Modern Game Chicken

Gallus gallus

Last updated: November 2, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© patrimonio designs ltd/Shutterstock.com

The Modern Game chicken is a lanky bird with legs that go for days!

Modern Game Chicken Scientific Classification

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

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Modern Game Chicken Conservation Status

Modern Game Chicken Locations

Modern Game Chicken Locations

Modern Game Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects, worms, other invertebrates
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
The Modern Game chicken is a lanky bird with legs that go for days!
Estimated Population Size
Fewer than 5000
Biggest Threat
Cold weather
Most Distinctive Feature
Long, slender, upright body
Distinctive Feature
Long legs; long neck; slender body; upright posture; many different color varieties
Temperament
Friendly but sometimes aggressive
Training
Can be trained
Habitat
Captivity; prefers warm climates
Predators
Foxes, raccoons, opossums, hawks, owls, snakes
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Flock
Favorite Food
Insects
Special Features
Both large and bantam varieties are recognized
Origin
Great Britain
Location
Mainly Europe and the United States
Group
Flock
Nesting Location
Coops

Modern Game Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
3 to 7 years
Weight
4.5 to 6 pounds for large size; 20 to 22 ounces for bantam size
Height
Up to 22 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
24 weeks
Venomous
No

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The Modern Game chicken is a lanky fellow with legs that go for days!

The Modern Game chicken has been described as looking like a ballerina, a velociraptor, or even a greyhound. I think it looks kind of like a lanky teenager in a pair of skinny jeans. However you describe them, Modern Game chickens are easily recognizable with their slender bodies, tight feathers, and extremely long legs. 

Purposely bred as exhibition birds in response to an 1849 law banning cockfighting in Great Britain, these fowl are descendants of the Old English Game and Malay chickens. Owners say that they are fun chickens to have around with a curious and talkative nature and an overall friendly demeanor. 

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Incredible Modern Game Chicken Facts

  • The Modern Game chicken was created in response to a ban on cockfighting in Great Britain. 
  • This chicken once fetched the equivalent of thousands of dollars per bird. 
  • This breed was the result of crosses between Old English Game and Malay chickens.
  • Modern Game chickens cannot tolerate the cold.
  • In the United States, male Modern Game chickens must be dubbed in order to enter competitions.
  • These chickens are fast and agile predators.

Where to Find Modern Game Chickens

Modern game chickens originated in Great Britain in direct response to the Cruelty to Animals Act enacted in 1849. This law banned the practice of cockfighting in Great Britain. Wealthy owners of game birds were left with a whole lot of chickens that had been cultivated specifically for fighting. With the so-called sport deemed illegal, the owners turned to a new pastime – exhibition.

Breeders began crossing Old English Game chickens with Malay chickens. The Malay chickens were much taller and leaner, reaching heights of up to 30 inches. The resulting show birds, now known as Modern Game chickens, were lean, tall and graceful looking. They quickly grew in popularity in Great Britain. According to the Modern Game Club of the United Kingdom, top birds were selling for today’s equivalent of thousands of dollars by the turn of the 20th century. 

Modern Game chickens were exported to other countries in Europe, the United States, Australia and other parts of the world in the late 19th century. However, by the end of World War II, Modern Game chickens had already begun to decline. Although they can still be found in many countries, their numbers are estimated at fewer than 5,000 worldwide and they are listed as threatened by the Livestock Conservancy.     

Modern Game Chicken Scientific Name

Modern Game chicken may be a bit of a misnomer. This chicken was never used as a fighting bird like its predecessor, the Old English Game chicken. Nonetheless, it has all the appearance of an agile and athletic bird. 

This bird’s scientific name is Gallus gallus or Gallus gallus domesticus, just like other domesticated chickens around the world. The red junglefowl of South and Southeast Asia, G. gallus, was named by Linnaeus in 1758. Today dozens of different breeds comprise the Gallus gallus domesticus species.

Modern Game Chicken Appearance

The Modern Game chicken is a lanky bird that carries itself in a very upright posture. It has a slender body that is described as the shape of a flat iron when seen from above. Its most distinguishing features are its long neck and long, thin legs. 

The large variety of this bird reaches a height of around 22 inches, which is tall for a chicken. Still, it is considerably smaller than the 30-inch height of the Malay chicken from which it was bred. Roosters attain weights of about 6 pounds, while hens get to be around 4.5 pounds. The bantam variety is much smaller, weighing in at 22 ounces or less and only a fraction of the height.

The Modern Game chicken is of the hard feather type, which essentially means that its feathers are tight and not at all fluffy. The feathers lie close to the body and appear smooth and sleek. The chicken has a short, mostly straight tail that matches its streamlined appearance.  

