Nankin bantam

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Nankin Bantam
Conservation statusFAO (2007): critical[1]:123
Country of originUnited Kingdom
  • Male: 680–740 g[2]:189
  • Female: 570–620 g[2]:189
Egg colourtinted
Comb typesingle or rose
APAsingle comb clean legged[3]
PCGBrare true bantam[5]

The Nankin Bantam or Nankin is a British bantam breed of chicken.[6] It is a true bantam, a naturally small breed with no large counterpart from which it was miniaturised. It is of South-east Asian origin, and is among the oldest bantam breeds. It is a yellowish buff colour, and the name is thought to derive from the colour of nankeen cotton from China.


The Nankin is 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.[7] As a bantam long present in the UK especially, the Nankin contributed to the formation of many other bantams more common today, such as the Sebright.[7] Nankin are listed on the Endangerd species list as 'Critical'. They are very rarely found in the USA.

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 waned, the use of broody Nankin hens to incubate game bird eggs may have kept the breed from disappearing altogether.[8]

Interest in Nankins in North America largely sprung out of attention from the American Bantam Association in the 1960s.[9] Today, Nankins are recognised by the American Bantam Association, and have been accepted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection as of 2012.[10] A US breed club was formed for the first time in 2006.[9] They are classified as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.[8][7]

In 2002 the total number for the breed was estimated at 50–100 birds;[6] the conservation status of the Nankin was listed by the FAO as "critical" in 2007.[1]:123 In 2017, the Nankin was not among the "priority breeds" on the watchlist of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.[11]


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 point. All Nankins come in a single colour, 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 cocks. Their beaks are a light horn colour, and legs are slate blue.[8]

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 Nankin is usually reared for fancy and exhibition. The hens lay well, and are good sitters. Their eggs are very small and a creamy white colour. As with some other bantam breeds, broody Nankin hens were traditionally used to incubate the eggs of game birds such as pheasant, quail and partridge.[9][12]:116 The breed matures slowly, and makes a poor meat producer.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed May 2017.
  2. ^ a b Victoria Roberts (2008). British poultry standards: complete specifications and judging points of all standardized breeds and varieties of poultry as compiled by the specialist breed clubs and recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405156424.
  3. ^ APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties: As of January 1, 2012. American Poultry Association. Archived 4 November 2017.
  4. ^ Liste des races et variétés homologuée dans les pays EE (28.04.2013). Entente Européenne d'Aviculture et de Cuniculture. Archived 16 June 2013.
  5. ^ Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Archived 12 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b Breed data sheet: Nankin/United Kingdom. Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "". Nankin Chicken. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
  8. ^ a b c Carol Ekarius (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. ISBN 9781580176675.
  9. ^ a b c "Nankin Bantams: Something Old, Something New". Backyard Poultry Magazine. February–March 2009.
  10. ^ "" (PDF). Nankin Chicken. American Poultry Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 November 2013.
  11. ^ Watchlist 2017–18. Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire: Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Accessed May 2017.
  12. ^ Dan Phillip Sponenberg, Jeannette Beranger, Alison Martin (2014). [ An Introduction to Heritage Breeds: Saving and Raising Rare-Breed Livestock and Poultry. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. ISBN 9781612124629.