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Brahma Chicken

Nicole Cosgrove

March 18, 2021

The Brahma chicken is a multi-purpose chicken breed and a must-have for backyard farmers. Also known as the “King of All Fowls” or the yard’s “gentle giant” by most hobbyists, the Brahma chicken is a pretty breed of poultry that you can rear for meat and eggs.

Its appealing outlook and demeanor places it among the best backyard chicken pets for any family. However, it would be best to understand whether these chickens are the right fit for your home.

Here’s an in-depth look at these fowls to help you make an informed decision before adding some to your flock.

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Quick Facts About Brahma Chicken

Scientific Name: Gallus gallus domesticus
Family: Phasianidae
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperature: Warm
Temperament: Docile, peaceful, gentle, friendly, and calm.
Color Form: Dark, Buff, light, white, gold, blue partridge
Lifespan: 5–8 years
Size: 30 inches tall with males weighing 12 pounds, females weighing 10 pounds
Diet: 16% proteins and layer feeds for layers, 18% proteins and chick feeds for hatchlings, supplements like calcium, omega 3, insects, worms, and crickets
Minimum Habitat Size: 5-8 square feet per chicken

Brahma Chicken Overview

brahma chicken-pixabay
Image Credit: ArtistLens, Pixabay

The Brahma chicken is an Asiatic poultry breed named after the Brahmaputra River in India. Although most people argue about its exact origin, some sources suggest that it developed in America after crossbreeding the Shanghai birds from China with the Malaysian birds known as Gray Chittagong chicken. The breeding contributed to Brahma’s distinctive large head and pea comb.

The Poultry Association considers Brahma as a heritage bird because it began before the mid-20th century.  George Burnham, an American breeder, exported the Gray Shanghaes to England in 1852 as a gift to Queen Victoria before the English breeders began developing the first dark Brahma strain.

It was after that that the re-exportation of the chicken variety to America began. The American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection featured the light and dark varieties in its first publication in 1874 and the Buff Variety later in 1942.

This chicken strain was a table bird in the U.S. from the 1850s until the 1930s when industrial birds became popular. Soon, they became expensive exotic fowls that people kept for meat, eggs, and ornamental purposes.

However, the breed’s slow maturity rate made it lose its popularity in favor of other quickly-maturing chicken breeds. Thankfully, the Livestock Conservancy has termed it as a “recovering” variety in recent years as they gradually become a backyard farmer’s popular fowl again.

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How Much Do Brahma Chicken Cost?

It’s vital to consider your budget before purchasing the Brahma chicken breeds, especially the cost of feeding and shelter needs. Although Braham chicken varieties are affordable, they may need extensive habitats due to their sizes and more food budget because they take too long to mature.

Brahma’s cost greatly depends on the chicken’s age, sex, demand, and color variety. Mostly, the light, Buff, and dark chicks cost $3–$5 or more if they are show birds.

On the other hand, adolescents range between $7–$12 and adults $15–$25 depending on quality. However, any other Brahma color variety might cost you more.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Brahma fowl species are an excellent choice for chicken enthusiasts looking more for personality than eggs in their flock. Brahmas are incredibly intelligent, calm, sweet, with a laid-back disposition.

These birds are good-natured, gentle, and happy around kids. They are also trusting, love attention, being handled, and can grow quite attached to their owners. Their welcoming temperament and the fact that they are big and can’t fly makes them easy to contain.

Brahmas’ flock is also docile, peaceful, and has low noise levels making them an excellent fit for urban dwellers and beginners.

Appearance & Varieties

Brahma chicken
Image Credit: Emma_Ted, Pixabay

Appearance

The Brahma is a large bird with a long, deep, and broad body. It also stands tall, up to 30 inches, a size that can be intimidating at first.

Males appear taller than females and weigh about 12 pounds (5.5kgs). On the other hand, the females weigh up to 10 pounds (4.5kgs).

Brahma’s distinguishing feature is the small pea comb and the overhanging “beetle brow” on the forehead. It also has medium-sized wattles, reddish-brown eyes, short tails, yellow shanks and feet, red earlobes, and short, strong, and yellow beaks.

This exquisite bird has an upright posture, with large impressive stature, and long feathered legs that appear like a narrow “V” if you view it from the sides. Despite their robust wings, these strains are not capable of flying. However, Brahma chicken species grow slowly and can take up to 18 months to realize full maturity.

Coat

This chicken species is renowned for their heavy, deep, tight plumage and a thick coat that makes them hardy poultry. The Brahmas have tight, soft, and dense feathers that extend to their legs and hind toes, making them appear even larger than they are.

Color

Brahma chickens identify with three official color classifications; dark, light, and Buff. However, you can find these birds in a lot more colors, including White, Blue, Black, Partridge, and Barred.

Dark Brahmas have black spots, silver and white highlights, and a black-striped carriage. However, the body, wings, and breasts are grey with black patterns.

Light Brahmas are usually white-feathered with a grayish hint. The saddle area’s feathers have black stripes, while the tails are black with a few white feathers.

On the other hand, buff Brahmas have a similar coloration to the light Brahma but with brown feathers. The Buff’s brown hint makes it popular among farmers.

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How to Take Care of Brahma Chicken

If you are considering having Brahmas among your flock, it would be best to prepare for a mental check of items that might be different from the traditional chicken breeds. Check out some of the special considerations to put in place when keeping Brahma chicken species.

Enclosure/Cage

Brahma fowls are large birds that require a sizeable cage or enclosure than the average chicken. The good thing is that, despite being huge, Brahmas can thrive in confined spaces. However, being foragers, they prefer free-ranging and larger yards.

The first thing to do when rearing these species is to accord them plenty of protection from predators. For this reason, you’ll have to cover their run and ensure it keeps them safe from severe weather changes.

