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Poultry Profile: Leghorns and Dorkings

I'm frequently asked which breed of chicken will produce the most eggs and my answer is always a leghorn. They are a very old breed originating in the Mediterranean and they are big on egg production. A leghorn hen will lay up to 360 eggs a year. That's almost an egg a day!

At the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home our leghorns are doing more than laying eggs. We've embarked on a breeding program crossing leghorns with silver gray dorkings, a very old breed that's quite threatened. It is speculated that the dorkings were brought into England around 43 AD by invading Romans and were written about as early as the first century AD by the Roman agricultural writer Columella. Over time the population has dwindled and there has been a lot of inbreeding. As a consequence the breed's vitality is diminished and egg production and size is way down.

A leghorn egg versus a dorking egg.
Dorkings are larger than leghorns, but their eggs are visibly smaller.

 

We are crossing dorkings with leghorns to instill some of the leghorn’s vitality and superior egg production. It's a slow process that will take about four or five generations. We are doing our first cross with a dorking rooster and white leghorn hens, which will give us a half and half hybrid. Then we will breed the hybrids with pure dorkings and continue on until we work out all the leghorn qualities except for the egg production.

Leghorn and Dorking Hens
Leghorns and dorkings are similar in appearance, but the dorking is a deeper bodied bird.

 

So for your backyard flock you might consider the leghorn if you are really focused on egg production. And one day you may be able to include a few silver grey dorkings with ancestors at Moss Mountain Farm!

Leghorn Chickens
Leghorns

 

Leghorn – The hens are extremely heavy producers of medium to large white eggs. Leghorns are hardy, heat tolerant (especially the white variety) and early maturing. The breed enjoys free range although will adapt to confinement and is flighty, spritely and noisy.

Silver Gray Dorking Roosters
Silver Gray Dorking Roosters

 

Dorking – Dorkings have five toes instead of the typical four. This breed has an especially sweet temperament and the hens are good mothers even to chicks that aren't their own. Historically dorkings have been raised for their exceptionally moist and tasty meat. In addition to silver gray, white and colored are recognized by the American Poultry Association.

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