The Leghorn, a good white laying hen


Usually white in color, the Leghorn is the most common breed of hen in world. The reason for its popularity? A remarkable aptitude for laying. Since the XIXe century, this quality is used in the creation of strains of laying hens intended for industrial production. Close-up on a bird born in Italy.

The origins of the Leghorn hen

Coming from Tuscany, the Leghorn was once called Livorno, named after the Italian port city. Also called Italiana bianca, the hen was exported to the United States in 1828 – where it was renamed Leghorn – then to Great Britain around 1870 and to Australia. Considering her too small, the English crossed her with the hen of Minorca with a more imposing size. Around 1910, the breed resulting from crossbreeding returned to the other side of the Atlantic where its new size made it more compatible with the nascent poultry industry.

The Leghorn: appearance and standard

This Mediterranean-type hen has a slender figure and a fine frame. Its mumps are white, its tarsi and beak yellow while its drooping crest displays a bright red. Its size is 25 to 55 cm and its weight is between 1.75 to 2.5 kg. If its plumage usually displays a color White, 16 other colors are accepted by the French Poultry Federation (FFV): white and black, silver, gold, gold with white border, gold with blue border, dark gold-salmon, buff orange, black, black pebbled white, cuckoo, fawn, blue, red, brown, duck, partridge. In France, 4 standards of breed are approved:

  • The Leghorn Ancient (or hen from Livorno);
  • The Leghorn modern (hybrid breed selected in Germany);
  • The Leghorn american ;
  • The Leghorn English.

The behavior of the Leghorn

If it is difficult to generalize the character of a breed bringing together so many varieties, the Leghorn nevertheless has the reputation of having a temperament lively and alert. This laying hen prefers the open air to confinement which easily generates boredom at home. Race digger, she loves to travel large areas to find her own food. A large open space will therefore be preferred to a cage in which it will not flourish. Rather fierce, the Leghorn often stays away from humans and can be difficult to tame. If you are looking for a companion hen for your children, then you should choose a more affectionate variety. On the other hand, the Leghorn has the reputation of being a bit noisy and therefore not the ideal breed if you have a close neighborhood.

Leghorn and ability to lay eggs

Excellent layer of eggs (on average 280 per year) the Leghorn is used today to create more than 70% of the strains of breeds used in the industrial production. The bird begins to lay fairly young – between 21 and 23 weeks depending on the breeding conditions – and continues at a sustained rate for 3 to 4 years. the template of its white shell eggs is 50 / 55g and grows larger as the hen ages to become extra wide at the end of the egg-laying cycle. Selected to lay and not to brood, the Leghorn is not an exemplary mother. Therefore, you will need to use an incubator if you wish to rear chicks.

The Leghorn henhouse

This rustic hen – which has adapted to all climates and environments where it was exported – does not require too much attention or expensive development. A resistant henhouse, equipped with nesting boxes, nesting boxes and perches, will suffice for its well-being. For good comfort, allow a minimum surface area of 50 cm2 per individual, a dimension to increase according to the size of the hen. His place of life will imperatively be inaccessible to predators, ventilated but free from Air Currents. You can cover the entire floor with litter made from dusted straw and wood chips. Like many animals, the Leghorn can suffer from heat extreme, so make sure that in summer it has always fresh water and a very shaded.

The Leghorn enclosure

The Leghorn requires the installation of a course secured, as well as a fence whose height will adapt to its temperament acrobat. At the same time, provide her with as large a grassy space as possible on which she will find all kinds of plants and plants.‘insects who will complete his meal. Pay attention to your flower beds and your vegetable garden because the Leghorn will peck everything indiscriminately. Also think about to clean regularly its habitat in order to keep it away from parasites and diseases. Routine treatments (deworming, vaccines, etc.) are sufficient to keep this robust poultry in good shape, which does not present any particular health problem.

Feeding the Leghorn

In addition to leftover meals, daily Leghorn must be given a mixture of grains. Its ability to scrape the earth to flush out insects is very healthy to supplement its ration of cereals or plants which are food poor in protein. However, it is advisable to feed the Leghorn with a complete feed specifically designed for laying hens. This type of food contains the dose amino acids necessary for the good health of the bird and the quality of its laying. Adopting a Leghorn: a virtuous approach making it possible to offer this breed another destiny than breeding in drums.

Photo credit: Geri Glastra