Cochin Chicken

(Asiatic class)

Prepared by Michael Schlumbohm and Keith Bramwell, Department of Poultry Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Cochin Chicken The Cochin was originally developed as a bird for meat production but today it is almost exclusively used as an exhibition bird. They are recognized in nine varieties which include: Buff, Partridge, White, Black, Silver Laced, Golden Laced, Blue, Brown, and Barred. The skin is yellow and the egg shells are brown.

Standard Weights
Cock: 11 lbs.
Hen: 8.5 lbs.
Cockerel: 9 lbs.
Pullet: 7 lbs.

The Cochin is a large loose feathered breed, with a single comb and shanks that are moderately short and heavily feathered on the outsides of the shanks and on the outside and middle toes. The body is relatively short, wide, and very deep giving an overall round impression. The back line is short with the hackles nearly touching the saddle feathers. Cochin tails are relatively short which further adds to the impression of being round.

Arguably, the Cochin has had a major impact on the poultry industry both in the United States and in England. Importation of the Cochin started the days of the "Cochin craze" when poultry keeping rapidly expanded and poultry exhibitions became more prevalent. During this time small fortunes were spent on purchasing Cochins and the breed spread far and wide. Reasons for this popularity include its novel appearance and massive size and hardiness. At that time no other breeds had the size and scale of the Cochins or Brahmas. For these reasons they were used to improve the size of the local American chickens. This "upgrading" consequently led to the development of many of our American breeds. These American breeds then laid the foundation for many of today's commercial strains of broilers and layers.

The Cochin, according to Mr. T.C. Chang of China, who was a graduate student at the North Carolina State Agriculture College, contributed to the "Poultry Item" a very informative account about Chinese poultry. According to Chang, in its native home the Cochin was known as "Ju-chin". This word means nine picules and a picule equals 1 1/4 pounds. Mr. Chang supposes that the name Cochin, having a similar sound, was given by English speaking people. This then gave English breeders the idea that the birds came from the province of Cochin-China. However, the truth is that the breed originated in the province of Shantung, north of Shanghai. Subsequently the ports in Shanghai are where the first birds were exported to England and America. This, in turn, led to the stock being called Shanghai in addition to Cochin or Cochin-China. Records of importations of Cochins go back only to 1846, but it is speculated that they were periodically brought here for a full half century before that date.

The first Chinese Cochins to be imported were moderately scantily feathered. The Cochins as imported about the middle of the 19th century were of various colors: all shades of buff, red, brown, black, white, cuckoo, and gray. In America they were first developed as four distinct varieties: Buff, Partridge, Black, and White. Until 1898 Buff Cochins were bred and shown in three shades: lemon, orange, and cinnamon. Until the early 1890's the Cochins in America were of practically the same type as Brahmas both in form and feather, except that one had a single comb and the other a pea comb. Additionally, the Cochins were of the size and weight of the Dark Brahma, which was then the lighter in weight of the two varieties of the Brahma breed. The Cochin of this type was bred pure by many farmers, and was extensively used to improve the size and mass of farm stock. It was also used to a greater extent than the Brahma by growers of large table fowls in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Farmers took less and less interest in Cochins as the American breeds were developed; and when the heavily feathered English cochins became the favorite exhibition type the old American Cochin disappeared, leaving the breed in the hands of fanciers.

Today the modern standard Cochin is strictly a fanciers' fowl. Its plumage often interferes with its movements and even mating activity. Even with its unique appearance, active interest in large fowl Cochins is limited to a few fanciers. Cochins are the most broody of the large fowl chickens and make excellent natural mothers. Due to their already massive size, if the weight is not monitored carefully they will become too fat which further interferes with productivity.

Buff- recognized in 1874

From the time the public became interested in large Asiatic chickens the Buff Cochin, at first more commonly known as yellow Shanghais, was by far the most popular variety of the breed. Until about 1890 it was the only well-known established buff variety. As stated earlier, the old type was of various shades of buff. The modern exhibition Buff Cochin is a medium shade of golden buff, with the color quite uniform and the bird stature of good size and body shape. Buff Cochins can be credited, in part, with the creation of the Buff Plymouth Rock, Buff Wyandotte, Buckeye, and possibly the Rhode Island Red.

Partridge- recognized in 1874

The Partridge Cochin, before perfecting the intricate markings, was quite frequently found on rural farms as a "yard bird". As a rule, the stock of this variety now runs rather small in size as compared to other varieties. As far as popularity goes they are not as common as the Buffs, Whites, or Blacks. A Partridge Cochin cock of full size, good type, and high perfection of color is the most brilliant looking of standard-bred poultry, and is the original partridge variety found in America. Likewise the color of a well-marked female is very striking and deserves much admiration. Both the Partridge Plymouth Rock and Partridge Wyandotte descend, in part, from the Partridge Cochin.

White- recognized in 1874

White Cochins were in old times quite numerous in this country, but since the early 1900's they have been rare. But they seem to have made somewhat of a comeback and while not as popular as the Blacks they are often seen at the larger shows in America.

Black- recognized in 1874

At one time this was one of the rarest varieties of large fowl Cochin. However, today this is probably the most common variety of Cochin. The beauty of the black plumage is exemplified by the green sheen emitted off the feathers, particularly when in sunlight, and today excellent specimens are seen exhibiting this trait. It is speculated that the Black Cochin was possibly used to create the first Barred Plymouth Rocks.

The next year that any new Cochin varieties were admitted was in 1965 when the following varieties were accepted to the American Poultry Association (APA) Standard of Perfection: Silver Laced, Golden Laced, Blue, and Brown (like a dark brown Leghorn). In 1982 the Barred Cochin was accepted. The description of these varieties is similar to the same color patterns found in other breeds.

Bantam Cochin
(Feather Legged class)

Both the APA and American Bantam Association (ABA) recognize the bantam Cochin, and it is in fact one of the most popular breeds of bantam chicken today. It is reported that the bantam version was also imported to England from China. New varieties were then developed both there and in America. Shape and color requirements are generally the same as for large fowl Cochins. Some differences do exist and breeders and exhibitors should consult the ABA Bantam Standard to read the full proper description for shape. The APA recognizes the following varieties: Barred, Birchen, Black, Blue, Brown Red, Buff, Columbian, Golden Laced, Mottled, Partridge, Red, Silver Laced, and White. In addition to these varieties, the ABA also recognizes the Black Tailed Red, Buff Columbian, Lemon Blue, and Silver Penciled.

Standard Weights
Cock: 32 oz.
Hen: 28 oz.
Cockerel: 28 oz.
Pullet: 26 oz.

Works Cited
Robinson, John H. Popular Breeds of Domestic Poultry. Dayton: Reliable Poultry Journal, 1924.
The American Standard of Perfection Illustrated: A Complete Description of All Recognized Breeds and Varieties of Domestic Poultry. Burgettstown, PA: American Poultry Association, 2010.
Bantam Standard for the Breeder, Exhibitor, and Judge. 2011 ed. Kansas City: Covington Group, 2011.