Beautiful Bantams: Black Cochins and Silver Spangled Hamburgs

Two Beautiful Varieties of Bantam Chickens

Beautiful Bantams: Black Cochins and Silver Spangled Hamburgs

By Grace McCain, Oklahoma The comparison of Silver Spangled Hamburgs and Black Cochins is proof that there is variety in the world of bantam chicken breeds, and that there is indeed a bantam for everyone! Though I have enjoyed raising several different breeds and varieties of bantams, these two stand out as my favorites, and are actually quite different from each other. Flighty or docile, tight feathering or soft abundant feathers, slim physique or rounded appearance, smooth clean legs or profusely feathered feet—the options these birds offer are enough to write an article on…and so I have!

What are those gorgeous “black spotted” little chickens called black Cochins? That is what I remember thinking on a cold December day, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, at the first poultry show I had ever visited. That first pair of black Cochins, which I brought home in a cardboard box because that was the only way I knew how to transport chickens, became the foundation for not only my love of Hamburgs, but my interest in showing bantams.

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Large fowl (Standard) Hamburg cocks weigh 5 pounds and hens weigh 4 pounds. Bantam Hamburg cocks weigh 26 ounces and hens only 22 ounces. They also have a red rose comb. Photos by Grace McCain unless otherwise noted.

Bantam Hamburgs
Hamburgs have been rightly described as “trim and stylish with delicate features.”

Bantam Hamburgs are a relatively small bird, with cocks weighing 26 ounces and hens a mere 22 ounces. Bantam Hamburgs not only come in this beautiful Silver Spangled variety that I raise; but are also recognized in Golden Spangled, Gold Penciled, Silver Penciled, Black, and White.

True to the rule of thumb that eggs with white shells are laid by birds with white earlobes, they lay a good number of small, white-shelled eggs. There is no reason to expect low fertility or low hatch-ability from these hardy birds, though they rarely decide to brood their eggs.

Their temperament is naturally flighty, but with some work, tame show-ready birds may be achieved. Though a Hamburg may have been tamed, it will still have a love of flying, and will be much happier in a large area where it can run, flap its wings, and overall enjoy its ability to fly. For cold winter weather, it has been my experience that their rose combs and very good health (except for one instance, I never had a sick or injured Hamburg) makes them naturally cold-tolerant. The only disagreement about these beautiful bantams seems to be their place of origin. The name suggests a German origin, perhaps from Hamburg, Germany itself, but poultry historian Craig Russell believes they originated in Turkey, whereas a general consensus places their roots in Holland. To locate breeders of this graceful bantam, and for more information, visit the North American Hamburg Club website: http://www.northamericanhamburgs.com.

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Because of the heavy full feathering, the bantam Cochin chicken is much lighter than it looks. The standard weights are set at 30 ounces for the cock and 26 ounces for the hen.

Bantam Black Cochins

Similar to my start with Hamburgs, I first bought Black Cochins bantams at a local poultry show. With this breed, my initial shock was how little they actually weighed. Though their abundance of feathers will lead you to believe otherwise, the black Cochins hens weigh only about as much as a Hamburg bantam cock, and just a few more ounces more than a typical Old English Game bantam cock. Black Cochins bantams’ desired weights are 30 ounces for a cock and 26 ounces for a hen. If black Cochins are too plain for your liking, bantam Cochins are also recognized in Barred, Birchen, Black Tailed Red, Blue, Brown Red, Buff, Buff Columbian, Columbian, Golden Laced, Lemon Blue, Mottled, Partridge, Red, Silver Laced, Silver Penciled, and White.

The red-earlobed black Cochins lay small eggs with a brown tint. Not only will the hens attempt to hatch their own eggs, but also those stolen from neighboring birds, along with large pebbles and small apples. Rivaled only by the Silkie, Cochin chickens in general are notoriously broody, though they have low fertility without some help by way of feather clipping or artificial insemination.

The temperament of black Cochins is extremely docile, making them a good choice for children. They do well in confinement due to their excessive feathering and the fact they could barely fly or run, anyway. If you do choose to let your Cochin bantams free range, it is best to avoid rainy days since their full foot feathering will become dirty at best; caked with mud at worst. For winter, there are not many precautions you need to take, besides the typical weather-proof housing, and perhaps a coat-ing of Vaseline on their single combs.

Ever since their importation from China to England in the 1800s, black Cochins have done much in the world of poultry — even helping with the start of poultry showing. The original name Shanghai is outdated, but some Cochins are still called Pekins in countries outside the U.S. To locate breeders of this docile bantam, and for more information, visit the Cochins International Club’s website: www.cochinsint.com.

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As a lightweight bird, the Hamburg is flighty and doesn’t do well in confinement. These birds will do best kept in a large run or free-ranged, where they can move freely and enjoy their ability to fly.
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Cochins have heavy, fluffy feathering that gives them a round, plump appearance. This feathering also covers the legs and feet. This abundant feathering can make mating difficult so some breeders clip the feathers in the vent area.

Silver Spangled Hamburgs bantams were the first show bird addition to my poultry flock, and Black Cochin bantams were the last, but through their unique personalities and beauty I have learned to better appreciate the small chickens we call bantams.

Originally published in the June/July 2012 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.

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