Standard Varieties of Chickens:


The leading variety of the Asiatic class is the Light Brahma (fig. 9). This fowl has a history that would fill pages were it recorded. They are the fowls which caused the "hen fever" of the fifties, about which so much has been written in later years. Their early history is a matter of controversy, the best authorities differing as to their origin.

FIG. 9. - Pair of Light Brahmas.

They were first known as the "Brahma Pootras," "Gray Shanghais," "Chittagongs," "Cochin Chinas," and what not. The early breeder named them according to his fancy for high sounding and sensational names to sell his stock. Fabulous prices were paid for them when the craze for fine poultry was at its height in the early days of the last half of the present century. The standard of the present Brahma fowl was fixed in 1869, and no deviation from the type adopted then has been made. It has stood high in popular favor since then without abatement; the vast number of breeders who are raising them fully attest their worth as a practical bird to the industry. The Brahma is characteristic fowl; it is unlike the other varieties, and it should not be confounded in shape with the Cochin.

The average Light Brahma male is in height 26 inches; back from the ground, 16 inches; keep from the ground, 8 inches; length of body, front of breast to rear of fluff, 14 inches; height of tail, a trifle over 21 inches; saddle hangers to rear of fluff, 2 inches; eye, from tip to beak, 2 1/6 inches; length of head and beak, 2 inches; breasts to rear of a drop line from point of beak, three-fourths to 1 inches. As specimens depart from this proportion they become awkward and valueless as exhibition stock, and often also as egg producers. In share, oblong, with full, broad, and round breast, carried well forward. The fullness and oblong shape is typical of the Brahma and is characteristic of prolific birds. The curves of neck and back are facsimile in shape of the outlines of an egg.

FIG. 10. - Hackle feather of Light Brahma cock.

In plumage the male is pure white, excepting hackle, tail, and flights, which are black, and white striped with black. Any other color but white and black is against the standard-bred bird. The hackle is white with a black stripe extending down the center of each feather and tapering to a point near the extremity (see fig. 10). The tail feathers are black, and sickles are glossy greenish black. The shanks are well feathered, with the feathering extending down the middle tow; the toe feathering may be white or white sprinkled with black, pure white preferred. A small pea comb (see fig. 9), broad crown, projects over the eyes; bright-red face, wattles and earlobes are essential to a good head. The shanks and toes are bright yellow.

The Brahma female is much like the male in head qualities, having broad comb, projecting well over the eyes, and small pea comb. The head of female should be masculine in appearance, indicating great control and will power. The head is white; hackle, white striped with black as in male; cape, white and black, but is completely covered by hackle when the bird stands erect; tail, black, excepting the two highest main tail feathers, which may be edged with white; tail coverts, one or more rows, distinctly covering a part of bother sides of the main tail, two being preferable, are black edged with white.

The Light Brahma is a valuable bird for the farm. They have always been made to pay for their keep and have seldom been set aside by any who have bread them. They are the largest of domestic poultry and do as well in confinement in small runs as on free range. As layers they will average from twelve to thirteen dozen of eggs a year, and lay exceptionally well in winter. Their eggs are large, about 7 to a pound, of a rich brown color and excellent flavor. For table purposes they are good; they do not mature as early as do the varieties of the American class, yet they are hardy and can be raised with as much ease as any of the earlier-maturing varieties. As sitters and mothers they are fair.

The Dark Brahma is not so popular as the Light- the difficulty being in breeding them true to feather. Their delicately marked plumage is extremely pretty when bread to standard requirements, but if not so bred it becomes most disagreeable and unsatisfactory to the breeder. The head and neck of a Dark Brahma male are similar to those of the Light, the head being white and the hackle rather more striped. The back is nearly white, a little black appearing here and there. The black should predominate between the shoulders, but is nearly hidden by the hackle flowing over it. The saddle feathers are, like the hackle, silvery white, striped with black, which should be distinct. As the feathers approach the tail the stripes become broader till they merge into the tail coverts, which are rich, glossy green black, with a margin or lacing of white. The tail is pure black, with green gloss. The wing coverts are black, forming a distinct black bar across the middle of the wings, which the ends of the secondaries have a large black spot on the end, making the top edges of the wing appear almost black. The remainder of the secondaries are white on the lower half and black on the upper. The flights are all black, except a narrow fringe of white on the lower edge. The breast is black; the things and fluff either black, or black very slightly mottled with white.

The shank feathering should correspond with the breast, being black if the latter be black, and slightly mottled with white if not. The shanks are deep yellow, inclining to orange.

The color of females is a white ground, closely penciled with dark steel gray, producing a beautiful effect, frosted or silver gray in appearance. There should be no show of pure white in the plumage except in the margins of the hackles. Unless extreme care be taken in mating, the hens are likely to have a dingy color, and the pullets are apt to have necks almost white for some distance down. These light-necked birds generally breed to worse, but the evil may be remedied by choosing birds for breeding whose heads are distinctly marked. The shape and character of the markings of the Dark Brahma pullets also varies. They should be medium sized, so that the pencilings can be clearly discerned at a short distance. A great point in regard to color and marking in Brahma pullets is that it should be uniform over the body, and the hackles should be silvery white, heavily striped with rich black, and the shank feathering penciled same as body.

For more practical purposes the Dark Brahma is not to be commended as highly as the Light. The close breeding for points in feathers is likely to interfere with their productiveness, yet with proper attention and care they can be bred profitably as well as for beauty. The standard weight of Light Brahma cocks is 12 pounds; hens, 9 pounds; cockerels, 10 pounds; and pullets, 8 pounds. The standard weight of Dark Brahma cocks is 11 pounds; hens, 8 pounds; cockerels, 9 pounds; and pullets, 7 pounds.


The first two images come from the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science's Poultry Breeds pages. The remaining three are from the FeatherSite, "an on-line zoological garden of domestic poultry". The Brahma page at Oklahoma and the Brahmas page at FeatherSite contain further information about this breed's history and more images of these fowl. Clicking on each image takes you to the page specifically about that particular variety.

Light Brahma Dark Brahma Light Brahma Rooster Buff Brahma Cock Dark Brahma Hen

Image Credits (from left to right): Copyright © 1996, Oklahoma State University Board of Regents; Copyright © 1996, Oklahoma State University Board of Regents; Courtesy of Sue Tivol; Courtesy of Virginia Martin; Courtesy of Jeff Iurato

Please note: These links point to pages that are being served off of the Oklahoma State University's web server and off the web server, which are not part of the Chickscope project. Because of this, the pages may be missing or corrupted, and control of this is generally out of the hands of the Chickscope development team.

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