Pros and Cons of Raising Leghorns For Eggs

The Leghorn is one of the most popular breeds for backyard flocks and homesteaders, thanks in large part to the fact that each hen can lay as many as 300 eggs per year. 

We’ve been raising Leghorns (and other breeds) for eggs since early 2021. In this article, I’ll go over the pros and cons of the breed when your primary goal is egg production, based on our first-hand experience with the birds.

Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover:


  1. Very high egg production. A single Leghorn hen can lay between 280 to 320 white eggs per year, making them one of the most productive egg-laying breeds. Most other breeds, except for Rhode Island Reds (250 – 300) and Isa Brown (300+), lay between 200 and 280 eggs per year.
  2. Climate adaptability. They’re hardy birds and adapt well to various climates, although they’re particularly well-suited to warmer environments due to their Mediterranean origin.
  3. Disease resistant. Assuming you provide them with a clean environment and high-quality feed, they should have little to no health issues.
  4. Good foragers. Leghorns thrive on pasture, eating insects, grasses and weeds.
  5. Predator awareness. Due to their flighty and skittish nature, Leghorns can be better at spotting aerial predators (and hiding if danger is close) than more docile breeds like the Plymouth Rock, Cinnamon Queen or Bielefelder.


  1. Temperament. Leghorns are skittish and flighty, and it’s difficult to contain them with regular fencing if they can’t roam up to 250 feet in each direction around the coop. This is the reason why we’ll never get Leghorns on our current property again.
  2. Vigor. Due to their small body size, they have fewer resources to keep laying eggs during a food shortage or lack of sunlight.
  3. Size. They’re not great meat birds, considering their smaller size and lean build. So aside from laying eggs, they’re only good for making chicken stock or soup (at the end of their egg-laying career).

So let’s talk more about these pros and cons of raising Leghorns, starting with why we decided to get Leghorns in the first place.

Our Experience With Leghorns

When we decided to add chickens to our homestead at the end of 2020, I called Cackle Hatchery in Montana and asked what breeds they’d recommend. Our primary concern at the time was getting the breed that would produce the most eggs while also being able to thrive in our climate. (We’re located in Georgia, just north of Atlanta, where the summers are scorching hot.) 

The woman I spoke with at the hatchery recommended a few different breeds, and we decided to go with the following lineup: five brown Leghorns, three white Leghorns, three Cinnamon Queens and three Rhode Island Reds. In other words, we got eight Leghorns in total. 

Those eight Leghorns outperformed their peers in almost every metric, including how soon they started laying, how long they kept laying, and how many eggs they laid per week. They also fared better in terms of disease and predator resistance.

That’s why, in the spring of 2023, we ordered 20 more white Leghorn chicks to replace our aging flock. Unfortunately, three of them arrived dead and two more died within the first 48 hours. To compensate for the losses, we picked up a couple of random chicks (and two goslings) from the local Tractor Supply store.

Top Reasons to Raise Leghorns

Let’s start with the top reasons why you should consider raising Leghorns before we dive into the cons that might make you reconsider.

#1. Leghorns Are Prolific Egg Layers

Our Leghorns out-lay our other breeds by a good margin.
Our Leghorns out-lay our other breeds by a good margin.

There’s a reason why commercial egg producers raise predominantly white Leghorns: because they’re incredible egg layers. 

Not only can a single Leghorn hen lay between 250 to 300 white eggs per year, but they also tend to start laying sooner, and continue laying for longer, than other breeds. 

I took the picture above in our kitchen. It’s a good illustration of the difference in early performance between our white Leghorns and some of the other breeds we raise, including Green Eggers, Australorps, Marans and Plymouth Rocks. 

When I snapped this photo, our hens had just started laying a few weeks prior. As a result, the eggs are still fairly small, and will increase in size as the hens mature. But even correcting for the number of hens per breed, our Leghorns outperform the others by a significant margin.

So if you’re looking for one of the best-laying breeds of large white eggs on the market, look no further than the Leghorn.

#2. Climate Adaptability

Leghorns are hardy birds that thrive in almost any environment. They’re certainly well suited for the hot and humid summers and relatively mild winters here in central/north Georgia. But I’d argue that the Leghorns also do well in much colder climates farther north. 

In fact, high temperatures can be much more of an issue for chickens than cold temperatures, unless they get wet. In other words, most chickens are sufficiently insulated by their feathers to stay warm in freezing temperatures, but not all breeds do well when it’s hot and humid. Chickens can’t sweat, so they pant to cool down, and their ability to do so varies by breed.

I would have no concerns about raising Leghorns in most (if not all) areas within the continental United States.

