Brahma chicken, or King of all Poultry as it is commonly known, is known for its strength, vigor, and size. By 1901, the chicken was documented to have weighed 13 to 14 pounds for hens and a staggering 17 to 18 pounds for roosters. Around 1850, Brahma chicken and the Cochin breed fuelled the hen fever national poultry obsession in America and Britain.
Brahma is a large chicken breed with pea comb, broad and wide projecting head skull, feathered toes and shanks, and dense down with smooth fitting plumage. They mainly come in three varieties namely; light, dark, and buff Brahma. Both dark and light Brahma varieties were first accepted by the American Standard of Perfection in 1874, while the buff variety was recognized in 1924.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the history, appearance, and characteristics, egg and meat yield, ideal living conditions, benefits, and challenges, as well as the considerations, to make when determining whether to rear Brahmas chicken or not.
History of Brahma Chicken
The origin of the Brahma chicken is not well documented; however, the chicken breed was developed in the United States of America from breeding China’s large shanghai fowls and India’s Chittagong fowls, which gives them the distinctive pea comb. The Brahma name came from Brahmaputra River that flows from China to India and was later shortened to Brahma in 1854 by T.B. Miner the publisher of The Northern Farmer to save space for his publication. You can read our best chicken plucker review.
In 1852, George Burnham shipped nine Brahma chickens as a gift to her majesty the queen of England, Queen Victoria, and made sure that it was highly publicized, to market his stock. This move paid off, as the price of one Brahma chicken jumped from $12 – 15, to $100 – 150. Due to the quality of Burnham’s flock, they were used to develop the dark Brahma chicken variety in England, which was later shipped to the United States of America.
The Brahma chicken remained as the best table fare up chicken due to their large size until 1930, when newer breeds were developed and introduced into the market. Its slow muscle and size gain made it fall from the pecking order and is currently recognized as a heritage breed by the America Poultry Association. In recent years, the Brahma breed has been gaining popularity with backyard homesteaders and chicken keepers.
Appearance and Characteristics
The Brahma chicken has variations on its appearance and characteristic depending on the species that it belongs to. However, outlined below are some of the general appearance and characteristic similarities that the different varieties share.
Brahma chicken is best known for its large size which makes it ideal for meat production. Some of its breed members can grow to a height of 30 inches, but the massive growth largely depends on breeding procedures. In addition, they averagely weigh about 10lbs for hens and 12lbs for rosters making them one of the largest chicken breeds in the world.
It is worth noting that there are five recognized bantam varieties of the Brahma chicken namely; light, dark, buff, black, and white. The bantam roosters can weigh up to 38oz while the bantam hens weigh 34oz. Finding bantam varieties of Brahma chicken tends to be a hard nut to crack as there are very few breeders across the globe, that are listed.
They have a wide, deep, and long body and when they stand, they make a narrow V shape from their side. They also have a small head with prominent eyes, a short and strong beak, and pea comb with small wattles. Brahma roosters are larger than hens.
As stated earlier, Brahma chicken comes in three distinct varieties namely light, dark, and buff. The three chicken varieties have three recognized feather color patterns that help in recognizing them. The good thing is that they have dense feathers, smooth plumage and distinct color patterns which make them distinctive.
- Light: Just like the name suggests, the light Brahma has contrasting white and black feathers. Its plumage is white with a gray undertone. In addition, it has black hackle feathers with little striping on their saddles. Their tail, on the other hand, is black with white laced covert feathers which make them have a great aesthetic look ideal for exhibitions.
- Dark: The male dark Brahma has a solid black tail, breast, and body with silver hackles and black saddle strips while its shoulder area is silver. The hen, on the other hand, has a greyish body, breast, wings, and back with black penciling. Its hackles are black with greyish penciling.
- Buff: The buff Brahma chicken resembles the light variety, only that the buff takes place of white. This means that its body is buff with a gray undertone while its tail is black with buff laced covert feathers. Its warm coloration makes it the favorite among breeders and exhibitions.
Although there have been other color varieties like gold partridge and blue exchequer, they have not been popular enough to be recognized by APA.
Although Brahma chickens are large in size making them intimidating, they are generally friendly birds that enjoy human’s company. As long as you are feeding and giving them treats, they will crawl to your hand for a snack or cuddle. They tend to be generally docile and quiet as they interact with others easily making them easy to handle and the perfect pets.
Due to their large size, they cannot fly easily which in turn makes it easy to contain in a 2 to a 3-foot fence. They set their nests well, are good mothers to their chicks, and are not flock bullies. They, therefore, interact with other birds easily and friendly making them good companies due to their calm personality.
