The Brahma chicken is a dual breed that was developed in the United States originally, but came to the UK in the 1950s. From there, it was distributed all over Europe… and it also found its way to Spain, where we live. Read more about the Brahma breed here.
I first encountered the Brahma chicken breed when a local friend told us about his new chickens - the “King of All Poultry”, he said. He wasn’t joking. His Brahmas looked absolutely regal, with their pretty colours and the feathers on their feet.
In August 2016, we needed some company for a lonely chicken and our friends were gracious enough to give us two - Ramon and Ramona. Yes, we give our chickens names - especially when they’re here to stay and lay eggs for the remainder of their lives.
Six months later, we were able to add a few Brahma eggs to our incubator and only 22 days later, out came lots of tiny fluffy Brahma chicks with tiny fluffy feathery feet. We managed to sell a few, ate the roosters (when they were fully grown) - and the rest are here to stay. Ramona now has company from Queenie and two yet-to-be-named Brahma chickens - and Caramel, who’s a half breed (a daughter of Ramon and our brown layer Fatima).
So why do we love Brahma chickens so much, do you ask? It’s not just because they’re pretty.
+ Brahmas are a dual chicken breed!
Brahmas are dual chickens - which means they’re good for both meat and eggs.
The advantage to that is very simple: we incubate eggs and raise the chicks, and when the time comes we keep the hens for eggs, and the roosters become food. In the past, when butchering roosters from “normal” egg-laying breeds, they often didn’t have much meat on their bones - while hens from meat breeds are rubbish at providing our home with daily fresh eggs.
About the incubating: our Brahma-keeping friends seem to have at least half of their chickens becoming broody in spring. It’s not the case with ours yet… so far, we haven’t had one chicken feel comfortable enough to raise her own chicks. Maybe next spring!
+ Brahma hens are consistent layers
Our Brahma ladies will lay consistently, laying even when the days get shorter and starting again long before spring shows its nose - only taking a small break in the dead of winter, when everybody’s just miserable and hoping for a bit more sun.
+ Brahma roosters are good sized meat birds
Our Brahma roosters either get sold, or end up on the dinner table. One rooster is about as big as the average pumped-up meat chicken you’d buy in the supermarket - the difference is our boys had a fabulous life between the Spanish almond trees, scratching for bugs and eating table scraps. Their taste is far superior to any chicken we ever got from a shop.
+ Brahmas are extremely friendly (including the roosters)
Brahma chickens are super relaxed birds. We notice the difference when they’re still tiny chicks - some other breeds are much louder or even panic when we pick them up, while Brahmas will just settle in your hand and wait for whatever you have in store for them.
And it goes on as they grow older; Brahmas wouldn’t hurt a fly (except maybe probably, a real fly). They’re the most docile birds we’ve had around… even the roosters are in no way frightening, ever. So far, all of our Brahmas were very friendly towards other chickens as well - there’s always exceptions to the rule though, so don’t hate me if you get an antisocial killer Brahma.
+ Brahma chickens are pretty!
Ok, it does count. While I’m not a personal fan of the feathers on their feet (except on the babies. Did I mention baby chicks with feathery fluffy feet?), they do have the pretties colour combinations, and they walk in such a regal way…
Even the hybrids are pretty - we had several babies from our rooster Ramon and our brown egg layer Fatima (we only kept Caramel, who looks like auntie Calimero) - they have feathers on their feet but not as much, and there's a bit more life in them than in full Brahmas. Or to read between the lines: the roosters were absolute bastards. Literally, and figuratively. But they were so pretty too!
Brahmas might well be the kings and queens of chickens.
However, there might be reasons why even the kings and queens of chickens wouldn't be the right fit for your chicken palace.
- Brahmas take a long time to mature
Brahmas are slow growers, which is probably the reason why not EVERYBODY has them. It just takes a long time before they’re fully grown - and ready to start laying their first egg at 6-7 months. For comparison: most modern egg-laying breeds start laying at 4-5 months.
- Roosters are rubbish
Did I mention Brahma roosters are super friendly? That’s true. They’re a bit too friendly though. I’ve never seen a Brahma rooster protect his flock from a visiting dog or fox.
Besides, if you have a mixed flock, Brahma roosters might well be a bit too big. We have a few bantam (smaller chickens breeds) in our flock, and just imagining a big Brahma rooster on top of that… it’s just too much.
- Brahmas are big!
Brahma chickens are a BIG breed. Not usually as big as the videos that circulate will have you believe (some of them just have smaller accessories to make the birds appear bigger on screen, some of them just have giant Brahmas), but big nonetheless. They’re great egg layers, but they eat at least their part as well.
Also, make sure there’s space for them in your chicken run. More than once have we seen a future Brahma owner reconsider his ideas after seeing ours - just because the run wouldn’t allow them to stand up straight, or they wouldn’t fit through the chicken door.
- Feathers get sticky in the mud
Our soil is very close to clay, which makes it a very muddy and sticky business just after it rained. With most of our chickens, that’s not a problem; the mud will dry and they’ll loose the clumps of clay as they run and scratch around.
Not so much with our Brahma chickens - the clumbs of clay often stick to their feathers. It does fall off eventually - just doesn’t look very comfortable. Of course, this is not an issue if you have your chickens free ranging on some fresh green grass or in the forest - it’s also one of the main reasons why we move our chickens to rotating pastures every year in fall.
Now please let me know… Do you keep Brahma chickens? Would you consider keeping Brahmas? Why (not)? Bonus points for pretty pictures!