White Leghorns

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.

California Chicken Ranch 1911


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.


  1. I got leghorns for the first time in my new flock that will be a year old in August. The leghorn hens I have the cutest floppy combs & look like they have french berets on. They are terrific layers. Since I had not had leghorns before when they were pullets & had a big comb I thought I had gotten roosters instead of hens. But I really like their combs since they give them a distinguished look. I would recommend them especially for those having only a few hens in their backyard since they are a smallish breed. Since they are white they do stand out and make a beautiful bird.

  2. I have 2 Leghorns in my flock of 12. They are all still young… so we’ll see how it goes. So far, they are fine with the other girls and actually are at the top of the pecking order so far. I’m looking forward to their consistent lovely white eggs :)

  3. I had brown leghorns(2) in my first flock from ’05. One died at about 3 mo. Don’t know why. The other one is still out there. She was laying a beautiful white large egg 3 or 4 a week up till last summer and then she just quit cold. (6 years.) Now, her feathers have changed colors, she’s got a large spur and her big red comb has shrink and paled. She acts very roosterly to the other girls. I no longer have a rooster, but I almost expect her to start crowing. She is still quite healthy, otherwise.

    • Hens have only one functioning ovary. If that one becomes diseased or damaged, the hen can take on some male traits. It’s nice that she’s so long-lived.

  4. My copy of “Tilly” arrived this week. It’s so charming! I don’t know which I liked more-the photos of the girls or your fabulous vintage chicken items.

    • Thanks, Jenni! I spent a year collecting the props seen in the book. Much of what you’ll be seeing in my new blog, The Vintage Hen, are items that didn’t make it into the book.

  5. I have a white leghorn that is a year and a half old and still laying like a champion. I had bought two, but one ended up being a rooster and I didn’t want the hassle or noise (he started crowing bye the time he was 12 weeks old). My girl does not have a floppy comb. I love that she eats less (organic feed is expensive) and yet lays more then any of my other birds.

    Another thing that I love is that she is very friendly and easy to pick up because of her size. She easily sits in my one hand, as opposed to my laced wyandottes and productions reds, who are all larger and don’t seem as securely in my girl sized hand.

    I purchased 3 new leghorn chicks this spring.

  6. I have Americanas,Silver laced Wyandottes, and California Leghorns, and the Leghorns out lay them all. They lay beautiful large white eggs. They are so sweet and friendly, I would recomend them to anyone that loves chickens.

  7. Not to be negative, but we got white leghorns once I swore never again. Yes, they were laying machines. But they were skittish and hard to deal with. Sounds like we got a bum batch compared to everyone else!

    • There are big variations between strains. For example, my experience with Wyandottes is that they’re standoffish and bullies, and yet a friend says that hers are the sweetest girls.

  8. I’ve always had a white leghorn or two in my backyard flock. Probably more for “sentimental” reasons than any, my mom/dad always had a dozen or so in the flock.
    The one I currently have (named Kellogg) just turned 2 in April. She still lays at least 6 eggs per week (she is the only hen in my flock that lays a truly white egg) and they are very large, I wonder at times how she does it.
    She had her first molt this spring and it was a very hard molt, she was almost bald. To my amazement I was still getting 3 or 4 eggs a week from her.