The blue Cochin is a beautiful and unique breed of chicken known for its large size, feathered legs, and soft, fluffy plumage. As their name suggests, blue Cochins have a distinctive slate blue or grayish blue coloration of their feathers. They are gentle, calm chickens that make excellent backyard pets and exhibition birds. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, characteristics, egg laying abilities, and temperament of this eye-catching chicken breed.
Origin and History
The Cochin chicken breed originated in China, where they were known as Shanghai chickens. They were brought to Europe and America in the mid-1800s. At that time, their very large size and abundant feathering caused quite a sensation among poultry fanciers. Cochins, together with other Asian breeds like Brahmas, were known as Shanghai fowl. They were imported to Europe mainly by sailors working the trading ships between China and England.
The first Cochins may have made their way to America as gifts to Queen Victoria. From there, they were bred and distributed throughout Europe and America. Early imports were mostly buff, white, and partridge (brown with black neck feathers) in color. The blue coloration was developed later on. Blue Cochins were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874.
Originally, there were two distinct types of Cochins – the Cebu/Shanghai variety which had tighter feathering, and the Canton variety which was larger and looser feathered. Modern Cochins are a blend of both. The name “Cochin” comes from Cochinchina, the former name for southern Vietnam, where the Canton type originated.
The blue Cochin is known for its massive size and soft, abundant plumage:
- Size: Cochins are one of the largest chicken breeds. Blue cockerels weigh up to 11 lbs and hens up to 9 lbs.
- Plumage: Their feathers are soft, fluffy, and loose. The plumage comes in a distinctive slate blue or grayish blue color.
- Leg feathering: They have extravagant feathering on the feet and legs, often called “vulture hocks” in poultry circles.
- Head: Blue Cochins have a single comb and medium-sized wattles. Their beaks are yellow.
Beyond their appearance, blue Cochins have a gentle personality that makes them ideal backyard pets. Though the amount of plumage may make them heat sensitive in very hot climates, their small combs are cold hardy. Their soft, broad bodies are well-suited to living confined. Despite their large size, they are quite tame and docile.
Blue Cochins lay medium to large sized light brown eggs. As a dual purpose breed, they are decent layers but not at the level of egg laying breeds like Leghorns. You can expect an average of 3 eggs per week from a Cochin hen. The annual egg production ranges between 150-180 eggs.
As a heritage breed, Cochins tend to lay more of their eggs during the springtime. Egg production drops off when heat intensifies in summer and does not pick back up until days shorten late in fall. This reproductive pattern mirrors what wild, ancestral chickens in China would have experienced before domestication.
Though blue Cochins are not the best choice if you are looking to maximize eggs, their production can easily meet the needs of an average family wanting a couple eggs per day. Plus, their brooding maternal instincts make them one of the best natural incubators and mothers of chicks.
The gentle nature of the Cochin chicken breed sets them apart from other chickens:
- Calm – They have a very calm, friendly demeanor and are not easily frightened.
- Docile – Cochins are mellow and easy to handle, even the roosters.
- Child-friendly – Their peaceful disposition makes them a great family chicken.
- Cold hardy – Their rose comb and extra insulation from feathers allows them to tolerate cold temperatures.
- Heat sensitive – Their abundant plumage can cause them to overheat in hot climates.
Blue Cochins get along well with people and other flock members. They are usually on the lower end of the pecking order. Cochins are well-suited to being confined, as they are not particularly active chickens. Their heavy plumage limits their flying abilities as well.
Historically, Cochins were bred as a meat production breed. Their wide, broad bodies provide a good deal of meat. The flavor of Cochin meat is said to be similar to that of a Capon due to their docile temperament.
Today, blue Cochins are mainly kept for exhibition and backyard purposes. Their unique appearance and friendly nature makes them popular exhibition and pet chickens. They are well suited to both rural farm life as well as confined city living. Here are some of their common uses today:
- Exhibition birds
- Backyard chickens
- 4H and poultry shows
- Small scale meat production
- Brooding and raising chicks
- Eggs for family use
- Weed/pest control
- As pet chickens
Blue Cochins are generally hardy birds, but they can be prone to a few health problems:
- Respiratory infections – Their dense feathering can make them prone to respiratory issues if not kept in clean, well ventilated coops.
