Extracted from
Leghorn Fowls Exhibition & Utility
by C A House published Poultry World Ltd

THE CUCKOO  (click for pictures)            return to homepage

The Cuckoo Leghorn, like several other varieties, has had its ups and downs since its introduction to this country in 1884. At times it seemed to be sailing on a wave of success and prosperity, and at others it has experienced an ebb tide which threatened its existence altogether. Why its friends should be so inconstant is difficult to understand. Birds of similar colour such as the Campines and the Barred Plymouth Rocks maintain their popularity, and never get left stranded high and dry as has the Cuckoo Leghorn on several occasions.

In America and Denmark the Cuckoos are known as Dominique Leghorns, and from this one might be led to believe that at some time or the other the Dominique had been mixed with the Leghorn, but there has been little sign of the Dominique in the structure of the Cuckoo Leghorn since I first knew it, and that was shortly after it made its appearance in this country. One can therefore only come to the conclusion that the title Dominique has been applied to it because of its resemblance in colour and marking to the Dominique fowl.

As contrary to the Dominique idea of origin must be set the fad that Cuckoo Leghorns are fairly common in Italy, also in Switzerland, where they have been known for ages and ages.

  In its early days the marking was like unto that of the old-fashioned Barred Plymouth Rock, although more blurred, and consequently after the style of marking seen in the Dominique. About 1906 and 1907 the birds advanced more towards the Plymouth Rock character of marking, and became more distinct- in their barring, although never approaching the clean cut barring of the Rock. This was due, so it was said at the time, to a cross between a Black Leghorn cockerel and Black Plymouth Rock hens. Whether that was true or not, there was no doubt that the cockerels approached the Barred Plymouth Rock in their marking, whilst many of the pullets were distinctly Rocky in shape and style.

  In my many visits to the shows of Holland 1 have been struck with the Cuckoo Leghorns of that country, and have said in reports which I have written that they were superior to those to be found here in England.

In 1925 shortly after the Crystal Palace Show my old friend Mr. E. LI. Simon of Pembroke wrote to me saying that he had noticed I had often spoken in terms of praise of the Dutch Cuckoo Leghorns, and as he regretted to see the variety falling away at our own shows he felt tempted to make an effort to resuscitate it. In the course of correspondence he said that if I really considered the Dutch birds to be better than our own would I on my next visit to Holland secure for him a breeding pen. This I did in January 1926, I purchased the second prize breeding pen at the Hague Show. In my opinion they were a better pen than the winners. When they arrived at Pembroke Mr. Simon was delighted with them and wrote me that they were the finest he had ever seen, and that he had not thought such birds were in existence.

  The sequel was seen at the Crystal Palace Show of 1926 when Mr. Simon won first and second in both classes of Cuckoo Leghorns with cockerels and pullets bred from the pen I sent him: from Holland. The birds were generally admired although some thought they were too distinct in their barring. One very old breeder of the variety said to me : "Yes they are fine birds, they are Leghorns, but I would like them better if they had more of the old-fashioned blurred Style of marking."
  Mr. Simon was satisfied. His Dutch importation had proved themselves as good in the breeding pen as they were outwardly in appearance themselves.
  The barring of the Cuckoo Leghorn is not the clear cut, Straight, sharply defined barring of the Barred Plymouth Rock, but is more open, broader and somewhat irregular, being wavy or zig-zag in appearance as opposed to the Straight lines seen in the marking of the Rock. 
  The colour should be that which the old Rock breeders used to appreciate—two shades of grey, blue-grey, or steel grey, and a lighter bluish grey. This barring should run right through the plumage all over the body, and extend to the wings and tail.

  Many birds fail in flights and tail, some being blurred and having too much of the darker blue colour, and some running lighter and being almost white in the lighter shades of the barring. Those which are too heavy and dark in their barring generally fail in leg colour, being sooty in legs instead of rich clear yellow, whilst those which run light in body colour have nice clear coloured legs.
  As a general rule the pullets come more true in colour and barring than do the cockerels, many of these showing white in tail and flights. Yet these birds although not so valuable for the show pen, are most excellent stock birds, because they prevent the body colour and marking from being too dark and blurred, and preserve the clear yellow of the legs.

  In breeding Cuckoo Leghorns it is not necessary to resort to double mating as both exhibition cockerels and pullets may be bred from the same pen.

  To do this, a first class exhibition cock or cockerel should head the pen, and amongst the hens and pullets mated to him should be some which are of exhibition quality, and some a shade lighter. In the same way a male bird too light in colour and marking may be mated to hens or pullets that are some of exhibition standard, and some that are on the dark side. It only means that in mating up the birds the breeder must keep the standard in his mind, and so mate his stock birds that they will not produce progeny that are too light, or too dark.
  Even when one is careful with their mating there will usually be four distinct classes of chickens bred from a pen of Cuckoos. Some will approximate to the standard, some will be too dark in colour, and others will be too light, whilst the fourth lot will be black and white. Those that are too dark and have had coloured legs will usually be pullets. But here I would give a word of warning—Don't scrap them until they have moulted out. These pullets sometimes change very considerably as they mature. Do not despise the black and white. These may be useful as breeders if one knows the Strain thoroughly, but if you are cramped for room it is wise to sell them as soon as they leave the hen, or the brooder house. Then there will be some very light ones, generally cockerels with good legs, but very faintly marked. There will be little use for these. If you have room you can run them on and kill them when about three or four months old. They make nice table chicks. The others will be those that are the birds that will make show birds. They will be greys and from them will come your champions of the season.

   Cuckoos should be red in eye, and this should be watched. Breed from good sound red eyed birds, and you will keep your eyes right.
  The Cuckoo Leghorn is a Strong, hardy bird, and a most excellent layer. Some have proved their quality in this direction by being high up in the lists at our Laying Competitions.

 

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