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I Say, I Say, Fresh Eggs!

April 4, 2013

By: Hollie Craddock

Spring is a buzzing, jumping, busy, crazy time, full of growth, birth and rebirth. Trees begin to leaf, flowers bud, goats kid, calves eat their first tender grass shoots, and chicks begin hatching. Of course, births can happen at any time of year (usually if there is severe weather involved, a birth will occur. Ha!) But, it seems that spring is THE time for it. In my last post, I spoke about the spring I lived with chicks. There also was a recent Wild Ramp post regarding the benefits of farm fresh eggs. From that, I thought we’d take a chicken tour, since it is the time of incubators and hatchlings, and fried eggs (over easy on mine, thanks!). I plan to do a brief series, breed profiles, if you will, highlighting some popular and some not-so-popular breeds.

We will begin with the chicken that, to some, is the quintessential chicken. I say, I say, I say…we all remember Foghorn Leghorn and Miss Prissy, right? Or am I showing my age?

The leghorn (often pronounced ‘leggern’) is a hardy chicken. Then hens are egg laying powerhouses, laying as many as 300 eggs per hen in one year. The majority of supermarket white eggs are likely laid by leghorns. In addition to being egg-laying machines, leghorns are smaller bodied chickens than most layers, and therefore require much less food. More bang for your buck, so to speak. We had one White Leghorn, dubbed Rosie, in our flock and she laid nearly every day, no matter how cold or hot the weather was.

rosie

The Leghorn is a breed that originated in the Mediterranean, likely in Italy. The name Leghorn is an Anglican modification of the Italian word Livorno, which is the name for the sea port from where the Leghorn was first shipped to America in 1828. Although there are 12 different varieties of Leghorns, the most popular, by far, in the US are the White Leghorn and the Brown Leghorn.

brown_leghorn_std_roosterleghorn rooster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other color variations include

black leghornBuffLeghRoo1 exchequer leghorn RedMottledLeghornM

But all leghorns have white earlobes, yellow legs and a single comb. Leghorns also come in bantam (smaller) size or standard.

Although leghorns are excellent laying chickens, there are some drawbacks to the breed. The fact that they hardly ever “go broody” (they don’t typically sit on their own eggs to hatch them) means that if you want to raise generations of leghorns, you’ll either need an incubator, or a chicken of another breed who will sit in as a substitute brooder.

Secondly, due to their small size, leghorns can fly for short distances and will be able to escape from fencing when heavier chickens cannot. This is an important consideration when attempting to house these birds. Also, it is important to note that their large single combs make them susceptible to frostbite in very cold climes.

Finally, as I can attest from our own Rosie Chicken, leghorns tend to be a bit nervous and somewhat aloof, although there are exceptions, of course. I loved her. She was an excellent layer, but Rosie was what some might refer to as a “ninny.” Ha! I had to go out every night and shew her from the trees and into the coop. And when she escaped the six-foot fence, she could rarely figure out how to get back to the other side. (pun intended) She also shared the boisterous, loud-mouth attitude of her famous kin, Foghorn himself.

All that said, Leghorns are excellent chickens for laying purposes and are frequently raised in the United States. When you open those egg cartons filled with colorful eggs, from Wild Ramp, the white eggs likely come from a Leghorn.

Hollie Craddock is a single mom, a linguist, a potter and a farmless farmer in Appalachia. You can contact Hollie via her Facebook page, Farmless Farmer, or  via her blog at  Farmless Farmer.

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