretch their wings.
Leghorns are often referred to as being constantly on edge, skittish, and a tad highly strung. In human company, Leghorns tend to be either shy and aloof or assertive and nosey. They’re not aggressive, but they’re hardly affectionate. In my opinion, there is always one in the group, and why not let that one be a Leghorn?
Do Leghorn Chickens Make Good Pets?
Leghorn chickens can make good pets, depending on your definition of a pet.
They’re thrifty, resourceful, low maintenance, and make for good chicken-watching, so from a practical point of view, they’re good pets. The also lay loads of eggs, like almost one every single day of the year, so if it's a reliable egg-layer you are after in your pet, then this may just be your gal!
Leghorn chickens aren’t affectionate. If your idea of a good pet involves petting, cuddles, and grooming sessions on the sofa then no, this is not your chicken. I wouldn’t bank on becoming bosom buddies with your Leghorn.
Sure, some clucky keepers report having found a softy amongst the clutch, but you can guarantee the other Leghorns in that yard will be rolling their eyes disapprovingly at the soppy woman.
Are Leghorn Chickens Suitable for Beginners?
Leghorns are manageable for beginners, providing that you have the space to keep them happy and secure (like any hens), and you’re egg-specting eggs and not cuddles.
Are Leghorn Chickens Good with Kids?
Leghorns aren’t great with kids. Sorry.
They’re not an affectionate or sociable breed of chicken, and whilst hens aren’t aggressive, they can be a bit assertive, noisy, and even fly at little folks who enter their space. They can easily scare kiddos who aren’t confident in the company of confident birds.
Some Leghorn keepers describe their Leghorn chickens as more shy and edgy than confident or cocky. Either way - anxious or assertive - they’re not really right for small kids.
Do Leghorns Make Good Backyard Chickens?
This depends on your expectations. If you’re looking for loads of eggs from a reliable and consistent hen, then yes, leghorns will make great backyard chickens. However, if you are wanting pets as much as eggs, then I think you would be better with an alternative breed such as a Brahama, Australorp, Orpington or Plymouth Rock, these girls all lay well and make for adorable pets for all the family. Comparing Leghorns against these breeds also highlights they have a tendency to be noisier and flightier, which is totally manageable if you live on larger property without close neighbours.
THE HISTORY OF THE LEGHORN CHICKEN
Where do Leghorn Chickens Come From?
Leghorn chickens are Italian, but their egg-sact origins are still unknown.
We know that Leghorns were developed in Italy by breeding several varieties of landrace chickens, and the closest breed to what we know and love as Leghorns were discovered on the hills of the Tuscany region of Italy.
In 1828 they were first exported from the Italian port of Livorno and brought to the USA. They were known in the US simply as ‘Italians’.
It was Captain Gates who brought brown Leghorns to the USA, and it was the docks of Connecticut that were first to receive his precious cargo of Italian chickens, which he proudly introduced as brilliant laying hens
The name Leghorn, Anglican for Livorno, was chosen to replace Italian chickens in 1865 after the breed had been tweaked a tad to suit the US environment. They introduced a rose comb that could handle the Northern climates that the original single-combed Italian chicken sported. This line of Leghorn is known as a heritage leghorn.
The white Leghorn caught the eye of the United Kingdom in 1868 when they won the New York show and these American Leghorns shipped to the UK sometime around 1870.
The Brits crossed the Leghorn with the Minorca chicken to give it a beefier booty and make it dual-purpose, and these slightly curvier chickens found their way back to the US in 1910. They’re now considered industrial Leghorns and are more common than the slimmer heritage birds.
LEGHORN EGGS – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
How Many Eggs Does a Leghorn Chicken Lay?
A healthy Leghorn hen will lay between 280 – 320 eggs a year. I know, right! Yes, you read that right!
On average that is .88 per day, 6.15 per week, all year!
Which variety of Leghorn lay the most eggs?
The white Leghorn outperforms the other varieties ever so slightly, so is always the favored variety for commercial purposes. They lay 5 or 6 eggs a week compared to the 4 eggs a week that other color Leghorns lay. I mean, they ought to be ashamed of themselves! (I’m yoking! That’s awesome.)
As if those stats weren’t good enough, 60% of the Leghorn owners we asked said they bagged 6 eggs a week, and 29% said they could count on a daily egg.
What Are Leghorn Chicken Eggs Like?
Leghorn eggs🥚 are large or extra-large and white. They weigh 55-60g each. Leghorn hens get better at their trade as they get older, and in her fourth and final laying year, she’ll lay her largest eggs which tip into the extra-large category.
When Will a Leghorn Chicken Start to Lay?
Leghorn chickens mature early and they feather fast, but won’t pop their first egg until they’re 20 weeks old. Oh my though, it’s worth the wait.
How Long Do Leghorn Chickens Lay For?
Once they pop they do not stop. Leghorn hens lay all year round, through the winter, and until they’re 4-years old. Most hens are considered ‘spent’ at 2 or 3 years, so this is a very late retirement.
LEGHORN CHICKENS – LOOKS & TEMPERAMENT
How Big are Leghorn Chickens?
Leghorn chickens are quite slight in build and average in height for a standard fowl.
Leghorn hens weigh 5-6 lbs and Leghorn roosters weigh 7-7.5lbs.
Leghorns grow fast and mature quite quickly, so pullets can be a bit bossy if they’re kept with coop mates of other breeds. Leghorn pullets weigh approximately 2-2.25g.
Leghorn bantams are little mini-egg machines! Leghorn bantam hens weigh just 1.4lbs, and roosters 1.7lbs. They are small birds, they look divine and they lay a lot of yummy scrummy little eggs.
