Cochin Chicken

Gallus gallus domesticus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Dewi Cahyaningrum/Shutterstock.com

Cochin chickens gifted to Queen Victoria started a craze that lasted more than a decade!


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Cochin Chicken Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Gallus
Scientific Name
Gallus gallus domesticus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Cochin Chicken Conservation Status

Cochin Chicken Locations

Cochin Chicken Locations

Cochin Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects, larvaue, worms, and small animals like mice or lizards
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
Cochin chickens gifted to Queen Victoria started a craze that lasted more than a decade!
Biggest Threat
Predators
Most Distinctive Feature
Fluffy feathers all over, and large size
Distinctive Feature
Red, single comb with five points; red earlobes and wattles; yellow legs and feet; variety of colors
Other Name(s)
Cochin China fowl
Temperament
Docile and friendly
Training
Easy
Incubation Period
21 days
Habitat
In captivity only
Predators
Foxes; weasels; raccoons; snakes; birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Flock
Favorite Food
Commercial feed, seeds and other plant material, insects, larvae, and worms
Special Features
Fluffy, dense feathers covering their whole body, except for inner toes and half the middle toes.
Origin
China
Number Of Species
1
Location
United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia
Average Clutch Size
12
Group
Flock
Nesting Location
In coops
Age of Molting
About 18 months

Cochin Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
  • Orange
  • Silver
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey
  • Multi-colored
  • Golden
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
8 to 10 years
Weight
8.5 to 11 pounds, with males being larger than females
Height
15 to 21 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
8 to 9 months
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Cochin chickens gifted to Queen Victoria started a craze that lasted more than a decade!

Cochin chickens are a popular type of ornamental chicken raised by breeders in many parts of the world. They originated in China and were exported in the 1840s to the United States and Europe. A small flock was gifted to Queen Victoria, and her love for the breed spread like a frenzy among the elite. Driven by 19th century influencers, investors poured their savings into Cochin chickens, until the bubble burst leaving many in ruins. Today, varieties of this breed are recognized in several colors and in large and bantam sizes. These birds are among the largest chickens, with roosters averaging up to 11 pounds and hens weighing in at around 8.5 pounds. They look even bigger, thanks to their dense, fluffy feathers that even cover their legs and most of their feet.

Incredible Cochin Chicken Facts

  • Cochin chickens are one of the largest existing chicken breeds.
  • These chickens are covered head to toe in dense, fluffy feathers, except for their inner toes and part of their middle toes.
  • Cochin chickens are not great for meat, as they grow slowly and give mostly dark meat.
  • Because of the feathers on their feet, Cochins must be kept dry in cold weather or risk frostbite.
  • Cochin chickens are docile and friendly, and they are so laid back some people call them lazy.
  • Cochin roosters get along well with other roosters, and sometimes even brood eggs.

Where to Find Cochin Chickens

These large, fluffy birds originated in China, and were exported beginning as early as the 1840s. Official records indicate they were exported to both Europe and the United States by 1846, but some researchers suggest they began appearing in the west up to 50 years earlier than that.

A gift of seven Cochin China Fowl, given to Queen Victoria of Great Britain in 1842, is widely credited as beginning a decade-long craze known as “hen fever.” Queen Victoria was known for her love of animals, particularly birds. She collected specimens from around the world. These large but gentle chickens delighted her so much that she had a special aviary built, where she spent much of her leisure time.

Soon Queen Victoria had a collection of several unique breeds and made gifts of fancy chickens to other royals. The nobility and upper classes across Europe and other parts of the world took notice. They began trading chickens for exorbitant prices, driving the value of the birds soaring. The markets became saturated and the value of the exotic chickens, including the Cochins that started it all, plummeted. By the late 1850s, as suddenly as hen fever had begun, it was over.

Cochins in Modern Times

Today, Cochin chickens are still found in private flocks in various parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. They are generally bred in cooler climates. However, their enclosures must be kept dry because even though they tolerate the cold well, they are prone to frostbite due to their feathered feet. Cochin chickens do not tolerate hot weather well, so they are less likely to be found in warm climates. 



Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Cochin chicken is Gallus gallus or Gallus gallus domesticus. This is the same scientific name shared by most breeds of domesticated chickens around the world. These chickens are believed to have come from the red junglefowl of South and Southeast Asia. Linnaeus first described G. gallus in 1758. Many different breeds of domestic chickens all around the world now comprise the Gallus gallus domesticus species.

