By Susan Nicolas – Despite the huge size of the large fowl Brahma, their docile nature makes it easy for all to handle and training them for a show takes very little effort. The majestic Brahma chickens have that natural stance of beauty and regality. These birds can also adapt to just about any environment and climate range given the proper feed, protection, and preventive care. They have been mostly known as cold weather birds, but given the proper care, do very well in warm climates as well.
History of Brahma Chickens
The Brahma chicken is in the Asiatic class and gained its name from the Brahmaputra River in India, although the chicken breed was actually created in America. In India, the Malay and Cochin chickens were crossed creating large, feather-legged birds, and then they were imported to Shanghai, China, giving them the name Shanghais. They were then crossed with Gray Chittagongs from India which produced the pea comb and beetle brow that we see in the Brahma today. In their early days of refinement the Brahma chicken was called by a variety of names; Chittagongs, Gray Shanghais, and Brahma Pootras were the common ones. Brahmas arrived in the UK around 1840-1850. The first book of poultry came out in 1856 and the Brahmas chicken was included in it. After Queen Victoria was given a small flock, their name was shortened from Brahmas to Brahma. Most of the Brahma development as a breed is credited to the United States between 1850 and 1890. The original parent stock was refined here into what we now know as the Light and Dark varieties. The Buff variety came about later on.
They were first used as a utility fowl for their edibility and continued egg laying and hardiness, even through the winter months.
Appearance/Characteristics of Brahma Chickens
The large fowl (LF) Brahma was admitted to the American Poultry Association’s (APA) Standard of Perfection in 1874. This included only the Light and Dark varieties. The Buff variety was admitted in1924. The bantam Dark Brahma was admitted in 1895, the Light bantam in 1898, and the Buff was admitted in 1946. While the APA only recognizes three large fowl varieties, the American Bantam Association (ABA) Standard of Perfection recognizes five varieties of the bantam Brahma: Dark, Light, Buff, Black, and White.
It takes the LF Brahma about two years to reach full maturity and size. The shape and color description of all Brahmas are basically the same for both large fowl and bantam. The standard weights for the LF Light variety are 12 lbs. in cocks, 9-1/2 lbs. in hens, 10 lbs. in cockerels and 8 lbs. in pullets. The Dark and Buff varieties are generally not as heavy; often weighing one pound less.
Eggshell color is brown. The eggs are small and low in number, but the chicks usually hatch strong and grow quickly.
Important chicken breed characteristics are the wide head and skull creating heavy eyebrows or the “beetle brow,” a small pea comb, a short strong beak, and small wattles. Skin color should be yellow. They are sedate birds, who make good broodies because of their broad bodies and a full breast and can therefore cover quite a few eggs. Plumage should be profuse and smooth fitting. They also have well-feathered shanks and toes.
The Partridge is another popular variety in both the LF and bantam, but it is not yet recognized by the APA or the ABA Standard. I do believe that the bantam Partridge is ready to be voted in to the Standard, but the LF still needs more work and more breeders. Hopefully they will both soon have a qualifying meet.
Behavior and Personality of Brahma Chickens
I have already mentioned that the Brahma chicken is a large, stately, and extremely docile bird making them a favorite in the showroom and easy to handle. They are trusting birds and easy to tame. They also make a fantastic pet for the small flock owner and children because of their easygoing and calm dispositions.
Pullets don’t start to lay until they are six or seven months old and will continue laying throughout the winter unlike some other pure breeds. They are tolerant towards other breeds so can be kept together with other varieties without any problems and can even be submissive toward others, despite their size. Even cocks will tolerate each other. They make very little noise and even the cockerels do not crow particularly loudly.
Because of their tame personalities, one of the fun things that some of us Brahmaholics like to do is dress them up. I have a Dark hen, Mrs. Buddy, who posed with her Easter bonnet and a pair of ears for Miss April one year.
We had one dressed as an Elvis impersonator, and there have been various other characters, mainly during the Halloween season. I don’t think that any of us can claim our sanity 100 percent of the time, but we do have fun.
One other aspect of having a flock of Brahmas that attracted me right away was that the owners were, and are, just as nice and wonderful as the birds are. When I went to my very first show in Lake City, Florida, I had no idea what I was doing. People were so nice to me, taught me, and shared so much invaluable information. Today, I like attending shows so I can get to visit with my Brahmaholic friends.
Care of Brahma Chickens
LF Brahmas can stay behind 2-3 foot fencing because their heavy size prevents them from being great fliers. They prefer dry conditions because of their foot feathering. If they are allowed to run around in the mud, they can develop mud balls on their toes. If this is not removed, the loss of nails or even the tips of the toes can result. With proper care, they can do well in warmer climates as well as in the colder winter climates. My LF Brahmas get plenty of fresh cool water with electrolytes every day. They need to have some kind of air circulating, plenty of shade where they are allowed to roam free, lots of dust baths, and I just let them be. I’m pretty sure these birds have more sense than I do. They know enough to just stay still in the shade during the heat of the day.
Like other bantam chickens, the bantam Brahma requires less space, less feed, and is easy to care for.
Health wise, depending on the flock owner, the birds are regularly vaccinated, wormed, checked for mites, and anything else that needs to be done to keep them happy and healthy.
I do hope that this article has shed some favorable light on the best breed in the world, “The Majestic Brahma.” Remember, to have a Brahma, is to love a Brahma.
There is a website that features the Brahma with a wealth of information and pictures. We also get to chat with other Brahmaholics and you will always get a big welcome from Dee. This is the URL: http://groups.msn.com/AmericanBrahmaClub.
If you would like to join the American Brahma Club or find out more about the Majestic Brahma, please contact: Sandy Kavanaugh, Secretary/Treasurer, 216 Meadowbrook Rd., Richmond, KY 40475; firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in Backyard Poultry August / September 2008 and regularly vetted for accuracy.