The Leghorn Chicken - Breed Spotlight

Who doesn’t know Foghorn Leghorn? This cartoon rooster single-handedly made Leghorn chickens a household name. But aside from cartoon fame, Leghorns are famous among backyard chicken owners for being a reliable and prolific white egg laying chicken breed.

Class: Mediterranean
Origin: Italy
Comb Type: Single
Popular Colors: White, Light Brown, Exchequer
Standard Size: 4.5 Pounds (Hen) 6 Pounds (Rooster)
Egg Color: White
Egg Size: Large
Production: 5+ Eggs Per Week (Varies by Color)
Hardiness: Heat Tolerant
Disposition: Active, Skittish

Leghorns are famous among backyard chicken owners for being a reliable and prolific white egg laying chicken breed.
Brown Leghorn
I enjoy having Leghorns in my backyard chicken flock. The White Leghorns are slightly better at egg laying but really not enough to make a big difference. I do have to say the White Leghorns started laying a bit earlier than the Brown Leghorns.

There is a substantial size difference between the two types; the Brown Leghorns are much bigger. As an example, I can hold the White Leghorns upside-down in one hand. I cannot do this with the Brown Leghorns.

Leghorns are famous among backyard chicken owners for being a reliable and prolific white egg laying chicken breed.

I know the hatcheries classify this breed as active and skittish and this definitely applies to my Brown Leghorns. But, I found my White Leghorns to be very personable, easy going and downright docile, hence the upside down hand trick mentioned above.

Both breeds love to fly if you don't clip their wings. Ours can often be found grazing somewhere outside of the fenced yard. I don’t clip their wings because I want them to be able to escape predators.

Leghorns are famous among backyard chicken owners for being a reliable and prolific white egg laying chicken breed.
White Leghorn
Leghorns as a family originated in the Mediterranean as an egg-laying species. They can develop spurs as they grow older and this is the case with one of my Brown Leghorns. Although better suited for warmer climates, my Leghorns do well in winter. During the cold months, I am mindful of their big, floppy combs and I make sure to cover them generously with Vaseline to prevent frostbite.

Overall, Leghorns are a great addition to a backyard flock!

Does Chicken Egg Color Affect Taste?

This is a question I had when I first started raising backyard chickens and it's one I get a lot when people see our green eggs. I also hear people say they really like brown eggs better. And even seasoned chicken keepers will say some of their chickens lay eggs that taste more creamy and better than others.They associate egg taste with shell color. But do eggs with different colored shells taste different? The real answer to this question is no. Egg shell color has nothing to do with taste.

How Are Chicken Eggs Formed?

Step 1

Egg formation takes around a day and starts with ovulation where the yolk (or oocyte) is produced by a hen's ovary.

Step 2

The yolk is then released into the oviduct where it can be fertilized if you've got a rooster. The egg formation process continues whether the egg is fertilized or not.

Step 3

The yolk moves down the oviduct where it is covered by the vitelline membrane, structural fibers (or chalazae) and egg white (or albumen). As the egg is moving, it's spinning and the chalazae twist and anchor the yolk to the white; one on each side of the egg.

Step 4

The eggshell, which is made of calcite, is formed around the egg. This is the last step in the egg formation before it is laid. 

No matter the egg color, all eggs go through this same process.

How Is Chicken Egg Color Applied?

I think this is the most interesting part of the process. All eggs start out white because they are formed of calcite which is a crystallized form of calcium carbonate. If you've got a white egg laying chicken breed like leghorns in your flock, then nothing else happens and the egg stays white.


If you have brown egg laying chicken breeds in your flock like Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons Barred Rocks or Austrolorps, then the process continues. The brown color or pigment is laid fairly late in shell formation and does not penetrate through the shell. That's why the inside of a brown egg is white.


