Today, we will talk about the Nankin chicken, a beauty that has been here since the olden times.
If you’re a poultry enthusiast and you’re interested in chicken history, then the Nankin is most probably a bird that will tickle your fancy. They are one of the oldest breeds still in existence. They have been around for a long time.
They may be one of the smallest birds you will ever see, but don’t count them out just yet! They’re wonderful birds you won’t want to miss. So, without further ado, let’s get to know these gems.
Nankin Chicken Background and History
The Nankin chicken’s origin story is somewhat a blur. While these chickens have survived the test of time, it seems their history didn’t. However, let us try to go back as far as we possibly could.
The belief is that they originated somewhere in Southeast Asia and have been around since the 15th century, with some saying that they have been roaming the earth even before that.
For years, they were one of the crowd favorites. However, when the Hen Fever came, their popularity started to decline. During this time, people were searching for newer and more exciting breeds. Because the Nankins have been around for a long time already, people shifted their attention elsewhere.
However, they were not really forgotten as they were useful birds. It was not long before they reclaimed the fame they once lost.
The Nankins’ history is truly rich and far-reaching. They are even in the history of some of our favorite bantams. It is believed that they have been part of the development of some of the other breeds.
Today, one of the oldest chickens is in danger of being wiped out. They have recently made their way in The Livestock Conservancy Conservation Priority List. Serious measures should be taken to preserve these fowls as they have been tagged critical. This label indicates that there are believed to be less than 500 Nankins left in existence today.
These birds are treasures and undoubtedly important in the history of the poultry world. It would be such a shame to lose them after all this time. They are small, but they have played a big role in chicken history. It will not be the same without them.
Nankins Breed Standard and Appearance
The Nankin chicken is a recognized breed by the American Poultry Association and the Poultry Club of Great Britain. The former only accepts two varieties – the Rose Comb Nankin and the Single Comb Nankin.
It could weigh around 1.5 pounds, which is way below the average weight of an average chicken. That is because it is a bantam. Furthermore, it is a true bantam which means that it does not have a larger counterpart.
This chicken has a beautiful chestnut-colored plumage. The Nankin roosters sport a deeper shade while the Nankin hens show off a lighter hue. Despite the difference in their feathering, all Nankins have bright red combs, wattles, and earlobes, which perfectly match their coat. Furthermore, both genders also exhibit black tails, although this color seems to be more defined and crisps in the males.
Another feature to be noted is their shanks. They have slate blue legs, which sometimes appear to be almost white. However, a white-legged Nankin is considered to be a defect. This phenomenon happens because of a recessive gene in roosters that, as you can see, manifests at times.
Personality and Temperament
The Nankin chicken is one of the easiest birds to handle because of its good nature. This breed is best known as a calm bunch, so they don’t really sweat the small stuff. They are also easy-going and friendly birds, so they’re a great choice whether you’re looking for a barnyard buddy or an award-winning exhibition bird. Additionally, they are great with kids, so they could also be a great option to be your children’s playmates!
On the other hand, they’re not that great with other breeds. However, that doesn’t mean they will go looking for trouble! It’s just that they prefer the company of their kind. An interesting fact about the Nankins is that they tend to gather and stay together most of the time! However, this doesn’t mean they’ll stay wary of other breeds forever. They will eventually get used to the other birds if you have other chickens on your run.
Furthermore, they are also curious little critters, so you might want to keep an eye out for them as they may go on adventures to see what lies in the great unknown!
Egg Laying of Nankin Chickens
If you’re looking forward to eggs in the morning, the Nankin chickens are not your birds. They are fair layers and could give you around 100 eggs each year. However, their eggs are pretty small and therefore not ideal to be served.
On the other hand, they go broody and are known to be great sitters and mothers. This is great if you’re looking to hatch and raise your own chicks – whether Nankin chicks or not! They make great surrogate mothers when other hens don’t want to take on the role. Interestingly, this is one of the reasons the poultry world never really forgot them.
Health Issues and Care
Like many other bantams, the Nankin chickens’ eggs can sometimes be rounder than usual. Artificially incubating this kind of eggs is not ideal as it might cause problems. Since the Nankins are broody birds in general, artificial incubation should not be a problem. If for whatever reason, you plan on proceeding with artificial incubation, extra care would be necessary.
However, once out of the eggs, the Nankin chick is known to be a healthy breed, so you will mostly only need to worry about the common health issues and concerns. With enough care, they could live up to eight years.
Furthermore, they are also a hardy breed and known to tolerate all kinds of climates. However, it is important to still give them the necessities during the warm or cold seasons. Don’t forget to provide some shade and lots of water when summer rolls around the corner. On the other hand, don’t forget to provide them some warmth when winter rolls in. They could get frostbite, so you could also apply some wax to help avoid that.
Overall, the Nankin chicken is an easy breed to take care of and won’t need much. However, they won’t say no if you have some extra love to give, of course!
3 Tips for Raising Nankin Chickens
- Fence: Despite not being the best fliers around, the Nankins can still fly so, you would need some tall fences with these critters. If you want, you can even opt for an enclosed run to ensure they won’t be able to fly out.
- Groups: Earlier, we said that Nankins like sticking and bundling together. If you’d like to take care of these birds, then you might want to take them in as a bunch! We suggest you keep at least a few Nankins to ensure you have a happy Nankin on your hands. With their sweetness, we doubt you’d regret it!
- Predators: They’re small birds, and this makes them a fair target for predators. If there are many predators around your area, make sure you secure every possible hole in your run. There should be no way to get in or out of the run aside from the main entryway(s) so that predators won’t be able to get in and your Nankins won’t accidentally get out. In this case, this is another reason to opt for an enclosed run. It’s best to be extra careful with chickens who can’t fend for themselves.
The Nankins are one of the smallest chickens you would ever see. However, they have played a big part in chicken history. Literally and figuratively, we won’t have some of our favorites without their existence.
There are two recognized varieties of Nankins – the Rose Comb Nankin and the Single Comb Nankin. All birds of this breed sport a lovely chestnut-colored plumage. Furthermore, it is a chicken with no larger counterpart making it a true bantam.
They are not the most productive birds around. They are not known to be table birds, and they are only known to be fair egg layers. However, they are one of the most useful chickens in the poultry world. These birds often go broody and so have gained the reputation of being great surrogate mothers.
Whether you’re a poultry enthusiast fascinated with chicken history, a keeper needing a brooding chicken, or even a beginner, the Nankin chickens are definitely birds you would want to consider.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken & Scratch.