Fondly called a gentle giant among chickens, the Brahma is a large, robust bird with feathered legs and a docile personality.
While their origins date as far back as the 1800s, today these beautiful birds have become a popular addition to the backyard flock.
Why? Because of their incredibly friendly temperament and ability to tolerate confinement.
In this ultimate guide for raising a Brahma chicken, we’ll look at three main things: how to care for these large birds, whether they are good layers, and everything you should know before adding this chicken breed to your flock.
Where Did the Brahma Chicken Come From?
There are few breeds with a history as rich as the Brahma. Their history is fraught with controversy, and as with many heritage breeds, the exact genetic makeup of this bird is unknown. But, researchers believe that the Brahma breed was developed in the United States from very large fowls or birds imported from Shanghai.
The origin of the Brahma dates as far back as the mid-1800s and was believed to include a combination of the Chinese Shanghai breed, which is the cross of the Cochin and robust Malay, and the Chittagong, native to India.
Owing to the Queen’s delight with these gentle giants, the chicken breed became so popular that ‘hen fever’ spread across the world.
This was not a poultry disease, but rather a craze among chicken breeders who just had to have a Brahma at the time!
Although Brahma chickens were initially met with excitement, their slow growth rates led to their downfall.
Only after many years was the Brahma placed into recovery status through the livestock conservancy and recognized as a meat and egg laying chicken.
Types: Light Brahma, Dark Brahma, and the Buff Brahma
In the early 1850s after successfully breeding Brahmas, George Burnham, a poultry enthusiast, had a few gray shanghaes delivered to Her Majesty Queen Victoria of England.
During this same period, the Light Brahmas from the US led to the development of Dark Brahmas in the UK and later on, the Buff Brahma.
Some have said that the Brahma’s name came from the Brahmaputra River in India; however, the breed was refined on US shores with strong Asian influences.
What is the Brahma Breed Standard?
Brahma chickens have become a firm favorite among poultry fanciers over the last 50 years.
Whether you wish to add one of the largest chicken breeds to your flock or you want to become a Brahma breeder, here’s a look at the defining characteristics that make up the Brahma breed standard.
How Big is a Brahma Chicken?
Brahma hens can weigh up to 10lbs while roosters weigh between 10lbs and 12lbs.
A Brahma rooster will stand at 30 inches while a Brahma hen tends to be a few inches shorter.
Because these chickens have such a tall stance, that creates a wider and fuller-bodied appearance compared to other breeds.
What is the Brahma Chicken Size?
Brahmas are very placid chickens and are similar in size to the Jersey Giant chicken. Jersey Giant roosters are around 13lbs compared to the Brahma rooster of 12lbs.
Interestingly enough, Dark Brahma chickens were cross bred with Black Langshans to produce the Jersey Giant. Both are considered egg and meat birds.
A large Brahma chicken will take much longer to mature than other chicken breeds. The growth of their muscles and bone structure is slower than the average chicken.
Therefore, Brahmas require a highly nutritious diet to avoid disease, stunted growth, or poor egg laying ability.
DID YOU KNOW
A Brahma hen can take 2 years to finish growing while roosters can take up to 3 years before reaching full maturity!
According to the American Poultry Association, the accepted breed varieties include the Buff, Dark, and Light Buff Brahma in the feathered leg category.
The Brahma chicken is distinguished by a pea comb, feathered legs and feet, and a yellow skin.
Brahma hens typically have a small pea comb, while roosters have a large pea comb set on a wide head. They have what’s known as a “beetle brow,” meaning their forehead extends slightly over their eyes.
Brahma chickens are winter birds, and you will notice the formation of thick feathering as the cold approaches.
After all, people originally bred them to thrive in cold climates – this is also the reason for their fully feathered legs and feet!
Comb and Feather
Brahma chicks have pea combs but there is a significant difference between the color varieties. Dark Brahma chicks have darker coloring and stripes down their backs, while Light Brahmas have a lighter, solid coloring.
This giant chicken has distinct feather patterns compared to other breeds that were incorporated in its history.
Partridge is a unique color distinguished by mottled feather patterns, as opposed to the softer filigree feather patterns found across the body of darker Brahmas.
The original Brahma chicken colors included the Dark and Light Brahma up until the 1950s. This was followed by White, Buff, Partridge, Black, and Blue and Gold Partridge.
These can still be found today, but remain less popular than the light and dark varieties.
See different Brahma breed colors in the video below…
The Light Brahma
The Light Brahma was established in the early 1870s; however, its overall size and appearance have undergone several changes since then.
