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This is my favourite of all the Leghorn family. It is over forty-five years ago that I bought my first Brown Leghorns from the late John Hurst, of Glossop, and I have never lost my love for the Brownies. The first special ever I won for " the best bird in the show " was with a Brown Leghorn pullet.
In general breed characteristics, such as comb, face, wattles, lobes, beak, legs and feet, the Brown resembles the White. But the colour and marking of the Brownies are their great charm and fascination.
There is not a more handsome bird on the show bench than a first-class Brown Leghorn cockerel. He is a noble looking fellow indeed. Take him from his head onwards, commencing with his stout, yellow beak, firmly set in his deep, well proportioned skull from which rises his upright, evenly serrated rich, red, five-pointed comb.
A face also rich cherry red, free from roughness, crinkles, or white spots. Eyes
bright red, full and sparkling. Wattles of the same rich hue as his comb and
face, not too long, fine in texture, and free from folds.
Then to set off all this comes his lobes, well developed, pendant, smooth as kid, and free from hollows, folds and wrinkles, or rosy tints, and of a pure ivory white in colour. So much for his head.
Now comes the neck. This should be long, well arched and profusely feathered. Each feather should consist of two colours.
Years ago breeders favoured a rich golden bay with a broad stripe of black running down the centre, but of late years the fashion has changed and now a lighter and brighter shade is desired, almost a lemon colour ; in fact, it is Spoken of as " lemon coloured." The feathers at the top of the hackle and the throat are without the black stripe. The hackle should be full feathered and fall gracefully from the top of the neck down to the back.
The back should be level with a dip towards the tail. I have heard this description criticised, also " straight back," but the critics, although they have said level and straight were not corrected, and were agreed that the term horizontal would be wrong, could not suggest a better word. The words level and straight, whichever is used, simply mean that there must be no excrescences on the back, and it must not be round, or " reached." If the back is not level the tail cannot be properly carried. The colour of the back is a deep, rich red, as are the shoulder coverts and wing bows.
Beautiful indeed are the closely braced and well-carried wings. The primaries are brown, the secondaries a rich deep bay on the outer web, and jet black on the inner web. The wing coverts a rich bluish violet, forming a broad and even band across the wing, which is called the wing bar. When the wing is closed, only the deep rich bay of the secondaries is seen.
The saddle hackle is full and abundant, and of somewhat the same colour as the neck hackle, but slightly deeper in tone or shade.
From the saddle flows the full feathered, broad sickled, green black tail, free from white or grey marking on the tail itself, although there may be a bit of grey fluff at the root. The tail coverts are black.
Look at the bold, rich, glossy black breast, with its beetle green sheen and freedom from white, grey, or brown flecks or splashes. Those strong thighs also of the same colour, and the whole supported by a pair of long rich yellow legs. Is it not a picture that calls for admiration !
Now let us look at the points of a first-class exhibition Brown Leghorn hen. Note her neatly folded comb, fine, smooth wattles, and lovely ivory white, kid-like lobes. Her rich golden hackle, with each feather distinctly showing a black stripe. The red throat feathers which merge into the lovely soft salmon red of the breast, which in its turn fades away and becomes lighter and is of an ashy green tint round the vent and thighs.
Her body colour is not so gorgeous as that of the cock, being of a light brown and carrying finely pencilled black marking. Her wings are of the same colour when closed, but when opened out it is seen that the inner web of the secondaries are black, as in the cock. Her tail is black, pencilled with brown. She certainly is more soberly attired than the cockerel, yet the very softness of her colouring has its charm, and she is most pleasing in it altogether.
Mr. F. G. Edwards, of Pembroke, one of our
oldest breeders and exhibitors of Brown Leghorns writing on his favourites says
" When first introduced, they were known in two colours, Browns and Whites, but these have been added to until, to-day, we have such a glorious selection of colours that the most fastidious can surely find something to appeal to him among the Browns, Whites, Blacks, Blues, Buffs, Duckwings (Gold and Silver), Piles, and Cuckoos ; and in addition to these there are a few Partridges about.
" I believe it was at the Palace, in 1913, that Mr. Toothill awarded second or third to a Partridge Pullet, and very nice she looked, resembling the Partridge Wyandotte in colour, and having a neat comb and lobe.
" I have heard of an attempt to introduce the Lemon Leghorn, a bird resembling in colour Brown-red Game, and if these could be perfected their breeder would be well rewarded for his labour by their beauty. Further, we have the Rosecomb Leghorns, which have not as yet made the headway they deserve. So far as I am aware, the most serious attempt to popularize the Rose-combs has been made by the admirers of the Blacks, and from time to time quite nice specimens have been on view, mostly staged by northern fanciers. I see no reason if these are persevered with why they should not become quite as useful and popular as their single-combed relations.
