The meaning of the phrase “eats like a bird” obviously didn’t come from observing chickens eat.
Chickens will eat plenty, constantly, and quite messily, tossing food out in their search for the tastiest tidbits.
Leghorn chickens are a fairly small but popular breed.
How much and what do they eat?
Leghorn chickens forage for seeds and bugs but also need chicken feed of around 1/4 pound per day. They are light birds that have been bred for high egg production and do not require as much feed as heavier breeds of chicken.
Our White Leghorns hunted bugs, lizards, mice, and worms and stripped every plant we owned from 3′ feet down!
To find out more about what Leghorn chickens eat, read on!
What Do Leghorns Eat?
A rule of thumb in feeding healthy birds is to plan at least 1/4 pound of feed per adult chicken per day.
High-quality feed like this one available on Amazon will go farther than cheaper quality feed as meeting their nutrient requirements is just as important as caloric intake.
Egg quality is directly affected by what your chickens eat, although a darker yolk does not necessarily mean a more nutritious diet, as some plants, such as marigolds, will make the yolks turn darker.
Some backyard chicken keepers prefer mash feeds, crumbles, or pellets.
A good way to evaluate your feed efficiency is to check the amounts of feed being wasted by being tossed around on the coop floor.
Still, other chicken farmers feed a mix of seeds and pellets.
Truly adventurous chicken owners can mix their complete feed from ingredients they purchase in bulk from their feed dealer at the farm supply store or feed mill.
There are starter or grower feeds for chicks at 16-18% protein, complete layer feeds with a calcium supplement for laying hens, and game bird feed for roosters.
Start feeding pullets layer feed at around 18-20 weeks old or when they lay their first egg.
According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), light-breed birds need at least 17 grams of protein daily.
Hens also need a high protein mix when molting, over 20-22% protein for the molting period.
Chickens also need a source of insoluble grit for a healthy crop and calcium grit for egg production.
One way to save on feed costs is to sprout seeds and ferment feed before giving it to your chickens.
Most chickens love to forage, and Leghorns are efficient birds at exploring new places and finding treats to eat.
Some good cover crops for chickens to forage are:
- New Zealand clover
- Grain grasses
Chickens will also strip away the foliage of anything edible (and a few things you’d consider inedible) in their quest for food.
Feeding hens grass and conventional feed can lead to eggs higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which may offer additional health benefits over regular eggs.
What you feed your chicken has no bearing on the color of the eggshell.
It is all genetics following the breed of chicken.
White-shelled eggs’ nutritional content or taste is the same as brown, blue, or green.
Egg size typically increases with age.
Often your pullet’s first egg will be tiny and without a yolk, affectionately called a “fairy egg.”
Typically curious birds, chickens will attempt to eat just about anything edible-looking.
Their keen gaze has evolved to catch movement and spy likely foodstuffs such as insects, worms, and grubs.
We witnessed many a hen proudly run about the chicken yard with a mouse, only to see her toss it up and gulp it down whole before the other hens could nab it.
Our Leghorn hens would rouse themselves in the middle of the summer nights and catch cockroaches in the coop.
Mealworms, both fresh and dried, make excellent, high-protein chicken treats.
Fresh kitchen waste is also popular.
Just make sure it is from produce edible for chickens.
Many chicken owners swear by the health benefits of feeding chickens yogurt or the whey from making yogurt for probiotics.
We often dried chicken bones and shells and ground them up for the chickens to eat as a high-calcium and -protein treat.
How Much Do Leghorn Chickens Eat?
Leghorn chickens are almost ideal birds.
They require less feed than other chickens and produce more eggs.
Leaner birds, Leghorns will eat between 4 and 6 oz of feed daily, adjusted for how much they consume.
We always used a free feeder system but having set mealtimes is an option, too.
Like humans, adolescent birds will astonish you with how much they eat and how fast they grow.
Leghorn chickens are efficient master foragers and will give you those fresh backyard eggs at little feed cost!
Leghorns are relatively lightweight chickens, about 4.5 pounds for hens and 6 pounds for roosters, and are best known for the white Leghorn variety with large red floppy combs and wattles.
There is an American variety of leghorn with a single comb, bred for harsher American winters.
These beautiful active birds’ color varieties also include:
- Black-Tailed Red
- Buff Columbian
- Dark Brown
- Light Brown
- Red And White
Originally from the Tuscany region of Italy, these beautiful birds are primarily known for being active egg-laying birds and having independent personalities.
Leghorns lay 4-6 eggs per week and are considered a dual-purpose breed, even though they do not weigh much and thus do not make good meat birds; there are much better options for meat birds out there.
The name “Leghorn” is an anglicization of the word “Livorno,” the name of the port the chickens were shipped from.
The Italians combined several breeds of landrace chickens to make the Leghorn chicken breed which is partly why Leghorns are such alert birds and do not make particularly good lap chickens, although they are fun birds.
Leghorns are referred to as “Leggerns” in the United States and were popularized by the cartoon Foghorn Leghorn.