These magnificent birds, here they are Partridge Brahma, originated it is believed in Asia. They are named after the Brahma-Pootra river, but it is debatable that they actually originated from that region.
The stock arrived in New York in 1848 from that region, hence the name.
Stock reached Britain in 1853.
There were breeds such as the specimens we see today, with large build and profuse feathering on the legs, arriving also from China at the time. There seemed to be very little uniformity in the colouring at the time.
The pea comb with its regular three rows was developed later . The Light Brahma and the Silver Dorking are the ancestors of the current Light Sussex.
I have had Brahmas for a long time and was challenged years back by people in the showing industry, to breed a LARGE bird of substantial size and of show quality. At the time there was a moratorium on all Brahmas, that is no Brahma exhibited could be disqualified for the usual defects such as dented keel, split wing etc. They were so rare and so endangered at the time that it was thought a moratorium of five years would allow people to breed them back onto the show floor.
The breed at the time was really underweight, some as small as two kg. They were small in stature as I think people had used bantams to breed the colours they wanted. Either that or the original gene pool was really small in stature!
I bought my first trio, underweight, small, weedy and began to take up the challenge. It took me many years and many failures, (my first year I culled 49 out of my 50 babies) to get to where I wanted. I bought in stock from various people, made myself a nuisance buying birds that no one else wanted, but eventually ended up with birds weighing in at 5kg minimum, and standing a whopping 63cm high.
I had problems with dented keels, with split wings and with a lack of toe nails, all of which were directly associated with in breeding.
After six generations, these problems disappeared, all except the dented keel which was remarkably stubborn but was slowly receding.
Brahmas should be heavy, they should be tall above all else, they are large and not bantams after all. They should be majestic in appearance, strutting their stuff around the yard.
As a breed they are extremely intelligent and males will look after their girls with remarkable courage, even taking on genets and hawks to protect the flock. Yes, I have seen this.
They are gentle birds usually non aggressive towards humans and their own kind, as they are pretty laid back and do not exert themselves unduly!
They make excellent parents, the males taking on the role of father figure and the female sitting well. Males will shelter and protect their young.
Brahmas are tall, upright birds with a wide saddle and a broad chest. The legs are quite large, feathering being profuse. They are prone to vulture hocks, where solid feathers hang from the back of the hock straight down. The feathers here should curve around the legs meeting at the back. Birds with this defect usually have narrow chests and sometimes are cow hocked as well. This is very ugly.
The head is broad, almost flat on the top with wide open eyes on the side of the head. The neck is long and graceful, sweeping into a broad back, and the tail is raised at a 45degree angle to the back.
You must be able to see from the back of the bird, male and female, two legs well set apart, and straight so the bird stands well balanced. This is very important to the breeding pen. Birds that stand with toes together or toes turned out should not be in a breeding pen no matter how few birds you have.
There are several recognised colours of Brahma: The Light Brahma is similar in colour to the Light Sussex and is in fact the ancestor of the Light Sussex.
The Gold is similar to the Partridge but has no green in the tails of the males. The Partridge is as the picture above. The Dark Brahma is a beautiful dark silvery bird. There are others available now but these are RECOGNISED colours and not to be confused with the colours that disreputable breeders are now putting out as “blue” or “black” or “buff”, or the latest “ermine”. You buy a set of these and take them home to breed, and you wonder why you paid an exhorbitant amount of money for birds that do not breed true, because when babies appear they are all colours of the rainbow!
Caveat Emptor! Buyer beware! Be aware that this is a common dishonest practice and ask first to see the parents and the parent FLOCK of these seven day wonders being sold to you at stupid prices. When you are satisfied that the colour is a genuine one and breeds true, you can relax. I have had countless calls over the years from distraught people who have bought all sorts of birds from disreputable people, like the so called “Bakgat” fowl, and when they try to breed them they get the biggest rubbish birds you can imagine, and not one the same as the parents or the same as each other!
Birds are not cheap to keep and not cheap to buy. Be very careful where and from whom you buy.
Now to the colour of the Brahma:
I have only had the Brahma Partridge, basically because I have never seen a Light Brahma of decent colour and size to tempt me to try and breed them, and the same with the other colours. So I have stuck to one colour finding it enough of a challenge to get it right!
These are all champion Partridge Brahmas and have won at all the national shows since 2005.
The large male in the first photo is the male that won three consecutive championships at national level. He weighed in at 7kg and was 63 cm high. His comb was not the standard pea comb being a little too large for a pea comb, but his size and his massive chest build made up for any deficiencies in the comb. His colour is correct, showing a black chest as the cock above is showing and a buff triangle on the wing bow when the wing is folded. This is in the standard. In his last years he started showing some rust in the chest after several years of moulting. I was attempting to rectify the comb in my breeding when I was forced to give up these beautiful birds. The colour of the girls in picture is absolutely correct: The Partridge has a triple colour bar being buff in the centre and having two concentric dark brown rings on each feather. This is known as pencilling and pencilling when it is right is beautifully distinct, with each feather having three concentric rings, and none becoming blurred and indistinct from the others. This gives the girls a lovely watered silk look to their coats especially when in good health. If you notice the pencilling becoming blurred, and it is most often found on the front of the chest, your breeding needs to concentrate more on a distinct colour.
You do this as follows:
1. Find a male that has very distinctive bright orange in his hackle as the last male shown has.
2. Look at the hackle on the front and see if he has a distinct black border around each feather as the Sussex Light does, a dark border all around the feather. If the dark and the gold blend together and become blurred don’t use that male.
3. Look under the arm pit of the male and see if he has a few splashes of brown under the armpit in the crook of the wing. If he has, use him.
4. Finally a male that has several brown splashes across his breast is not one you can show but use him in the breeding pen to ensure solid lacing in the pullets.
5. Use males with very deep orange or even red eyes. This is also a genetic marker for the lacing.
1. Select some solid large pullets first and foremost. It does not matter that they may not have good lacing, the size is more important. Also select those pullets that lay the largest eggs, as this is where your size begins.
2. Select pulletts or hens that have very distinct orange bordered with dark brown or black in the hackle, the same as a Sussex Light, with the feather completely surrounded by the darker colour. The more distinct this hackle is the more likely she will give you good lacing in the pullets she breeds. See pictures. Stay away from the girls that have a great deal of shafting in the hackle, that is a line of gold running down the centre of the feather. This is ugly and will breed and multiply exponentially as you go on. Of course if you don’t have a choice then use that hen but cull ruthlessly whatever she breeds with this defect.
3. Lastly select those pullets with very deep orange eyes, as these are the ones that will give you a good dark contrast in the feathering.
There is a link between eye colour and lacing as I found in the Rhode Island Reds. Those that had deep red eyes, good horn colour on the front of the shanks and good ticking around the neck for the girls, those were the three essentials for breeding good black markings in the wings, which in Rhode Islands is very specific. Yellow eyes in a Brahma is not recommended and will breed blurred wishy washy markings. It is more important that the female is the one with the orange eyes.
In the breeding pen the male in the brahmas is more important than the female being the stronger influence but if you can match your birds as I have described you will breed winners.
You need a good large male to start with as starting with a small specimen will breed small offsprings. I know this is hard to come by!
Take the best you have, even if not perfect if they have two or three of the specifics mentioned above it is a good start!
SEE THE ARTICLE ON FEEDING BRAHMAS ON THIS SITE.