Silver Leghorns

Seizing up the competition

One of my cockerels.

Here is a Silver Duckwing Leghorn chick. I have four of these

Leghorns are the best known of the egg-producing varieties of Mediterranean class. They are the premiers in laying and the standard by which the prolificacy of other breeds is judged. Of the origin of the Leghorn fowl there are differences of opinion, and there is but little information to be found anywhere concerning their early history. It is generally conceded that a race of fowls bearing a close resemblance in many respects to the Leghorn has existed in Italy and other parts of the Continent of Europe for a long period. That this race of fowls has been widely disseminated admits also of little doubt, inasmuch as at the present day the breed is known in Denmark and other countries as Italians. There seems to be good ground for the statement that Leghorns were first introduced into America from Italy. The story goes that as early as 1834 a vessel from Leghorn, Italy, brought to this country as a part of its cargo a small shipment of fowls, which were at once named "Leghorns." They immediately became popular, their prolific laying and nonsitting qualities being recognized at this early date.

White and Brown Leghorns were the first varieties known. Modern breeders are responsible for some of the subvarieties of the breed, and, in point of color at least, exhibition birds of today, even the older varieties, vary considerably from those seen at the present time in Italy.

The Leghorn fowl holds the same place among poultry that the Jersey holds among cattle. The question of profit in poultry has been decided in favor of egg-producing breeds. They are lively, active, and of a restless disposition, the best of foragers, and will pick up a good part of their living during the year. Leghorns are light eaters and the cost of raising them to maturity is about one-half that of the Asiatic varieties. They mature early, feather quickly, the pullets often begin laying when 4 months old, and cockerels crow at the same age. They are the best layers, averaging between 150 and 200 eggs per year. Their eggs are pure white in color, and weight about 10 to the pound (.45 kg). As table fowls they are fairly good. By many they are considered excellent. The only thing that can be said against them is that they are small in size. Altogether, they are one of the most profitable breeds of poultry that can be kept upon the farm, and the cheapness of their keeping will allow the raising of two Leghorns for the cost of one Asiatic. They must be warmly housed in winter to lay well and to protect their pendulous wattles from frostbite.

In shape a Leghorn cock should be graceful; body, round and plump, broad at the shoulders, and tapering toward the tail. The tail should be well balanced on a fair length of shank and thigh; the length of leg giving the bird its sprightly and proud carriage. Closeness of feathering adds to the general shape and secures a freedom from angles which always proclaims the pure bred, typical specimen. The breast should be full, beautifully curved, rather prominent, and carried well forward. Neck, long, well arched, and carried erect; back, of medium length, with saddle rising in a sharp, concave weep to the tail; tail, large, full, carried upright; the full, flowing tail, and long, well-curved sickles are characteristics of the bird that are much thought of. The wing is long, well folded, and tightly carried. Hackle and saddle feathers, long and abundant and flowing well over the shoulder and saddle. The legs are bright yellow in color and free from feathers; toes also yellow, but a dark shade on the same is allowable. The head is the prettiest portion of the bird, being short and deep, yellow beak, full, bright-red eyes, and bright-red face. The comb is single, of medium size, perfectly straight and upright upon the head, free from side sprigs, deeply serrated with five or six points, and bright-red in color. The comb should extend well back over the head, with no tendency to follow the shape of the neck. Earlobes, white, or creamy white.

The Leghorn hen in many respects resembles the cock, excepting carriage of comb and sexual differences. In shape and carriage the hen is even more graceful and sprightly than the cock, very close in feather, and rather small in body, though somewhat long in back. Her breast is full, very round, and carried high; legs fairly long, and shanks thick; tail carried closely and well up. The general carriage should be upright. Her comb is the marvel of her beauty; it is single and falls gracefully to one side, but not in a limp manner, or so as to obscure the sight. Legs, comb, and face are the same color as in the male, but the earlobe is much smaller and more round in shape.

There are six standard varieties of Leghorn: Black, Brown, Buff, Dominique, Silver Duckwing, and White. The Black Leghorn is a popular bird, and a favorite with those who are partial to their color of plumage. The Black Leghorn is mistaken by many for the Black Minorca, but is, however, quite different in type. The Minorca is larger in size, has a longer body, larger comb, and dark slate or nearly black shanks and toes. The plumage of the Black Leghorn is a rich glossy black throughout. Comb, face, and wattles, bright red; earlobes white; and shanks yellow, or yellowish black.

Silver Duckwing Leghorns are not generally bred in this country, though they are frequently seen in the showrooms. They are considered as profitable as any of the other Leghorn varieties, and in point of beauty they are very interesting and fascinating. They take the name "Duckwing" from the similarity of the steel-blue wing bar to that of the Mallard or Wild Duck, the name being first given to a variety of games - the Silver Duckwing Game. The hackle and saddle feathers of a Silver Duckwing Leghorn cock are pure silvery white, with out the slightest straw or creamy tinge, with a narrow black stripe along the center of the lower hackle feathers. Back, saddle, wing bow and wing bay pure white; breast, under-parts, wing bar, and tail, dense lustrous black. The Silver Duckwing Leghorn hen has a silvery gray hackle, with a narrow black stripe through the center of each feather. The breast is light salmon, shading off to gray toward the sides; the body color when viewed at a short distance should appear gray with a faint bluish tint all over. A tendency to ruddy gray, either in ground color or penciling, is objectionable. The tail is black or dark brown, except the two upper feathers, which are light tray. The penciling or markings are irregular or wavy.

There is no standard weight given for Leghorns.