- Mites and lice – Lice and mite infestations may flourish in their thick plumage if not monitored.
- Foot problems – Excess feathering on the feet needs to be monitored so it does not hide foot infections or bumblefoot.
- Obesity – Free choice feeding can easily lead to obese Cochin hens.
Egg binding – Overweight hens may have issues passing eggs due to their large size.
With proper management, Cochins are quite hardy. Providing a predator proof coop, paying attention to cleanliness, and monitoring for parasites will go a long way towards preventing health issues.
Raising Blue Cochins
Here are some tips for successfully raising blue Cochin chickens:
Coops and Housing
- Give them a spacious, well ventilated coop to prevent respiratory issues. Their fluffy feathers inhibit ventilation around their bodies.
- Their large size means they need ample interior coop height. 18-24 inches for roosting areas.
- The feathered feet of Cochins are prone to developing frostbite in snowy climates. Take precautions to prevent this.
- Deep nesting boxes with nesting material assist their natural brooding instincts.
- Try to minimize drafts while still providing good ventilation to balance their cold hardy and heat sensitive traits.
- As dual purpose birds, blue Cochins should be fed a 16-18% protein ration.
- Monitor body condition closely. Overweight hens can suffer egg binding and other health problems.
- Free choice feeding leads to obesity in Cochins. Meal feeding is better to control intake.
- Supply grit to help digestion. Oyster shell provides needed calcium for egg laying.
- A flock block can supplement their diet with extra nutrients.
- Quarantine any new birds before introducing them to your flock.
- Check for mites and lice frequently. Use poultry dusts if needed.
- Vaccinate against common poultry diseases like fowl pox and Marek’s disease.
- Monitor for signs of illness and isolate any chickens that seem sick.
- Trim feathers around the eyes and face to prevent eye infections.
- Check foot health often and trim excess feathers on feet if needed.
- Their fluffy plumage needs extra attention during the annual molt to prevent issues.
- Gently wash a Cochin’s rear during molting to prevent pasted, matted feathers.
- Provide access to dust baths. The dust helps clean their feathers and skin.
- Trim wing feathers every 4-6 weeks once they reach adult size if housing in a confined run.
Finding Blue Cochin Chickens
Blue Cochin chickens are a standard chicken breed, so they are fairly easy to locate from a number of hatcheries. Here are some tips in sourcing your Cochins:
- Order from a reputable hatchery to get quality, purebred Cochins.
- Pick a hatchery that vaccinates chicks against common poultry diseases.
- Request the hatch date you want so chicks will arrive at the desired age.
- Only purchase from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) certified flocks.
- Arrange for special shipping considerations during extreme hot or cold weather.
Ask the hatchery about any health guarantees for chicks. Most hatcheries guarantee live delivery. Vaccinated chicks cost a bit more, but are worth it to get them off to a healthy start. You may be able to find adult Cochin chickens for sale from local breeders through poultry groups or websites.
Expect to pay between $3-6 per chick from a hatchery, depending on quantity. Some of the costs associated with raising blue Cochin chickens include:
|Minimum chick order||$20-35|
|Adult chickens (each)||$15-50|
|Coop||$150-300 for 4-5 chickens|
|Feed (per month)||$1-2 per chicken|
|Bedding||$10-20 per month|
|Health supplies||$20-50 first year|
The biggest investment in keeping chickens is building an appropriate coop for your flock size if you don’t already have one. After that setup cost, the recurring expenses of feed, bedding and occasional health supplies are quite affordable for the average family.
The blue Cochin is a striking chicken breed that makes a fabulous addition to backyard flocks or chicken shows. Their calm personality and appearance sets them apart from your average chicken. While excellent for exhibiting, Cochins also produce a respectable number of eggs and meat for use on the homestead. Their docile nature and tendency to go broody makes them one of the best breeds for rearing chicks. With proper care and management, blue Cochins will reward their owners with years of beautiful plumage and agreeable companionship.