The Brahma chicken has fans around the world. The country of origin is said by most authorities to be India, which goes with the name and its popularity in English speaking countries. These birds are bred for show and for utility, which means meat and egg production.
When Brahmas were first imported to the United States in 1846, cocks weighed as much as fourteen pounds. Modern chickens are smaller; cocks weigh from eleven to twelve, and hens from eight to nine, depending on the variety. The Light Brahma, a white bird streaked with black, is the most popular variety, but there are also Dark Brahmas and Buff Brahmas.
Although the Brahma has stayed remarkably true to the founding strain in size and shape, modern birds are slightly smaller and there are now three color categories. Early roosters weighed around fourteen pounds and hens as much as nine, but today twelve pounds is more of an average for the cock and eight for the hen. However, their fluffy feathers make them appear larger than they are, so they look very majestic as they poke around the yard or are posed for pictures.
There are three main color categories accepted in the breed, but the original black and white is still the most popular. To show in the US, a bird must meet the marking standards set forth by the American Poultry Association. Both color (a Light Brahma must be black and white with no trace of buff, for instance) and shape are judged, since there is a standard build that makes good breeding stock, good layers, and cost effective meat chickens.
In addition to the Light Brahmas, there is a Dark strain, which is black and white for a male and dark gray and black in a hen. The third color is Buff, which has a base color of warm tan. In all three colors, the face, ears, and wattles should be bright red. There is also a Banty variety that comes in each color but is much smaller.
The comb of all Brahmas is small and close to the head, a pea comb. This is one trait that helps them to be very hardy in cold climates, since they do not have a large comb susceptible to freezing. They do well either as free range chickens, where they must be protected from ground predators but are not bothered by hawks, or in runs. They lay on average three or more eggs a week and are better than average layers in the winter. Their eggs are large and brown. They are not fanatic about setting (except the Banty types) but if allowed to nest will make good mothers.
The chicks are available from most hatcheries, many of which ship the day-old chicks all over the country as soon as the spring brings warmer weather. Check online for local sources and for national hatcheries. There are Brahma clubs to be found in the United States, in England, and in Australia.
Brahma chickens make great pets, are good barnyard fowl, and good exhibition birds. For a well-rounded chicken, who could ask for better?
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