A large feather footed chicken, which is raised for meat production on farms, but which has been judged as too slow in meat production for commercial facilities. Brahmas are a slower growing chicken than Cornish, but they also lack the skeletal problems of Cornish chickens.
Brahmas are decent egg layers for their size, and will maintain some egg production through the winter. They tolerate cold really well, but not so good with heat.
The chickens are good foragers, though their larger size makes them slower and they do not range as far as smaller breeds. They don't tend to fly over fences, and stand confinement fairly well.
Brahma hens do go broody in the warmer months, and have been known to crush eggs in the nest due to their size. An increase in calcium (free choice eggshells or oyster shell) can help to make their eggs stronger so this does not happen.
They can be prone to obesity if kept in confinement for breeding. Letting them run on pasture, where they obtain at least 50% of their food from forage or fodder foods, controls this tendency and keeps the birds healthy and fertile.
- Type - meat
- Size - large standard
- Production Capacity - rapid production of broilers, slower production of roasters, moderate egg production which usually lasts through the winter
- Special Features - produce broilers by 8-10 weeks of age
- Best for Farms - great for pastured meat production
- Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - large brown eggs, tender broilers
- Other Products - not applicable
- Historic or Contemporary Significance - One of the largest chicken breeds, but without the problems of rapid growers.
- Housing and Space Requirement - require ample nest space, and room to forage.
- Regional Adaptations - well adapted to cold climates
- Feed Requirement - forage necessary to reduce problems with obesity, and they require more protein to sustain large growth than smaller birds (this means insects, butchering scraps from other animals, mealworms, redworms, etc). Fertility may improve with the addition of yellow vegetables for vitamin A, and wheat germ or flax seed.
- Other Considerations - Cornish and Cornish Cross broilers grow excessively fast, and they keep on growing past butchering age. If they are kept as breeders, their skeletons are not sufficient to support the massive weight. Brahmas do not have this issue, they grow more slowly and their bones develop in proportion to their weight.
A NOTE ABOUT CHICKENS:
Many breeds are not included here due to poor availability, or due to genetic or health issues which make them impractical for small farm or homestead use.
All chicken breeds can be used for dual purpose, but there is a trade-off between meat production and egg laying - a bird cannot be very high in both. There is also a trade-off between egg laying and broodiness - simply because broodiness interferes with high volume egg laying to a certain extent.
So... egg layers that produce a lot of eggs will generally be smaller in size than meat producers. Meat producers will lay fewer eggs than lightweight layers - generally the heavier the bird, the fewer the eggs. Highest egg production seems to be in birds weighing 4-5 lbs. Higher weights slow egg production, and very small breeds also lay less.
Solid dual purpose breeds will meet somewhere in the middle, with a moderately large carcass, and good egg production through most of the year, about 150 to 200 eggs per year on the high end. Weights for dual purpose birds tend to range around 6-9 lb.
Sizes listed will have Standard after the size if they refer only to the Standard size breed.
Most Chickens also have a Standard size bird, and a Bantam size that goes by the same name, BUT, they are NOT necessarily the same breed! The APA gets a little confused where Bantams are concerned, because as long as the general appearance is the same, they don't care how they got that way, and whether any other traits match or not, and often the appearance diverges as well. So Breed descriptions generally ONLY apply to Standard size birds, unless the breed described here is specified as a Bantam Breed.
Bantams may come about in one of four ways:
1. Some breeds are naturally small, and they are Bantam only. This includes Sebrights, d'Uccles, d'Anvers, and many others. These breeds have the most easily digestible eggs in the chicken world, and they are NOT available in Standard sizes.
2. Some breeds are bred down, selecting for smaller and smaller size to achieve a Bantam breed. This is the most time consuming way to get a Bantam chicken. Characteristics other than size may change in the selection process if the breeder is careless - you generally lose something in egg laying capacity, and health or hardiness simply because of the genetic restriction involved. This is the ONLY case in which the Bantam is actually truly the "same breed" as the full sized variety.
3. Some breeds are created with a combination of breeding down for size, and careful cross breeding with existing Bantam birds, to create a cross breed that is smaller but retains more of the characteristics of the goal breed. Done well, this can produce a Bantam with a fairly close match to the original, though egg laying capacity will still generally be compromised. This results in a separate breed, NOT a "variety", though the APA lists them erroneously as two varieties of the same breed.
4. Often, existing Bantam breeds are simply crossed to come up with a bird that has the appearance of the goal breed. In doing this, breeders tend to concentrate on appearance, and forget entirely about other traits. Utility traits are the most commonly ignored. Frequently, behavior, production traits, even some physical traits, are broadly divergent from the original full sized bird. This results in a separate breed, NOT a "variety", though the APA lists them erroneously as two varieties of the same breed.
Bantam breeds generally lay less than full sized breeds of the same name - typically about half the laying capacity, sometimes less, rarely more. Bantams are, in general, more broody than full sized hens, in part because they have not been bred for high production, and this trait makes them fairly prolific when allowed to brood eggs. It also makes them very useful in brooding standard size hen eggs, or eggs from quail, partridge, or other small birds. In spite of their small size, they can successfully hatch full sized chicken eggs, though they do not cover a large number of them.
Bantams can be used for meat, though they produce a carcass more like a dove than a chicken.
They WILL fly, whereas only lighter weight standard breeds will fly much. A Bantam can take flight and travel by air over buildings, around trees, and out of sight within a few seconds.
Many breeds of chicken which were originally good utility birds are not listed here simply because they have been bred for show for so long that utility traits are now gone.