White leghorn hens lay more eggs than just about any other chickens, and they rarely go broody. If you want to raise white leghorn chicks from eggs, then, you'll have to use an incubator or slip fertilized eggs under a brooding hen of another breed. You might find the rare white leghorn hen going broody, but she really is exceptional.
There's a lot of good reasons for keeping white leghorns in your flock. They're easily obtainable, hardy, attractive, medium in size and terrific layers. If you let them free-range they forage well, but leghorns also do just fine confined to henhouses. Somewhat high-strung, white leghorns aren't the best choice if you're primarily interested in pet chickens. Because of their prominence in the egg industry -- which demands layers, not mothers -- broodiness has been virtually bred out of them.
A hen going broody sits on a clutch of eggs and don't want to move. She rarely leaves the nest, making exceptions only for brief eating and drinking forays. She stops laying when she's brooding -- so broodiness is obviously not a desirable trait for commercial egg production. Some breeds, such as the buff Orpington, are exceptionally broody. If you keep leghorns along with some broody breeds, you can place some leghorn eggs under the broody hen and she'll raise the chicks as her own.
They rarely go broody, that doesn't mean white leghorns don't lay fertilized eggs if you keep them with a rooster. If you want to raise white leghorn chicks, you'll need to collect the fertilized eggs and place them in an incubator within 10 days. The University of Minnesota Extension website recommends storing hatching eggs in cartons, with the large end up, at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and with a 75 percent relative humidity level. For best results, place them in the incubator within 48 hours after collection. Locate your incubator out of direct sunlight, in an area without temperature fluctuations. Since incubators differ, read the instructions for your device carefully. You'll have to turn eggs several times daily for the next three weeks before chicks hatch.
After chicks hatch, you must place them in a brooder. You can make your own or purchase one from most commercial hatcheries. A cardboard box with a wire screen over it to keep chicks safe from your cat or dog can fill the bill. Line the bottom of the box with newspaper, straw or wood shavings. You can place a gooseneck-style lamp with a 75-watt bulb over the brooder to provide warmth. Feed the leghorn babies commercial chick feed and provide them with a suitable waterer, available at a farm supply store. Don't give chicks water in a bowl, as they can easily fall in and drown. Chicks stay in the brooder for about a month before they are completely feathered and large enough to join the flock.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.