Since Brahmas are heavy, it is vital to ensure that the runs and the coops are wide and tall enough to accommodate their sizes. Unfortunately, your chicken can exhibit anti-social behaviors like pecking and picking if you put them in less space.

A 2-foot fence or 5-6 square foot space for each chicken in the coop is enough to keep them in place. Apart from that, it would help if you gave each of your chickens 8-12 inches roosting space with lower bars to prevent them from hurting themselves when attempting to fly.

Bedding

The good thing is, these birds can use regular chicken bedding like dry hay, straws, pine and cedar shavings, grass clippings, shredded leaves, paper shreds, or sand. The bedding should provide a secure foundation for your flock’s legs and feet and should be easy to clean.

Temperature

Brahmas are hardy and least susceptible to cold climates and frostbite because of their large mass, dense-feathering, and small pea comb. However, it would be best to keep these species in hot climates because they don’t handle heat well like other breeds. Therefore, it would be best if you maintain warm temperatures during hot summers to prevent heat strokes.

Lighting

Ensure that the chicken coop gets about eight hours of natural light, especially during winter. It would also be best to provide up to 14 hours of light to Brahma hens to allow them to lay eggs.

Do Brahma Chicken Get Along with Other Pets?

Although Brahmas are large, they are often victims of bullying from other chickens. They are soft, gentle, and don’t fight back when attacked.

Therefore, if you must have Brahmas, keep them around other friendlier chicken breeds and household pets like cats. It would be best to pair it with another Brahma chicken to prevent it from loneliness and excessive harassment.

These birds will also need protection from predatory pets like dogs and aggressive cats because they are heavy and not so good at escaping when facing danger. However, if you must keep the Brahmas together with other pets, it would help if you trained and prepared the other pets beforehand.

Initiate their relationship gradually while monitoring their interaction. If the pets seem not to get along, do not force a relationship. Instead, keep the Brahma chickens away from bullies.

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What to Feed Your Brahma Chicken

Owners should understand that these fowls are great foragers and are happier chasing bugs and worms in the yard. However, feeding them shouldn’t end when free-ranging because they can’t forage enough to sustain them. For this reason, ensure that you offer your flocks lots of other feeds.

These birds can eat up to a third of a pound of chicken feed daily. Since rationing their feeds can be challenging since they are heavy feeders, it would be best to free-feed them to reduce your feeding bill.

Brahma chicken species have a stocky build and require plenty of calories, water, and lots of feeds to sustain their large appetites and health.

Like other chicken breeds, it would still be best to observe a minimum of 16% proteins and commercial grade feed for layers most of the year or when molting. You can also introduce chicks to an 18% protein chicken starter.

It’s better to keep your flock full and happy because they can get aggressive and bully each other when hungry. Also, supplement the feeds with insects, mealworms such as Happy Hen Treats, crickets, omega-3, and feeds rich in calcium such as FLYGRUBS Black Soldier Fly Larvae Chicken Feed.

Brahma Chicken
Image Credit: Rillke, Wikimedia Commons

Keeping Your Brahma Chicken Healthy

Although Brahma fowl species are hardy, they are susceptible to health concerns if owners aren’t keen enough. One way of minimizing these issues is by ensuring that their enclosures are clean and can withstand severe climates.

Although Brahmas can withstand harsh winter, their feathers can be problematic in this season. It is vital to ensure that the enclosures are dry because the feathers on their feet can stay wet and hold onto mud when they walk on snow, mud, and ice.

The dirt and moisture can freeze and develop small mud balls on the chicken’s feet, causing frostbite and affecting its health if you don’t curb them in time.

It’s best to check your flock regularly and clean them with warm water to get rid of the build-up or caked poop because of the feathery feet. It is also vital to check for lice, fleas, mites, and other parasites that could harbor your chicken’s thick plumage.

Allow your chicken to free-range and run around regularly. The reason is, these breeds are more prone to bumblefoot than other species because of their heavy sizes. Also, apply cornstarch or styptic powder to treat your bleeding chicken’s feet after the feet’ feathers pull off, snag or get stuck on surfaces.

Breeding

Brahmas are not so common because they are slow growers. The hens lay their first egg at 6–7 months, unlike other breeds that start at 4–5 months. This breed is also not among prolific egg layers.

Brahma hens lay an average of 3–4 eggs of medium to large per week and about 150 eggs annually. It takes 21 days for the chicks to hatch, after which the Brahma hen provides the hatchlings heat until they are old enough to regulate their body temperatures.

The chicks require a brooder box with fresh water, bedding, and chick feed. Ensure that you offer an i8 inches high brooder with a half square foot floor space per chick during their first days before increasing to a square foot space per chick after two weeks.

Although mother Brahmas are usually great brooders, it would be best if owners provided heat sources of just below 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the hatchlings during the first five days if the brooding hen is unavailable.

You can then reduce the temperatures every week by five degrees Fahrenheit until the chicks are old enough to be independent. The Brahma chicks can take up to 9 months to develop a full plumage.

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Are Brahma Chickens Suitable for You?

Do you want large, friendly, affectionate, and relatively inexpensive chickens for your backyard? If yes, then Brahma chicken breeds are ideal for you. This chicken species would make a great pet and asset for your family, thanks to its calm demeanor that’s ideal for company, meat, and eggs.

Although their large sizes can be overwhelming for new parents and children at first, it is easy to grow to love these birds. However, you may want to put some special considerations when taking care of them because these are large birds and require larger nests, more feeds, and lots of petting.

If you show them affection, feed them enough, and give them warm protection, you can live with your chicken for as long as 5-8 years!


Featured Image Credit: Leoniek van der Vliet, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.