Do you have backyard chickens? If so, you’ll know there is a wide variety of breeds, each with its own unique qualities and pros and cons to consider when determining which breed or group of breeds will be right for your backyard coop.
If you want a great backyard chicken which is ideal for both meat and egg production, as well as a fantastic pet, Brahmas might be right for you.
What are Brahma Chickens?
Often called “king of chickens”, Brahma chickens are gentle giants and one of the largest breeds you’ll encounter – only exceeded in size by Jersey Giants.
First bred in the 1800s, the Brahma is the result of cross-breeding the Malay and Cochin to produce a Shanghai chicken. The Shanghai was then taken to North America by sailors, where it was bred with an Indian chicken, the Grey Chittagong. Brahmas were originally bred exclusively as table fare and were unrivaled.
In 1852, breeder George Burnham exported nine of these chickens as a gift to Queen Victoria, and she loved them – dramatically boosting their popularity and value.
Remarkably large, Brahmas were favored as meat producers until the 1930s. They don’t reach full maturity until two years of age, and in the age of industrial farming, this was not seen as being as profitable as using some other, faster-maturing breeds.
Today Brahmas are most popular as backyard pets, and considerably smaller than their forebears of a century ago were.
Appearance of Brahma Chickens
- They are very large and heavy, weighing a heavy 4-5kg.
- Roosters can grow up to 75cm tall!
- They have a wide, tall and cuddly body
- Pea comb
- Short, strong beak
- Broad head, forehead slightly hangs over the eyes (“beetle brow”)
- Dense plumage, with a thick downy layer under the feathers
- Bouncy tails
- Their legs and toes are heavily feathered
- Feather patterns are recognized as Dark, Light, and Buff. Dark Brahmas are black and silver, Light Brahmas are generally white with a grayish undertone. Buff Brahmas are buff with a grayish undertone.
As a general rule, Brahmas will live an average of 5-8 years, longer the better the care and attention they receive. The record for longest-lived hen was 14 years of age.
Brahmas are a calm, docile breed and they make friendly family pets. Their size may be intimidating to some children and other chickens, however, they are not at all aggressive and will not bully other birds. They are not good at flying, so are relatively very easy to contain within a backyard.
Brahma chickens will tolerate being confined to a coop, however, they are good foragers and are very hardy in cold weather.
Due to their impressive size, despite their calm and gentle nature, they tend to be high in the pecking order when housed alongside other chicken breeds. They get along with almost all other chicken breeds and are great in mixed-breed flocks.
Are Brahma Chickens Good Egg-Layers
Brahma hens are slower than other breeds when it comes to reaching maturity and will not usually begin laying until they are six or seven months old. Healthy Brahma hens will lay 120-150 eggs per year, on average; this is around 3-4 eggs per week. Unlike most other breeds, they lay best during autumn and winter.
A small flock of just four healthy Brahma hens will reliably deliver a dozen eggs weekly.
Eggs are medium-sized to large and brown.
Other Things to Consider before getting Brahma Chickens
Brahmas are generally robust and healthy. You do need to be aware of a few things.
- Bearing in mind that their feet and legs are heavily feathered, they need to avoid muddy, wet, or swampy areas as problems like frostbite may occur.
- Feathering is tight and dense, so you need to pay extra attention so they don’t develop mites or lice. You’ll also need to regularly inspect the legs for scaly leg mite.
- Toe feathers (quills) may catch and break off, leading to bleeding – apply pressure to the wound and some corn starch to stop bleeding.
- Bumble-foot is a risk – they are heavy and if they land on anything sharp, it can enter the foot. Inspect feet regularly and watch for limping to avoid infection and death.
- Brahmas do best on well-drained soil in drier areas.
Are Brahma Chickens Right for You?
- Do you want big, friendly, approachable and calm hens?
- Does your coop have sturdy roosts, large nesting boxes, and wide doorways?
- Are you willing to wait 6 months for babies to start laying?
- Are you willing to feed a bit more than for other chicken breeds?
- Can you locate them so their feet stay dry?
- Do you live in a cooler, less humid area?
If your answer to all of the above is “yes” – then the Brahma chicken is right for you!