" The American breeders seem to be going even further, by again dividing the varying shades of Brown into two definite classes ; but I am unable to appreciate the attempt, because I cannot recognize its use, and I feel sure my friends of the Brown Leghorn Club will have nothing to do with this.
" Breeders of the Browns were kept along the path of virtue by stern necessity. The very sensitive colouring of this variety did not lend itself so readily to an outcross, and any course that improved the size at the cost of the beautiful colour would be a doubtful gain indeed. There are people, whose position in the Fancy lends weight to their utterance, who assert that the Browns were crossed with Black-red Game to improve their colour, and the fact that some twelve years ago cockerels were being staged with bright golden hackles, sometimes totally devoid of striping, and frequently very faintly ticked, seems to support their assertion.
" I would certainly recommend any beginner to .take up Browns. Having decided on your colour, your next step will be the selection of your stock. It is, I suppose, common knowledge that the breeding of Leghorns by the most successful breeders is done on the double-mating system—that is, one pen specially mated to produce exhibition cockerels, and another pen mated to produce exhibition pullets. It may be that in the self-colours some decent specimens of either sex are produced from one pen; but still the former practice is the most prevalent, and certainly gives the best results. There is a class of people, some of them of wide experience, who assert that double mating means disaster and decay to any variety, but I must confess I am totally unable to appreciate this point of view, as this system means specialization and concentration, and specialization in business generally means efficiency, and efficiency success. Now the selection of your stock is a most important matter ; bad selection means failure and disappointment. Don't think, as so many do, that by purchasing one winner here, and another there, and mating them together, relying on the theory that ' like will beget like,' that you will be all right.
" The selection of stock requires anxious thought and knowledge. There are very few people outside the Fancy who realize the anxious thought the breeder of pedigree slock gives to his mating. How carefully he Studies the properties of his birds, and how diligently he seeks to make good any they may lack. How carefully he scrutinizes the tendencies of a certain line, so that he may, by his mating, direct Nature along that course he is anxious she should take. All this care and thought is amply repaid by the lovely specimens that our best breeders are able to stage from time to time.
" The beginner, not having this experience and knowledge, easily goes astray. The best advice I can give him is to put himself in the hands of some breeder of repute, state his wants and his means, go as far as he possibly can in securing the best, and always remember that ' good ' things are valuable ; and if he meets with the same kindness and assistance at the hands of Leghorn Breeders as I have, he will have no cause to regret it.
" In mating for exhibition, in the self-colours, the principal difference would be the head points. At the head of your cockerel-breeding pen you need the best exhibition cock or cockerel you can procure, and hens or pullets excelling in colour and type, and with plenty of bone. The comb should be well cut, and quite free from malformation of any kind, and strong at the base. Indeed, the combs of many cockerel-breeding pullets are quite erect. The whole pen must be in robust health and condition. In your pullet-breeding pen your cock, or cockerel, should be as large as possible, with good colour, bright yellow legs, his comb should be large, well cut, fine in texture and thin at base. Combs of this description frequently fold over the face, like a pullet's comb. His mates should be the best exhibition hens or pullets you can procure.
" In mating Browns the same remarks apply for head points, but the colour of the different sexes would be more dissimilar. Here you would want for your cockerel, an exhibition cockerel, very bright in colour, with golden yellow hackle, endowed with a pronounced black stripe; indeed, if you could procure one (they are not easy to find) with the stripe too dense he would be useful for stock. He must have a rich green-black breast, quite free from lacing or patches of brown or white, and a good flowing tail, carried low. Mated to him should be hens or pullets, large and upstanding, with very light body colour; in fact, the best cockerel-breeding hens are nearly wheaten in colour, with a free sprinkling of red or rust through their body colour. For your pullet-breeding pen you want the largest cockerel you can find, well up on legs, and a darker shade of colour ; with a clearly striped hackle, and quite free from white on breast or wings. Mated to him should be the largest and best headed exhibition hens or pullets you can find; as nearly as possible free from rust or shaft. With these you should secure a fine percentage of good pullets.
" With pens mated on these general lines you should speedily make your presence felt in the exhibition world, provided you have secured your Stock from approved sources.
" It should be borne in mind that the most successful breeders are not show-day fanciers only. They lavish the utmost care on their chickens, and follow them with unremitting attention from the time they emerge from the shell until they have them fit for the show pen. All fowls require to be shown in form, but many varieties do not rely so much on sparkling condition as the Leghorn. Their head points, being such an important part of their make-up, are wonderfully sensitive to the slightest loss in condition. This is particularly so with the pullets. A Leghorn that in form may be a champion, with a very slight loss in condition becomes a commoner.
