With a cuddly, fluffy appearance and a quirky demeanor, the Cochin chicken breed is one that has inspired people all over the world to take up backyard chicken keeping. Although this bird isn’t breaking any records when it comes to egg or meat production, it is sure to win your heart with its adorable little antics.
A gigantic chicken with plenty of feathers to go around, this bird was one of the first to fuel the American and British “hen fever” of the mid-19th century. It has plenty to offer hobby chicken keepers – but is it right for you?
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Cochin chickens.
Background of the Cochin Chicken
Native to Asia, the Cochin chicken was bred with attention to its large size and ample egg production. It was prized for its quick maturation rate – when raised properly, the bird is ready for slaughter at 12 weeks. Left to mature a bit longer, and the bird produces an excellent 12-pound carcass at sixteen months.
While some people believe that the Cochin chicken is native to China – and in fact, the original name of the breed was “Cochin-China,” – others maintain that they were imported from French colonies in Vietnam. Also known as a Shanghai bird, the chicken has included in the first edition of the Standard of Excellence in Exhibition Poultry in the United Kingdom as well as the first Standard of Excellence of the American Poultry Association.
Regardless, the world’s first Cochins did not look much like today’s Cochins. In fact, they were taller and less densely feathered, not nearly as beautiful and adorable as the modern version.
Queen Victoria was the first big fan of the Cochin cochin. As a chicken enthusiast, the Queen kept a special pen for her Cochins and inspired the rest of the country – and later America – to raise these beautiful birds.
Although the original Cochin was an excellent layer, some of that quality was lost as the bird became more attractive and domesticated. Characteristics like docility and fluffiness were selected during breeding rather than production, so some of the egg and meat quality declined as a result.
Appearance of the Cochin Chicken
Cochin chickens were first recognized by the British Poultry Standard in 1865 and later by the American Poultry Association in 1874. It is classified as one of the three different classes of Asian chickens, with the others being Langshan and Brahma. Although Cochin bantams only exist in the United States (in other places, they are known as Pekin bantams), the US recognizes both bantam and standard-sized breeds.
Cochins are slow growers and take several years to mature. At their most mature, however, males will weigh up to eleven pounds and females can clock in at around eight or nine. Bantams are usually only 26 to 30 ounces.
In the United States, the following variations are accepted as part of the Cochin breed standard:
In other places, like the United Kingdom, cuckoo is a recognized variation as well. That is not the case in the United States.
Interestingly, whit eCochin chickens are much more common than any other color variation. It can be difficult for breeders to produce the correct markings and colors, even if you’re trying to preserve a pure white color. Often, breeders need to change and monitor the diet of their COchins during molting to help preserve the pigmentation in the feathers.
Regardless of the color, the Cochin will have a dense mass of fluffy feathers that covers the entire bird from beak to toe. Even the toes and legs are fully feathered. This feathering can make the chicken look a lot larger than it actually is!
A Cochin has a single five-point comb that is red in color, as are the ear lobes and wattles. The eyes are golden-yellow while the beak color can vary depending on the bird. Usually, the lighter the bird is, the lighter the beak is, too.
While you won’t see much of the legs and toes, these are both yellow, like the skin. The only part of the bird that is not feathered is a portion of the middle toe and the entire inner toe. Even the tail is fully feathered (although the tail tends to be somewhat small in appearance).
Cochins are also available frizzled, which makes them appear a bit zany and electrified! Frizzle Cochins aren’t recognized everywhere – in Australia and Europe, frizzles are regarded as their own breeds.
Behavior of the Cochin Chicken
The Cochin chicken is often considered one of the best chicken breeds you can raise for eggs. Not only is it incredibly calm, but it’s docile and quite friendly, too. It does not mind being handled, so it’s a good option for families with small children.
Cochin hens are some of the most nurturing and attentive mothers. They often become broody and will take on a motherly role in a flock even if they do not have offspring of their own. In fact, in many cases, Cochin chickens will adopt the deserted chicks of other hens. If given the opportunity, Cochins will hatch multiple batches of eggs per year if given the opportunity.
