Commercial egg producers prefer leghorns because of their outstanding egg production. Each leghorn lays about 260 to 300 white eggs a year. Leghorns are a small-bodied breed and therefore not very useful for meat production. Although white is the most common color of leghorn, they come in a variety of colors including buff, barred, black and red, and may have either a single comb or a rose comb.
From Chick to Pullets
Although leghorns are prolific layers as adults, they need time to grow and develop before laying eggs. Soft downy chicks lose their fluff and grow into young adults with real feathers quickly. Young female chickens called pullets begin laying eggs in 18 to 20 weeks. Occasionally, a leghorn pullet may take longer than 20 weeks to begin laying, but these production birds have been bred to lay early and often.
Egg Laying Cycle
Leghorn hens produce an egg about every 25 hours. However, hens will only lay eggs during daylight hours. Since laying time will advance at least an hour every day, eventually laying time will occur at night. The hen simply skips that day and starts fresh in the morning the next day. When in full production, a leghorn hen can lay nine eggs for every 10 days.
Leghorns are capable of laying up to 300 eggs in a year. However, production does decrease over time, and will stop completely during molting. When the hen is about two or three years old, production decreases by 10 to 20 percent. Leghorns also need 14 to 16 hours of light each day in order to stay in high production. Egg laying slows in winter because of fewer daylight hours, unless you provide additional lighting in the henhouse.
As developing chicks, leghorns need a chick starter feed that contains 20-to-21-percent protein. From six weeks until egg production begins, feed them a developmental feed with 16-to-19-percent protein. Once they begin laying eggs, change feed to an egg-laying mixture that is high in calcium and has 16-to-18-percent protein.
- "Storey's Guide to Rasing Chickens"; Gail Damerow; 1995
- RaisingChickens.org: Leghorns: The Popular Breed
- Pacific Northwest Extension; Why Did My Chickens Stop Laying?; J.C. Hermes; January
- Utah State University Extension; Basics for Raising Backyard Chickens; David D. Frame; June 2010
- Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
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