" In conclusion, I can confidently recommend the Leghorn to anyone about to enter the Fancy, or to anyone seeking an additional variety. Their beauty is universally acclaimed; their utility properties are beyond reproach ; they are splendid layers, easily reared, mature quickly; so that the culls can be cleared off easily. They are especially suited to the working man, or backyard fancier, in any walk of life. I feel sure a much greater percentage of winners is bred by backyard Leghorn fanciers than of any other variety under similar conditions, and there is always a demand for good specimens. Lastly, Leghorn fanciers are the best of good fellows, and a day spent at a Club Show in their company is a holiday indeed."
That highly successful Yorkshire breeder, Mr. J. W. Morton, says :-
" The Brown Leghorn has not been allowed to deteriorate through the craze for size and limb, as in some of the other varieties, because in the question of type no other variety of Leghorn has kept so near to the standard as the Brown. Breeders, in the mating up of their breeding pens, should line breed, as there is as much variation in the different strains for pullets as there is for cockerels.
Profile of a Pullet Breeding Brown
" Now take pullet breeding, of which I am in favour. When I say line breed, I must not be taken to mean that success is to be secured by getting a pen of birds or a sitting of eggs from any noted strain and just hatching from these. By so doing one is not guaranteed a run of beautiful, soft-coloured pullets. One may do so, but suppose you lose the male bird, who is to guarantee that the next selection will be of the right colour, and will produce the right colour, even if bred from the male of the original pen ?
1.Profile of a Brown Pullet-Breeding Cock
" Colour is most important in the Brown Leghorn, and it is on colour I write. First we select, our birds for body, comb, lobes and legs. We must have type. Then colour, which is all important, gives cause for much thought. As an example we take a pullet whose ground colour-is not brown, but grey. Such a bird would be too dark for the show pen, but this shade of colour having in its composition more black than red has the effect of keeping down rust, or foxiness, which is most desirable. Now, if a cock whose colour is such as we want be mated to this pullet the progeny should be fairly satisfactory. My idea of the colour for such a cock is dark purple (as against an exhibition cockerel, the colour of which I would describe as bright maroon). But the progeny from this mating would be too dark. To tone this down we require a male somewhat lighter in colour on saddle, but care must be taken in selection here, as the shade shown on the exhibition male would not help but hinder, as from one such as this rust would follow—the very worst defect, in an exhibition pullet. This is where line breeding comes in, as in breeding for pullets the colour in the females does come in different shades, as also in males. Therefore, I select a cockerel with shoulder colour which I would describe as light purple ; but even from this mating with the dark pullet we may get the desired soft colour. But more often we would get a combination on the pullets—mottled-looking feathers, one light the next dark. This is no use for showing, however valuable the pullet may be for stock, but if put back to the father or another of the same shade as the father, one may expect what is wanted in the pullets from this mating.
" Now, if one has pullets more of the brown shade, or somewhat like the colour of a cock-breeding pullet, if free from rust, they are valuable stock birds, provided that one is sure they are line-bred birds, for if not difficulties will arise. Many cock-bred pullets show even a lighter top colour than we get on the finished exhibition pullet. To this pullet of light colour we put one of the darkest purple shoulder-coloured cockerels, and even at the first time we get the desired colour in the progeny.
" The main point in breeding cockerels is to gain the rich bright maroon top
colour, with breast and fluff free from brown splashes, good while earlobes,
sound red face, free from all l faces of whiteness, and sound under-colour and light feathers. The male bird for a cockerel breeding pen should be in all
points an exhibition specimen ; soundness of under colour must be carefully
"The hens or pullets running with such a bird should be especially good in hackle colour and striping." (see right)
|"If they are rusty or red on the wing, so much the better." (see right)|
1.Profile of Cock-Breeding Pair
||" A few lines on the utility side of the Brown Leghorn may be of interest. It is a breed that glands confinement well, and is quite as suitable for the suburban poultry keeper as for those with more extensive runs in the country. As a layer it will Stand comparison with the majority of breeds, and is a fair table bird, the flesh being very good. The constitution of the bird is hardy, and the chicks grow and feather quickly."|
" In conclusion, I may say that my opinion of the Brown Leghorn is that in intrinsic value it is the best of all the Leghorn tribe, and to any who are desirous of taking up a good all-round breed, either for a confined or unlimited run, they cannot do better than go in for the Brown Leghorn."