About 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
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
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.