If you’re looking for a large, calm, loveable “teddy bear” of a chicken that enjoys human attention and is good with children, then the Buff Brahma may be for you. This loveable bird can be a great asset to any small flock and is suitable as a winter egg layer or table bird.
Table of Contents
- Dual purpose
- Feathered legs and toes
- Cold hardy
- Winter layers
- Friendly personalities
Background and History of the Buff Brahma
As with many of the older chicken breeds, the exact history of their origins can only be guessed at, as there is just not sufficient information available.
The breed was created in America around the mid-1800s, using the Cochin, a large fowl. A cross between the Cochin and Malay that was imported from Shanghai. It came to the United States with sailors. Due to its heritage, the breed was known as “The Shanghai” for a while. It is also believed that the Chittagong from Bangladesh played a part in the Brahmas development due to the comb and head characteristics and its eventual name.
To begin with, a chicken type now known as the Brahma had at least twelve different names given before Brahma was finally settled on. They include the d’Buram-pootras, Barram Putras, Bramapooters, Brama Puters, Brama Poutras Brahma Pootras, Burma Porters, Bahama Paduas, Bohemian Pudras, and Bahama Pudras.
There were no official standards or associations back then, so each breeder would have slightly different ideas about what made the ideal bird. Eventually, the name Brahmaputra was given after the river in the region of Bangladesh where the Chittagong fowl came from.
T.B. Miner later proposed the name Brahma in 1853 or 1854. He published “The Northern Farmer” and was said to give the name because it took up less space on a printed page, which seems a pretty practical reason!
Nine gray “Shanghais,” another name for the Brahma, were shipped to be a gift for Queen Victoria of England in December 1852 by a Mr. George Burnham. This received much publicity and caused the price for a pair of Brahmas to jump dramatically from around $12 or $15 for a pair to between $100 and $150! These birds became the basis of the English Brahma, which were later shipped back to the US as the Dark Brahma.
Sadly the Brahma breed fell from favor along with many others in the 1930s when a need for high production birds became required. The Brahma didn’t grow fast enough or lay sufficient eggs to match these new breeds, and their numbers rapidly declined.
Luckily, today there are plenty of backyard keepers and small farmstead owners who have revived the breed, and their numbers are happily on the increase.
Although they have been listed on the Livestock Conservancy Organisation, they are currently classified under the recovering category and are not endangered.
Buff Brahma Temperament and Behavior
The Buff Brahma is an incredibly hardy chicken. Like the other types of Brahma, they are exceedingly cold tolerant and do well in a northern climate provided they can stay dry.
They lay a reasonable number of eggs, usually between October and May, and are reasonably likely to go broody. They make great moms, although care needs to be taken with newborn chicks, as the size of a Brahma means they can be a little clumsy and sometimes trample their young.
Known to be real gentle giants, they make excellent pets, and will usually tolerate being picked up and cuddled by children (or adults.)
They are very passive, quiet, and good with a varied flock of chickens, although as is often seen with other breeds, they tend to stick with their own kind.
As a breed for beginners, they can be an excellent choice, but attention must be taken to care correctly for their feathered legs, which will need cleaning if they become muddy or frozen.
Breed Specifics and Traits of the Buff Brahma
In the mid-1850s, the Brahma was the leading breed for meat production and continued to be until the 1930s. Brahma broilers could be harvested for meat at around 8 to 10 weeks, or for larger roasters, they needed to be closer to 8 months old. Virgin cockerels stayed tender for longer and could compete with capons for meat production.
As dual-use backyard chickens, they are ideal for use as winter egg layers and table birds. If you are keeping chickens for practical production reasons as opposed to pets or show birds then you will want to raise a few young each year and harvest your adult birds when they are 3 years of age as their egg production will start to diminish. They can happily live up to 8 years or more when kept in good conditions with the right food.
Size and Weight
Adult Buff Brahma chickens are pretty large and heavy. Roosters weigh in at around 10 lbs to 12 lbs, while hens are closer to 8 lbs to 10 lbs. The roosters can be up to 30 inches tall, although 18 to 24 inches is more usual.
If you go back to the mid-1800s when the breed originated, their weight far surpassed today’s, as some roosters were recorded weighing closer to 18 lbs and hens at 13 lbs!
Bantam Brahma chickens are also available. These cute mini versions weigh 68 ounces for a rooster and 34 ounces for a hen.
It is generally possible to sex young Brahma chicks, as male chicks are usually creamy yellow on their breast and underside. In contrast, female chicks are generally a smoky gray in these areas. Even baby chicks have fluffy down on their legs, where feathers will appear as their adult plumage develops.