Cochins are so large that they can even be used to hatch ducks and turkeys! They can hatch chicks very early in the year, when it’s still cold, and do a great job when raising the young of other breeds.
These birds are also easy to tame and will happily occupy your chicken run or coop. They don’t love to wander, but they are good free-rangers in that they love eating just about any kind of food.
They don’t scratch quite as profusely of other breeds, but you don’t have to worry about them flying off on you, either. Their heavy size makes it more difficult for them to get airborne, so they are easy to contain with a fence that is only about two feet tall.
For whatever reason, bantam Cochins are not as easygoing and mellow as their full-sized counterparts. Call it Napoleon syndrome or simply overcompensating, but bantam Cochins tend to be feisty and aggressive.
Cochin Chicken Egg & Meat Production
Here is what you need to know about the productivity of the Cochin chicken:
Is the Cochin Chicken Good for Eggs?
The Cochin chicken is a great breed to consider if you want to raise chickens for eggs. Thi bird produces eggs starting at roughly five months old. The eggs are pale brown and usually medium to medium-large in size.
Unfortunately, Cochins are known for being a bit unpredictable when it comes to their laying. Some hens only lay during certain times of the year while others continue playing throughout the winter months – some people report that this is when their Cochins lay best, in fact.
This is a sharp contradiction to the hens of other chicken breeds, who often stop playing altogether during the shorter days of the year. Cochin chickens are more likely to shut off their laying during the summer months, when conditions become too hot.
Cochin chickens aren’t the best when it comes to their egg production longevity, either. In most cases, they only produce eggs for about two to three years. It is sometimes even less if you use methods to encourage them to lay year-round, such as placing an artificial light in the coop.
On average, Cochin hens start laying eggs at around eight to nine months. These chickens are somewhat slow to mature, especially when you consider that most egg-laying breeds begin to produce at four to six months of age.
Is the Cochin Chicken Good for Meat?
While the Cochin chicken likely won’t be your top choice if you are interested in raising chickens for meat, there are some benefits to its meat production, too. It produces meat that is primarily dark and coarse in texture.
You can slaughter the birds as early as 12 weeks of age, but they will be somewhat small. More often than not, Cochin chickens are raised until they are capons, at the age of 12 to 16 months. Since the meat of the bird tends to be course regardless of the age, there is no disadvantage to eating.
If you wait until your Cochin is a year or a year and a half old to slaughter, you will be rewarded with a good table bird that is around ten to twelve pounds.
Potential Issues of the Cochin Chicken
Unfortunately, Cochin chickens are prone to becoming obese. While they will forage occasionally if given the chance, they would rather laze about and eat what’s directly in front of them. They need low roosts and, if forced to fly or jump tall distances, can easily injure their legs.
In order to prevent obesity, you will need to ration the amount of food that you provide to your birds. Free-choice feeding is not recommended for these birds, as they will park themselves in front of the feeders and totally gorge themselves. You may even find that you need to weigh your hens periodically, too, to help keep their health in check.
Cochin chickens are prone to the other issues that plague backyard flocks of chickens, including lice and mites. These risks are dramatically elevated when you consider that the dense feathers of the Cochin can provide lots of hiding spots for these pests. Just make sure you provide a nice dust bath area that includes a dose of diatomaceous earth to keep parasites at bay.
They are also prone to conditions like bumblefoot, which can cause serious injuries and infections.
After a heavy rain or snowstorm, you may want to bring your Cochin chickens indoors for a little TLC. It’s not uncommon for their legs to become caked with mud, so you might want to hate them in warm water and then dry them thoroughly before letting them back outside.
How to Raise Cochin Chickens
Cochin chickens don’t require much more attention than chickens of other breeds. They can easily withstand cold temperatures, once they are full-bodied and densely feathered. With that said, you will want to take some steps to help these birds prevent exposure to the elements. Their feathers are so large and fluffy that they can quickly become dirty and sodden.
This can lead to significant health problems if you aren’t vigilant about keeping them clean and dry. Make sure your Cochins have a warm, cozy coop to return to during the most dismal days of winter. They do well in small spaces, so you don’t need to worry about building an oversized coop.
