I want to start a modest business selling free-range eggs and am looking at different breeds. What do you think of Leghorns?
I like Leghorns, although I like the chunkier Leghorn crosses — Austra Whites and California Whites — better than straight Leghorns because I have the (possibly mistaken) impression that they’re more robust. I’d say Leghorns lay well, although they’re not the only breed that does.
Where people often go wrong is by assuming that heritage breeds are decent layers by modern standards. They aren’t — not even close. Most heritage breeds are doing great if they give you 150 eggs per year. Modern hybrids can lay twice as well.
When I started out, I assumed old-time breeds would do better under old-time conditions, but it just wasn’t true. In my experience, modern hybrid layers, including Leghorns, do great under old-time, grass-fed conditions.
Personally, I ended up choosing the Red Sex-Link hybrids from Privett Hatchery for brown eggs, because these birds are docile and lay well. I chose Privett’s California Whites for white eggs.
Above: At Radical Roots Farm in Virginia, a worker gathers eggs from Red Sex-Link chickens. Photo by Norm Shafer.