Modern Game chickens have small, red or mulberry-colored combs and wattles. The combs are straight with five points. Male show birds in the United States have their combs, wattles and ear lobes removed in a process called dubbing. Dubbing is a controversial practice but is currently required for showing this breed in the United States. 

modern game chicken at a fair
The Modern Game chicken carries itself in an upright posture.

©Christine/CCBY2.0

Variations in Color

Modern Game chickens can be divided into two basic variants, those with yellow legs and reddish eyes and those with black legs and dark eyes.

Many breeds of domestic chickens are easy to distinguish by their colors. That is not the case with these highly variable chickens. The Poultry Club of Great Britain recognizes thirteen different color combinations. At least fourteen variations of Modern Game bantams and nine large fowl variations are listed with the American Poultry Association. Some of the acceptable color combinations include birchen, black, black-breasted red, blue, lemon blue, ginger-red, golden duckwing, silver duckwing, wheaten, white, and more.

Modern Game Chicken Behavior

These leggy chickens are quick and agile birds. They are adept predators. Their tall and slender form makes them appear even faster as they chase their prey. These birds are active and noisy, and they much prefer to range free as opposed to being confined. Fortunately for gardeners, they do not scratch the ground as much as other types of chickens, so they are a good breed to have around flower beds. 

As show birds, these chickens are known to be trainable. Unlike fluffy birds that might win prizes based primarily on their feathers, owners of these lean and muscular chickens know that winning a show likely comes down to how well their birds can pose. 

The Modern Game chicken has been described as friendly and curious. They bond well with their human family, but may behave aggressively toward strangers. 

Diet

Modern Game chickens are highly adept foragers. They can fulfill most of their dietary needs through foraging if given adequate space. They eat insects, worms and other invertebrates in large quantities. 

If breeders need to supplement the Modern Game chicken’s diet, they can do so with a good commercial feed. In cold weather, especially, the birds may benefit from additional calories to help them stay warm. Peanuts, corn and oily seeds are good winter treats. Like other chickens, Modern Game chickens should not eat rhubarb, avocado pits or skins, chocolate or beans, as these can be harmful. 

Modern Game Chicken Reproduction

Modern Game chickens begin laying at about 24 weeks. They only lay an average of 50 to 80 eggs per year. The eggs are very small. Hens can go broody, but with their slender build and sparse feathers, they can’t brood too many chicks at once. They are reportedly good mothers and do well at raising their chicks once they hatch.

Because these chickens come in such a variety of color combinations, owners may want to breed the birds selectively to either maintain or promote certain traits. This can be done by using enclosures and careful breeding practices, but it requires study and skill.    

Predators and Threats

Modern Game chickens are not especially large, but they are noisy and fast. These qualities can help them to avoid predators such as owls and hawks. They do not tolerate confinement well, which makes them more susceptible to attack as they are likely to be free range birds. 

Foxes, opossums, raccoons, and snakes can easily prey on these chickens, especially in the coop. The bantam size birds are particularly at risk. For this reason, owners must provide safe coops for the birds to use at night with no holes or gaps that might allow predators to enter.

Besides predators, cold is the biggest threat to the these slender chickens. They have very little body fat, and their feathers do not provide much protection from the cold. Temperatures below freezing could be deadly for these birds. They really should not be kept at all in extremely cold climates, as they do much better in warm weather. If they are kept in an area where it is periodically cold, efforts should be made to keep them warm using heaters inside coops and heated water sources.  

Lifespan of the Modern Game Chicken

Modern Game chickens live around three to seven years on average. They may succumb to predators, suffer injuries or accidents, die from exposure to the cold, or simply get old. However, they are not likely to end up on anyone’s dinner plate. These birds were not bred for meat at all. In fact, some people say you would get less than a nugget’s worth of meat from these chickens, even if you scraped their bones clean. Regarding the tiny bantams, that might not be far from the truth.

Similar Animals

  • Phoenix Chicken – The Phoenix chicken is an ornamental chicken that originated in Germany about the same time as the Modern Game Chicken. It is descended from Japanese fowl and has a tail that can be five feet long.
  • Silkie Chicken – The silkie chicken is a crested chicken of Chinese origin. It is much smaller in stature than the standard Modern Game chicken, but has way more fluff. 
  • Onagadori Chicken – The Onagadori is a Japanese long-tailed chicken that grows incredibly long tail feathers, up to 27 feet in length. This heritage breed also faced extinction not too long ago but is making a rebound.