Besides offering our Leghorns a dry place to roost, we close some of the windows of the henhouse in winter to reduce cold drafts that could make them uncomfortable overnight. If you want to learn more about the stationary coops we’ve been using for our egg layers, check out the YouTube videos below:

#3. Disease Resistance

We had a few non-Leghorn hens with diseased lungs.
We had a few non-Leghorn hens with diseased lungs.

Leghorns are robust birds that shouldn’t suffer from any major health issues, assuming you keep their environment clean and offer them high-quality feed. 

In fact, we’ve only had one Leghorn die (not counting the ones that died in infancy) in the last few years of raising chickens. In hindsight, I think a combination of poor understanding of how the deep litter system works and the wrong feed were contributing factors to that hen’s demise. Specifically, we didn’t add enough carbonaceous material (e.g., wood chips, pine shavings or hemp bedding) to the henhouse to help decompose the nitrogen-rich chicken manure, leading to higher-than-ideal ammonia levels.

As far as the feed was concerned, our hens only ate the whole grains from the organic, soy-free/corn-free feed we offered, letting the added vitamins and minerals go to waste. Based on my observations, that led to a nutrient deficiency and to some hens succumbing to fatty liver disease or ruptured livers (mostly the Cinnamon Queens and Rhode Island Reds).

Note: Most commercial chicken feed is a mix of whole grains with powdered minerals and vitamins that’s held together with oil-based binders. 99.99% of binders are vegetable oils. The problem is that those binders don’t work well, so you end up with whole grain feed and a lot of powder that the hens often don’t eat. As a result, they won’t get many of the micronutrients they need unless you supplement with a la carte minerals (e.g., in the form of kelp, oyster shells for calcium, or organ meat).

Since we started adding more carbon in the form of wood chips, hemp bedding, and pine shavings to the hen houses on a weekly basis and switched to another organic, low-PUFA feed, we’ve not had any more health issues.

Overall, we’ve observed that even in less-than-ideal conditions, the Leghorns appear to be doing better than Rhode Island Reds, Cinnamon Queens and similar breeds.

#4. Good Foragers

We've raised our Leghorns on pasture since they were chicks.
We’ve raised our Leghorns on pasture since they were chicks.

While I wouldn’t consider Leghorns to be the best forgers on the planet, they do a relatively good job at finding insects, grubs and worms, and of converting those foods, along with weeds and grasses, into nutritious eggs. 

One of the factors that makes Leghorns good foragers is their relatively light bodies. Heavier breeds tend to move less in search of food, especially when they have a feeder nearby. In contrast, Silkies and Cornish Cross are relatively poor foragers due to their physical traits (e.g., impaired vision in the case of Silkies) or heavy weight (Cornish Cross).

A breed’s temperament can also impact their willingness to forage. More docile breeds with a less active temperament are often less willing to run around all day looking for food. Leghorns are relatively high-strung and are always on the move looking for something to eat.

So if you’re planning on pasture-raising your birds, Leghorns are a good choice. At least if you can manage to keep them contained (we’ll talk about that in a bit).

#5. Predator Awareness

This Leghorn pullet roamed around on our neighbors property before a hawk got her.
This Leghorn pullet roamed around on our neighbor’s property before a hawk got her.

Even though the first hen that was killed by a hawk on our homestead was an inexperienced white Leghorn, we’ve only lost three Leghorns to predators since the spring of 2021 – two to hawks and one to a raccoon before I trapped, dispatched and slow-cooked him

I think the reason why Leghorns are relatively good at evading predators is because they’re unusually flighty. In other words, they run at the first sight of a potential threat and their relatively low body mass allows them to move quickly (and even get airborne). 

Heavier and more docile breeds, such as the Cinnamon Queen and Rhode Island Red, often respond with a delay and are slower to get to cover.

The two white Leghorns we lost to hawks were still pullets and relatively inexperienced. They wandered off and away from the flock, where a hawk picked them off. The brown Leghorn we lost to a raccoon didn’t make it into the coop at night and was attacked after dark. Chickens have poor night vision and don’t run when they can’t see; that makes them easy prey for any nocturnal predators if they’re not inside the coop. 

But beyond the raccoon mishap, we haven’t had a single adult Leghorn killed by a predator. In comparison, we lost several adult birds of other breeds to hawks over the past few years.

Downsides to Raising Leghorns

Only one of the Leghorns from our first flock was docile and allowed me to pick her up.
Only one of the Leghorns from our first flock was docile and allowed me to pick her up.

Based on everything you’ve read so far, you might be inclined to pull the trigger and order a batch of Leghorns from the hatchery for your homestead or backyard. But hold off on that until you’ve given some serious thought to the downsides of raising Leghorns I’ll discuss below.