What is the Leghorn Breed Standard?
Leghorns have bright red combs and wattles, sometimes a large, floppy comb, and sometimes the smaller rose comb bred into them to avoid frostbite in winter months.
Earlobes are white, as are the eggs that they lay, and their skin is yellow.
Legs should be clean, free of feathers, and yellow in color, and each foot should have four toes.
The popular white Leghorn must be entirely white, no speckles of color whatsoever are accepted into the breed standard.
The body is said to be U-shaped, and slender (I think I’d be fairly happy with that, as a chicken). They have a proud stance, walk tall, and hold their heads high as they totter around seeking out snacks, and trouble.
What Varieties of Leghorn Chicken Are There?
The American Standard of Perfection recognizes 17 varieties of standard-sized Leghorns, including a mix of rose combed and single combed designations.
Other countries recognize different variants, for example, Italy only recognizes 10 of these color varieties, and the breed standard requires slightly different weights and sizes.
The first three Leghorn varieties were added to the APA in 1874: black, brown, and of course the well-known white.
APA: Single Comb:
Bared, Black, Black Tailed Red, Buff, Columbian, Dark Brown, Golden duck wing, Light Brown, Red, Silver, White
Black, Buff, Dark brown, Light Brown, Silver, White
Are Leghorn Chickens Easy to Sex?
Brown leghorn chicks are easy to sex because they have a unique, sex-specific coloring from the moment they meet the world. Boys have a darker and wider go-faster-stripe on their little heads.
White leghorns, on the other hand, they’ll take a little longer to be certain!
Are Leghorn Roosters Aggressive?
Leghorn roosters are true Italian stallions. They’re alert and attentive and will kick up all kinds of crazy if someone threatens their ladies. You’ll often spot Leghorn roosters keeping watch from the top of a shed or barn.
How Long Do Leghorn Chickens Live For?
Leghorn chickens live for 5-6 years. This is a short lifespan compared to other laying chickens, but don’t forget that they have a demanding life popping out half a dozen eggs a week!
Are Leghorn Chickens Good for Meat?
Leghorn chickens aren’t great table fair. Even after they were crossed with heavier breeds in the UK with the goal of making them dual purpose, they’re still too skinny to feed the family. You’re better off enjoying her healthy supply of devilled eggs than thinking about the alternative.
Are Leghorn Chickens Broody?
One way that Leghorns don’t mirror typical Italian traits is their lack of maternal instincts. They lay eggs, they do not do well at raising chicks. You’ll likely need an incubator or a broody nanny hen for that. If your looking for the mother of all mother hens, chicken out my article on the Silkie Chicken.
Are Leghorn Chickens Noisy?
Yes. Leghorns are a noisy chicken breed. This is one of the reasons you’ll want to avoid keeping them in urban areas, or even too close to your house.
Can Leghorn Chickens Fly?
Leghorn chickens are one of the few breeds of chicken that fly well. They'll clear a 10-foot fence with no fuss and if they can, they’ll happily set up roost in taller trees.
If you do want to secure your Leghorns in a run it’ll need a roof, and if you do keep them free range don’t be surprised if they don’t obey the boundaries.
How Much Space Do Leghorn Chickens Need?
Leghorn chickens will need at least 4 square feet of coop each. They’re skinny, but they’re fidgeters.
8 inches of roost space per Leghorn hen will do, though you do need to be a bit savvy with nesting box sizes. 12-inch nesting boxes should be fine, just make sure you don’t give them overly generous boxes, as they’ll opt to share a room.
If you can’t let your Leghorn lasses run free, then give them at least 20 square feet of space each and lots of entertainment and they’ll be fine. Add perches, things to flip and explore, and surfaces to scratch.
How Much Do Leghorn Chickens Eat?
You’ll want to pick a good layer feed for your ladies, and a grower feed for your roos. Each bird will need about 125 grams of feed a day.
Leghorn chickens are fiercely independent and prefer to sort their own super than pop home for tea. They’ll spend all day scratching, pecking, exploring, and foraging for anything they can nibble on. They will find a seed in a haystack!
Are Leghorns a Healthy Chicken Breed?
Leghorn chickens are extremely hardy. This is one of the reasons they’ve proven such a popular poultry pick in the egg industry.
Are Leghorn Chickens Cold Hardy?
Leghorns are cold hardy, but they do better in their natural warmer climate. Other than common chicken illnesses and pests that aren’t in any way breed specific, the only health hiccup you might experience with Leghorns is a touch of frostbite if you have a single combed coop troop.
If you live in a colder climate, make sure you pick the rose combed variety, or care for your cockerels comb with some Vaseline and a nice warm coop.
ARE LEGHORN CHICKENS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Should I Buy Leghorn Chickens?
If you want an egg in that basket almost every day, then a lady leghorn is the chicken for you. They’re beautiful, productive, self-sufficient, active, and entertaining.
If you want a broody mum who'll sit happily and hatch her chicks, a quiet urban bird, or a lap chicken, then no – Leghorns aren’t your hatch match.
Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Check out the pros and cons of keeping Leghorn chickens at a glance here.
Leghorn Chicken Pros
- Oh, so many eggs!
- Lay all year round
- Great foragers
- Great pest control
- Easy to raise
- Mature fast
- Large eggs
- Cold & hot weather hardy
- Active & Entertaining
- Not broody
Leghorn Chicken Cons
- Not affectionate
- Not kid-friendly
- Can be overly assertive
- They are flighty
- They’re noisy
- They’re not broody
AM I WRONG? ARE YOUR LEGHORNS LITTLE LAP CHOOKS?
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