If you have green or blue egg laying chicken breeds like Ameraucanas or Olive Eggers, the process is even more interesting. Blue pigment is applied fairly early in the process and sinks through the entire shell. If you've got a blue egg layer, then the process is done at this point. If you've got a green egg layer, then there's one more step. Brown pigment is actually applied after the blue pigment. It's late in the process so it doesn't sink through the egg shell, but it does mix with the blue on the surface to create green.

Ameraucana sitting on nest of green eggs.

What Makes Eggs Taste Different?

I do agree that some eggs taste different. But, it really has nothing to do with the shell color. Egg taste depends on so many factors. Are your backyard chickens allowed to free range and get as many bugs,small animals and greens as they can find? If so, their eggs yolks are going to be more colorful and taste more creamy than eggs from a bird that's only been allowed to eat commercial feed. Just what are your chickens eating when they free range? Some foods do affect the taste of an egg. Also, how fresh are your eggs? If they're going right from your coop's nest to the frying pan, they're going to have a lot more flavor than something that's been in a refrigerator for a few weeks. 

So, next time you hear someone say they like one egg color more than another, you'll know the reality behind that egg color. 

Sea Turtles; An Egg Layer of a Different Kind

Normally I like to explore common backyard wildlife. But I was recently lucky enough to meet a loggerhead sea turtle as she laid her eggs. For me, this was the treat of a lifetime. And I had to share!
This all started when I was a child. I was fascinated by turtles. It didn’t matter the species, I loved them all. I diligently kept a turtle log, recording the scientific data of all the turtles I found. I had a wonderful science teacher who encouraged my love of nature and allowed me to bring turtles into class to show everyone. She even allowed me to collect everyone’s pennies and dimes to scrape enough money together for our class to join a sea turtle rescue.
Fast forward to 2015, and I’m still just as excited every time I find a turtle. So, I recently visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island with my family. This wonderful facility handles turtle triage up and down the East coast. The center in itself is a treat. The displays are beautiful and informative. Each visitor gets to follow the trek of a turtle through its life finding out where it goes once it’s hatched and beyond. You can see the rehabilitating sea turtles in their tanks and even observe a feeding.

During nesting season, the center offers nighttime hikes to; hopefully, see the females as they come ashore to lay their eggs. Nothing’s guaranteed, but I decided to seize the day and booked my family.
We started at the center for a short video then drove to the beach, which was completely dark since no lights are allowed. The guides radioed to the beach turtle patrol to see if there were any spottings. I held my breath because while nest numbers are up this year, there hadn’t been any sightings for the last week. A voice came over the radio confirming a loggerhead was just coming ashore. They gave us the location and we all took off at rapid speed.
Once we got there, we could see the beach patrol scientists were with the turtle, but we couldn’t get close. We had to wait until she started to lay her eggs. At that point, the turtles go into a trance-like state and it’s safe to get closer. When I first saw her, I was instantly amazed. She was huge! I had seen loggerheads in aquariums, but nothing compared to on land. The scientists estimated she was over 250 pounds.
It turns out our turtle was Felyse and the beach patrol was already familiar with her. Our nest was number 102 and Felyse was becoming a frequent visitor. She was the turtle who laid the first nest of the 2015 season on Jekyll Island and this was her fourth nest of the year. Felyse was originally tagged on Jekyll Island in 2011 while laying one of her five nests that year.

As a backyard chicken owner, I was amazed by this egg laying process. The sea turtle process was so different. Loggerheads don’t start laying until they’re 30 years old and they don’t lay every year. They take a few years off between laying years. Around March, the females mate with the males at sea. The eggs then start to collect in the turtle. Once enough are collected, about 75 to 150, the females crawl ashore to lay. They go back to sea and more eggs start to collect. It’s different with each turtle, the average is three nests a season laid during two-week intervals. And, interestingly, hatchlings in the same nest can be from different fathers.