#1. Temperament

A group of Leghorns on the wrong side of our five foot perimeter fence.
A group of Leghorns on the wrong side of our five foot perimeter fence.

The main reason why we decided not to raise any more Leghorns on our current homestead for eggs is their temperament. While we’ve not had an aggressive Leghorn hen (only a rooster), they’re often not particularly friendly when compared to more docile breeds such as Rhode Islands or Bielefelder. In fact, our Leghorns have been a pain in the butt because it’s virtually impossible to keep them contained in a pasture-raised setting.

Leghorns don’t respect fences and they try to escape whenever they can, regardless of how much space you give them.

Our second flock of egg layers consists of 21 birds, including 15 Leghorn hens and two roosters. They have about a quarter of an acre to forage, including pasture and wooded area. That’s over 500 square feet per bird – more than enough (you would think!) to keep them happy. 

But since the day they started feathering out and developing their primary flight feathers, we’ve been chasing them around our property (and our neighbors’ properties) because they flew over our 48-inch tall poultry fencing.

Leghorns like to fly up and over anything in their way.
Leghorns like to fly up and over anything in their way.

To be fair, some of our other hens have also made it over the fence on occasion. But the Leghorns escaped every single day, and sometimes multiple times per day. Fortunately, we were abele to clip their primary flight feathers once they had fully developed. But for a few weeks, the Leghorns proved to be a major pain in the butt.

Some of them even managed to get airborne with both sides of their flight feathers clipped, thanks to their relatively low body weight. 

For this reason, we decided not to raise Leghorns on our current property. Once we move to our new property where we’ll have significantly more space (45 acres vs. our current 1.25 acres) and neighbors are less of a concern, we might do Leghorns again.

Of course, if your goal is to raise Leghorns in a confined space such as a mobile chicken tractor or a stationary coop with an attached run, their temperament might be less of an issue because they’re much less likely to escape.

However, if you want to keep dual-purpose chickens for their eggs and as pets, I’d also recommend a more docile breed such as Rhode Islands, Plymouth Rock or, our favorite, Bielefelder.

#2. Robustness

Homesteading and pastured-poultry legend Joel Salatin once said that he prefers larger dual-purpose birds (ones that are good egg layers but which also produce meat) over specialist breeds such as the Leghorns. 

Laying eggs is a resource-depleting task, which is why hens stop laying when they’re not getting enough nutrients or sunlight. Salatin’s view is that larger birds have more sustenance due to their greater body mass, so they keep laying eggs even in less-than-ideal conditions. 

Leghorns just don’t have a lot of spare fuel on their body to keep laying when there’s something off with their supply of nutrients or sunlight.

That said, while you don’t have control over the sun, you do have control over your birds’ nutrient supply. So as long as you ensure the availability of high-quality feed — ideally feed that’s free of seed oils (aka vegetable oils) but high in whole-food sources of vitamins and minerals — your Leghorns should be just fine. 

We feed our egg layers organic corn-free and soy-free feed from New Country Organics, Kelp, crushed egg shells and oyster shells as a source of calcium.

#3. Size

You wouldn't want to raise Leghorns for their meat.
You wouldn’t want to raise Leghorns for their meat.

Leghorns are relatively small compared to other breeds. While that doesn’t negatively impact their egg-laying potential under good conditions, you wouldn’t want to breed Leghorns for their meat (even though some people consider them a dual-purpose breed). 

We were shocked to see the small size of the carcass of Cacique, the “huge” Leghorn rooster we had to dispatch because he had gotten too aggressive

So if you plan on turning your old egg layers into chicken stock or soup hens, know that there won’t be a lot of meat on those birds. 

On the flip side, the meat and fat you get from them is incredibly flavorful and perfect for stock.

Final Thoughts on Leghorns as Egg Layers

Leghorns are great birds but they can also be a pain in the butt (literally, if you have a an agressive Leghorn rooster)
Leghorns are great birds but they can also be a pain in the butt (literally, if you have a an aggressive Leghorn rooster).

Leghorns are among the most prolific egg layers you can find. They’re smart enough to survive most aerial predator attacks, and they thrive in both hot and cold climates.

But they can also be a major pain in the butt if you’re trying to contain them with fencing. That’s why I recommend looking for other breeds — such as the Bielefelder or Red Stars — if you plan on pasture-raising your birds and if it’s important that they stay within the fencing (e.g., if you have neighbors around who don’t appreciate a daily visit from your chickens).

Under confined conditions, or if you have enough space where containment isn’t an issue, Leghorns are an excellent breed. We won’t raise more Leghorns on our current property, but will likely consider this breed again when we move to our new 45-acre lot in 2025.

What’s your experience with Leghorns? Let us know by leaving a comment below.