Getting a leg up on laying – with Leghorns

Building a ‘custom’ laying flock from the ground up takes time. This spring we plan to start selecting more foundation stock based on conformation and egg production. But until we get there, we need more eggs!

Most of the heritage brown-egg layers do fine for a small backyard flock, and we’ve trialled lots of breeds. The production crosses are very, well, productive for the first laying season, then drop off considerably. They also don’t make good stewing hens, so we no longer work with those hybrids.

Since the popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, we looked at best laying breeds with a fresh eye. A clean slate. A blank page. Yup, we are shaking up decades of preference and trying that powerhouse of production, the white-egg-laying Leghorn. brown leghorn pullets

Luckily this breed comes in a few other colors than white, and we opted for the brown variety. This breed is reputed to be wary proactive foragers, and the wild-type coloring will be good camouflage against raptor predation. chick2

Leghorns are in the Mediterranean class of chicken breeds, and these seem to have originated in Tuscany. Leghorns came to America in 1857, and were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s standard beginning in 1874. chick3

In the early 1900’s, the thrifty feed conversion ratio and high rate of lay of the Leghorns were critical in transforming egg production from a backyard enterprise to the forerunners of today’s giant commercial operations. chick4

This week we received 15 pullet chicks from Cackle Hatchery, and were amazed at how energetic and robust these little peepers are. They love eating and investigating everything, even at just a few days old. If these characteristics carry through to their adult lives, our egg baskets will runneth over :)

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