Today’s Light Brahma has black striping in the saddle feathers of roosters, while the flight feathers in both sexes have more black than their predecessors.
To give you a sense of how they look, light Brahma chickens have contrasting white and black feathers. The white feathers have a gray undertone, while the black feathers have a white stripe around the edges.
The Dark Brahma
The Dark Brahma variety was developed during the same time as the Light Brahma. Its feather pattern is similar to the Plymouth Rock and Silver Laced Wyandotte or Golden Laced Wyandotte.
Dark Brahma hens are easily identified by their white laced feather pattern across a darker gray body, breast, and wings.
The breed standard required by poultry judges includes sharp gray penciling along the hackles, and black penciling across the rest of the body.
The American Standard Vs. the British Standard
The American poultry standard for the Brahma chicken includes the Light, Dark, and Buff Brahmas. American standards also require thin feathers on the feet with a large or heavy-set body.
According to the British standard, more color varieties are accepted, including the Blue and Gold Partridge, Buff Columbian, and Black Brahmas.
Both the light and dark varieties are popular among American fancier breeders, however, the penciling feather patterns in the Dark Brahma remain a fan favorite.
Light Brahma vs Dark Brahma
Because of the difference in weight between the light and dark colors, Light Brahmas are considered more to be meat birds compared to the Dark Brahmas, who boast better laying abilities.
This brings us to our next section. We determine the egg laying abilities of the Brahma chicken and whether this large bird is the best choice for your backyard flock.
How Many Eggs Do Hens Lay?
Brahma hens are good egg layers for their size and they can lay between 3 to 4 eggs per week, or 150 to 180 eggs per year. Because they are such a good winter layer, they could be a prolific addition to the backyard flock!
When other birds are not laying during the cold temperatures, you can rely on your Brahma hen to continue with egg production.
What is the Size and Color of Brahma Eggs?
Hens lay medium to large sized eggs that can weigh up to 60 grams each. When my Brahma hen laid her first egg, I was surprised at the smaller size compared to my other layers.
By the next season, she was laying large eggs with incredibly tough shells.
When it comes to common egg color brown and pink are the norm. What you’ll get will depend on the color variety of your bird.
A general indication of egg color is to look at the tiny feathers on the ear lobes. Interestingly enough, lighter ear lobes usually mean lighter eggs!
Brahmas are not commonly a broody chicken, but if you do happen to come across a broody hen she will be very stubborn when it comes to sitting on the nest and trying to hatch her eggs.
You can discourage broodiness by removing her from the nest and keeping it closed, or you could place cold packs underneath her to let her know there are no eggs to keep warm or hatch.
Because of their determination, a really broody hen can be given fertilized eggs from another chicken to hatch.
It is best to choose a medium to large breed chick for her to take care of, as her heavy weight could be problematic for very small hatchlings.
When Do Brahmas Start Laying?
A Brahma hen can go into egg production as early as 6 to 7 months old; however, it is not uncommon for some birds to start laying as late as 12 months.
You may have to wait a few months before you can determine the average size, color, and weight per egg.
How to Prepare Chicken Nest Boxes for Egg Laying
Chickens as large as the Brahma will need a fair amount of space to keep them comfortable. Larger nesting boxes will accommodate their larger size and provide other chickens ample space to lay without stress.
They should be provided a 14”x14” nest box, slightly bigger than standard nest boxes. Remember, these birds get to be heavier than average chickens, so the box should be well built to support their weight.
You should also position the nest boxes low to the ground or add a sturdy chicken ladder to the nesting and roosting area.
This will prevent the more daring Brahmas from trying to perform high jumps to get down from the box, thereby preventing leg injuries. A Brahma leg injury can take a long time to heal because of its weight, so high perches are best avoided.
Along with the size of the nest box, you should provide Brahma hens a secure chicken coop that is well-ventilated.
This is particularly important during hot summers because of their dense feathering and the accompanying risk of overheating or dehydrating faster than other birds.
Regulating the Mood of Your Brahma
To keep your hen happy, the nesting box should provide the following features:
- Sturdy Design
- Comfort with soft bedding
- Be placed in a well-ventilated area
- Large entrances for birds to get through
Brahma chickens are considered consistent egg layers compared to other chickens of a similar size. While the frequency and size of eggs will vary according to the diet and age of each bird, one thing’s for sure, if you have a happy chicken, you could certainly enjoy more eggs!
Let’s look at how to best meet the basic needs of Brahmas when raised in a backyard flock…
What to Consider Before Buying Brahma Chickens
Brahmas will tolerate confinement since they are less active than Mediterranean breeds, but they absolutely shine when allowed to free range.