Brahma hens take time before going broody but when they do, they devotedly sit on the nests until their eggs hatch. This chicken breed has a tendency of turning broody during early summer but it depends on an individual hen. It is important to note that these hens have a tendency to develop broody moods once they see another broody hen.
If one of your chickens becomes broody, you might find all your flock exhibiting the behavior the next day. This being the case, it would be wise to separate a broody hen from your flock and let her hatch her own eggs. To ensure that all the eggs are hatched, you may light a candle in the room where the hen is sitting, to ensure that the egg embryos develop to maturity.
Due to their large size, Brahma hens can trample on their eggs and chicks. Keeping a keen eye on the eggs and newly hatched chicks are therefore important, to guard them against any harm. They are also good brooders because they can sit on many eggs due to their large size.
Interaction with others
Interestingly, Brahma roosters tend to favor hens when in a large and mixed flock. They are not destructive or threatening and interacts with other chicken breeds quite well. However, they get attacked by other chicken breeds due to their calmness. This being the case, paying close attention to your Brahma chicken is key, to prevent serious injuries.
If you aren’t sure whether your Brahma chicken is being attacked, look for feather loss, and bleeding signs. If you notice any of these signs, you must separate the injured chicken from the rest and feed it with protein supplement to enable the feathers to grow back quickly. Their great interaction skills make them ideal to incorporate in your already existing flock.
Health and Wellbeing
Brahma chickens have feathered foot which is problematic especially during the winter season. When you leave your chickens to roam around, their feathered feet get wet and muddy thus developing mud balls which in turn cause injury if not attended to. In addition, the wet conditions during the winter season cause the chicken to suffer frostbite in the freezing temperatures.
To manage the injury caused by mud balls, you should inspect their legs quite often and if bleeding, apply pressure and styptic powder on them. To mitigate these injuries, you could opt to confine your Brahma chicken in their house, until the winter season is over. Since the Brahma chicken feathering is tight and dense, they are also more prone to attack by mice and lice.
The chicken, therefore, needs often inspection and application of pesticides to control the spread of lice and mice which could cause diseases if left unattended. Other than the minor health issues outlined above, Brahma chicken is generally hardy with good health and disease resistance, due to their tight feathering and pea comb.
Brahma chickens are good egg layers considering their large size. They are commonly referred to as superior winter layers as they lay the bulk of their eggs from October through May. Their uniformly brown eggs are generally large with exceptionally large yolks best suited for baking or cooking.
The number of eggs that each Brahma hen can lay depends on its individual characteristics with the average being 3 to 4 eggs per week and 130 to 140 eggs per year. You can increase their laying ability by providing them with a secure home, comfortable nesting boxes, and quality feeds rich in calcium and protein. Layer feeds rich in protein and calcium enables them to maintain reliable laying schedules.
Brahma chicken starts laying at the age of 6 to 8 months but can stay for as long as 12 months. Provided you provide them with proper living conditions, they thrive during cold seasons while other breeds are not lying.
The Brahma chicken was and still is considered one of the best meat producing chicken breeds across the world. Their broilers are ready for slaughter at the age of 8 to 10 weeks due to their large size, but 8 months is the most profitable age to slaughter them. They gain body muscles quickly due to the large feed intake and hence their meat-producing prowess.
The average weight of a Brahma rooster is 5 to 5.4kg while the average weight of a hen is 4 to 4.3kg. A Brahma chicken can, therefore, be used to feed a family of four. When you feed your Brahma chicken well, they can weigh more than the average weight. A Brahma rooster generally weighs more than the hen.
Ideal Living Conditions of Brahma Chicken
Just like any other bird, whenever you want Brahma chickens to be productive, you must first provide it with ideal living conditions. Below are some of the living conditions that are ideal for a Brahma chicken.
- Proper housing
Housing plays an important role in the performance of a Brahma chicken. They need a spacious house, preferably 4 square feet per chicken, to roam freely due to their large size. The good thing with them is that they don’t mind living in confinements, unlike other chicken breeds.
In addition, Brahma chickens must live in a well-ventilated house that allows free circulation of fresh air for optimum productivity. In order to avoid suffering an injury due to their feathered legs, the house floor must be kept dry at all times. Although the Brahma chicken acclimatizes with different climatic conditions, the house must be warm during winter and cool during summer.
Installing an electric bulb during winter would make the house warmer while providing shade and water would do during the hot summer season. You must also install comfortable laying boxes if you want to optimize your chicken laying schedules. The more comfortable the house will be, the more the productivity your chicken will be.