Once Felyse was done laying, she covered her nest and then we lined the way as she slowly crawled back to the ocean. The turtles get tired during this process, so there’s a lot of starting and stopping. As the waves covered Felyse, I couldn’t help but think how relieved she probably was to be weightless again and swimming. And, I sent her my best wishes. With so many things that could go wrong, from predation to pollution, I wondered if Felyse would ever be back to visit again. I certainly hope so!

As for her eggs, the hatchlings start to emerge about 57 days after being laid. That means Felyse’s eggs will hatch sometime between mid-August and September. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center does have a nest watcher program where you can sponsor a specific nest. I’ve sponsored Felyse’s nest and I can’t wait until they send pictures of her hatchlings! Then, her story will be complete and I’ll hope that 30 years from now, some of Felyse’s offspring are lucky enough to return to Jekyll Island and start the whole process over again.

Happy Fourth Of July!

Have a wonderful Fourth of July! (FYI - This was one of our White Leghorns. What a beauty!)

Bird Feeder Fun - Squirrel Antics

Our bird feeder is always a hive of activity for birds, usually not squirrels. However, this squirrel has found us. And he really enjoys our feeder! Check him out! He's eaten so much that he can hardly move. I had to take pictures looking through our living room door and our screened-in porch, so I didn't scare him. But they definitely tell the story of a full squirrel who was wishing he didn't eat those last few mouthfuls!

Rooster Eating At The Bird Feeder

Hank our rooster, feasting at the feeder. He's definitely learned some bad tricks from our Brown Leghorns that love to fly!

Chicken Ban Inspires Historic Egg Carton

I've had chickens for a number of years. I’ve even sold some eggs along the way. But never once did I wonder about the history of the egg carton. That changed during a trip to a local antique mall. Hidden in a corner and stuffed on a shelf was a metal carton with an imprint on the front that said “2 Dozen Eggs.” I knew this was a good find and snatched it up.


After some research, I found that my egg carton is around 100 years old and is the by-product of early city livestock ordinances.

It all started in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1913. Ordinances were passed that banned livestock, including backyard chickens, in the city for public health reasons.  At the same time, similar ordinances were being passed throughout the country.

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions. People still needed fresh eggs and farmers had an abundance of them. Inventor Stuart Ellis came up with the solution to connect farmers and city folk. He created a metal box that contained rows of cardboard bent into the shape of an egg and supported at the top and bottom with metal edging. Eggs were placed with the large end down with tissue paper under and above.


The top of the metal carton had a rectangular cut out for the receiver’s address. Inside were elaborate instructions on how to pack the eggs. These instructions were double-sided and had a place to write the receiver’s address on each side. To me, this is one of the first instances of reduce, reuse and recycle. The egg buyer could send the empty carton back to the farmer with the flip of a sheet and vice versa. Pretty efficient!


Through my research, I found all kinds of advertisements from the 1920s in seed magazines and early poultry magazines selling these crates which held up to six dozen eggs and started at 85 cents each. They took advantage of the Parcel Post that now allowed people to send crates, and not just letters, directly to each other.


Unfortunately for Stuart Ellis, his invention was eventually replaced by other designs. Not many remain today to tell the story of why and how the humble egg carton came into being. So I’ll keep mine on my shelf, tell my kids about this fascinating story and count it as a part of America’s rich history in farming, manufacturing and invention.

You can find this post and many of my other posts at Backyard Poultry

Geese And Gulls By The Frozen Ohio River

I couldn't resist a few pictures from my recent visit to our frozen Ohio River. These geese and gulls are permanent residents who decided to haul out on the shore. Of course, friendly locals were feeding them. So the birds were pretty happy with their circumstances.

Ice And Barges On The Ohio River

I was driving back to my house this morning after running some errands and found this barge making its way up the Ohio River. With temps overnight at -8 degrees, the river has frozen over in large parts. Releasing water from the dams and continual barge traffic is keeping the river open. But, you can see it's slow going as these barges have to break through ice. Although my view was cold, the beauty of nature and winter was quite a treat!

