Brahma

Brahmas are an Asiatic breed of chicken, originating in the Brahmaputra region in India where they were known as “Gray Chittagongs.” Their heritage is unclear, but they are believed to be closely related to the Jungle Fowl (Gallus Gigantus) and the Cochin.

The first Brahmas were brought to the U.S. from British India in 1846, and were used as a utility fowl for their edibility and generous egg laying and hardiness even during the winter months, although today they are kept mainly for ornamental purposes as selection for utility has taken a back seat to selection for appearance. Some of the earliest imports to the U.S. reached weights of nearly 14 pounds, but rarely is such massive size seen today: standard weight for a cock is 11 pounds; hens are 8.5 pounds. By the 1870s Brahmas had become so popular that they were admitted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.

Temperament

Brahmas are calm, friendly birds that make good pets or exhibition fowl. Males are calm and generally not aggressive towards humans. They are not skittish or easily scared, making them a popular choice for families with children. Due to their docile demeanor, Brahmas can be easily trained so that they can be handled by almost anyone. They should be hand trained when young because their large size makes them difficult to control in the early stages of training if they are full grown.

Appearance

Brahmas are massive in appearance, in part due to profuse, loose feathering and feathered legs and toes. Approximate weights:

  1. Cock – 12 pounds (5.443 kg)
  2. Cockerel – 10 pounds (4.536 kg)
  3. Hen – 9 pounds
  4. Pullet – 8 pounds

Recognized varieties

The American Standard of Perfection recognizes three Brahma varieties: light, dark, and buff. The light Brahma has a base color of white, with black hackles edged in white and a black tail. The cocks’ saddle feathers in a light Brahma are striped with black. The dark Brahma has the most notable difference between cock and hen. The hen has a dark gray and black penciled coloration with the same hackle as the light whereas the cock has black and white hackles and saddle feathers, and a black base and tail. The wings of a dark Brahma are white-shouldered and the primary feathers (remiges) are edged with white. Buff Brahmas have the same pattern of black as light Brahmas, except with a golden buff base color instead of white. In Australia Brahma Breeders are creating more colours and along with the accepted American varieties – Light, dark, and buff the Australian Poultry Association have accepted black, blue, partridge, crele and even barred varieties of Brahma.

Pekin (not available anymore)

Characteristics

Pekin bantams are a True bantam, a breed of miniature chicken which has no large fowl counterpart,(also known as erroneously Cochin bantams, although in the UK Cochin bantams are simply miniaturised versions of large Cochin) are round, and their carriage tilts forward, with the head slightly closer to the ground than their elaborate tail feathers. This ’tilt’ is a key characteristic of the Pekin bantam. They have sometimes been described as looking like little walking teacosies, or feathery footballs. The cockerels often have longer feathers that protrude outwards from their feet. The range of Pekin colours is extensive, including black, white, buff, lavender, mottled and red – and the list is continually growing. Rarer colours are in great demand, and many breeders spend years perfecting new lines of colours in their birds.

Pekin Bantams are very docile, and with careful and regular handling they will be happy to sit on their owner’s lap to be stroked and petted. They make ideal pets for families with younger children for this reason. However, the Pekin bantam cockerels can still be aggressive and defensive of their territory and mates once they reach sexual maturity, but are generally gentle natured and have been known to share incubation of the eggs.

The hens are regularly broody and are known to be good sitters and attentive mothers.

Approximate weight (metric)

Cock 680 g
Hen 570 g

History

The first Pekins are alleged to have been looted from the private collection of the Emperor of China at Peking (former name of Beijing) towards the end of the Opium Wars around 1860. However, some sources suggest that a consignment of birds from China around 1835 were given to Queen Victoria, assuming the name of ‘Shanghais’ and that these birds were bred with further imports and were developed into the breed we know today as Pekin Bantams. They are known in America and Canada as Cochins. This is the subject of some debate within the pekin/cochin breeders community.

Silkie

The Silkie (sometimes incorrectly spelled Silky) is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as dark blue flesh and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot (most chickens only have four). They are often exhibited in poultry shows, and come in several colors (red, buff, blue, black, white, and partridge).

In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. Among the most docile of poultry, Silkies are considered an ideal pet. Hens are also exceptionally broody, and make good mothers. Though they are fair layers themselves, only laying about three eggs a week, they are commonly used to hatch eggs from other breeds and bird species.

Silkies most likely originated in China, but Southeast Asia is also sometimes proposed. The first western account of the breed comes from Marco Polo, who mentioned chickens with fur-like plumage in his Asian travelogues in the 13th century. The Renaissance author Ulisse Aldrovandi also spoke of chickens akin to Silkies. Today, the breed is recognized for exhibition, and is fairly common in the poultry world.