Cochin chickens do not require a special diet – they just need to be rationed so they don’t gain too much weight. You will want to provide a laying ration during the laying season and extra protein during the molt. they may require a bit more protein at this time than other chickens, in fact, because of their dense feathers.
Ideally, you should keep your Cochin chickens on short grass. This will help prevent their feathers from becoming sullied. For whatever reason, these chickens naturally tend to avoid wandering into dense vegetation anyway.
When raised properly with the correct amounts of food and water and a cozy coop to call home, Cochin chickens live for around five to eight years.
Pros and Cons of Raising the Cochin Chicken
Here are some of the main benefits and drawbacks of the breed:
Benefits of Raising a Cochin Chicken
Cochin chickens are perfect if you want to hatch your own chicks. Not only are the hens inclined to broodiness, but they are incredibly docile even in this setting, too. In fact, even the roosters have been known to sit on eggs – Cochin chickens have some of the best parental instincts of all other breeds.
When it comes to roosters, you won’t find a tamer breed, either. Cochin roosters rarely become aggressive and don’t fight often. They are easy to tame and many people even raise these birds inside their homes.
Cochins don’t like to wander so you don’t have to worry about them running off or falling victim to predators. You only need a short fence to keep them contained and they don’t mind being raised in confinement, either.
With her dense feathers, Cochin chickens are very hardy and thrive during the coldest days of winter. They love to eat and don’t have any issues with putting on weight.
Cochin chickens are great for people who show chickens at exhibitions or even would like chickens for 4H projects. These birds are tolerant of people and enjoy being handled. Plus, their unique appearance helps them draw attention no matter where they go!
Challenges of Raising a Cochin Chicken
The challenges of raising Cochin chickens are limited, but still worth a mention. If you are using Cochin chickens to brood the eggs of other birds, you’ll need to be a bit careful about what kind of nesting boxes you have. If the boxes aren’t spacious enough, your Cochin chicken may be more likely to break the thin shells of the eggs as they move around.
Also, because these chickens are such voracious eaters, they do have a tendency toward obesity. While their eating habits are great in that they help them put on enough weight and maintain body heat to get through the winter months, they are predisposed to becoming overfat and developing liver disorders from overheating, too.
Cochin chickens do well in cold environments, but they mature somewhat slowly. This is not problematic, especially if you don’t want to raise your Cochins for meat, but you’ll want to make sure they are fully feathered out before putting them outdoors. These birds tend to feather out a bit more slowly than birds of other breeds.
On the flip side of things, it’s important to note that Cochins are not very heat tolerant. Their fluffy feathers make it difficult for them to withstand hot temperatures. The large body size of this bird doesn’t do it any favors, either.
Because of their dense feathers, Cochin chickens aren’t great at flying or getting away from predators. They tend to move a bit slowly, which can subject them to predation or threats from other flock-mates on occasion.
If you are raising a frizzled Cochin, you’ll have a few other challenges on your hands, too. You can’t breed frizzles to other frizzles, which can cause patchy feathering or even total balding. These birds do not tolerate the cold as their curled feathers provide poor insulation and protection from precipitation.
Frizzle Cochins are also totally unable to fly – they can’t even get airborne enough to get up on their roosts. They are also more likely to be picked on by dominant hens in the flock.
Finally, because of their feathers, you will need to be cautious about the conditions in which you raise your Cochin chickens. Muddy pens, in particular, need to be avoided. Cochins have feathered toes that can easily become wet and sullied. If they don’t dry out quickly enough in cold, wet conditions, they can develop frostbite.
Is the Cochin Chicken Right For Me?
If you’re thinking about raising Cochin chickens, you’re in luck – these chickens can be found at just about any hatchery. They are also readily available at most local farm stores. Although they aren’t the most common chickens you can raise, they aren’t considered rare, either.
Although the Cochin isn’t the best chicken to raise if you are looking for a ton of eggs and meat, these birds are perfect for people interested in the perfect backyard pet.