The California Gray breed of chickens was developed in the United States to be a dual-purpose breed. The hens lay large white eggs and both roosters and hens are meat producers. However, the California Gray breed was never recognized officially by the American Poultry Association and today the breed is rare with few raised in the United States.
In 1908, Dr. Horace Dryden, a professor at the Oregon Agricultural College (now known as Oregon State University) experimented by crossing white Leghorns and Barred Plymouth Rocks. White Leghorns are small white chickens known for excellent white egg production. Barred Plymouth Rocks are a very popular heavy breed of dual-purpose chickens with alternating black and white stripes. In 1927, Dr. Dryden moved to Modesto, California, and started the Dryden Poultry Breeding farm. The Leghorn and Barred Rock crosses were sold as California Grays, a high producer of white eggs.
California Grays are an autosexing breed. Very young cockerels (males) are a lighter color than the young pullets (females). Thus the sex of the young birds can be easily determined by color. The roosters are barred with light gray and white stripes. The hens are also barred but with very dark gray or almost black and white stripes. The color is similar to a Barred Rock but the body style more resembles the Leghorn breed. The chicks are black with a white spot on the top of their head. The abdomen, chest and wing tips are also white.
California Grays are heavier than the Leghorn breed but not as large as the Barred Rock breed. The roosters average 5.5 pounds and the hens 4.5 pounds. They have a red single comb and small white earlobes. The eyes are reddish-brown and the shanks and toes are yellow.
California Grays produce large quantities of white eggs. They are well known for their winter egg production in cold climates. The California Grays are described as having a quieter temperament than Leghorns. They are not as flighty. California Gray roosters have been crossed with white Leghorn hens to produce the California White hybrid. California Whites are known as a hardy breed and are excellent white egg layers.
Because the American Standard of Perfection has not accepted the California Gray, it is not subject to classification by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Ekarius, C. (2007). Storey’s illustrated Guide to poultry breeds. Storey Publishing.