A Good Egg
The pure breeds developed for egg laying This month: the Legbar
The Legbar is one of many autosexing breeds. These breeds are ones in which the chicks can be sexed at hatching, which enables identification of the females from day one. This is caused by the barring gene that comes from the barred Rock when it is crossed to another breed. The Legbar is a cross of the Leghorn and barred Plymouth Rock, the cream Legbar is that same cross with a dose of Araucana to provide the head crest and interesting egg colours.
The Legbar was created in Cambridge, Britain and is accredited to the breeding work of Professor RC Punnett and Mr MS Pease in the 1930s. They uncovered the basic principles of the barring gene in their experimental work on chicken breeding when trying to establish a mechanism to accurately sex chicks based on plumage appearance.
The Legbar comes in three varieties, the gold, the silver and probably the most well-known today, the cream. The latter has a small crest on its head carried well back from the eyes. The comb is large, single and evenly serrated; this is coupled with thin wattles. The body is wedge-shaped with a long flat back that slopes slightly towards the tail. It is an alert breed that lays eggs as prolifically as its constituent breeds.
The Legbar hen weighs 4.5lb (2kg) carrying her wings tight to the body and her tail at a 45 degree angle to the back. The comb can either be upright or fall gracefully to either side of the face but not as to obstruct eyesight. The crest of the cream Legbar hen tends to be fuller than that of her male counterpart
The Legbar cock has an upright and alert carriage. It weighs in at 6lbs (2.7kg) which reflects its status as a light breed. The comb is upright and evenly serrated in each of the gold, silver and cream varieties; however, the latter also carries a crest of feathers on the head.
The eggs of the gold and silver Legbars are white or cream in colour. The eggs of the cream Legbar range through blues, greens and olives due to the presence of Araucana genes within its makeup.
Legbars can be quite flighty, taking on a lot of the sprightly characteristics of their Leghorn parentage. It is possible for a patient and calm keeper to hand tame them, but they tend to maintain a distance in most cases.
Legbars are a hardy breed that is well suited to a free range existence as they are excellent foragers. They cope well in most climates and require little specialist help. They are, however, capable of short flight and can reach a reasonable height, so roofing is required if they are to be contained with run system. The cream Legbar crest does need a little more attention as with all crests it can harbour lice and mites more readily.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
Legbars are quite readily available on account of the fact that they are autosexing. Breeders are therefore capable of identifying the hens and disposing of the males on day one which saves investing in rearing birds with little or no sale value. The consequence is that quality can be extremely variable. A pet quality bird can be as little as £12-15 whereas for birds suitable for breeding, or approaching show quality, expect to pay in excess of £30.
ABOVE LEFT: A Cream Legbar hen ABOVE RIGHT: A Silver Legbar cockerel