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About the Author

Tavia discovered she had a gift for teaching when she was 21 years old. Having recently changed her major from engineering to wildlife biology, she was thrilled to take on an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She began her work excited about going into the field and saving endangered species, but soon realized she could make the biggest difference by helping to educate young people about animals, the environment and science in general. Tavia loves all animals, especially the ones that need our help the most. Over the years, she has cared for many pets, including snakes, toads, a tarantula, tree frogs, a salamander, hissing cockroaches, mice, donkeys, calves, horses, and a number of cats and dogs, but dogs are definitely her favorite! She believes that together, we can make our world a better place.

Modern Game Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do people raise modern game chickens for meat?Do people raise Modern Game chickens for meat?

Modern Game chickens were never raised for meat. They are far too slender to be considered good meat producers. 

Are Modern Game chickens good egg producers?

Modern Game chickens are not a good breed for eggs at all. They only produce between 50 to 80 eggs per year, and their eggs are quite small.

Why do people raise Modern Game chickens?

People began breeding Modern Game chickens to fill a void left when cockfighting was outlawed in Great Britain in 1849. Owners wanted a game-type bird they could exhibit in competitions. Today, people raise these chickens for show or as pets.

Where did Modern Game chickens originate?

Modern Game chickens originated in Great Britain as a result of selective breeding between Old English Game chickens and the much taller and thinner Malay chickens.

What makes Modern Game chickens special?

Modern Game chickens are tall and thin with a svelte, muscular build that has been compared to a ballerina or a greyhound.

How many varieties of Modern Game chickens are recognized?

The Modern Game chicken comes in large and bantam varieties with well over a dozen different color combinations recognized. These different varieties can be divided into two basic groups: birds with yellow feet and reddish eyes, and birds with black feet and dark eyes.

How big do Modern Game chickens get?

The large breed of Modern Game chickens can grow up to 22 inches in height. The males can weight up to 6 pounds, while the females grow to about 4.5 pounds. The bantam varieties are much smaller. A male bantam Modern Game chicken will only reach about 22 ounces, and the females can be up to 20 ounces.

What does a Modern Game chicken’s comb look like?

The comb of a Modern Game chicken is red or mulberry. It is small, straight and has five points. Controversially, the male bird’s comb, wattle and earlobe must all be cut off in a process called dubbing in order for the bird to be shown in competition in the United States.

Where do Modern Game chickens live?

Modern Game chickens live primarily in Europe and the United States. They began to decline in popularity through the 21st century, but through conservation efforts, the breed is starting to increase in number now.

What do Modern Game chickens eat?

Modern Game chickens are excellent foragers. They eat mainly a variety of insects, worms and other invertebrates. Owners say that it is fun to watch these fast and lanky birds run after prey. The birds fulfill most of their nutritional needs from foraging, but their diet can also be supplemented with commercial chicken feed, particularly in the winter when they need extra calories.

What should Modern Game chickens not eat?

Modern Game chickens should not eat chocolate, rhubarb, avocado pits or skins, or beans.

Are Modern Game chickens friendly?

Modern Game chickens are generally considered to be friendly birds, especially with their own humans. They can be aggressive at times. They are curious and somewhat easy to train.

Are Modern Game chickens noisy?

Modern Game chickens are considered to be noisy and talkative birds.

Are Modern Game chickens good pets?

Modern Game chickens are generally friendly birds who enjoy being around their humans. They are easy birds for gardeners to keep, since they do not scratch up the ground or flower beds as badly as other chickens.

Do Modern Game chickens do well in confinement?

Modern Game chickens do not tolerate confinement well. They prefer to range free during the day, and their coops should provide ample room for them to roost comfortably without feeling too crowded.

What climate do Modern Game chickens prefer?

Modern Game chickens cannot tolerate extreme cold. Sub-freezing temperatures can be deadly for them, because they lack body fat and adequate feathers to stay warm. They very much prefer warm climates.

 

Are Modern Game chickens rare?

Modern Game chickens are listed as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy list of heritage breeds. A century ago, the birds were extremely popular and had been exported across Europe and the United States. Since then they have waned in popularity and their estimated population is fewer than 5,000 birds worldwide.

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

Sources
  1. Modern Game Club, Available here: http://www.moderngameclub.co.uk/
  2. Livestock Conservancy, Available here: https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/heritage-breeds-list/modern-game-chicken/
  3. Amer Poultry, Available here: https://amerpoultryassn.com/accepted-breeds-varieties/
  4. Poultry Club, Available here: https://www.poultryclub.org/breeds/chickens/hard-feather/modern-game/

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