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The California White Chicken: Are They Better Than Leghorns?

If you’re looking for an easy-going, simple to care for, prolific egg-laying hen for your backyard flock, then California Whites are an excellent choice. These birds are hardy, can lay 5 to 6 white eggs a week on average, are calm and quiet, and tolerate confinement or free-range well.

Key Takeaway

  • White Egg layers
  • Easy to care for
  • Calm and quiet
  • Tolerate confinement
  • Cold hardy
  • Fast-growing
  • Sex-linked (Autosexing )

Background & History of the California White Chicken Breed

Their name may be something of a giveaway, and indeed the California white did originate from California in the United States, where they were bred to be commercial egg and meat chickens during the 1930s.

California Whites are a mixed breed, owing their heritage to White Leghorn hens crossed with California Gray roosters. 

Leghorns were a breed that came to America from Italy in the mid-1800s. They were developed to be prolific, commercial, white egg-laying birds.

The California Gray, like the California White, is a mixed breed chicken that was developed in the United States in the 1930s. Horace Dryden did this from Modesto, CA when he crossed a Barred Plymouth Rock rooster with a White Leghorn hen.

So, as you can see, the California white, in reality, is ¾ White Leghorn and ¼ Barred Plymouth Rock. This combination produces a naturally autosexing chicken that holds well many of its parents’ traits, including the high number of eggs it can lay, a calm disposition, and winter hardiness. 

California Whites exceed White Leghorns in some ways, as they often continue to lay for longer, are friendlier, and have greater longevity. 

The California White is not recognized by the American Poultry Association, and neither does it feature in the Livestock Conservancy Association’s list of American Chicken breeds. 

The reason the California White and the California Gray are not recognized by the APA is that they are crossbreeds. By breeding a California White to White or California Gray to Gray, you don’t get the same results as by using the two different breeds that make up the component parts of each. 

For a breed to be recognized by the APA, there must be extensive proof of their specific traits, and these must be proven as consistent across many generations.

Temperament and Behavior of the California White Chicken

The California white is tolerant and friendly towards people but is not a genuinely tame bird. They are usually calm but energetic. Unlike other active birds, they are known to be gentle towards both people and flock mates. As with any creature, the more they are handled as they grow up, the tamer they will be.

The hens are considered as being one of the quietest, making them ideal for more urban situations. 

They are equally suited for free-ranging or keeping in a coop but be aware that they are also good flyers, so you will need their flight feathers to be clipped if you want to keep them contained in a specific area.

Primarily they are egg-laying birds, but they can also be used for meat as they have an excellent-sized carcass and grow rapidly. The only downside is that their meat can be a little tough.

Although not broody, they do make excellent, attentive mothers. Remember though, that because they are a crossbreed, they won’t breed true.

This type of chicken is ideal for a beginner but possibly less interesting for children, as they are not as easy to tame as other breeds and will be unlikely to become lap birds.

Breed Specifics and Traits of the California White

Appearance – California Whites have a Mediterranean breed appearance, predominantly from their Leghorn genetics. This gives them an alert, upright stance, with their tail feathers held high. They have clean legs and four toes.

Plumage – Their plumage is white, but there are a few flecks of black here and there.

Head – The comb is large in roosters, single and bright red. Wattles are also red and of average size. Ear lobes are white, and the beak is a pale horn color. 

Chicks – The day-old chicks are predominantly yellow with some black or silver markings. 

Weight – Roosters weigh an average of 7 lbs. while hens are closer to 5 ½ lbs. young cockerels are around 6 lbs. and pullets are 5 lbs. 

Maturity – These birds are fast to mature in around 17 weeks. Pullets also typically start laying earlier than many other breeds.

Male v Female – The key differences between males and females, other than overall size, are their larger comb and arched tail feathers in the roosters. They may also have more black flecks than the hens.

Lifespan – Even though these are prolific egg-laying birds, they are fairly long-lived and, in the right conditions, can reach around eight years of age. 

Predators – Because they are good flyers and generally alert, they can evade some predators; however, due to their coloration, they don’t always blend in well to their surroundings and are easy for predators to spot. Providing them with protection against predators is therefore advisable. 

Health and Disease

There are no specific diseases or health conditions associated with the California White chicken. Hens, due to the large number of eggs they lay, can sometimes become egg-bound. This can be prevented by giving a protein and calcium-rich diet when the hens are laying.

All the other usual chicken-associated health concerns are possible with California Whites, including lice, mites, worms, or frostbite of combs in freezing weather. Precautions to prevent these problems must be taken to avoid the issues with your regular care of the birds. 

Good quality, age-specific food must be fed, and they should always have access to clean, fresh water.

Housing is another area that must be done correctly to achieve healthy chickens. They require correctly ventilated, solid housing that can be closed at night to prevent attacks from predators

The housing must be cleaned regularly and treated to prevent it from harboring lice and mites. It also needs to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Therefore proper insulation and even heating is another consideration. 

Remember too that chickens can carry diseases that may be contracted by people. Good sanitary practices are therefore essential. 


The large white eggs the California White chicken lays can be even more prolific and laid for a longer duration each year than leghorn chickens. 

Hens will begin to lay from approximately 17 weeks of age onwards. When in their prime egg-laying years, hens can produce in excess of 300 eggs per year.

How to Get Your Own California White Chickens

For fun, you could create your own California White chickens by crossing the appropriate breeds. You may also be able to find them advertised in feed stores, online, or elsewhere. 

Another way of getting some is by locating a suitable hatchery and purchasing hatching eggs or chicks. We recommend Cackle Hatchery, although there are many located across the United States. 

Chick prices from Cackle Hatchery

  • Unsexed day-old chicks = $1.85 to $2.65
  • Female day-old chicks = $2.35 to $3.40
  • Male day-old chicks = $1.10 to $2.10

Prices vary according to the number of chicks purchased and are subject to change at any time. Chicks are not available throughout the year and are seasonal.


Although the California White was produced to be a dual-purpose bird, it really works best as an egg layer. It is the perfect chicken for anyone looking for an easy to keep, adaptable bird which is quiet and gets on well with other flock mates. 

They really are a truly versatile breed, able to live equally well in a small backyard run in the suburbs or a large free-range situation in more open countryside. They tolerate moderate heat and cold, and, when provided with good food, shelter, and management, are long-lived and productive. 

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