The Leghorn breed originated in Italy and is one of the breeds used to create the modern battery hybrid layer.
The most common is the White Leghorn, but they come in a variety of other colours as well. They are small, spritely, noisy birds with great style, with the Pearl White being particularly regal looking. They have white earlobes and yellow legs and the eye is red in Leghorn chickens of all colours. The comb is large so care needs to be taken in cold, frosty weather to avoid frostbite. It is suggested that the application of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) will help.
The cocks’ tails are very large and displayed at a distance behind them.
The females have a double folded comb, a deep abdomen and a whipped tail. The eyes are prominent and the beak is short and stout. Earlobes are well defined and the wattles are long, thin and fine in texture. Their legs are long and featherless with four toes on the feet with a long straight back toe. The feathers on the body are soft and silky.
They are not large birds: the cock weighs in at 2.7 kg and the hen at about 2 kg.
Chicks are easy to rear. They feather up quickly, are fast growers and mature quickly.
Good laying ability
Leghorns are prolific layers that rarely go broody and are non-sitters unless left undisturbed. Eggs are white and of good size, laid throughout the year. The White hens are particularly productive.
They are hardy in winter and relatively disease-resistant. They adapt to all conditions.
They are good foragers and can often glean much of their diet from ranging over fields and yards. Leghorns are capable of considerable flight and often roost in trees if given the opportunity. However, they will also tolerate confinement well. They can be tamed but not enough to allow handling and prefer to remain rather aloof.
There is also a bantam version of the leghorn.
This is part of a series showcasing popular breeds of chicken in South Africa. For more, click here.