The Nankin chicken is one of the oldest known bantam chickens. While there is no record of where the Nankin chicken actually originated, there's record of it being in England prior to the 1500s, although some believe it had purchase in England even earlier than that.
They were very popular in England for a time, but in the mid-1800s, they fell victim to the "hen-fever" craze, where poultry breeders were drawn to more exotic breeds of chicken.
Although most left the traditional Nankin behind, the bird was the foundation of a few different bantam breeds, notably the Sebright. They were also exceptional setters, and people would keep them on game farms to brood over eggs while their other chickens continued to lay.
The Nankin breed is overall a chestnut color with black tail feathers, with the cocks being a deep chestnut, and the hens being lighter. They could have rose or single combs, but all have bright red wattles, faces, and earlobes. Nankin legs are slate blue, although they can be white, due to a defect resulting from a hidden recessive gene in the males.
In temperament, they are calm and affable, although the males can become aggressively protective of the hens, should they sound distressed. Small in size, they are also very timid, sticking together in a flock and unwilling to venture out on their own. This is especially true if they're kept with larger birds, and they keep to the edge of territories, unwilling to compete with large fowls for food.
They typically weigh 22 to 24 ounces. The Nankin are very fertile, and are also good layers, setters, and mothers. The eggs are small, white, and more round than the typical egg, which is known to happen with bantam breeds. The eggs have a high hatch ability rate, and once hatched, grow quickly and easily from a management perspective.
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