Brahma Chicken Breed – What You Need to Know

No matter what your reason for starting or growing your flock, and no matter what your objectives are, there is bound to be a picture-perfect breed of chicken out there for you

a dark Brahma hen
a dark Brahma hen

One of the most loved of the heritage large breeds is the Brahma, an American breed that was once the main chicken for meat production.

Though it has since been supplanted in that role, they remain very capable producers of both meat and eggs, and these big chickens are quite friendly and even temper despite their size.

Whether you want a great utility bird that can provide you with meat for the table, plenty of eggs all through the winter or just friendly companionship, the Brahma is a great choice with a distinguished history. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about them down below…

Brahma Quick Facts

  • Purpose: Dual-use
  • Plumage: Light, dark, buff, black, blue, crele, barred, partridge.
  • Eggs Laid Year on Average: 150.
  • Egg Color: Brown.
  • Broodiness: Low.
  • Average Weight: 12+ pounds, roosters. 10+ pounds, hens.
  • Average Height: 30+ inches.
  • Lifespan: 5 to 8 years.
  • Temperament: Calm, stoic, friendly.

What Color and Pattern are Brahma Chickens?

The Brahma is a classic heritage chicken with distinctive and iconic looks. But, the acceptable standards for the breed, as always, very depending on which association or organization you’re referring to.

The American Standard of Perfection recognizes only light, dark and buff.

The buff Brahma has a creamy golden base color that turns black at the hackles and at the tail. Roosters have black, striped saddle feathers.

The light Brahma is the same as the buff color with the only difference being that the base color is, you guessed it, white.

a light Brahma rooster
a light Brahma rooster

The dark Brahma looks quite different, with roosters having black and white hackles and saddle feathers, a black tail and white patches on the wings with larger feathers being edged with white.

The dark hen looks significantly different from the rooster, being a mottled gray base color.

But aside from these American standards, the Australian APA also recognizes other colors, including black, blue, partridge and others.

How Big are Brahmas?

Probably the most noteworthy characteristic of the Brahma breed is its immense size.

Standing at two and a half feet tall (76 centimeters), in the case of roosters, and routinely weighing more than 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms), these are huge chickens by any standard, and they are nearly as big as the modern Jersey Giant.

Hens, as usual, are a little bit smaller but not by much: they usually stand only a few inches shorter than roosters and are still a hefty 10 pounds or more on average.

The tremendous size of the Brahma and their upright posture, along with their fluffy, soft plumage makes them look even bigger than they really are, and somewhat intimidating. But these big birds are truly sweet at heart.

However, their mass and bulk can cause specific health problems for them that we will talk about later.

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Brahma Essential Characteristics

Originally developed in America, contrary to popular belief, the Brahma is nonetheless descended from Asiatic stock, particularly chickens first imported from the port of Shanghai in China.

This is what led to these big boys and girls being referred to as “Shanghais” more than a century ago.

Although many specifics about these chickens are lost and records from the mid-19th century, the time of its origin, are scattered, the Brahma nonetheless has a highly distinguished history.

Once the undisputed biggest chicken in the United States, it was the primary meat-producing bird for decades, and they were also capable egg layers making them a great utility breed despite their size.

Although their tremendous size is immediately apparent, upon closer inspection the dense plumage of the Brahma is distinctive, with feathers running down the outside of the legs all the way to the feet.

The heads have small pea combs and small wattles, and the beaks are also somewhat curiously undersized. This makes the head, in comparison to the rest of the body, appear small for their stature.

This has lent these birds an imposing, almost barrel-chested aesthetic. It certainly befits their height!

And everything else about these chickens is similarly big: they take up lots of room, need more food, need more space and even need bigger doors to comfortably enter and exit the chicken coop!

But despite all of this these chickens are not tyrants, and are famed for their friendly temperament with people and other chickens alike; although some tend to want to get their way with other, smaller chickens in mixed flocks, though this rarely results in true violence.

