Twiggy Eats and Eats

It’s fall and so the hours of daylight lessen, the leaves and the feathers fall, and the hens stop laying.

All but Twiggy.

dirty Twiggy


Yesterday I collected only one egg from the Big Barn – Twiggy’s. She produces a very large white egg, distinct from what the other hens make, and so I am sure that it is hers. But even if I didn’t recognize the egg, I’d know that it was from this White Leghorn. Why? Because she’s the ravenous hen, and in my experience it’s the hungry hen that is the best layer. All healthy chickens should be active foragers and eager eaters, but Twiggy takes that to the extreme. She needs to consume more food than the others in order to lay more eggs than the other girls – a 2 1/2 ounce egg, six days a week.

A hen like that needs a lot of fuel to have the energy and raw materials to make those eggs. Unlike the other hens, she takes advantage of every moment of daylight. She’s the first to the feeder in the morning. It’s a good thing that the coop has big windows and the sun comes in as soon as it’s up. If she were in a darker coop, and slept later, I doubt that Twiggy would be able to eat enough. She’s also the last to grab a few more bites before hopping up on the roost. If I go into the barn at night and turn on the light, while the other hens murmur and blink and hide their heads under the feathers, she jumps down, hurries to the feeder and starts eating. This is a problem for me, because if I turn the light out, she’s stuck there on the floor, unable to see her way to the roost. So I’ll turn off the inside light and leave on the exterior, and wait until she can find her way back to bed.

I don’t know how long she can keep this up. I’ve yet to find white feathers on the ground from the molt. If she doesn’t molt, she won’t get needed rest. She barely took a break last year – just a slight slowing of production and then two weeks off. Her eggs are showing signs of weakness (more on that in another post.)

Has anyone had White Leghorns that went through normal, full molts? Took breaks from laying? This is my first large leghorn. My bantam leghorns (Snowball and her cousins) weren’t great layers, and they all molted. Let me know your White Leghorn experiences in the comments!


  1. I’m not sure I can help much. I remember that my Daddy had white Leghorns when we lived on our farm.
    I don’t remember ever seeing a great number of feathers and I do know that rain, snow, sleet or shine, we never ran out of eggs.
    Daddy shared with all our close neighbors and in turn they shared milk, cream and produce with us, along with the occasional haunch of venison.
    Seems like Daddy’s hens lived long lives and we always had a hen or young rooster for Sunday dinner or an older hen in the stew pot :-)
    That’s about all I can remember..but I do know they could fly really well and Daddy was forever catching one or two and returning them to their VERY large coop and yard, LOL

  2. Yes, my 3 1/2 year old White Leghorn(Tweety) always has a very heavy molt and will stop laying for a few months. One day she has all her feathers and the next day they all fall off. She gets lethargic and slows down eating. We feel so sorry for her because she has such a bad time. I can email you some pictures of her if you would like.

  3. I do not have a leghorn, But Blackie my Magpie hen is the same age as Twiggy and has done exactly the same, some girls are just determined to keep on laying whatever the cost to their health.
    Also, isn’t it strange how strange/weird things can please us, I poop clean under the perch where my girls have roosted for the night every morn when I let them out, and I am so pleased if I see 6 nice piles of poop, it means no
    crop, digestive or egg laying issues. We have strange pleasures when you keep hens.!!
    Hope you enjoyed your eventful ride on Tonka yesterday..:)

  4. I also have a white leghorn, the first one I have ever had, she is in her second laying season. Last year she started laying first, laid all winter,spring, summer, and now into fall…she doesn’t show signs of slowing yet and some of her daily eggs are showing wear and tear..Yet she doesn’t show any sign of molt…I thought she was starting to molt because her tail started to look ragged…but that’s all. Big beautiful white eggs are in abundance here…she was raised with 3 Delaware hens, from the feed store. They eat ALOT, more than my Leghorn, but don’t lay near as well as my Lavender the lovely Leghorn:)

  5. I had 10 6 month old standard Leghorns but coyotes got them before they molted :C

    • Terrible! Saw a coyote new to the area, across the street the other day. The new ones don’t know to be worried about Lily. So, we’re being especially careful.

  6. I have a 1 1/2 year old Tetra Tint (Leghorn Mix) named Blanche. She eats constantly and like yours, is the first to come out in the morning. Her tail is ragged but shows no signs of molting either. I can count on Blanche to lay an egg every day.

  7. My uncle raises nothing but Leghorns. He has about 50/60 of them. I bet Twiggys molt will be late and rough. But then again maybe she is just one of those hens who barely molts. Some hens you can barely tell. But some are just completely naked almost. Im not sure but I think Twiggy slept in a nesting box the other night.

    • She’s laying her egg first thing in the morning, and so goes in the nesting box to sleep and wakes up and lays. Efficient bird :)

  8. I thought my Easter-egger, Henny, was at the end of her molt since I saw beautiful new tail feathers growing but yesterday it looked like there was a pillow fight in the coop and the only one playing was Henny. Oh well, I was hoping to get a blue egg or two before the holidays but, at this rate, she’ll be molting through February. I hope Twiggy takes her well-deserved rest break.

  9. First, coyotes and goats, oh do be vigilant. Scary stuff.

    Second, I’ve always had a couple leghorns in the flock. My experience is they will molt but generally it comes in the middle of winter (the darkest days seem to trigger it and usually the coldest stretch) and they seem to loose all their feathers at once. Poor things.

    • Ken, do they get cold? Shiver? Neither you nor I put heat in our coops. I’ve had partially naked birds in winter before and they were fine – but leghorns seem so sleek and with little in reserve.

      • That’s a tough one. They act fine but they are stand offish like all birds going through the molt. I can’t say I’ve seem them shiver.
        I do feed extra scratch when this happens and I also feed a few handfuls of dry cat food for the extra protein to help speed up the growth of new feathers. (poultry LOVE dry cat food).
        Never lost one.

  10. 9/30/2015 I checked the outside cam & the chickens were out in the rain. My grandmother always said if the chickens were out in the rain it would rain all day. Have you ever heard that old wives tale?
    The assumption was that they knew when the rain was going to stop so they would wait.

  11. I think there’s something in the barn keeping them from going in, since the big barn hens are all inside. I’ve emailed Terry but perhaps she’s not home. Is there somebody in the neighbourhood that could maybe check?

    • Not to worry! The Big Barn hens like to be inside more – it’s lighter in there, and there’s more space. The Little Barn hens tend to stay outside more – although they go to bed earlier. It’s really warm here, and the chickens will be fine :)