Did you know that there are different breeds of white hens? These are considered to be the laying hens par excellence all over the world, as they are the ones that lay the greatest number of eggs with the least amount of fodder. They are light birds with a spectacular tail, which in the cockerel is usually very well developed and in the hen is open in the shape of a fan. Do you want to know more about them?
White hen breeds
The white hens we are going to show you below have some unique characteristics. If you are thinking of buying some, pay attention to this information to find out interesting facts about the different varieties.
1. White Australorp
This breed of white hens, originally from Australia, is derived from the Orpington chicken. Its breeders were in pursuit of a thriving dual-purpose chicken (for its meat and eggs). They usually have three colours: white, blue and black.
They lay an average of 250-300 eggs per year, weighing between 3 and 4 kilos. The highest recorded rate is 364 eggs in one year. In addition, this breed can be used as a pet, as it is docile, friendly and warm. They are very hardy animals, which can withstand hot and cold temperatures.
2. White Plymouth rock
Yellow-footed, it is a friendly and hardy bird. With a good egg production, its meat is also highly valued. They can lay approximately 280 brown eggs annually.
They are broody hens that often incubate their eggs and those of other hens in the coop. Their adult weight is between 3.5 and 4.5 kilos.
3. Bresse gauloise
They owe their name to their French origin. It is a domestic breed with four colours: blue, grey, black and white. Their earlobes are usually white, although the legs and feet are bluish.
It is also a dual purpose breed. They usually lay between 200 and 250 white eggs per year. In terms of meat, females weigh between 2 and 2.5 kilos and males between 2.5 and 3.
Despite its wide range of colours, in the United States the main varieties are white and salmon-coloured. It is a very beautiful animal, with a certain fluffy appearance. They have a medium size, short legs and live well in different climatic conditions.
These hens love to brood, and can lay 150-180 eggs per year.
It is a bird with a very characteristic plumage, as it is feathered all the way down to its legs. It is small, but has a big personality! They are very friendly, although they are easily intimidated.
They lay small eggs, and weigh between 1.8 and 2.7 kilos. They are actually an ornamental breed, and their meat is not usually marketed because of their small size.
6. California White Hen
A cross between the California grey chicken and the white leghorn chicken. It is easily recognised by the black speckles on its feathers. It is a layer (at least 300 eggs per year, medium to large size) and very hardy. It does very well in small, confined areas, such as chicken coops.
7. Yokohama Hen
They were bred for exhibition, and therefore a clear distinguishing feature is the long, flowing tail, especially in cockerels. This hen is docile, friendly and tolerates confinement well, but requires special housing to accommodate the length of its tail. It is not a laying hen and is currently at risk of extinction.
8. White Araucana
The white araucana is small and native to Chile. You should know that this is a very unique breed of white hens, which lays blue eggs and has no tail feathers. In addition, a very characteristic tuft can be seen on their cheeks. Other characteristics are their upright posture and sloping back.
9. White Ameraucana
They come in different colours. The white ones have grey legs and distinctive beards on their heads. Their eggs are blue in colour, and are large or medium-sized. They usually lay around 200 eggs a year. They stand out, however, for their great resistance.
10. White Leghorn
These hens are characterised by their yellow skin and legs with white plumage. They are very popular with farmers, weighing between 1.8 and 2.5 kilos and producing more than 300 large white eggs a year. They are hardy, not broody, and take about 5 months to lay eggs. However, they are not ideal as a source of meat.
11.White Rhode Island
These medium-sized birds are very quiet, and have been bred in the United States since 1888. They have yellow legs and skin, white feathers, are friendly and fit well in chicken coops. They produce 220-280 large brown eggs per year. They are also a source of quality meat.
Home gardens and farms
When keeping chickens at home, it is not enough just to buy good specimens: you must also know how to look after them and feed them. Water is essential, especially in hot weather, so you must have drinking troughs for hens that they cannot get into and where the water is always clean.
On the other hand, the feeder must be large and well placed so that it is not contaminated by the activity of the hens themselves. Ideally, you should have a small space or garden where they can roam freely and look for seeds, plants or insects to eat. It is common to throw whole grains around the pen for them to peck at and supplement their feed with cereals in the feeder.
It is not necessary to have a cockerel in the pen, but if there is, the eggs will be fertile and hatching them may result in a chick. Hens need at least 14 hours of sunshine a day to lay eggs, so to achieve this you should face south in your poultry house.
On the other hand, remember that the compost from the hens can be used in the garden. Chicken manure, which is obtained from the excrement of laying hens, provides a lot of nutrients to plants, as it is rich in protein and minerals. However, as it can contain a lot of nitrogen, it is advisable to mix it with manure from other animals or vegetable waste to improve its quality.
The importance of animal welfare
When setting up your farm you should be aware that, in recent years, progress in the legal and regulatory field of animal welfare has been increasing. A large part of this is due to new trends of opinion among consumers, distributors and, of course, producers.
The latter have come to realise that their hens' eggs are of higher quality the better they are cared for. It can therefore be said that animal welfare is the key to a unique product. What is sought is a state of complete physical and mental health, in which the animals are in harmony with their environment.
How can animal welfare be achieved?
Firstly, ensure that the birds are free of physiological abnormalities, diseases and other basic factors such as malnutrition. On a mental level, you need to assess their sensory state (the level of restlessness they may feel, fear, etc.). Although this is difficult to do, you will be able to establish some criteria based on your knowledge and constant observation of the birds. On the other hand, as far as environmental aspects are concerned, you have to assess the external conditions surrounding the hens.
Keep in mind that farmers have internalised certain ethical values in recent decades. Nowadays, for example, it is not considered acceptable to produce food from farm animals that are subjected to any kind of suffering, however minimal. Competitiveness and quality objectives are also pursued: the better the welfare of the hens, the better the product offered. In this respect, it is important to have sanitary controls, good water quality and adequate facilities. For example, hen houses and drinking troughs should not be skimped on.
On the other hand, achieving hen welfare means avoiding anything that causes stress. To do this, there are a number of factors to keep in mind.
- Social. Here you have to take into account the mixing of races, overcrowding, behavioural control...
- Environmental. Light, temperature, noise and comfort conditions must be adequate.
- Nutritional. They must be kept properly fed and hydrated.
- Veterinary. They must be healthy and free of pathologies.
What can the absence of animal welfare cause?
If you do not properly assess the above factors, the hens will be more nervous. This will result in an increase in cortisol in their bodies, which can affect their health and the health of the hens they live with.
In addition, their appetite may be affected. And, if they are poorly fed, the resulting product will be of poorer quality because the animals will not develop to their full physical potential. Also, their immune system will be weakened, making them less responsive to pathogens.
Now that you know about the various breeds of white hens, you can choose the one that suits you best. However, always remember the importance of ensuring their welfare; meat from a well-treated specimen of a supposedly less valuable breed can end up being much better.