As the birds grow, they will go through several molts to achieve their adult plumage. For a Buff Brahma, they have a copper brown coloration and black laced hackle feathers, black wingtips, and tail feathers. Their under feathers are a slate color, and leg and feet feathers are usually a pale cream or copper brown and sometimes, but not always, have a mixture of black.
The feathers are dense and loose, helping to trap warm air in colder climates.
Other colors include the Light, which is white and pale gray with black hackles, tail feathers, and wingtips. The Dark, which is akin to that of the Silver Penciled Wyandotte, is quite different in males and females.
The Dark Brahma rooster has hackle and saddle feathers that are silver with a central black stripe. Their wing bows and shoulders are solid silver, while the tail, breast, and body feathers are all solid black.
The hens have black hackles that have a narrow gray penciling and are laced with white. The back, breast, body, and wing feathers are a mid-gray base color with an intricate double-black penciling. The penciling should be clear and sharp.
The Light Brahma is predominantly white with hackles that have black striping. There is also some black striping in the male’s saddle feathers. The tail is black, and the coverts are laced with white. The under-down is gray. Wingtips are black.
Unrecognized colors include White, Gold Partridge, and Blue Exchequer. But none have been popular enough to be put forward for admittance into the American standards.
It can be hard to tell a buff Brahma hen from a rooster at some stages, but as fully grown adults, the rooster is larger, with a bigger comb and wattles, longer, fuller hackles, and larger tail feathers.
- The Head is broad with a red pea comb, small red wattles, and beetle brow, which protrudes over their eyes. The beak is strong, stout, and horn-colored. The eyes are a reddish bay.
- The Body is large and has an inverted triangular shape when viewed from the side.
- The breast is full and broad.
- The legs and feet are pale yellow and feathered and have four toes.
Although the Dark and Light Brahma was accepted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874 with the first printing of the publication. The Buff Brahma wasn’t recognized until 1924.
They are classed as an Asiatic bred despite being developed in the United States.
Keeping the Buff Brahma
Their dense feathers and pea comb make them ideal chickens for keeping in cooler northern climates, although mud and ice can sometimes be problematic with their leg feathers.
They are easily contained as they cannot fly at all well. More of a hop and a flap, but that’s about it. Due to their large size, they need larger coop doors, perches, and nest boxes than many other breeds. Perches should also be lower as damage may be caused if they jump down from a high level.
Their docile personalities, weight, and size mean they are ideal targets for predators, so precautions must be taken to safeguard them.
Health and Disease
The Brahma is generally a robust and healthy breed. Their main problems come from their feathered legs, which can become clogged with mud or ice. In cold weather, this can cause the possibility of frostbite on their toes and result in the loss of toenails and even the toes themselves.
Scaly leg mite is also a common problem and harder to detect due to the feathering. Other mites and lice also like to make a comfy home in their dense body feathers, so regular treatments and dust baths must be supplied.
The quills on the feet will sometimes get caught on something and break off, which causes profuse bleeding. This can be treated by applying pressure and some corn starch or veterinary wound powder.
The supply of lower-height roosts is essential for the prevention of bumblefoot. This is caused by impact to the bird’s feet when it lands heavily and can also be helped by providing a good layer of bedding on the floor to cushion the landing.
Buff Brahma Chicken Eggs
The eggs of the Buff Brahma are brown and of a medium to large size. The number of eggs a hen lays will vary by hen and diminishes as they age. A young mature hen can lay an average of 150 eggs per year. They also produce eggs over the winter months rather than the summer. Young hens generally begin to lay at around seven months of age (28 weeks), depending on the season.
Getting Your Own Buff Brahmas
You can purchase Buff Brahma fertile eggs from online hatcheries. Young chicks and pullets can be brought from breeders who can be found by searching on the internet, or you may find them advertised at animal feed stores. Alternatively, you may prefer the convenience of buying chicks from hatcheries which is an inexpensive way of starting your flock.
We recommend Cackle Hatchery, which has Buff Brahma chicks available at specific times of the year, as they are a seasonal product. The cost depends on the number of chicks ordered. Minimum and maximum order volumes may apply.
- Unsexed chicks – $3.40 to $3.75 per chick
- Female chicks – $4.55 to $6.15 per chick
- Male chicks – $2.85 to $3.60 per chick
The Buff Brahma is a large and often cuddly chicken breed of big character, often becoming the favorite of children and their parents. They are calm, curious, and enjoy being allowed to scavenge for food. This is helpful in reducing feed costs.
They are good table birds and layers of winter eggs, making them useful as backyard hens or on farmsteads. The ability to differentiate male and female chicks on hatching is another helpful trait of the breed.
Being exceptionally hardy in cold climates, they are an excellent chicken breed for keeping in northern states, providing their leg feathers can be kept clean and ice-free.