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The Cream Legbar

Origin:
Great Britain
Recognised by The Poultry Club in 1933

Breeder:
Professor Reg Punnett, Cambridge UK

Parentage:
Brown Leghorn
Barred Rock
Birds from Aracauna Indians (Patagonia)

Classification:
Soft Feather Light Breed
Autosexing

Weight:
Cocks -  7 to 7 ½lb
Hens - 5 to 6lb

Ring Size:
Cock - 18mm
Hen - 16mm

Productivity:
250+

Egg Colour:
Pastel Blue

For some unknown reason in recent years the Cream Legbar is frequently, and incorrectly, called either the "Cream Crested Legbar" or the "Crested Legbar" both names are incorrect,  the correct name is Cream Legbar!

In 1927 well known plant collector Clarence Elliott from Stow-in-the-Wolds in Gloucestershire returned  from his travels in the Welsh speaking country of Patagonia in South America  bringing with him three hens of the 'blue-egged fowl of Chile'. It is known that these blue egg laying hens had been kept by the Araucana Indians of  Chile and Patagonia for more than four centuries. In addition to laying blue, green or olive shelled eggs the birds of the Araucauna Indians had crests of feathers on their heads, and many of them were 'rumpless' having no tail. Elliott's three hens subsequently went to Cambridge University where Professor Reg Punnett was studying poultry genetics and were instrumental, with the Legbar, in producing the blue egg laying Cream Legbar.


The Cream Legbar differs from  the Gold Legbar and Silver Legbar which lay cream or white eggs in two ways;  firstly it lays eggs with blue shells, and secondly it has a crest or head  tuft, both characteristics inherited from 'blue-egged fowl of Chile': it would probably have been better if the Cream Legbar had been given a  different name! Some years later other 'blue-egged fowl of Chile' were introduced into the USA and Britain and were standardised into the 'Americauna' and the 'Araucana' both breeds laying bluish or greenish eggs.

In recent years there has been a boom in the sales of 'novelty coloured eggs' in up-market supermarkets;  these are produced by modern commercial hybrids which lay eggs in a range of pastel blues, greens, and pinkish brown. Some of these hybrids include "Legbar" in their name and it is important that these are not confused with the blue egg  laying Cream Legbar. Unfortunately there are now many cross-breds masquerading as the Cream Legbar.

The Cream Legbar belongs to a group of breeds known as Autosexing Breeds: the 'barring' pattern is sex-linked, the cockerels having two chromosomes for barring and the pullets  only one. Day old chicks of a barred breed have a light patch on the top of the  head, in chicks with black down both sexes are very similar. When the barring  is combined with brown colouring the light spot on the head of the pullets is  small and well defined, an in addition there is a very clearly defined dark stripe down the body. In the cockerels the light patch covers most of the head,  the down is much paler and there is only a very blurred indistinct body stripe.  The Breed Standard give a description of the down colouring.

The Poultry Club of Great  Breed Standard for the Legbar includes the Gold Legbar, Silver Legbar, and the Cream Legbar, though the Cream Legbar unlike the  other is crested, and also lays a blue egg. The standard defines the  Cream Legbar as a Light Breed with the average mature cock weighing in at 7lb and the hen at 5lb. They are upright, muscular bodied, sprightly birds with the typical wedge shaped body of the laying breeds. The Cream Legbar has the typical flighty temperament which one expects to find in a light breed; they  are a rather 'twitchy' and inquisitive breed.  The cocks have a predisposition to aggressive bevaviour!

The cock is a handsome bird with cream and grey barred feathers. It is an upright bird with a large curved  tail. Behind the large single comb the cock sports a small crest or spiky tuft  of feathers inherited from its ancestors of the South American Indians. The  hens tend to have a floppy comb and a much neater, larger crest than the male; they have brownish silver-grey plumage with broad smudged barring, and unlike the male, have a warm salmon coloured breast. The hens may show some brown  colouring to either side of the crest, whilst the cocks may have some chestnut feathers in the crest and in the saddle hackles. The breed was created as a  laying breed and colour faults pale into insignificance in comparison to sky blue egg colour and productivity.

Hen eggs start off with white shells, the final shell colour being added as the egg is formed in the oviduct, the colour is not fixed until the egg is dry and dark brown eggs often  show white patches where the colour has been wiped off in the nest before it was fully dry -this is especially true of dark brown matt eggs. Professor Punnett carried out research into the blue eggs of  Clarence Elliott's three South American hens and in 1933 established that the blue egg colour was the result of a dominant gene (O), and unlike other shell colours the blue of the Araucana egg is not superficial but rather the entire shell is coloured which is a useful guide to the relative purity of the  stock in relation to original Araucanas.

The Araucana and the Cream Legbar originally laid a blue egg, but the introduction of other breeds  resulted in a variation in colour; it is possible to make use of this to produce a range of egg colours. Because the blue shell is the result of a dominant gene (O) both the homozygote (O/O) and the heterozygote (O/o+) will produce blue eggs. When a bird which is homozygous for the blue egg gene (O/O)  crossed with a white shelled breed all the resultant pullets will lay blue eggs, in the case of the homozygote 50% will lay blue eggs.   