Overall, aside from a few particular health concerns, the Brahma is hardy, friendly and of great utility no matter what purposes you have in mind for your flock. A true classic, and one that any chicken keeper would be proud to count among their birds.

What are Brahma Chickens Raised For?

Today the Brahma is a dual-purpose chicken, raised for both eggs and meat although it is no longer the darling of the meat industry.

Brahmas can provide you with plenty of meat for your own table, and a surprising amount of extra large eggs. They even lay through the winter!

Speaking of laying, Brahma hands tend to be very diligent and attentive mothers, and patient with people and other friendly chickens that are around their chicks.

Despite this, they aren’t known for going broody particularly often, though it does happen.

They are pretty good sitters, and their great size means that they can cover many eggs at once, and potentially even hatch the eggs of other, larger birds like turkeys.

Are Brahma Chickens Good Layers?

Yes, somewhat surprisingly! Brahmas are known as table birds, but today they are capable of laying a good quantity of jumbo eggs. Your typical Brahma will lay 150 eggs per year.

a dark brahma egg
a dark brahma egg

What Color Eggs Do Brahmas Typically Lay?

Brahmas lay brown eggs – big ones!

When Do Brahmas Start Laying?

Brahma’s are one of the largest of the large breeds, and though chicks hatch pretty quickly they develop slowly once they have entered the world.

Accordingly, Brahma hens are usually only ready to start laying eggs around 7 months of age. A few individual hens might start sooner, but don’t count on it.

Also, they typically lay through the winter, and sometimes stop when the weather warms up.

light Brahma hen with chick
light Brahma hen with chick

This means you can depend on a supply of eggs through the colder months, but your Brahma girls might stop laying as spring arrives.

As part of a mixed flock, Brahmas are particularly helpful because they will start laying when other chickens stop, and vice versa.

What Do Brahma Chickens Eat?

Brahmas have a typical diet common to most domestic breeds, even older heritage breeds like them.

The basis of their diet should revolve around a nutritionally complete chicken feed, and this should be supplemented with various whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, along with other incidental proteins in the form of bugs, worms and things like that.

Also, as usual, don’t be afraid to supplement the diet of your chickens with grit and also with vitamins and minerals as needed.

Laying hands in particular will need tons of calories, protein and especially calcium for them to stay healthy and also for the quality of their eggs.

Note too that Brahmas aren’t particularly agile, and therefore not great hunters of tiny critters.

They are content to mosey around when you let them free-range, but they aren’t as energetic as other breeds.

Accordingly, letting them free-range is not quite as beneficial for their overall diet and well-being as you might think, at least compared to smaller birds.

For this reason, you should be prepared to give them those supplemental foods I mentioned above.

Lastly, always remember that your Brahmas will need significantly more food than other, smaller chickens.

Make sure their calorie and vitamin needs are being met, particularly when they are stressed or injured!

How Long Do Brahma Chickens Typically Live?

Brahma chickens fall squarely into the large breed category, and like many large breed chickens they don’t live that long, although their lifespan is still quite respectable for a chicken: you can expect your Brahmas to live between 5 and 8 years.

Dark Brahma pullet
Dark Brahma pullet

Are Brahmas Prone to Particular Health Issues?

Brahmas are prone to several conditions and health problems owing to their size, and also to their feathering.

Though they are largely free of any major congenital defects and genetic diseases, Brahmas commonly suffer from bumblefoot because of their weight and also because of their dense feathering that covers their legs and feet.

When a Brahma steps on something that might cut or puncture their foot, the injury is proportionately worse because of their own weight acting on the object.

Similarly, an injured foot that occurs for any other reason will have to contend with more weight in all cases, exacerbating the problem.

Another issue is that the dense feathering covering their legs and feet will easily become caked with mud or feces in wet conditions, or if you don’t take care to keep their run and coop clean.

