This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Dear Sir: In resuming my pen for the purpose of giving you the promised monthly dissertation upon the subject of Poultry, I have concluded to submit to you a paper upon that variety of chickens, which, as layers, as birds for the table, for quietude of habits and general thrift and hardiness, ranks at the head of the list of domestic fowls - I mean the Brahmas. There are two varieties of the Brahma family, known among breeders and fanciers as Dark and Light. In size and general conformation these varieties are strikingly alike, while in color they are quite distinctive. I shall confine myself herein to a description of the light variety; and as it is probable that many of your readers may not be familiar with the peculiar characteristics of this most excellent bird, I will attempt to give you a rather critical portraiture of what I esteem a model Brahma.
The cock should have a broad and rather long body, with full breast, and covered with a sort of pearl-white plumage; legs large and strong, and in length symmetrically proportioned to the size of the body, standing well apart, and feathered down the outsides to the ends of the outer toes; wings small, with the flight feathers dark or black, and the points well covered by the saddle feathers; the tail black and short, and not very upright (as Tegetmeier says it should be), with abundant bronze-colored coverts; small pea comb (a pea comb has the appearance of three small combs united, the center portion being highest) with rather long neck, well curved and abundantly supplied with long neck hackles "which should be delicately penciled above the shoulders. The hen should have the same general characteristics of plumage, etc., as the cock, except that most fanciers prefer to have them darker in the neck-hackle than the male, with a more liberal endowment of fluff feathers around the thighs, with very short dark tails carried almost horizontally.
Year - old cocks, in fair condition and health, should weigh from 9 to 11 lbs., and pullets from 7 to 8 lbs.
I have been thus critical in giving the predominant characteristics, and stating the sizes, so as to enable persons, who may not be very familiar with the points of this valuable fowl, to avoid the impositions which, I am sorry to say, are too frequently practiced upon the uninformed and confiding purchaser by ignorant or unscrupulous dealers. The weights I have stated are by no means the highest which the Brahma attains, for you will doubtless remember the eighteen - months - old cock (the finest, I am sure, that you or I ever saw) which I had the pleasure of submitting to your criticism last fall, weighing over 14 lbs., as well as the six-months-old pullet, which weighed over 8½ lbs.
While upon the subject of the weights of fowls, permit me briefly to refer to a communication from the pen of Mr. Thompson, of Staten Island, which I met with in the Albany Cultivator of the 10th inst. In his communication, in speaking of a lot of his young Brahmas, Mr. T. says: "This season, owing to the cold, the growth of my chicks for the first two months was not so rapid as last year; and yet, strange to say, at the end of three months some of them had gained over a pound a month - the largest pair weighing, together, 6 lbs. 10 oz." Now, Mr. Editor, permit me to say that last spring I had a brood of thirteen Brahmas hatched in my back yard (25 by 35 feet) in this city, where they were kept till they were eaten or otherwise disposed of. They were well fed and remarkably thrifty, notwithstanding the limited space to which they were confined. When two months old, two of the largest (a cock and pullet) weighed three pounds each; at three months I weighed them again, when the same pair weighed five pounds each, being a gain of two pounds each in a month. With a larger run, and free access to grass (which they could not get upon the yard where they were confined), I think they would have thriven still more rapidly than they did.
The partiality of the writer for Brahmas is predicated upon more than a dozen years' familiarity with the excellence of their qualities, and there is no knowledge or authority so satisfying or trustworthy as that of experience. That they are the most quiet fowls in their habits of any of the varieties which the writer has ever attempted to manage, admits of no controversy. A fence four feet high is quite sufficient to confine them within prescribed limits; and they do not seem to fret or worry over confinement.
Touching the laying qualities of the Brahmas, I beg to be permitted to say that during a part of the past winter and early spring, I had the oversight of a flock of twenty game hens and three Brahma hens. From the middle of December (the season of the year when eggs are scarcest and dearest) till about the middle of March, the three Brahma hens laid more eggs than the entire twenty games did, and they were fed daily together and had the same walk. One of the Brahma pullets had laid two litters of eggs and was sitting the second time before the games commenced to lay at all. The same was the experience at another farm where the fowls were part Brahmas and part of the common dunghill breed - the Brahmas had laid and hatched their first broods before the others com-menced to lay. In the month of December last I gave to a gentleman a trio (a cock and two pullets) of chicks which were hatched in the preceding September. In an interview with this gentleman, about the 1st of July, he informed me that the pullets which I gave him commenced laying early in the spring; that one of them had hatched and reared a clutch of ten chicks, and was then sitting again, while the other was still laying regularly along, intermitting an egg once in ten or twelve days, and without ever having sat at all.