Jeremy Hobson looks at why the Brahma breed is so well-loved, and why they are such a good choice for the beginner
Over the months that I’ve been compiling the Poultry People series for Your Chickens, I’ve been surprised at just how many times the large fowl Brahma has featured as being one of the interviewees’ favourite bird. Names plucked at random from the series include Michael Roberts, publisher of the Gold Cockerel Series of books, Skyann and Crystal of LorraLee Poultry in Australia, Maria Michaëlsson from Sweden, gamekeeper Robert Harrison and, of course, regular Your Chickens contributor, Andy Cawthray.
Whilst devoted Brahma fans might be numerous, the reasons they choose to keep them all tell more or less the same tale. Andy, for instance, describes them as being “such placid laid-back chickens” and Maria says that they are her “number one breed and passion… [ideal] for those who want a magnificent, soulful and gentle chicken”. Robert Harrison echoes their thoughts and adds they “are perfect as pets… docile, friendly and unfazed… and look stunning on any lawn”.
The Brahma most definitely makes a statement both in the garden and on the show bench! It is reckoned that the breed arrived in Britain – where it was at first known by many as the ‘Brahma Poutra’ – in the mid-1800s and very quickly became popular amongst Victorian poultry fanciers and exhibitors because of its size and attractive variations in colouring: there are, nowadays, at least eight types recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain (PCGB). The comb is known as ‘triple’ or ‘pea’ and, for an extremely ‘heavy’ breed, some strains will lay a surprising number of eggs during the season.
Perfectly plumaged and placid they may be, are they easy to care for on a day-to-day basis? I think most would answer that question very definitely in the affirmative – but with certain provisos.
Despite being a big bird (their loose fluffy feathering make an already large bird seem truly enormous), they don’t require any more feeding than the average chicken, and their slow, casual demeanour means that they actually need less run space than some other breeds. Robert Harrison does, however, point out that “due to their size you need to take into account [the] size of pop-hole and how many birds per shed. Also, the fact that they have feathered feet and legs means they do require a little more attention, particularly if you wish to show them”.
Their kind and docile nature is obviously a major plus point but, if you already have chickens and intend incorporating Brahmas into the same flock, particular care must be taken to ensure that the different breeds are compatible. As we have already seen, the Brahma is the most gentle of birds and, if you were to include it in amongst a collection of mixed breeds, you might well find that, despite its enormous size, it tends to be bullied – as a result of which it will very soon become submissive and extremely unhappy. It is also worth noting that, in comparison with many other breeds, Brahmas are considered by some to be slow to mature – not that that is any real problem to most as, as the old maxim has it ‘all good things are well worth waiting for’.
There’s no wonder so many ‘Poultry People’ love the breed – and that it is, quite literally, a ‘huge’ favourite with adults and chicken-keeping children alike. Anyone with an average-sized back garden could do far worse than follow their example and consider Brahmas. With their great character and their ambling gait (due in no small part to their feathered legs and feet) they will readily follow you around the garden ‘discussing’ all of the day’s happenings and, because of those feathered legs and feet, tend not to scratch and dust in your flower beds quite as much as other breeds might.
With all their undoubted ‘plus points’, it is perhaps surprising that, until comparatively recently, Brahmas have never particularly been a breed one might expect to see when happening to casually peer over the average chicken keeper’s wall or hedge. Nevertheless, somewhere in the background, there has always been a clutch of devoted and knowledgeable followers. For this reason, if you choose your breeder carefully, it should be possible to obtain pure-bred stock of a very high standard.
SEE THE FEATURE IN OUR AUGUST ISSUE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THIS STUNNING BREED