Nankin Bantams

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Pic Courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin
Pic Courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin

The Nankin is a bantam breed of chicken. One of the true bantams, the breed is a naturally small fowl with no large counterpart from which it was miniaturized. Males weigh an average of 24 ounces (680 grams), and hens an average of 22 ounces (625 grams).


The breed has two varieties, 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 spike. 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 roosters. Their beaks are a light horn color, and legs are slate blue.

Nankins are very friendly in disposition. 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. The breed matures slowly, and makes a poor meat producer. Their eggs are very small and a creamy white color. Nankin hens are remarkably good mothers, and often go broody. Nankins are amazing pets! If you are looking for a chicken, this is the one you should get!


Nankins 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 may have been imported from the Chinese city of Nanjing (or Nanking), thus resulting in their name. As a bantam long present in the U.K. especially, the Nankin contributed to the formation 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 may have waned, they were still often raised by game bird farmers to incubate the eggs of such species as pheasants, quail and partridges, a use that 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. Today, Nankins are still only recognized by the American Bantam Association, and are not accepted in to the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection. A U.S. 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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