One of our new
experimental breeds this year is the Pearl White Leghorn, and I
can’t decide whether I love them or hate them. My mom is
less conflicted, though — she thinks the white hens are
beautiful in the pasture (and about that, at least, she’s right).
But let me start with
a bit of history. “Leghorn” is an anglicization of
“Livorno”, the Italian port city from which Leghorns were first
exported to North America in 1828. At first, we just called
the breed “Italians,” but soon came up with “Leghorn” as a better
Since then, Leghorns
have become very popular in commercial egg farms, laying the
majority of the white eggs you’ll find in the grocery store.
And no wonder — their egg stats are among the best, with an
average rate of 280 eggs per year, reaching a maximum of 320 among
top-producing birds. As I wrote previously, our
Leghorns matured at four months and have been laying copiously ever since.
(and my pet peeves)
Leghorns have also
been bred to minimize the amount of food they require, which helps
makes them a good choice for production-oriented farmers.
They’re very light-weight birds — with hens often reaching only
four or five pounds live weight — explaining why they eat so
little and lay so much.
However, that small
size also brings up the biggest problem I have with White Leghorns
— flightiness. Not only does the breed tend to be skittish
if not hand-raised, they are also among the best fliers. On
our farm, the Leghorns drove me crazy by flying over into the
pastures I was trying to fallow. Once I gave up and simply
opened all the popholes in the coop to let them come and go as
they pleased, our Leghorns still preferred flying up onto the
fence, walking across the coop roof, then flying down into the
other pasture rather than walking through the coop. (And, to
make matters worse, their bad behavior has prompted other hens to
Leghorns are reputed
to be good foragers, which does seem to be the case.
However, they also seem to be far more likely than other hens to
lay their eggs in random locations in the pasture. Does this
old groundhog hole look like a good egg-laying spot to you?
If you’re a Leghorn who hardly goes into the coop during the
daytime because you’re busy running across the roof instead, it
looks like a great place to hide your eggs! (In the meantime, most of
our Black Australorps and Red Stars have stopped hiding
their eggs even given their less-than-perfect nest-box
So, would I recommend
a White Leghorn to another homesteader? I’m on the
fence. If you’re putting them in a tractor instead of a
pasture, presumably the flightiness and egg-hiding would be
avoided, in which case I’d say yes. In a pasture…I’m not
so sure. I’ll post again in a year or so when I’m deciding
the makeup of the next year’s flock and am choosing whether to
save their kids or eat them.
you choose, I recommend an Avian Aqua Miser to
keep your birds hydrated with trouble-free and POOP-free