The world's most numerous bird is the domestic chicken. It all started when fights between wild red jungle fowl roosters became entertainment, and today we have chickens bred for their beauty instead of fighters or a food source. Feather-footed breeds can be among these.
One of the largest breeds of chickens, the Cochin originated in China and became wildly popular in Europe and America. Never popular with commercial poultry farms, it nevertheless excels as a backyard chicken for its adequate egg production for household purposes and easy maintenance. Their biggest attraction is their agreeable disposition. Calm and friendly to humans and each other, they are undemanding eaters and actually seem to be home-loving -- you may find yourself wanting to bring them into the house. Their thick feathers, including those on their feet, let them thrive in colder temperatures. Their only drawback is that their large brown eggs tend to be thin-shelled and may break under the bird's weight during incubation.
Another large but docile bird is the Brahma. With many of the same attractive qualities as the Cochin, they will stay quite happily behind a 3-foot fence and enjoy wandering through the garden, eating worms and insects. Their feet are heavily feathered and if the ground is constantly wet or dirty, they can accumulate muddy lumps on their toes and lose their nails; keep them on a clean surface to avoid this problem. They lay fewer and smaller eggs than other breeds, but will lay through the winter. Brahmas are so laid back that in a mixed flock, an aggressive rooster of another breed may abuse Brahma hens.
Sultans are a rare "fancy" breed kept purely as pets or for show, as they are poor layers and small for eating. They are very gentle and easy to handle, but their chief claim to fame is their exotic plumage, with a pouf crest like Big Bird, earmuffs, a beard and leg feathers so profuse that they drag on the ground and follow them like twin bridal trains -- all in brilliant white (other colors exist, but are not recognized for competition). Also, they have five toes on each foot instead of the usual four.
If ever there was fur on a chicken, it's on the American silkie: the strands on the sides of their feather quills have no hooks on them, and therefore fluff out instead of clinging smoothly together, right down to their tippy toes. This makes them resemble walking dandelions ready to go to seed, especially as most silkies are white. Underneath the fuzz is something peculiar to the silkie -- a dark blue skin. This is hard to see under the feathers on the legs and feet, but they are also dark blue, as are the bones. Many chicken breeds have a quarter-size version that looks the same and is called a bantam, but the American silkie is a true bantam, with no standard-size counterpart. Silkies are dedicated brooders and are frequently used to incubate and hatch the eggs of other small birds, such as quail or pheasants.
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