History

It is unknown exactly where or when fowl with their singular combination of attributes first appeared, but the most well documented point of origin is China. Other places in Southeast Asia have been named as possibilities, such as India and Java.The earliest surviving written account of Silkies comes from Marco Polo, who wrote of a furry chicken in the 13th century, during his travels in Asia.In 1599, Ulisse Aldrovandi, a writer and naturalist at the University of Bologna, Italy, published a comprehensive treatise on chickens which is still read and admired today. In it, he spoke on “wool-bearing chickens” and ones “clothed with hair like that of a black cat”.

Silkies most likely made their way to the West via the Silk Route and maritime trade. The breed was recognized officially in the North America via acceptance in to the Standard of Perfection in 1874 (the first year of publication).Once Silkies became more common in the West, many myths were perpetuated about them. Early Dutch breeders told buyers they were the offspring of chickens and rabbits, while sideshows promoted them as having actual mammalian fur.

In the 21st century, Silkies are one of the most popular and ubiquitous ornamental breeds of chicken. They are often kept as ornamental or pet chickens by backyard keepers and in zoos, and are also often used to incubate and raise the offspring of other poultry (including waterfowl like ducks and geese) and game birds such as quail and pheasants.

Characteristics

Silkies are often a bantam breed, but this varies according to region, and many breed standards class them officially as large fowl. Almost all North American strains of the breed are bantam sized, but in Europe the large is the original version. However, even “large” Silkies are relatively small chickens, with standard bantam size males weighing only four pounds (1.8 kilos), and females weigh three pounds (1.36 kilos).The American Standard of Perfection calls for males that are 36 ounces (1 kilo), and females that are 32 ounces (910 grams).

Silkie plumage is unique among chicken breeds; Silkie-like feathering may appear as a recessive mutation in individuals of other varieties, but no other true breed has it. It has been compared to silk and to fur. Their feathers lack functioning barbicels, and are thus similar to down on other birds and leave Silkies unable to fly. The overall result is a soft, fluffy appearance.

Silkies appear in two distinct varieties: Bearded and Non-bearded. Bearded Silkies have an extra muff of feathers under the beak area that covers the earlobes. They also are separated according to color. Colors of Silkie recognized for competitive showing include Black, Blue, Buff, Gray, Partridge, Splash and White. Alternative hues, such as Cuckoo, Red, and Lavender, also exist. All Silkies have a small Walnut-type comb, dark wattles, and turquoise blue earlobes. In addition these defining characteristics, Silkies have five toes on each foot. Other breeds which exhibit this rare trait include the Dorking, Faverolles, and Sultan.

All Silkies have black skin, bones and grayish-black meat; their Chinese language name is wu gu ji  literally “dark boned chicken”), meaning “black-boned chicken”.Melanism which extends beyond the skin into an animal’s connective tissue is a rare trait, and the Silkie is one of only a handful of chickens to exhibit it. Disregarding color, the breed does not generally produce as much as the more common meat breeds of chicken.

Silkies lay a fair number of cream-colored eggs, but production is often interrupted due to their extreme tendency to go broody; a hen will produce 100 eggs in an ideal year. Their capacity for incubation, which has been selectively bred out of most egg-laying fowl, is often exploited by poultry keepers by allowing Silkies to raise the offspring of other birds. In addition to being good mothers, Silkies are universally renowned for their calm, friendly temperament. They do well in confinement, and interact very well with children. This docility can cause Silkies to be bullied by more active or aggressive birds when kept in mixed flocks.

Orpington

The Orpington is a breed of chicken named after Orpington, England,which was made famous in part by this breed. Belonging to the English class of chickens, it was bred to be an excellent layer with good meat quality.Their large size and soft appearance together with their rich color and gentle contours make them very attractive, and as such its popularity has grown as a show bird rather than a utility breed. They go broody very often, and make great mothers. Being rather heavy, they are able to fly small distances and rarely do, so they work well as backyard birds. Due to their build they do well in very cold climates. The fluff of their feathers allows rain water to penetrate, so they must be kept out of the rain.

History

The original Black Orpington was bred by William Cook in 1886 by crossing Minorcas, Langshans and Plymouth Rocks to create a new hybrid bird. Cook selected a black bird that would exhibit well by hiding the dirt and soot of London. The first Orpingtons looked very much like the Langshan. According to the British Poultry Standards, the White was bred in 1889, the Buff in 1894, and the Blue in 1905. When the breed was shown in Madison Square Gardens in 1895, its popularity soared.