- Disinfection and vaccination
Brahmas chicken, just like any other chicken breed, is susceptible to diseases and illnesses. Although Brahma chicken is highly resistant to diseases due to their dense feathers and feathered legs, they need to be vaccinated regularly. This goes a long way in guarding them against contracting diseases which could dip their productivity.
Brahma chicken’s dense feathers make them susceptible to lice and mice infestation. If left unattended, the lice and mice could seriously affect their health and cause diseases. In order to avoid this, they must be disinfected after every four days with a high quality disinfectant.
A prior new castle disease and Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) vaccines must be given to the chicken because they are the most notorious diseases that affect Brahma chicken. De-worming for endo-parasites must also be given after every 8 weeks to ensure better growth and results.
Brahma chickens are no exception to other birds across the globe. To increase their productivity, they must be fed with well-balanced chicken feeds and the right water portions. It is worth noting that roosters and hens have a specific type of feed that they should feed on, depending on their use.
For instance, egg-laying Brahma hens should be fed with feeds rich in calcium and protein as well as greens. Calcium and protein feed enable them to lay a high number of eggs and improve their laying schedule. The good thing with this chicken breed is that they are excellent foragers and can feed by themselves. However, they need to be supplemented with other types of feeds.
The beaks of Brahma chicken breed can grow very long if not managed. This, in turn, makes them waste most of the feeds while feeding, causing great losses. To avoid this, their beaks should be cut off after some time to avoid feed wastage.
Benefits of Rearing Brahma Chicken
When everything is said and done, Brahma chickens come with their fair share of benefits that every poultry farmer should consider. Below are some of the benefits that you get by rearing the chicken breed.
- They add aesthetic value to a home
Brahma chickens come in different varieties namely; light, dark, and buff with each variety having distinct color feather patterns. Their distinct colors patterns are very beautiful and they also have a small head smooth face, and large eyes, which underlines their aesthetic value.
In addition, they are 30 inches tall, have a wide and long body, as well as narrow V shape side view. They also have a beautiful pea comb slightly overhanging their eyes, which underlines why they are most used in exhibitions. Therefore, once you incorporate them in your home garden, they increase the aesthetic value of your home.
- They are hardy birds
Chicken diseases are catastrophic due to their highly contagious nature and their ability to kill in a large number of chickens within a short time causing losses. The good thing with Brahma chickens is that they are hardy and disease resistant due to their dense feathering. This, in turn, reduces their risk of suffering from common diseases like cold which allows you to save on your money.
In addition, the chicken breed has the ability to acclimatize in different climatic conditions which explains why they are able to lay eggs during winter. The chicken breed can, therefore, be reared many parts of the world without any problems.
- They are calm and docile
Unlike other types of chickens, the Brahma chickens are stately, large, and docile birds. Due to their large size, they are not able to fly with ease. They can, therefore, be contained by a 2 to 3 inches fence. They are also very friendly and curious around humans which makes them easy to handle.
Brahma chickens are also excellent mothers and brooders due to their friendly disposition. They can sit on very many eggs at a go due to their large size and can take care of other chicken breed’s chicks. They can also be incorporated in the existing flock quite easily because they are generally friendly. However, Brahma roosters are too docile such that they cannot protect hens from foxes or eagles.
- They are a dual chicken breed
Brahma chickens are both excellent in producing meat and laying eggs. They have an excellent laying schedule with a laying ability of 3 to 4 large brown eggs per week and 130 to 140 eggs yearly. The good thing with them is that you can improve their laying ability once properly and correctly fed as well as provided with better living conditions.
Due to their large size, Brahma chickens are ideal meat yielders and can weigh up to 5.5kg for roosters and 4.5kg for hens. Their ability to intake large volumes of feed and rapidly build muscles makes them the perfect meat yielders. Brahma broilers can start to be slaughtered at the age of 6 to 8 months, thus giving you quick money. One Brahma chicken has the ability to feed a family of 4 people.
Cons of Rearing Brahma Chicken
Although rearing the Brahma chicken comes with its fair share of benefits, it also has its dark sides that you must consider. Below are some of the cons that you might come across once you start rearing Brahma chicken.
- They are heavy eaters
As stated earlier, Brahma chicken consumes a lot of chicken feeds in order to build their large body muscles. In addition, they are great foragers and consume a lot of greens. Their heavy eating means a high cost of production when compared to other chicken brands.
Nonetheless, they are good scavengers which means that they can easily get scavenge for food once you release them into the garden. Once they are full, you can then supplement them with chicken feeds like layers mash for layers. The good thing is that even if they are heavy eaters, they have a high food conversion rate and gain muscles fast.
Chicken feeds can averagely cost up to $20 per 50 kg bag which can vary depending on your locality. You must, therefore, be well prepared financially before thinking of rearing Brahma chicken.
