The Nankin Chicken Breed

Reader Contribution by Alexander Goldberg
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In my last post Sumatra Chickens at the Poultry Show, I talked about taking my chickens poultry shows. A few weeks ago, I went to the Northeastern Poultry Congress show. I was really interested because it would be our local regional meet of the Nankin Club of America (NCA), and there would be different activities than I usually see, such as egg judging. I was also very excited because there would be pigeons there!

When I got to the show, I was asked if I wanted to clerk for one of the judges. The clerk follows the judge, recording his/her decisions. I agreed and I am glad that I decided to do so. I was assigned to clerk for Mr. Patrick Sheehy, and he judged waterfowl. Waterfowl is one of my weak areas in showmanship.  I learned a lot walking around with him while he shared his opinions of how the birds should be ranked.

The different activities that they had were very fun. On one table there were a row of cages containing about ten different breeds for us to identify. On another table there were competitions for egg judging, layer judging (for White Leghorns) and breed judging (for East Indies Ducks).

Just before going to the show, I had joined the aforementioned NCA, and I was very excited about getting to see Nankins at the show. Two of the first chickens that I ever got were Nankins and I still have them both. (Their names are Zeus and Hera and they are pictured below.) The Nankin is a rare breed and I don’t usually see them at the shows. I was slightly disappointed because there were very few there, even though it was a meet, but that disappointment was instantly dismissed when I met Mr. Howard Kogan, the Vice President of the NCA. He is a really interesting person and he told me a lot about Nankins. On the last day of the show, he surprised me with a pair of pullets to take home and add to my flock!

Mr. Kogan also introduced me to Mr. Bob Hawes, the only other person showing Nankins at the show. It was really fascinating talking to Mr Hawes. He has been breeding Nankins for a many years and has loaned his birds to institutions for display.

While I’m on the topic of Nankins, I’d like to share some information about the history of the breed. The Nankin was very popular in England (though it originated in Asia) until the 16th century when fancier breeds, like the Polish, became popular, at which point their numbers dwindled. They were still kept though, unlike many other British breeds, for their broodiness, as many of the “fancy” breeds were very unlikely to hatch their own eggs. Later, Sir John Sebright used them in the creation of the Sebright Bantam. The Nankin is considered a “true Bantam,” meaning it does not have a full size counterpart. The two varieties of the Nankin bantam are Rose Comb and Single Comb.

I love having Nankins in my flock. They are so cute and I have a lot of fun interacting with them. Hera has been a wonderful mother to the chicks she has raised, even when they were large fowl breeds who probably surprised her with how fast they grew! Normally it is not safe to leave a cock with a broody hen, but Zeus is such a gentleman. He protects Hera while she is on the nest and the two raise the chicks together when they hatch. Nankins are really special! I am also grateful to be part of the effort to keep this rare breed alive in the U.S.A.

All in all, I am very glad that I went to this show (though I hated the eight hour drives there and back) because I learned so much. I had never really paid that much attention to the fact that there were never any Nankins at shows, but from now on, I plan to never let any show that I go to in the future be “Nankin-deficient.”

The answer to the question in my last post shocked me when I first learned about peafowl varieties. Who could possibly not be shocked by the fact that there are 185 different varieties of peafowl when there were originally only three before they were domesticated?!

My next question is: which breed of bantam has the most different color varieties?


The Livestock Conservancy
The University of Maine
The United Peafowl Association
• Ekarius, C. (2007). Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, LLC.

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