According to the Livestock Conservancy, Cochin chickens were known as “Ju-chin” in China, a reference to their hefty weight. They became known as Shanghai chickens, or Shanghae fowl, as they were exported from the Shanghai port to other parts of the world beginning in the 1840s. They were also called Cochin China fowl. This is the name that was used when the breed was included in the proposal for the very first poultry show in the United States, held in Boston in 1849. More recently, this Asiatic breed has been known simply as Cochin chickens.

Appearance

Cochin chickens are shaped like a fluffy heart when viewed from the side. They have short tail feathers that are held erect, lending to their heart-shaped appearance. They are large chickens, with roosters weighing up to 11 pounds and hens weighing up to 8.5 pounds. Their dense, fluffy feathers that extend all the way down the outsides of their feet make them look even larger. They are nearly as large as the similar Brahma chickens, known as the “King of all Poultry.”

These chickens have relatively short wings, which combined with their weight impede their ability to fly. They have a single five-point comb. It is bright red, somewhat short, and rounded against the curve of their head. Their wattles and ear lobes are also red. They have yellowish eyes and yellow legs, although their legs and most of their feet are covered in feathers. The inner toe and part of the middle toe are exposed.

Cochin chicks are covered in downy feathers from head to toe when they hatch. They range in color from yellow to blue-gray to black.

Two Cochin chickens in a farm yard.

From a side view, a Cochin chicken looks like a fluffy heart.

©Algirdas Gelazius/Shutterstock.com

Recognized Breed Standards

Different varieties of the breed are recognized by their colors. The Poultry Club of Great Britain, which first recognized the Cochin breed in 1865, includes six standardized colors. Black Cochins are all black, while the White variety is all white. The Blue variety has dark blue-gray hackles, saddle, and tail feathers, while the rest of the bird is a lighter, even shade of blue-gray. The Buff variety has lemon, gold, orange or cinnamon hackles, saddle, and tail feathers, with lighter, evenly colored feathers underneath. Cuckoo Cochins are blue-gray with fine, dark bars crossing their feathers. And the Partridge and Grouse variety is black with red or orange hackles and saddle feathers, each featuring thin, vertical black stripes, and darker red neck feathers.

The American Poultry Association, which added Cochin chickens to their Standard of Excellence in 1874, recognizes nine varieties. White is the most common variety and was one of the first recognized in 1874, along with Buff, Partridge, and Black standards. In 1965, the APA added Blue, Brown, Silver Laced and Golden Laced to the standard, and in 1982 the Barred variety was recognized.

The American Poultry Association also currently recognizes 20 varieties of bantam-size Cochin chickens. The first of these bantam varieties were the White, Buff, Partridge, and Black, recognized the same year as their larger counterparts. The most recent include the Buff Columbian and the Lemon Blue varieties, recognized in 2018. These bantam chickens are much smaller than the large varieties, weighing under two pounds.

Behavior

Cochin chickens are described as one of the gentlest, friendliest breeds of chickens that exist. They are laid back, easy-going, and sometimes described as lazy. They are gregarious birds and get along well with others. The large-sized roosters are friendly, even with other males, and are likely to behave a lot like the hens. Although the roosters do crow at times throughout the day, they are not excessively loud. They are calm, docile, and even willing to brood eggs.

Bantam roosters, on the other hand, have a reputation for being scrappy and willing to take on other birds. This may have something to do with their diminutive size.

Owners suggest that Cochin chickens are exceptionally good with other chickens and with humans of all ages. These chickens make good pets for children, and they are generally easy to handle and to train. They are highly social birds, and they coexist very well with other breeds.

Diet

Cochin chickens are omnivores. Like most domestic chickens, they will eat a variety of seeds and other green plant material, as well as invertebrates such as insects, larvae and worms. They will eat small animals such as mice or lizards if given the opportunity, although their massive size keeps them from being among the fastest hunters. Cochin chickens are relatively good at foraging, and they will search for their own food if allowed to free range. However, they do not scratch as much as many other chicken breeds.

These chickens cannot rely on foraging alone to fulfill their dietary needs. They must be given supplementary feed, but owners must be careful because they tend toward obesity. They can develop serious health problems or even face an early death if they are overfed. Healthy, leafy green treats can help to mitigate this issue.

