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What I Wish I Had Known Before Buying Cream Legbars

We bought some hatchery quality Cream Legbar pullets this year. Partly on a whim and partly as a cross breeding project in our mixed flock. I really didn't know much about them, beyond the fact that they are blue egg layers with a cute little fluffy mohawk.

Once I got them home and found out how darned friendly they were, I promptly added them to the list of my favorite breeds. This also called for some more in-depth research on what I had gotten myself into.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find that I had been misled in my expectation of purchasing actual CREAM Legbars. These commercial hatcheries really are something else.

As it turns out, Legbars come in a few different colors. The Cream variety is maybe the most popular, but ironically NOT the most common. But since there is a chance that SOME of the hatchlings in the hatchery's stock will be cream colored, they just market the whole lot as Cream Legbars. Here is what I learned:

1. The name of the breed is Cream Legbar. Calling them "Crested" is unnecessary. A knowledgable private breeder will call them Cream Legbars. If a private breeder calls them Crested, or CCL, I will assume they don't know what they're doing and look elsewhere.

2. Most birds sold as Cream Legbars aren't actually the correct color. What most people get are Golden Crele Legbars. The cream gene that is responsible for the cream coloring is a recessive gene and requires a copy of the gene from BOTH parents in order to express itself. Hatcheries aren't breeding selectively and they don't care about proper color.

3. You cannot tell the difference between a Cream Legbar and a Golden Crele Legbar by the chick down color at hatch. You also cannot tell whether a Golden Crele Legbar is carrying a single copy of the cream gene and could produce a true Cream if mated to another bird also hiding a single copy.

4. Adding to the color challenges in this breed is a tendency to carry a gene (or a combination of genes) responsible for over melanization of the plumage. Black crest feathers are a sure sign. Autosomal red is a term you will find discussed among serious breeders too. Over melanized or autosomal red expressions should be culled out of breeding flocks. Again, hatcheries don't care.

5. Good stock will have clearly defined autosexing traits at hatch. Anything that does not appear to be clearly male or clearly female at hatch should be culled from breeding stock. Hatcheries don't care, and didn't care when they selected their stock.

6. Not all Cream or Golden Crele Legbars lay blue eggs. There have only been 5 imports of this breed to the US - A, B, C, Rees1 and Rees2. The importation of the Rees line of legbars includes green egg layers. The Rees lines have infiltrated the A, B, and C lines, so there's no guarantee your hatchery stock will lay blue.

7. Cream Legbars have not been recognized as a breed by the APA (American Poultry Association). They do not have a solid breed standard of perfection (SOP) for breeders to go by. There is a proposed SOP, but it will likely be revised before the breed ever gains recognition. This creates a bit of a wild west approach to breeding. Talk to a knowledgeable breeder about what their personal SOP is, and what their breeding goals are.

8. Cream Legbars should be fleshy, robust birds. Most of the hatchery stock is lean and smaller than the proposed or European standard.

9. I have now learned that any Cream or Golden Crele Legbars I will be purchasing in the future will come from a knowledgeable breeder whose stock is at least close to the proposed SOP or the European SOP. The birds should breed true at least 50% of the time.

Out of the 21 hatchery stock "Cream Legbar" I got this year, 3 were not purebred, 5 were poorly marked at hatch, one was lost due to failure to thrive, two had outrageous autosomal red, several are over melanized, and I think the rest are Golden Crele. I did end up with one pullet that appears to be the correct color. The 6 I ended up keeping are very sweet little girls, but if I could do it all over again, I would have done things differently.

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