The original colors are black, white, buff, blue and splash. Although there are many additional varieties recognized throughout the world, only the original colors are recognized by the American Standard, the Buff being the most common.In the beginning of the twentieth Century Herman Kuhn of Germany developed a Bantam variety.The Bantam retains the large appearance, but in a smaller size. Like the Standard varieties, there is a large variety of colors in the Bantam version (i.e. black, blue laced, white, buff, red, buff black laced, barred, buff columbian, and birchen.)The Bantam retains the friendly personality of the Standard breed, and seldom or never flies, so it too makes for a good backyard.

Appearance

The Orpington has a heavy, broad body with a low stance, and the down from their body covers most of their legs.

Some characteristics of an Orpington are:

  • Heavy weight (7 to 10 pounds),
  • Soft, profuse feathering, which almost hides the legs of the bird,
  • Curvy shape with a short back and U-shaped underline,
  • A small head with a medium single comb.
  • Large and usually easily tamed
  • Fluffy feathers making it look distinctively large.

Approximate weight (metric)

Rooster 3.8 Kg
Hen 3.2 Kg
Bantam Variety Orpington
Rooster 2.0 Kg
Hen 1.6 Kg

Cochin

The Cochin or Cochin China, originally known as the Chinese Shanghai, is a breed of chicken. The name Cochin came from the original Chinese name (in pinyin: jiujin huang, pronounced jil jin hwaang), meaning nine jin yellow, erroneously conflated with the then-current names for what are now parts of southern India and Vietnam, where jin is a traditional Chinese measurement of weight. In China itself, the name  is actually used for any large chicken or even a dish made from one.

Quick Facts

Cochin ancestors first originated in the united states after the Chinese Shanghai chicken, which was tight-feathered and had moderate to no feathers on their legs, was brought to the eastern coast around 1845. They soon became a hit, and Shanghai lovers took the fluffiest and most feather legged chickens to breed them for those traits exactly. Their result was vey nice, with the fully feather-legged and fluffy chicken we now call the Cochin. This began what was known as the “hen craze,” which stretched from the mid-1800’s to the early 1900’s, when people around the world bred chickens purely for their looks, rather than to create a better egg layer and such. The Cochin today is a very large, fluffy feathered bird with fully feathered legs and feet. Their very fluffy cushion and short, fluffy tail give them a unique look, with their short, curved-looking back as a result. The cochin is a hardy, friendly , and docile chicken. Cochins also will adapt very easily to confined spaces or open range. Cochin hens are fairly broody and good mothers, however, they are slow to mature. This breed was admitted into the APA in 1874. There are 18 colors of the cochin chicken, six of them being birchen, blue, buff, gold laced, red, and white. The standard-sized cochin is of the Asiatic class, and the roosters weight 11 pounds, while the hens weight 8.5 pounds. The bantam version of the cochin is of the feather legged class. The bantam rooster weighs on average 32 oz, while the hen weighs a smaller 28 oz. A male’s comb should be of medium zise, with five points that stick straight into the air. He should also have round and long wattles and earlobes. The female has a rather small comb, which conforms to their head. Their wattles and earlobes are small as well.

History

This chicken was originally bred in China and later exported to Britain and America in the mid 19th century. As a very distinctive breed of chicken, it apparently created a bit of a craze among poultry lovers in the English-speaking world, effectively launching poultry fancy as we know it today.Not only was this breed one of the largest seen, with cocks weighing up to 11 pounds (5 kg), but also the soft and plentiful plumage makes the bird quite conspicuous by exaggerating its already large size. Once in the United States, the breed underwent considerable development into its current state. There is also a bantam version, which is often called the “Pekin bantam”, but should not be confused with the separate true Pekin bantam.

Characteristics

As above, the most distinctive feature of the Cochin is the excessive plumage that covers leg and foot. The skin beneath the feathers is yellow and the egg colour is brown. Eggs are also medium in size. Standard weight is 11 pounds (5 kg) for a cock, 9 pounds (4 kg) for a cockerel, 8.5 pounds (3.9 kg) for a hen, and 7 pounds (3.2 kg) for a pullet. Colour varieties include buff, black, partridge, blue, silver laced, splash, golden laced, and white. Cochins also come in a variety called frizzled, in which the feathers are turned outward. Cochins are well known as good mothers, even as foster mothers for other breeds, and they can lay many eggs, but usually not for extended periods of time. Cochins are also known to be good pet hens for the garden, as they are tame and regarded as one of the most ‘friendly’ chicken breeds. Cochins are quiet chickens. They scarcely crow or cluck, only when laying eggs.

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