The Cream Legbar has become a firm favorite here in the US at least, in part for its’ blue eggs.
It is a fascinating study in genetics as few breeds have had their origins so well mapped.
As you may imagine, the breed was not created overnight, in fact it took several decades of study, research and testing to get the bird we know today.
In this article we explore the Cream Legbars’ temperament, if it’s suitable for your flock, its blue eggs and more…
Cream Legbar Background and History
Prior to 1931, there was no such bird as a Cream Crested Legbar.
The story of this bird is the result of the work and vision of two men: Professor R.C. Punnett and Professor Michael Pease of Cambridge, England.
Professor Punnett led the Breeding Program at the Genetic Institute for Cambridge University. Michael Pease worked with him and when Professor Punnett retired Professor Pease took his place. Punnett a famed geneticist who went on to write many papers on genetics, was working on producing chickens that would be auto-sexing, making sexing chicks easier and foolproof.
In 1930, Clarence Elliott, a renowned horticulturalist, gave Professor Punnett some South American Araucana chickens that he had collected on his travels. These chickens laid blue eggs.
Professor Punnett, now retired and working at home, started crossing these birds first with a gold penciled Hamburg. Numerous crossings and back crossings followed and eventually he produced a cream colored bird.
The Professor now had a color never seen in chickens before – cream. This was a breakthrough in finding a recessive gene.
Professor Pease, working separately also came across the cream coloring in one of his projects. The two men crossed their birds and the Cream Legbar was eventually born.
It was first exhibited in 1947 at the London Dairy Show.
We are lucky to still have this breed around today. In the 1970s the breed almost became extinct.
There was no market at that time for ‘novelty’ eggs, so people were not buying them. That started to change when the more ‘up-market’ stores started selling the blue eggs.
Suddenly, the Cream Legbar was popular again.
The Cream Legbar is a light fowl, with males weighing 7½lbs and females weighing 6lbs. It has a triangular shaped body with a long, flat back.
They have a single red comb with 6 points, wattles are also red. Earlobes are cream or white. Eyes reddish bay in color and the beak is yellow to horn colored. The beak has a slight downward curve. Both sexes have a crest which should not fall forward otherwise it will obstruct their vision.
The neck is long leading down to a full breast. The bird is moderately broad at the shoulders leading into a flat slightly sloped back.
Males hold their tails at 45 degrees, the hens slightly less. Wings are held close to the body.
The coloration of the Cream Legbar is a combination of cream and grays. The barring is most noticeable on the tail and breast of the males. Females barring is much more subtle and she may have some salmon color to her neck and breast.
Legs should be clean, yellow in color and have four toes. They have an upright, alert carriage. The skin also is yellow.
Currently the American Poultry Association does not recognize the Cream Legbar as a breed. It is however recognized by the Poultry Club of Great Britain since 1958, where it joined the other two Legbar varieties – gold (1945) and silver (1951).
It is classified as a rare, soft feather light fowl.
Disposition and Egg Laying
There seems to be some disagreement about the temperament of this bird. Some sources say they are flighty, nervous and noisy; whereas others say they are docile, friendly and easily handled.
Why the discrepancy?
Perhaps it has to do with there now being two distinct strains.
There are those that conform to the original standards and those that can best be described as ‘production’ birds. In general, Cream Legbars are friendly, easily handled and quite sociable. However, they do have a wild side which is why they don’t particularly care for confinement.
They are excellent foragers, very watchful and predator savvy.
Roosters can be aggressive, especially in the mating and breeding season.
Cream Legbars are very productive layers, averaging 4 medium sized light blue eggs per week which equates to around 230 eggs per year.
Some sources state they are broody, others disagree. Broodiness will therefore depend on which strain you have.
They are autosexing which means chicks are distinct at hatching. The female will have a noticeable dark chipmunk stripe down the back; the males’ stripe is much less distinct. Poorer quality birds will likely be difficult to sex.
Autosex vs Sexlink
Just what is the difference between auto-sexed and sex linked birds?
- Autosexing birds are those breeds that will produce offspring that can be sexed at birth. The chicks will go on to breed with their kin and produce more autosexing chicks.
- Sex linked chicks require two different parents – for example a New Hampshire rooster with a Barred Plymouth Rock hen = black sex link chicks.
The sex linking requires you to have two separate breeds to pair up as the sex link chicks will not breed true.
Common Health Issues
They appear to be a healthy breed of bird with little in the way of problems. The crest should be carefully checked for lice as birds with ‘headgear’ have a tendency to collect them.
Whilst very rare, they can get a type of ‘wryneck’ or torticollis. This may in fact be ‘Seahorse Syndrome’ which is caused by a rare type of recessive gene particular to crested breeds.
As with all crested breeds, you should be careful when introducing juveniles to adults. The skull is still not completely formed and a peck in the right spot can cause brain injury.
In addition to these health concerns, you have the usual parasites which can be expected (mites, lice and worms). Regular health checks and preventative measures will keep your birds healthy.
Is the Cream Legbar Right for You?
The Cream Legbar is a chicken that enjoys foraging, so if you can provide them with an area to patrol so much the better. Although they can tolerate confinement, they don’t do if gracefully and may become flighty and difficult.
They do have a tendency to get picked on in a mixed flock, so they should be kept separate or with docile, non-aggressive breeds.
In general they are a fairly low maintenance bird in the way of special needs or care, so would be ideal for beginners. Since the APA does not recognize them currently, 4H is not an option at this time.
Small children should not be near the rooster until it has been established what sort of personality and how aggressive the bird may be, this is especially important during mating season.
If you are looking for a chicken that is different, lays blue eggs and is semi-independent, this may be the chicken for you.
The Cream Legbar chicken is now a firm favorite here in the US as well as its homeland.
The prestigious lines of Jill Rees (UK) have been imported in the US, but unfortunately a few of these lovely birds will set you back quite a few dollars.
They can be bought cheaper from some hatcheries, but as always – you get what you pay for.
We hope you have enjoyed learning about the Cream Legbar and hopefully you might add a few to your flock.
Let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions about this breed…