Chickens

How to Raise Leghorn Chickens

Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other master farmers & gardeners. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.

When you think about chickens, a classic white chicken with a red comb may come to mind.  These characteristics are usually those of a Leghorn chicken, although there are other breeds of white chickens, and other variations of the Leghorn. 

Leghorn chickens are primarily used for egg production, and are kept by many due to their high laying rate.  If you want eggs– a lot of eggs– the Leghorn chicken might be a good addition to your flock. 

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What are Leghorn Chickens?

how to raise leghorn chickens

Leghorn Chickens were first brought to the U.S. from Livorno, Italy in the 1820s.  Livorno, Italy was called ‘Leghorn’ by the English, which is where the name originated. 

Shortly after arrival, breed refinement started to take place, to make a more desirable chicken.  By the 1860s, the classic rose comb was bred into the Leghorn chicken as a characteristic trait.  

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A few decades later in the UK, the original Leghorn chicken was cross bred with the Minorca to produce a more robust chicken that was better as a dual purpose breed.  

This new, refined breed was reintroduced in the early 1900s, and is what we know as the Leghorn chicken today. 

Reasons to Raise Leghorn Chickens

how to raise leghorn chickens

Leghorn chickens are some of the most popular chicken breeds around, and are kept anywhere from small hobby farms to large industrial chicken farms.  There are some good reasons as to why they are so popular, here are a few!

High Laying Capacity

The most common motivator for raising Leghorn chickens is for their high eggs-laying numbers.  Leghorn chickens are some of the highest producers of eggs, and can lay anywhere from 280-330 eggs a year on average– that’s a lot of eggs!  Their eggs are white, and are generally large to extra-large in size. 

Leghorns will also start laying quality eggs sooner than other laying hens will, and can keep up on their high capacity laying numbers for a few years before slowing down. 

Require Little Feed

Leghorns don’t require large amounts of feed to stay healthy and lay healthy eggs regularly. 

As long as their diet consists of the correct nutrients, they generally won’t eat much, as their nutrient requirements are fairly low for a chicken.  This means that you will not have to feed your chickens as often, especially if they are free-range or tractor-raised.  

You can find some good suggestions here.

Resourceful

As mentioned previously, your Leghorns will require little feed, which is particularly true if they are free-range.  Free-range Leghorns are incredibly resourceful, and are masters at finding their own food.  These birds are intelligent– as far as chickens go– and like to keep busy, this often includes foraging and roosting in trees. 

Challenges of Raising Leghorn Chickens

how to raise leghorn chickens

Not Broody

Due to the nature of the breed, Leghorn hens do not commonly go broody, meaning that interventions may be needed if you want Leghorn chicks.  Leghorns were bred primarily for maximum egg-laying capabilities, and somewhere along the line lost their will to be good mothers.  

If a Leghorn does end up hatching chicks, they are not generally good mothers.  The best bet for Leghorn chicks would be to incubate the eggs in an incubator.  Although I wouldn’t normally recommend this, as chickens are perfect natural incubators, these eggs may not have much of a chance otherwise.   

Mischievous 

Leghorns can be mischievous birds, and will find ways to get into things that you may not want them messing with.  Since they are good foragers, they will attempt to forage anywhere: gardens, flower beds, and even your garage.  

They like to have room to move around, and will roost in trees if they have access.  These curious birds enjoy extra space, but make sure they don’t have access to anything you don’t want messed with. 

Not-Friendly

If you are looking for chickens that are friendly, you may want to consider another breed.  Although they can be friendly if raised from chicks and handled often, they do not generally love human interaction.  They generally have a high-strung temperament, and don’t always react well to humans inside their coop.  There are of course, always exceptions, but I wouldn’t buy them as pets.   

Challenges of Raising Leghorn Chicks

how to raise leghorn chickens

As mentioned previously, Leghorn mothers are not always the most motherly, and do not often go broody.  If you can’t get your Leghorns to sit on their eggs, you may need to incubate them yourself in an incubator.  Once the chicks hatch, they will need to be kept inside for around 6 weeks, meaning you may need a separate space to raise your chicks until they can be released back with the rest.  

The temperament of adult Leghorns may also be a cause for concern when it comes to releasing chicks into the flock.  Due to their high energy nature, they may be aggressive towards new additions, meaning that smaller additions, such as chicks, should be monitored.  

Health and Lifespan

how to raise leghorn chickens

Leghorns are generally pretty healthy birds, and are not prone to any certain diseases.  The only thing to look out for is frostbite on their combs and waddles.  The combs on Leghorns are fairly large and are prone to frostbite in bad conditions.  

The lifespan of a Leghorn is below average when it comes to chickens.  This is not due to disease, but because of how 

Housing Leghorn Chickens

how to raise leghorn chickens

There is no special trick to housing your Leghorns, and they will do just fine in a confined coop if need be.  Due to the nature of these birds, they do prefer to have room to run around, roost up high, and forage, and may be happier overall in this type of environment.  

Leghorns are often used in industrial egg-laying farms, and are kept in confined coops, they fair just fine from a health standpoint in these environments.  A traditional coop should give them plenty of space.  Leghorns do generally like to roost up in trees, so adding a roosting bar to your coop may be appreciated by your birds. 

If your Leghorns are kept in a coop, be aware that they are expert escapees, you may need to reinforce the walls or chicken wire in your coop. 

If you do free-range your Leghorn chickens, make sure you are aware that they can—and will—get into anything they can access.  They may also end up roosting up high, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t find them right away.  

Feeding Leghorn Chickens

how to raise leghorn chickens

Feeding your Leghorns is a pretty straightforward task, especially with the use of a feeding guide to ensure you are providing the proper nutrients.  If you are using your Leghorns primarily for egg-laying—as many do—you might want to consider a feed designed for laying hens.  

These feeds are higher in protein and calcium to support the hens and keep the eggs healthy.

To keep the eggs healthy, an added calcium supplement may be needed.  You can either purchase a calcium supplement, or grind up some egg shells and add it into your chicken feed. 

Leghorns generally eat less than other chickens, meaning that they don’t require as much feed.  They are very efficient birds, and will attempt to forage for additional feed as well.  

Can You Raise Leghorns For Meat?

how to raise leghorn chickens

The simple answer is yes, theoretically you could use Leghorn chickens for meat, however they are not ideal birds for butchering, and there are better options for meat birds.  There is nothing wrong with Leghorn meat, it boils down to how much meat they have.  They are generally smaller, and leaner birds, so they don’t have much meat to offer.  

The Leghorns were not bred to be meat chickens, so their structure is not designed for butchering.  Again, it can be done- it’s just not as simple as other chickens that have been bred for their meat.  

Are Leghorn Chickens Right For You?

how to raise leghorn chickens

If you want a bird that is an egg-laying machine, without having to provide large amounts of feed, the Leghorn might be the bird for you.  

When adding Leghorns to your flock, understand that they are generally at the higher end of the pecking order, and may push to get that status in the flock. 

Although they are not affectionate birds, and don’t make great pets, they are fun birds to have around.  They are master foragers and very curious birds that will keep you guessing.  

Samantha Rainwater is a freelance writer, full-time business owner, and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.

Do you raise Leghorn chickens? Let us know in the comments!
  

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Author: Rebekah Pierce

I'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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