Reproduction

Cochin hens are known for being naturally broody. They lay an average of about 160 medium to large eggs per year, giving more eggs in cooler weather than in the heat of the summer. Sometimes Cochin chickens will raise more than one brood per year. These hens are also often used to brood other eggs, including those from other chickens and even ducks and turkeys.

Owners suggest a ratio of about one rooster for every six hens, which may be a smaller ratio than some other breeds because the roosters do get along well with one another and are not particularly energetic breeders.

Cochin hens do not feed their newly hatched chicks. The chicks begin to feed on their own within a few days after hatching. They grow more slowly than many other breeds and do not reach sexual maturity until around eight to nine months of age.

Predators

Cochin chickens face many of the same predators as other breeds, including foxes, weasels, and raccoons. Birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles are also common threats, as are snakes, particularly with respect to young chickens and eggs. The massive size of Cochin chickens may deter some predators, but it is precisely that trait that makes them more vulnerable to others. These hefty chickens are not able to fly well at all, and they can’t run fast enough to evade an attacker. Their size and lack of ability to fly makes these chickens more likely to be killed by predators, especially given that many owners will forego overhead enclosures, opting instead for low fences.

Lifespan

The Cochin chicken lives up to about 8 to 10 years, if they are not eaten first. They are not the best breed for meat, nor for eggs. When their popularity waned after the fancy chicken frenzy, so did their population, but the Livestock Conservancy lists the breed as recovering now. Their friendly temperament, attractive looks and ease of handling make them desirable ornamental chickens for backyard breeders in many parts of the world.

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

Cochin Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do Cochin chickens look like?

Cochin chickens are large, heavy birds covered in dense, fluffy feathers from their head to their feet. Their short tail feathers are held erect, lending to their heart-shaped appearance. They have relatively short wings. They have a bright red, single five-point comb. It is somewhat short and rounded. Their wattles and ear lobes are also red. They have yellowish eyes and yellow legs, although their legs and most of their feet are covered in feathers. The inner toe and part of the middle toe are exposed.

How big are Cochin chickens?

Cochin chickens are one of the largest chicken breeds, with roosters weighing up to 11 pounds and hens averaging 8.5 pounds. Hens stand approximately 15 inches tall, while roosters can be up to 21 inches or more.

How well do Cochin chickens fly?

Cochin chickens do not fly well, partly due to their relatively short wings, and mostly because of their heavy weight. They can be easily kept in an enclosure with a fence only two feet high, although this may not provide enough security to keep predators at bay.

How many varieties of Cochin chickens exist?

The American Poultry Association currently recognizes nine varieties of standard size Cochin chickens, including Black, Buff, Partridge, White, Barred, Blue, Brown, Golden Laced and Silver Laced. Twenty different varieties of bantam size Cochin chickens are also recognized, with the latest added in 2018.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain recognizes only six varieties of the large size Cochin chickens, including Black, White, Blue, Buff, Cuckoo, and the multicolored Partridge and Grouse.

What makes Cochin chickens special?

A small flock of Cochin chickens was gifted to Queen Victoria in 1842. They started a craze known as “hen fever” that caused the price of fancy chickens to soar. This frenzy lasted more than a decade before the bubble burst, leaving many investors in ruins.

Where do Cochin chickens live?

Cochin chickens originated in China, but today they are found in private flocks in various parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. They are generally raised in cooler climates because they do not tolerate hot weather well.

What do Cochin chickens eat?

Cochin chickens are omnivores. They eat a variety of seeds and green plant parts, as well as insects, larvae, worms, and small animals like mice and lizards if they can catch them. They also eat commercial feed. Leafy, green treats are recommended for their health and to avoid obesity.

How many eggs do Cochin chickens lay?

Cochin chickens average about 160 eggs per year. Their eggs are medium to large and brown.

How long do Cochin chickens live?

Cochin chickens live approximately 8 to 10 years if they are well cared for and protected from predators.

Are Cochin chickens rare?

The population of Cochin chickens declined after their wild popularity in the 1840s and 1850s. However, the Livestock Conservancy lists the breed as recovering now, and it is found in private flocks in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and perhaps other parts of the world.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. National Geographic/Emelyn Rude / Published August 5, 2015 / Accessed April 10, 2023
  2. Livestock Conservancy / Accessed April 12, 2023
  3. American Poultry Association / Accessed April 11, 2023
  4. Coach House Cochins/Tim Lockett / Accessed April 11, 2023