All hens lay eggs with a similar nutritional value, only some are more productive with respect to laying eggs (they produce more), so they turn out to be more profitable. One of these is the white leghorn laying hen.
This breed of chicken is considered one of the most important species of laying hens. So many farmers and poultry farms use the white leghorn for its high rate of white egg production.
History and origin of White Leghorn breed
It is called Leghorn hen because it is from the Italian city called Livorno, which, in English, is known as the “Leghorn” city. So the chicken’s name refers to its place of origin.
As mentioned, it is a breed of European origin, from the Mediterranean region that has Italian descent (Livorno). But it was selected and crossed with other hens in the United States to improve the characteristics of a layer bird (Livorno America or Leghorn), after several crosses of these hens a standard of this famous breed is published. Which, the white Leghorn is currently the breed of chicken that is industrially exploited to obtain white large eggs.
In general, the Leghorn chicken species comes from the crossing of three different lines or races, which are: 1) Babcock 2) Creighton and 3) Moun Hope. These three varieties of birds were specially selected and focused to improve the number of laying and egg weight (production rate and weight).
The white leghorn breed is one of the few hens that is clearly laying, it never becomes broody, it has lost its maternal sense, so it is a laying bird with great profitability, since, as we will see later, it lays almost every day. Another favorable point of this excellent laying breed is that despite being a kind of field used in large spaces, they can be raised in very small spaces if they are trained from small to live there.
Characteristics of the Leghorn hen
This type of hen has very marked peculiarities that differ from other laying birds. Among the characteristics of the Leghorn hen that we can highlight, the following can be listed:
- They have white plumage all over their body.
- Its tail feathers are large, very long, and developed, this can best be seen in the rooster.
- Its head is of medium size and elongated in shape.
- His chest stands out very easily from his body, it is wide and round in shape, with a horizontal bearing.
- Medium-sized crest, starting at the beginning of the beak, and serrated with 5 notches.
- Its beak is short, yellow, and slightly curved.
- Its legs are of a yellow tone that is very easy to distinguish.
- They have an average weight of 3 kg for the male and 2.5 kg for the female.
- Their eggs are completely white in their shell.
When observing the Leghorn hen, you can see that it has an excellent body balance and great presence, both in females and males, having a stylized bearing in the different parts of the body. In addition, the Americans have considered the tail of this bird a sign of beauty and a sign of a good egg producer.
White Leghorn productivity
The White Leghorn is one of the species of laying hens that has one of the highest laying rates of white eggs, it does not produce red eggs or any other color. With one of the highest annual productions currently, the Leghorn has an average of 300 white eggs per year, with a weight that ranges from 55 to 60 grams. This means that 10 months a year it produces eggs, and only 2 do not produce, making it one of the best laying hens today.
Raising Leghorn chickens
In addition to its great production, it has another great advantage over other hens, it is easy to raise, and as if that were not enough, it also has a great precocity, so they begin to produce eggs at a very early age. These characteristics make it the laying hen of choice for all poultry farmers. They are very country birds, they like the countryside and can adapt to large or small spaces.
Summarizing its production qualities we can mention:
- They have a high egg production rate.
- They are easy to breed, and they adapt to small or large spaces.
- They have great beauty.
- They are resistant to diseases.
For all this, Leghorn has all the most recommended qualities for those who are dedicated to the business of the production and sale of eggs. or simply to have it in the home garden, to produce eggs for family consumption.
However, whether for personal consumption or for commercial breeding, there are several basic aspects that we must take into account when raising Leghorn chickens.
The upbringing begins from the first day of life to two months of life. In general, the development of this breed is in the springtime, a hot season, ideal for caring for them.
1. First stage: two weeks
Like any bird, before introducing the young to the new pen, it should be noted that there are no traces of feces, clean and disinfect all the pen and equipment, so that any possible contamination to the chicks is avoided.
The area where the chicks will be placed should be a small space such as a cardboard or wooden box, depending on the number of chicks. Avoid humidity at all times. In addition, a light bulb should be placed on top that gives them heat but without burning. The ideal temperature for the growth of the white leghorn hen is 32 ° C, this is obtained using a 40-watt bulb.
2. Second stage: handover
After 2 weeks the birds will need more space (if it is very small), so they can be transferred to larger poultry houses. But there are no other larger birds because they can sting them to death.
Always try to avoid contact with other animals, both birds, and rodents as they can transmit diseases. For this, the corral must be clean and always use clean water.
3. Third stage: posture
It is one of the hens that reaches maturity the fastest, as a consequence of its high fertility, so that from month 4 they begin to lay eggs. At this stage, appropriate beds are required for your posture.
In this last stage, the hens do not require so much attention, as it is more difficult for them to suffer from the disease. Only food is what varies as we will see later.
