Do you dream of having a backyard flock of hens, but space at your place is a bit tight? Your solution may be to adopt a flock of bantam chickens.
What are Bantam Chickens?
Bantams are miniature versions of regular chickens. They range from half to two-thirds the size of a standard chicken.
Bantams get their name from the Indonesian seaport, Bantan. Sailors who docked at this port in the 1800s to stock up on water and food supplies noted the local chickens, which were much smaller and cuter than those in their home countries.
Types of Bantams
According to the American Bantam Association, there are more than 400 bantam varieties.
- “True” bantams are naturally occurring breeds and they have no larger standard chicken counterpart. Breeds of true bantams include Rosecomb, Sebright, Mille Fleur d’Uccle, Serama, and Nankin. They tend to be less domesticated than crossbred bantams.
- Miniaturized bantams are bred from standard chickens including Bantam Orpingtons, Bantam Rhode Island Reds, Bantam Polish, and Bantam Cochins.
- Developed bantams are human-created but have ambiguous origins. They include Japanese, Belgian and Pekin/Cochin chickens. The Barbu D’Uccle, for example, is a developed breed (created in 1903) which was created by crossing at least two bantam breeds. It has no standard counterpart.
How Much Room do Bantams Need?
The great news with bantam chickens is that they require much less space than regular chickens. They are ideally suited to small backyards and two bantams will easily fit into the same amount of space required by one standard-sized chicken. But it is important to not overcrowd them!
Bantam eggs are half the size of standard eggs (very cute!). True bantams lay much less prolifically than bantams of standard breeds – and they can take a long time to lay for the first time.
The best egg-laying bantam breeds are Leghorn bantams, Australorp bantams, and Rhode Island Red bantams.
If cooking, substitute three bantam eggs for every two standard eggs.
Some bantams will go broody and they will fiercely defend their eggs and chicks against everyone, including the standard hens in the flock. Some people even use bantams to hatch standard eggs – they don’t cover standard eggs well, but they will be committed to the task and do their best.
Caring for Bantam Chickens
Caring for bantams is generally the same as caring for any other chicken.
Some things to consider include:
- Don’t try to introduce bantams to an established flock of standard chickens – bantams will potentially be attacked or trampled, or be prevented from accessing food and water. Instead, start with bantams and add standard chicks later if you seek a mixed flock; otherwise, keep a separate flock of bantams so they can create their own pecking order.
- They do have a higher metabolic rate than standard and large chicken breeds, and they will feel the cold much more than a larger bird. In particular, Dutch and Japanese bantams do not tolerate cold conditions.
- Provide plenty of quality feed and freshwater daily. Bantams do best with crumble food as opposed to pellets. Supplement their diet with grit, calcium, vitamin powder, and scraps. Make sure the feed and water dishes are low enough for your smallest bantam to access.
- Bantam chickens like to fly and they are efficient escape artists – they will squeeze through gaps or holes in gates and fences. You need to keep this in mind and provide a tall enclosed coop with lots of perches at various heights. They will even enjoy having a small tree or shrubs to climb into. Keeping them in a run can be challenging, so make sure it has a covered roof. This will also protect your little chickens from predators like owls, hawks, cats, and foxes.
- If you have a mixed flock with standard or large birds as well as bantams, you’ll need to make sure the bantams are not being bullied by the larger hens. Many coexist well, however, and it’s often as if these little hens don’t even realize they are small. They will defend their place in the pecking order and while some are flighty, others are very bold. Bantams will usually fly up and maneuver away from bigger birds if they feel threatened.
- Some bantam breeds have feathered legs (“sablepoots”). Coops and runs need to be dry and clear of mud, water, and muck to avoid the feet and legs becoming dirty and crusty. If this happens, bathing the feet is required. You’ll also need to check for scaly leg mites frequently and watch out for broken foot feathers, which can bleed.
- Note that some roosters may be aggressive during the mating season. In fact, some roosters tend to have proverbial “small man syndrome” and a lot of attitude. Bantam roosters also tend to crow a lot but are not as loud as standard roosters.
- If you have a mixed flock, be aware that standard or large roosters may try to mate with bantam hens. This is not safe for the hen – so keep them separated.
Why Choose Bantams?
Bantam chickens are ideal for smaller yards and beginner chicken keepers. They cost less to raise than standard chickens, require less space, and are perfect pets for children. They might be small, but they are full of personality! Bantams are happy little chickens which are easy to keep. They eat considerably less than standard or large chickens.
While the average lifespan for bantams is 5-7 years, with lots of tender loving care and attention, they can live 10-15 years.
Bantams are usually friendly little chickens with a joyful, sweet temperament. They are great with kids and easy to handle. Silkie Bantams are a particularly great choice as a kids’ pet, being incredibly cute and very docile.
Looking for more reasons to love bantams?
In a nutshell:
- They are adorable
- Bantams come in a wide variety of breeds
- They would be perfect for small yards
- Require less space, food, and housing
- Their eggs are adorable
- They have big, fun, friendly and quirky personalities
- Bantams are great mother hens
- They’re perfect for kids
Fall in love with bantams – and they will love you back.