- They take longer to mature
Owing to the size of Brahma chickens, they take a long time to fully mature. For instance, a rooster can take up to 2 years which is a really long time when compared to other chicken breeds. Chicks, on the other hand, take at least 6 months to start laying eggs compared to the four months for other chicken breeds.
This calls for a lot of patience and underlines why Brahma chickens are overlooked as backyard chicken breeds. If you want quick money, then the Brahma chicken is not your ideal chicken breed to invest in. They are ideal for long term purposes because once they start laying eggs and are fully mature, they have efficient laying schedule and produce large volumes of meat as compared to other breeds.
- They have feathered feet
One of the unique features that make the Brahma chicken stand out is its feathered feet. Although the feet are considered an aesthetic magnet, they are rather a curse more than a blessing. This is because during the winter season when it is snowy or muddy, the dense feet feathers capture mud balls, which can cause injuries if left unattended.
This makes this breed of chickens a non-starter in places with clay soil. Occasional inspection and cleaning of their legs are therefore needed to avert injuries. In case of injury, just dress the wound and confine them in the coop until it heals.
Deciding Whether to Rear Brahma Chickens or Not
Now that you know everything that you needed to know about Brahma chickens, it is time to decide whether it is the right chicken for you or not. Before making your choice, there are a number of issues that you must consider as outlined below.
Size of your coop
The size of your coop plays a very big role in determining whether you are eligible to rear Brahma chickens or not. Brahma chickens are one of the biggest chickens in the world and therefore need ample space to live in. Having a small coop will only stress the chickens and affect their productivity.
Before buying Brahma chickens to rear, first, ensure that you have increased the size of your coop so that they can fit. Besides having a large coop, you must also ensure that you have an ample garden space where you can let them roam for some time. Your coop should be large enough such that you can stand in it while collecting eggs.
A coop meant for Brahma chickens should measure an average of 4 square feet per bird. The more the free space the merrier and healthier your chickens will be, as they don’t like overcrowding as it often leads to diseases and feather pecking. Please note that expanding the size of the coop costs money.
Coop door opening
Just like the size of your coop, the opening should be big enough for a chicken the size of Brahma to pass through. If you have a small coop opening, your chicken will find it hard gaining access or leaving the coop. This will, in turn, cause the scrapping of the feathers thus causing injury.
In case your existing coop opening is small, you need to consider re-constructing it to increase its size. While constructing the coop opening, ensure that it measures over 13 inches height because that is the maximum height of a Brahma chicken.
Size of the nesting boxes
Nesting boxes should not only be comfortable but also convenient for a chicken to lay on. Small and uncomfortable nesting boxes will only discourage your chicken from sitting on its eggs to hatch, thus leading to losses. Bearing in mind that the Brahma chicken is twice the size of the normal chicken, you will need to ensure that you have increased the size of your nesting boxes.
Brahma chicken cannot fit in a small nesting box because it is uncomfortable. Changing the nesting boxes should not be a hard thing to do as long as you have the necessary materials.
Your reasons for poultry rearing
Different poultry farmers have different reasons as to why they invest their money in poultry farming. When determining whether the Brahma chicken is the right chicken to invest in or not, you must first ask yourself what your objective is. Your answers to that question will, in turn, inform you whether they are the right chicken to invest in or not.
For instance, if your main objective of venturing into poultry farming is getting eggs to sell or for your family, then the Brahma chicken is not the right chicken to invest in, as there are other better layers in the market. However, if your sole reason is to get high meat yielding chicken, the Brahma chicken is the right chicken to invest your money on, due to its huge size.
The size of the roosting bar
At night, Brahma chicken will need to roost in the coop. That is why the size and sturdiness of the roosting bar are very important whenever you are thinking of rearing large chicken breeds. Just like their size, Brahma chickens weigh twice as much as other chicken breeds that you might be rearing.
In case your roosting bar is flimsy, roosting will be a challenge for the large chicken breed. You must ensure that you have an adequate and sturdy roosting bar in your coop, to provide your chicken with adequate roosting space. Upgrading your roosting bar to 2 by 4 would be ideal for the Brahma chicken.
When opting to rear Brahma chicken, you must invest your money in top quality chicken variety that will give value for your money. Luckily, there are very many hatcheries across the country that sells the chicken breed that you can choose from. However, you must tread carefully when choosing the source of your chicken to avoid suffering losses.
Investing in poultry farming is very lucrative if you do it right and follow the correct steps. Besides providing you with a constant supply of eggs and meat, they are efficient in producing endless volumes of manure which can be decomposed and added to your garden to increase yields. However, get your chicken from well-established hatcheries and those that you can trust.