Heritage Breeds Can Be the Best Egg Laying Chickens
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Today, this bird combines beauty and productivity to meet the needs of small farm or urban flock owners. Laying more than 150 medium-sized, white eggs per year, these hens won’t disappoint. The breed is known as a great forager and is active, alert and intelligent. Birds average from 4 to 6 pounds, depending on the sex. Campines come in two color varieties: silver and golden. They are said to have friendly, chatty dispositions, but they don’t always do well in confinement. Campines are critically endangered, with fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States.
Leghorn — Non-industrial
The hen-some Leghorn breed is a prolific layer that originates from the landrace Livornese fowls of Northern Italy. This landrace, found near the port of Leghorn, was reputed for its small size and ability to lay a large number of eggs.
In 1852, an American ship guide by the name of Captain Gates returned from Italy to the United States with cargo in tow — including Livornese, or what is known in English as the Leghorn breed. In 1853, additional stock was brought over from Italy. Interestingly, in the 1870s, the English imported Leghorn stock from the United States.
The English began selecting for larger size, and, in the early 1900s, these larger, dual-purpose birds made their way back to the United States. About this time, poultrymen began selecting for different qualities in their Leghorns. Some felt form and function were important and kept selecting for traditional traits, while other breeders felt production qualities were superior and began selecting for higher-production rates. Selecting for production led to the evolution of the modern-day industrial Leghorn, which is widely used in the poultry industry. Those who kept selecting for traditional traits helped to conserve the form and function of the traditional, non-industrial Leghorn.
Today, the non-industrial Leghorn is still found on farms, in shows and on homesteads across the country. The breed is reputed for its exceptional ability to lay 250 to 300 medium-to-large-sized, white eggs per year. The breed is a great forager and is very active, hunting and scratching to find food. Leghorns also are noted for their hardiness and vigor. Males weigh an average 6 pounds, and females average 4 1/2 pounds. Leghorns come in many different subvarieties with varying colors and either rose or single combs. Non-industrial Leghorns are growing in popularity as small-scale farmers are rediscovering these prolific and attractive layers.
China is home to one of the great wonders of the world, but many people don’t know it’s also the homeland of one of the great chicken breeds of the world. The Langshan, a graceful and stately breed, was bred for centuries in the Yangtze Kiang River region of China about 100 miles from Shanghai. In 1872, Maj. A.C. Croad brought the breed to England. Interestingly, because the breed was imported from Shanghai, some people thought the breed was a Cochin and began selecting for four distinct types. Luckily, some breeders recognized the uniqueness of the breed and selected for the original type known for its long legs, deep body and full breast. The breed was first accepted into the American Poultry Association (APA) standard in 1883.