About Nankin Bantams Chickens
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About Nankin Bantams ChickensAbout Nankin Bantams Chickens

Nankin Bantams, or just Nankins, are a British bantam chicken. They are a true bantam, a naturally small breed with no large counterpart from which it was miniaturized. They yellowish buff colored, and the name is thought to derive from the color of Nankeen cotton from China.

There are two varieties of Nankin chickens, differentiated by comb type; the single comb Nankin has a large comb with five points, and the rose comb has a medium size one ending in a single point. All Nankins come in a single color, with buff on the body and black tails. The golden hue is deeper and more lustrous in males, and they have the longer sickle feathers common in cocks. Their beaks are a light horn color, and legs are slate blue.

They are very friendly. Though they retain the ability to fly because of their small bodies and relatively large, downward-slanted wings, they tend to be less active and flighty than other bantams overall. They do well in confinement, and tend not to wander much when allowed to free range. Due to their small size and more prominent comb and wattles (especially in the single comb variety), they are not cold-hardy chickens, and require insulated shelter in northern regions.  

Nankins are usually raised for fancy and exhibition. The hens lay well, and are good sitters. Their eggs are very small and a creamy white color. As with some other bantam breeds, broody Nankin hens were traditionally used to incubate the eggs of game birds such as pheasant, quail and partridge. They mature slowly, and make a poor meat producer.

Nankin Bantams are thought to be one of the oldest true bantam breeds, originating somewhere in Southeast Asia. Though they first became widespread in the West only in the 18th century, there is evidence for their presence in England going back to the 16th century. They have contributed to the development of many other bantams more common today, such as the Sebright.

The number of Nankins declined in the West after the mid-19th century, along with the importation of newer and more exotic Asian breeds. Though their popularity with poultry fanciers waned, the use of broody Nankin hens to incubate game bird eggs may have kept the breed from disappearing altogether.

  Interest in Nankins in North America largely sprung out of attention from the American Bantam Association in the 1960s.

In 2002 the total number of Nankins was estimated at 50 - 100 birds; the conservation status of the Nankin was listed by the FAO as "critical" in 2007.  

Today, Nankins are recognized by the American Bantam Association, and have been accepted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection as of 2012. A US breed club was formed for the first time in 2006. They are classified as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.


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