They particularly enjoy grass and soft sand patches, since that kind of terrain won’t irritate their feathered feet as they scratch for grubs and grit.
The Amount of Space Per Bird
Before you decide to bring a Brahma chicken into your coop, think about the space you have to accommodate their growing needs. A single Brahma hen or rooster should have at least 5 to 6 square feet of space per bird inside the chicken coop.
Outside of the chicken coop, Brahma chickens can benefit from 15 to 16 square feet of space each.
As Brahmas cannot fly too high because of their size and weight, a 3 foot fence should effectively keep them confined to their pen.
Most backyard chicken keepers will place their Brahmas in a sheltered area during harsh weather conditions.
This is meant to protect the feathers on their legs and feet from being damaged or soaked which can lead to health problems.
Brahmas and Predators
Small predators are not usually a match for a fully grown Brahma. Hawks will seldom try to prey on a mature hen or rooster.
These hefty birds are also known to attack snakes and keep them away from more vulnerable birds.
Raising chickens means providing them the right environment that’s designed to accommodate their needs throughout all growth stages.
Keep reading to find out what it’s like to actually own a Brahma…
What is the Disposition of the Brahma?
Brahma chickens are called gentle giants because they have a docile nature and a very large size.
They are not skittish, and don’t mind being handled by the chicken keeper. This makes it much easier to care for them, especially with those feathered feet.
These chickens are also great with children, and most birds won’t mind a kind and gentle cuddle every now and then. Make sure to get a breathable mesh harness for when you want to take them on walks.
You may find the Brahma chicken to be quite talkative but without the constant squawking and chirping of Leghorns, Orpingtons, or Silkies.
Because these heavy-set birds cannot fly, they’d do well in a chicken coop that is spacious, private, and offers ample shelter against both hot and wet conditions.
While the Brahma has very dense feathers to keep them comfortable during cold temperatures, they are prone to foot problems if left to roam in muddy and damp soil.
You should also allow your chickens to free range, because Brahmas love to forage or relax under shady trees and shrubs in summer.
It is also one of the simplest ways to keep a healthy and happy chicken!
Suitable Flock Mates
Brahmas are easy-going and much less likely to start picking on new chickens that are introduced to the flock.
What you do have to look out for is more boisterous or bossy hens picking on the Brahmas.
Careful introductions to new chickens and a spacious coop will ensure that you create a peaceful environment for all chooks.
Smaller breeds tend to leave them alone, but young Brahmas may be picked on by older hens.
Caring for Feather Footed Chickens
Many birds with feathered legs and feet experience problems in winter. When feet are soaked or muddy, they can become frostbitten when temperatures drop.
Brahmas can also develop small mud balls between their toes that may cause damage to the foot.
You can easily clean frost and mud balls from their feet with warm water.
If you notice some blood on the foot of your chicken, it is best to look at the quills. Sometimes a Brahma will break a quill on their foot or leg, which can bleed quite a lot. Simply apply cornstarch to stop the bleeding.
Check for Lice and Scaly Leg Mite
The thicker feathers of Brahma chickens make it easier for lice to hide. The feathers along the legs can also make it tough to spot scaly leg mites.
Regular inspections can help you spot parasites early on and treat before it becomes an infestation.
Owing to the weight of these large chickens, they can easily suffer from bumblefoot. Landing on a thorn or sharp object when jumping off a roost can cause the debris to penetrate the skin and cause infection.
Look out for limping, foot preening, or inflammation and swelling under the foot which could indicate bumblefoot.
Is the Brahma the Right Chicken for You?
The Brahma chicken could be one of the most impressive additions to the backyard flock. With their size of more than 8 to 10 lbs, these chickens will tower above the average chickens in the coop!
The breed standard includes the Light Brahma, Buff Brahma, and Dark Brahma but you can find a variety of colors like black, blue and gold partridge, or solid white feathers.
What makes this breed a spectacular choice is their friendly and placid demeanor. There is so much love and joy underneath all those feathers. They are calm in temperament and enjoy being handled, just like the Ayam Cemani chicken breed, making them a wonderful pet for children.
Brahmas are considered a superior winter layer, so when your other chickens are having some downtime during the colder months your Brahma chicken will continue to produce eggs.
Remember, Brahmas are large birds with unique feeding requirements. They will eat a lot more than medium to large chickens will, and should be provided a high protein and calcium diet to support healthy bone and muscle development.
To raise a happy chicken, allow your Brahma to free range and they will reward you with many pleasant clucks, beautiful eggs, and above-and-beyond friendliness!