Bird Feeder Fun - Visitors During the Snow

The weather has been awful here this week, so no pictures of my chickens to share today. They've been staying warm and dry as we've had tons of snow and temperatures in the double-digit negatives. But, along with the nasty weather comes beauty as my feeders have been full of colorful jewels. So enjoy these charming characters!

A blue jay awaits a turn at the feeder. 

This blue jay's a little curious.

A red-bellied woodpecker in the surrounding trees.

This eastern towhee is getting a treat!

The Ohio National; A Living Poultry Catalog

With chick season starting, many of us are planning new additions to our flocks. So, here's a look at The Ohio National, America's largest annual poultry show. I recently toured the show and wrote this post for Backyard Poultry Magazine. I thought it may give you some inspiration when ordering chicks!

As we pulled into the parking lot of the Voinovich Building on the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus, it was evident things were under way. People were wandering the parking lot with turkeys and chickens tucked under their arms. Some were haggling as birds were being sold right out of the backs of cars. I immediately knew this would be quite an experience, and I wasn’t wrong.

I have to admit, the first thing you notice inside is the smell and the haze of dust. It’s not that anything was unclean; it’s just that thousands of animals are occupying the same place all with bedding and lots of poop.

Once you get a sense of place, the usual poultry show sights are everywhere, just at The Ohio National, it’s all on a large scale. Hundreds of shiny trophies line tables, judges are meticulously sizing up birds in closed aisles, kids are anxiously working with judges and participants are eagerly prepping their birds and taking glamour shots.

From there, The Ohio National is like a hatchery catalog on steroids. If you’re wondering what breed of bird to choose, they are all there in real time. It’s funny to walk with a catalog and compare the pictures to real life. Then, there are the exotic species that you don’t find in your standard catalogs. I was taken by the varieties of fancy pigeons some with curly feathers on their backs, others with feathered feet, some with almost no beak and others that stand tall like game birds. The call ducks were terribly cute and with so many color choices, I don’t know how you’d pick. Bantam chickens, which are often considered the Easter eggs of the chicken world, were out in force. It was cage after cage of bantams each more beautiful than the next. In an adjoining building, African Geese wowed us with their antics and honking. And meat ducks, which I had never seen before, were aplenty.

On the market side, there was a swap meet area where people were selling their birds. While my kids wanted one of everything and I constantly thwarted their requests, we were all a little put off by the more rough conditions that existed in this area. I just hope that all those animals found good homes and that their new owners quarantined them before adding them to existing flocks.

Overall, if you’re in the area, I’d say The Ohio National is worth a visit. For me, I was used to the friendly confines of 4-H and FFA at local fairs. This was different; this was serious business for the competitors. And, frankly, the sheer size of this event and splendor of the birds is something to behold.

Big Red; A Free Range Chicken

Raising free range backyard chickens can be frustrating as they tend to wander everywhere, but Big Red, our friendly New Hampshire hen, provided some humor as she was spotted out my basement window digging through the herb garden for any goodies she could find. She especially likes to sit by my husband's office window, it's not far from this spot, and see if he'll give her some treats. Something tells me that's where she's headed next!

Pam's Backyard Chickens Mentioned In Modern Farmer

A special thanks to author, Jason Price, for the mention in your piece for Modern Farmer, Raising Backyard Chickens For Dummies. It's funny how much research you end up putting into raising a flock of backyard chickens. I often find myself referring to chicken facts in normal, everyday conversation. That's when you know you're hooked!

Good luck with your human and chicken flock. It's all worth it when you get those yummy eggs and see those great smiles!

Fridays With Backyard Chickens At The Bird Feeder

Brown Leghorns are the best flyers in my flock and they take advantage of that! They love to hang out on my deck happily eating the black oil sunflower seed set out for the wild birds. You'll notice from the pictures, this Leghorn knew she was caught and quickly flew to the ground. So that's where all my bird seed has been going!

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