The White Leghorn is often overlooked as a hen for our backyard flocks. I think that’s because of all of the horrific images we’ve seen of white chickens crowded into cages in factory production facilities. We don’t want egg machines in our sturdy, old-fashioned flocks. But, the reality is that the hens in those cages are a modern invention with closely guarded genetics. They are not the Leghorns that you purchase from a hatchery. In fact, the Leghorn is an old breed that originated in Italy. In the mid-1800s leghorns transformed chicken farming here in the United States because it had the best food-to-egg conversion, and made egg farming a viable business. The Leghorn was an active forager, heat tolerant, and so was ideal for the new pastured poultry ranches that were springing up in California and elsewhere.
Today’s Leghorns lay beautiful white eggs almost daily and rarely go broody. I find them to be friendly to people and not aggressive to other hens. Bantam White Leghorns are charming, spry birds full of personality. My first bantam White Leghorn inspired me to write Tille Lays An Egg. If you get a Leghorn, or two, I’m sure they’ll inspire stories of your own.