Brahmas are always happier when they’re in the driest conditions possible, but if you allow these “dingleberries” to persist on their feet it can result in an infection that might necessitate the amputation of one or more toes.

The same thing can happen because of moisture in cold conditions, rapidly causing frostbite.

That means you’re going to have to stay on top of keeping them clean, but this is common to other breeds that have feathered legs and feet.

Also, that same dense feathering can be pesky in other ways because it is a perfect host for external parasites like mites, lice, fleas and so forth.

They make a great hiding spot, difficult for you to comb through, and highly likely to hide current infestations and injuries brought about by these nasty bloodsuckers.

Once again, the only two solutions are staying on top of hygiene, and diligent inspections.

Reduce this issue by keeping the areas that your Brahmas inhabit clean and dry at all times, if possible.

And lastly, you want to prevent Brahmas from taking falls: These birds are heavy, and they don’t fly. They can barely use their wings to assist with jumping or merely slowing a fall!

Keep their roosts and perches close to the ground, and make sure they have a wide, secure ramp leading from the coupe door to the ground. If they have to jump, the shorter the jumps they have to make, the better.

Are Brahma Chickens Friendly?

Yes, Brahmas are super friendly chickens! These birds have often been described as having a stately air, almost like the grandfathers and grandmothers of the chicken world.

There are measured and calm at all times. This makes Brahmas a great choice for beginners, despite their size, or for families that have children.

Even the roosters tend to be mild-mannered and patient, particularly if they are raised from chicks and have regular interactions with people.

a light brahma rooster next to some hay
a light brahma rooster next to some hay

Do Brahmas Get Along with Other Chickens?

Yes, much of the time. The good graces of Brahmas definitely extend to other chickens, and as a rule they will do fine and mixed flocks. They rarely start trouble, tend not to fight, and generally just get along.

However, because of their size they might get a little bossy with other, smaller chickens, but as I mentioned above this will rarely result in violence or any real fighting.

If you’re going to add a Brahma to a mixed flock just make sure you keep an eye on any known troublemakers that might give the newcomers a hard time. Other than that, you won’t have much to worry about.

What Kind of Chicken Owner are Brahmas Right For?

Brahmas are a great chicken for all kinds of owners. If you want meat or eggs, Brahmas are a dependable choice.

If you just want a chicken that can do basically whatever is required of it and is friendly pretty much all the time, you’ll never go wrong with a Brahma.

Also, they are fairly long-lived for a large breed, and healthy overall so long as you can take care to keep them from jumping and suffering falls, and you keep an eye out for parasites, injuries and infections that are easy to miss because of those dense feathers.

If you aren’t much for regularly inspecting your chickens for problems, the Brahma might not be the best choice, because there is a lot that can be hidden underneath that dense plumage.

Brahmas are also a wonderful chicken for first-timers who are nervous about physically interacting with their flock.

Despite their great size, Brahmas aren’t particularly well equipped to do damage and they are extremely friendly to boot, and almost always get along great with people and other chickens.

This is definitely to reduce your stress level as a beginner!

If you have children and want to feel safe with them being around your chickens, or teach your kids how to interact with them, Brahmas are sturdy and patient enough to withstand some clumsy handling without retaliating.

And lastly, if you want a chicken that can reliably hatch and raise a large number of eggs at once, a Brahma hen is a fine choice and they are doting mothers.

Brahmas are so big, in fact, you can use them to hatch the eggs of ducks and turkeys sometimes, too!

If it sounds like the Brahma is a great all-around choice, and one of the go-to choices for a true utility breed, that’s because they are!

Brahmas FAQ

Are Brahma Chickens Rare?

Not really. Brahma chickens are popular and common among true heritage breeds. However, some colors, particularly darks and others not recognized by the American associations can be very difficult to come by from quality breeders.

Are Brahma Chicks Autosexing?

Buff Brahma chicks are autosexing. Males have distinct colors and patterns that will set them apart from females.

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