Leghorn chicken feeding
Leghorn laying hens that are destined for the production of white eggs must have an adequate diet that generates the nutrients and energy necessary for the daily production of tilefish.
The feed is taken as an input that must be put into the production machine, which in this case is the hen, this must be the correct one since if good inputs are not used in the machine (a hen) the product ( egg) may have a low rate (less egg production).
Many wonder how to get the hens to lay eggs quickly, but this is not entirely correct. Since if the hens are not fully developed to produce eggs, these can come out small, costing their sale.
Feed or feed mix for poultry
Like other animals, chickens also need their feed or food to contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, all in different proportions during each of their stages:
From birth (1 day) to 3 months they need feed that contains a large amount of protein for growth.
In the egg production stage, birds need minerals, these are important to produce good eggs. Poultry for meat requires abundant protein in their feed.
For all stages of its life, three types of feed can be made (a mixture of different dry foods). The first feed is the one that must be fed until 6 or 8 weeks, then they are fed a second feed that is for growth until after the fourth month. The third pre-laying feed starts from the fourth month. The three-stage feed can be found at veterinarians and stores that sell farmers’ products.
The consumption of each leghorn hen must be taken into account in each of the stages:
- In their first week, the chicks consume approximately 10 grams per day.
- From the second to the seventh they eat 40 grams per day.
- During the pre-laying stage, they consume 65 grams daily.
- During the entire rearing, it is estimated that the hens consume 7 to 8 kilos of feed.
Note: Laying hen feed is introduced when the pen has reached at least 5% of egg layings. Because if it is introduced before it could be harmful, since it contains a lot of calcium it could cause urolithiasis in chickens, due to the excess of calcium urate. Causing the death of the animals that are affected, in addition to promoting the appearance of osteopetrosis phenomena, manifested in the form of lameness of the bird due to an over-calcification of the bones.
Some of the most important feed are:
Think of grains, these can be supplied whole or as flour, they contain large amounts of carbohydrates. The birds can be fed wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats, sorghum, heartwood, and other grains.
Feed is made from peanuts and cotton seeds, these are sources of carbohydrates and proteins. These types of feed rich in protein come from vegetables, but there are also animal sources, such as fish meal, milk powder, and dried blood, which can be a good feed for birds.
Recommendations before providing food to the Leghorn, are the following:
- You don’t have to give them too much animal protein. Not only because it is too expensive, but because it can cause illness and too much fishmeal can give the eggs a fishy taste.
- They can add vitamins to the feed by adding green herbs or commercially produced vitamins.
- Your veterinarian or specialist will be able to advise you on commercially available vitamin supplements and how to use them.
In conclusion, it must be said that leghorn hens are one of the best birds for laying. With good characteristics and very healthy, it adapts perfectly to different breeding systems, intensive or semi-intensive, so it handles well in the field or in cages. In addition, they are very economical chickens in terms of their diet. So your choice for the poultry farmer who wants very good egg laying will be a success.
Here in the Philippines Lohmann White and Dekalb White are the most common breed of layers and both of them are developed from White Leghorn.
Common Questions About Leghorn Chicken
Why are chickens called Leghorns?
The origins of the Leghorn are not clear; it appears to derive from light breeds originating in rural Tuscany. The name comes from Leghorn, the traditional anglicization of Livorno, the Tuscan port from which the first birds were exported to North America.
Are Leghorn chickens friendly?
As the best egg layer, they’re generally friendly, though they can be noisy and a bit aggressive at times. Leghorns are good layers of white eggs, laying an average of 280 per year and sometimes reaching 300–320.
What are Leghorn chicken good for?
In more recent times this breed has excelled in backyards and small homesteads. Whilst each color variety of Leghorn Chicken will lay a good amount of eggs, it is the white Leghorn that is the superstar of the family. She will lay for many years at the rate of 4-6 eggs each week.
Are Leghorn chickens used for meat or eggs?
Their large size makes them good dual-purpose chickens for meat and egg production.
Do all Leghorns lay white eggs?
Leghorns chickens come in a variety of colors, most notably white, brown, and buff. All Leghorns lay white eggs.
How many years do Leghorns lay eggs?
A hybrid chicken will lay for 2-3 years and will lay about 300 eggs per year. A Leghorn chicken will lay for about 4-6 years and lay 280 eggs per year.
Are Leghorns broody?
White Leghorn hens lay more eggs than just about any other chickens, and they rarely go broody. If you want to raise white leghorn chicks from eggs, then, you’ll have to use an incubator or slip fertilized eggs under a brooding hen of another breed.
Do Leghorns stop laying in winter?
Chickens naturally stop laying eggs during the winter because their body needs to rest. It’s a personal decision whether you want to force your hens to continue laying during this time.
When should Leghorns start laying?
You can expect them to begin laying between 4-and 1/2 and 5 months of age. Most of the white-shell eggs you see at the supermarket were laid by Leghorn hens