The production of tinted and brown egg colouring is complex as can be expected when you consider the wide range of egg colour ranging from cream to tinted through light brown to  dark brown, with or without spots or patches, and either matt or glossy!  In these colour eggs the colouring is in effect 'painted' on the outside of a white shell, and this fact can be made use of to produce 'novelty' colour eggs in combination with a blue shelled egg .... simply blue eggs with a 'wash' of tinted or brown on the surface.  The crossing of a blue egg breed with breeds which lay  a cream or tinted egg will produce blue/greenish eggs; those from brown egg breeds will be  greenish, olive or khaki - with all of them there will be considerable variation in the range of colour.

The Cream Legbar was  originally developed from the white egg laying Leghorn, and so generally lays a  blue shelled egg; however the Barred Rock, which lays a tinted egg, also played  a part in the creation of the breed so it is not unusual for some Cream Legbars  to lay light blue/greenish eggs. The Breed Standard does  include a range of egg colour (blue, green and olive) and some strains of Cream Legbar may lay a mixture of egg colour, however this does indicates that either rigorous selection for blue egg colour has not been carried out, or alternatively that they are not a pure strain - the purest strains will lay  predominantly blue eggs.

In recent years there has been a boom in the sales of 'novelty coloured eggs' in up-market supermarkets;  these are produced by modern commercial hybrids which are either heterozygous or homozygous for the blue egg gene and lay eggs in a range of pastel blues, greens,olive and khaki. Some of these hybrids include "Legbar" in their name and it is important that these are not confused with the blue egg  laying Cream Legbar. Unfortunately there are now many cross-breds masquerading as the Cream Legbar. 


Our birds were selected solely for blue egg colour and productivity and over a period of 12 years only bred one Cream Legbar pullet which laid anything other than pastel blue eggs; I consider feather quality and colour, comb, crest, type and carriage to be of relatively little importance, though having said this I do want them to be typical of the breed! In this breed the final selection will always be egg colour and laying ability.

The Cream Legbar Breed Standard

The Poultry Club of Great Britain
Breed Standard
for the
Cream Legbar

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS :
MALE: Very sprightly and alert, with no suggestion of stiltiness. Body wedge shaped, wide at the shoulders and narrowing slightly to root of tail. Back long, flat and sloping slightly to the tail. Breast prominent, and breast bone straight. Wings large, carried tightly and well tucked up. Tail moderately full at an angle of 45deg; from the line of the back.

Head: Fine. Beak stout, point clear of the front of  the comb. Eyes prominent. Comb single, perfectly straight and erect, large but  not overgrown, deep and evenly serrated (5 to 7 spikes broad at the base),  extending well beyond the back of the head and following, without touching, the  line of the head, free from "thumb marks" or side spikes. Face smooth.  Ear-lobes well developed, pendant, smooth and free from folds, equally matched  in size and shape. Wattles long and thin.

Neck: Long and  profusely covered with feathers.

Legs and feet: Legs moderately long. Shanks strong, round and free of feathers. Flat shins objectionable.  Toes, four, long, straight and well spread. 

Plumage: Of silky texture, free from coarse or excessive feather.

Handling : Firm, with abundance of muscle.

FEMALE
The general characteristics are similar to those of the male, allowing for the natural sexual differences, except that the comb may be erect or falling gracefully over either side of the face without obstructing the eyesight, and the tail should be carried closely and not at such a high angle.

COLOUR
Plumage, Cream Variety, Male:  Neck hackles cream, sparsely barred. Saddle hackles cream, barred with dark grey, tipped with cream. Back and shoulders cream with dark grey barring, some chestnut permissible. Wings, primaries dark grey, faintly barred, some white permissible; secondaries dark grey more clearly marked; coverts grey barred, tips cream, some chestnut smudges permissible. Breast evenly barred dark grey,  well defined outline. Tail evenly barred grey, sickles being paler, some white feather permissible. Crest cream and grey, some chestnut permissible.

Plumage, Female: Neck hackles cream, softly barred grey. Breast salmon, well defined in outline. Body silver-grey, with rather indistinct broad soft barring. Wings, primaries grey-peppered; secondaries very feintly barred; coverts silver grey. Tail silver grey, feintly barred. Crest cream and grey, some chestnut permissible.

In both sexes:  Beak yellow. Eyes orange or red. Comb, face, and wattles red. Ear lobes pure opaque,white or cream, slight pink markings not unduly to handicap an otherwise good male. Legs and feet yellow.

Note : This is a crested variety laying a  blue, green or olive egg.

Standard Weights:    Cock: 7 to 7½ lb;      Cockerel 6 to 6½ lb .
                                    Hen: 5 to 6lb;           Pullet  4½  to 5lb

SCALE OF POINTS
Type                                      30
Colour                                   20
Head                                     20
Legs                                      10
Condition                               10
Weight                                   10
                                            100 Points

Serious Defects: Male's comb twisted or falling over. Ear lobes wholly red. Any white in face. Legs other than orange, yellow or light willow. Squirrel tail.

Defects(for which a bird may be passed): Side sprigs on comb. Eye pupil other than round and clearly defined.   Crooked breast. Wry tail. Any bodily deformity

Downs, Female (Cream): Silver-grey type. The stripe should be very dark brown, extending over the head, neck and rump. The edges of the stripe should be clearly defined, not blurred and blending with ground colour - the sharper the contrast, especially over the rump the better. The stripe should be broad; a narrow or discontinuous stripe should be avoided. A light head patch should be visible, clearly defined in outline, showing up brightly against the dark background.

Male: The down is much paler in tint, the pattern being blurred and washed out from head to rump; it may best be described as pale silvery-slaty.

 

© John S Harrison