Nankin cock

Key Characteristics

The Nankin is cocky, bouncy and less placid than other true bantams. They are hardy little birds and good broodies and mothers. They are however quite slow to mature and this combined with their small size makes them poor meat producers.

There is an enthusiastic group of breeders reviving Nankins in the USA. 


  • Nankins were originally from South-East Asia but have been bred in the UK for a very long time, possibly as long as 500 years, so are regarded as a native breed by the RBST.
  • They were not however particularly valued in the UK, usually dismissed as ’common yellow bantams’, especially after the 1850s when poultry shows and interest in more exotic looking fowls started.
  • About 1780 Sir John Sebright included Nankins as one of the breeds he used to make his Gold Sebright Bantams, and other breeders used Nankins to make Buff Orpington and Plymouth Rock bantams.
  • There are very few records of Nankins in UK poultry show results, and by the early 20th century there only three recorded breeders (Cresswell, Ricketts and Cross) and one known photograph of the breed remaining.
  • At some point, the Martin family near Wisbech took them up, and kept them going to 1955, when Mrs Peters, from Sussex, obtained some from Fred Martin and started the revival.
  • There was however some loss of their characteristic jaunty style and an increase in their size.
  • Andrew Sheppy came across Mrs Peters birds and this ensured the survival of the breed.
  • Since the 1980s there have been rather more people breeding them and a concerted effort to get them back to type of Mrs Cross’s birds seen in that one photo taken in 1921.


  • The Nankin is a true bantam, there is no large fowl equivalent.
  • They are available in two varieties, single comb and rose comb.
  • There is a single colour variety. Females have buff plumage and males a more orange shade. Their tail feathers have some bronze or black markings, much more on the males than females.
  • Birds should have blue legs and relatively large downward-slanted wings.  



Depending on the strain they should lay 120-140 smallish tinted eggs per year.

Did you know?

The name Nankin is believed to have been derived from yellow nankeen cloth, which was popular in the 19th century, and is a fair comparison to the plumage colour of females. The males are a richer more orangey shade.

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