The Brahma Chicken – Raising a Large Breed
Brahmas Are Different Than Smaller Chicken Breeds
Many people ask me what is the best backyard chicken breed to raise. For me, my favorite has long been the Brahma chicken. Although I do feel like that is such a personal question and depends on so many factors. Usually, my answer will be something along the line of, if you are looking for a good egg layer, choose a hybrid such as the Red or Black Star. If you want a calm, peaceful chicken, try the Buff Orpington chicken.
Beautiful to behold, the Brahma chicken stands head and shoulders above the flock. A large chicken, the Brahma is pleasant to have around with a friendly disposition. Many people have a favorite chicken in their flock or a favorite breed because of the way it looks or the high egg production. Some are excellent broody hens and raise chicks easily to add to the flock. I don’t know exactly what drew me toward the Brahma chicken and raising Brahmas, but the attraction has led me to gathering the Brahma chicken in three different colors, so far.
The exact origin of the Brahma chicken is not well documented. The name is from the Brahmaputra River in India. Some guess that the Brahma was developed from the Chinese Shanghai and the Chittagongs during the early days of settlement in California. The Brahma chicken breed has been recognized in the American Poultry Association since 1874.
Brahmas are adaptable to most climates. You might guess that with their heavy body and thick feathering, they would be intolerant to heat but I have not found this to be true. We routinely have days in the 90’s during the summer and the Brahma hens do not pant or show any more distress than any other birds in our flock. Providing shade and cool water for all chickens is necessary anyway. On the other hand, as one might guess, Brahmas are very cold tolerant. The heavy weight and the feather covering on the legs helps it deal with cold temperatures. Egg laying during cold weather is good too.
The Brahma chicken breed stands out because of it’s large size. The roosters can weigh up to 12 pounds. Hens usually weigh close to 10 pounds. A bantam variety of Brahma chicken is also available. These miniature Brahmas weigh in around one pound or less.
Are Brahmas Good Egg Layers?
The Brahma was primarily used as a meat chicken, and with the roosters weighing a huge 12 pounds or more, that is understandable. We are not raising chickens for meat so all of my Brahmas are kept as egg layers or chicken eye candy. They do lay eggs for us too, and while they are not consistent on a daily basis, they do gift us with enough eggs to earn their keep.
What Color is the Brahma Chicken?
Brahmas can be found in four colors, black, buff, dark, and white. More often the white variety is referred to as a light Brahma chicken. I am happy to own three of the four colors of the breed. I have not even seen a black Brahma chicken in real life but when I do, you can be sure I will be trying to purchase some hatching eggs to complete my collection!
Is the Brahma Chicken Right for You?
Now that I have explained a little about what to expect in this chicken breed, is it the right breed for you? Some things to consider are the size of your coop, adequate sturdy roost bar, pop door opening, and the size of the nesting boxes. Keep in mind that the Brahma is going to be almost twice the size of your other popular egg laying breed hens. Fitting into a small nesting box won’t be easy or comfortable. If you have a small pop door, the Brahma might be scraping her back feathers on the door every time she goes in or out of the coop. Roosting at night will be a challenge if the existing roost bar is flimsy. I definitely suggest that you upgrade to a sturdy 2 x 4 for the Brahmas.
If you are raising chickens for eggs for your family and you want the best chickens for eggs, the Brahma is not your breed. Brahmas are not a high egg production hen. They do lay a fair amount of eggs, but some people may feel that the lower production than a Rhode Island Red makes them undesirable for a backyard homestead.
Feathered Feet: a Bonus and a Curse
The feathered legs and feet are a feature that I love. But, the heavy feathering does collect mud during a rainy season and needs to be cleaned from time to time for comfort and hygiene reasons. Also, during the winter, snow and ice can accumulate in the feathered feet and cause problems. Checking your Brahma’s feet often may be necessary.
The Brahmas we have a range in temperament from shy to very friendly and curious. I have not had an aggressive or mean Brahma in the flock. Some will even come up to me and beg for attention. Another plus, since they don’t object too much to being held, and they can’t run as fast as the lighter breeds, they’re easier to catch!
So what do you think? Are you ready to raise a Brahma chicken?