Backyard Chickens

The Cochin

The distinctive Cochin chicken originally came from China and once enjoyed a high degree of popularity. Nowadays it is kept mainly for exhibition purposes. The pronunciation is 'coach-in'.

Cochin Chicken(52685)Credit: Wikimedia

It is also known as the Chinese Shanghai or the Cochin China. During the mid 19th century the Cochin was exported to Britain and America. Queen Victoria of England fell in love with the cochin, after being given several as a gift. At this time they were renowned for their egg laying and meat producing capabilities.

They did not live up to the reputation that they were afforded and this, combined with a small genetic base, plus breeding for plumage and colour rather than production, has seen them relegated to an exhibition bird. They have sweet, friendly personalities and are gentle and easily tamed. The bantam version is equally attractive and is one of the best pet chicken breeds for children.

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The cochin was one of the largest breeds seen with cocks weighing perhaps 5kg and hens 3.9kg. Its soft, abundant plumage enhances its already large size. It has extremely heavy, fluffy feathering which gives them a round, plump appearance. There is a lot of down fibre in the under fluff. The soft feathering extends down the leg and foot. There is much fluffy feathering round the vent area. This 'cushion' can make mating difficult and breeders will sometimes clip the feathers in this area. Cochins have yellow skin and lay brown eggs. It has a single comb.

Breeders have developed a range of colour varieties including buff, partridge, silver-laced, blue, black, barred and golden-laced. 'Frizzled' cochins can now be found too. The feathers of a frizzled bird turn outwards, making it look as though it has a strong tail wind behind it. Cochins are good mothers and equally good foster mothers. They go broody easily, sometimes whether they have eggs or not! They are also stubborn and will stay broody for long periods of time, with or without eggs. Because of their feathering, they are not good flyers.

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They tend to lay in 'clutches' rather than laying for extended periods. Two eggs a week is the average production of a cochin hen. The life span is 8 to 10 years with good husbandry, however breeders normally only breed from their birds for 2 to 3 years.

The feathering on the feet of the cochin can become dirty and bedraggled, especially during winter. To avoid these problems, clip the long feathering round the legs and feet. Exhibition birds are often kept in dry, well-protected pens with fine wood shavings as a base material. This helps keep the feathers clean and unbroken.

The cochin copes well in cold weather which isn't surprising considering his lovely, fluffy 'coat'. Cochins feel the heat and will need plenty of shade and fresh water during hot days. If temperatures rise over the mid 30s (C), they will benefit from a spray with a mist nozzle. They are better suited to cold climates.

Being pure bred and lacking hybrid vigour, cochins benefit from a high protein diet with added vitamins. Medicating for worms and diseases is a good idea. Although the cochin is easily surpassed by other breeds as regards egg and meat production, it is nevertheless an attractive breed and worthy of its place in the poultry world.

Links to my other articles on chickens:
ISA Brown Chicken - Characteristics
Rhode Island Red Chicken - Characteristics
Raising Backyard Chickens


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