Are Bantams a Good Fit For You?
Bantam chickens are for the most part, miniature versions of various full-size chicken breeds, with the exception of those breeds of bantams that are classified as True Bantam Chickens.
Miniature versions of various domesticated animals, such as miniature dogs, horses, pigs, and goats have always been popular; people are quite naturally drawn to their unique size. Most miniature versions of animals were developed due to practical reasons, such as lack of space for housing or for less food consumption, and bantam chickens are no exception here.
While raising bantam chickens is not so different from raising their full size cousins, there are a few notable differences besides their being one half to one third less in size.
Here are a few reasons that may help you decide if Bantam Chickens are right for you!
Two types of Bantam Chickens
As noted, there are basically two types of bantams. First, there are the miniature or developed bantams, which are smaller variants of standard full-size breeds.
Breeders are directly responsible for developing this type of bantam. Through the specific selection of choosing smaller, standard size birds within a breed and the passing of their genes through their generations, many breeds developed their miniature version over the course of years. A few of the better known developed bantams are the Silkie, Wyandotte, Orpingtons, Rhode Island Red, and the bantam Cochin.
The second type of bantam is considered to be a True Bantam, which stands on its own as a breed without a counterpart in standard size. It is believed that there were larger size birds of these breeds at one point in history, but if so, they have gone extinct, leaving only their miniature variants. A few representatives of true bantams are Rosecomb, Japanese bantam, and Sebright.
Bantams, being smaller than the average chicken, require less overall space than the standard size chicken, including square footage of coop space, their run space, roosts, and the size of their nests.
For example, 6 Bantams would need at minimum, the following amount of space:
- Coop size – 12 square feet
- Roost size – 36 inches
- Nests – 10 inch square
- Run space – 30 square feet
Whereas, 6 Average Size Chickens would require at minimum:
- Coop size – 24 square feet
- Roost size – 48 inches
- Nests – 12 inch square
- Run space – 48 square feet
However, breeds that are more aggressive and dominant, will need more than the minimum space, for the well being of the entire flock.
A true chicken enthusiast will always give their birds more space than the minimum, which is essential for the flock’s overall good health and productivity. Crowded coops make the birds more susceptible to diseases, and increases the chance of developing aggressive or destructive behaviors.
Cleanliness within the living space is essential, and perhaps even more so with bantams, which often have lush, decorative feathers.
Dirt and moisture create the ideal environment for bacteria and microorganisms to grow that can cause many fatal diseases. For this same reason, people who reside in more hot, humid areas, will want to invest in bantam breeds, or any chicken breed, best suited for their climate.
Feeding bantams is not significantly different from feeding standard chickens; however, it stands to reason, smaller birds consume less food. As with the larger breeds, food and water should be available 24/7 in feeders designed specifically for chickens. Not only do chicken feeders help prevent waste from spillage, they also help prevent dirt and manure contamination.
Consideration should be taken for True Bantams, which are even smaller than the ordinary bantam, and may have trouble consuming larger pellets. Constant access to a balanced food diet and clean water, will ensure healthy and happy chickens, no matter what their size.
Egg and Meat Production
Even though bantam’s are small (1-3 lbs) and their eggs are barely one-third to one-half to that of standard-sized eggs, bantams still add value to a homestead. Their meat is not only edible, but some consider it a delicacy, similar to that of quail or pigeons.
While bantams are not especially known for their large egg laying capacity, there are definitely some which produce more than others. Bantam eggs taste the same as standard eggs, and can be used as a substitute for regular eggs in any recipe, given that you have to use 3 bantam eggs for 2 standard eggs. Typically, if a breed is known for its egg production, their bantam counterpart will also produce more eggs, too.
In general, bantams are prone to brood, as their basic hormonal instinct kicks in, and they will want to hatch their eggs. It’s not rare that every hen in the flock will become broody at one point or another during the brooding season. The downside of this characteristic is that a hen will stop laying eggs during this time, even if there are no eggs in the nest.
The upside to bantams becoming broody, is that they will hatch their own offspring, cutting the cost and work associated with buying new chicks every spring. Bantams will lay eggs from late January thru October, with reduced production during the late summer months when molting takes place.
Interestingly, some bantam hens are so broody, breeders may use them to hatch all sorts of poultry, from standard chickens, turkeys, guineas, even ducks. They are such excellent mothers, that not only will they hatch the eggs, but they will take care of the chicks until they are ready to live independently!
Who’s My MAMA?!!!
Free-range is a recommended option for raising any animal. Having as much freedom as possible can only have a positive effect. With chickens having such inquisitive and active mannerisms, they will socialize, breed, and constantly search for scraps, if given the opportunity. There are economic benefits, too, such as reduced feed costs, and weed and bug control.
Some breeders keep all of their poultry together in the free-range area. Bantams may be seen running around together with standard chickens, ducks, and turkeys and may get along just fine. Some small bantam roosters may even try to dominate the environment with their cocky character.
But, keeping bantams under these conditions can be risky as birds become competitive for food or breeding, and should be kept under close observation. Bantams, as the smallest of the domestic chicken, are at a higher risk of getting injured by their larger, standard size cousins, and are also easier targets of wild predators.
Bantams as pets
Bantams can become more of a pet to the household, than just another farm animal. In general, they are an easygoing bird, with more of a docile character, some breeds being more so than others.
Chickens are excellent entertainers, and bantams are often chosen for their small size, which fit perfectly into smaller hands. It is not uncommon that a bantam pet will live over the average age expectancy with excellent care and healthy genes.
Are Bantams Right For You?
Determining what you enjoy about chickens, and what you expect in return, will ultimately help you decide which breed, or breeds, to invest in when starting your own backyard chicken flock. Bantams can be an all around winner, especially if you have children who want to get in on the fun.
But no matter what your motive is, whether you are all about the meat and eggs, or just looking for a new hobby, there is a chicken out there just for you!