Bantam Chickens are most suitable for small backyards where space is premium.
You can easily fit two bantams into the space required by one standard bird, and since they like to fly, building up will accommodate them well.
They may be small, but they are bursting with personality and happiness – of course, I may be biased since I have a small flock of Barbu D’Uccles!
In the article below, we will explain the different types of bantams, care for them, their egg-laying ability, and much more.
What is a Bantam Chicken?
A bantam chicken is a miniature version of a regular chicken. They can vary from one-half to two-thirds the size of regular birds.
In total, the American Bantam Association lists over 400 varieties of bantam birds.
The origin of the word ‘bantam’ is from the seaport of Bantan, Indonesia.
When sailors stopped into the port for fresh food and water supplies, they were impressed by the local chickens, which were smaller than the chickens back home. The word – Bantan – was corrupted into Bantam in general English, so small chickens became known as bantams.
Types of Bantam Chickens
Strictly speaking, there are three types of bantam chicken.
- There are ‘true’ bantams; these have no large fowl counterpart. They are naturally occurring with no input from humanity. Breeds: Nankin, Sebright, and Rosecomb.
- Miniaturized bantams were made from a standard breed of choices such as Rhode Island Red, Cochin, or Orpingtons.
- Developed bantams – these are small breeds that have been further developed with some help from humanity. They have been around for so long that the origins are sketchy at best. Such breeds are Belgian, Pekin (Cochin), and Japanese.
The developed bantam breeds can be a bit confusing, really. For example, the Barbu D’Uccle – has no large fowl counterpart, so it is a true bantam. However, the breed was created around 1903 by Michael Van Gelder of Uccle, Belgium, and was created by crossing two (maybe more) bantam breeds, so it is also a developed breed.
To avoid confusion among folks, the difference between miniaturized and developed is usually ignored, with many people saying there are two types of bantam – but now you know better!
How to Care for Bantams
In most respects, bantams do not generally require anything different from standard breeds.
Since they are small, they have a higher metabolic rate, so several of these little birds feel cold more than larger hens. Japanese and Dutch bantams especially are noted as not being cold tolerant.
The usual requirements for housing remain; dry and draft proof. All poultry require housing that is sized for the number of birds that will be living in it.
If you remember, large fowl need 4 square feet of coop space and 8 square feet of run/ per bird. Bantams require slightly less space. Several sources state 1sq.ft/bird, but 2sq.ft is preferred in the coop with 4sq.ft in the run.
Bantams take a lot less room than their larger counterparts already! If you can provide lots of perches at different heights, maybe even a small tree and some bushes, they will make excellent use of them.
It goes without saying that they need the appropriate food and water. Supplements would include vitamin/electrolyte powder monthly, grit and calcium, plus any suitable scraps for them.
A bantam will eat roughly 1lb feed/month – you are saving on your feed bill dramatically.
Bantams are usually great flyers! If you plan to keep them in a coop, make sure they have high perches and places they can fly up to if they want to. If you wish to keep them confined to that area, the run will need to be covered. This will also prevent predation by hawks or owls.
If you decide to mix your bantams in with standard breeds, make sure they aren’t getting picked on because of their size.
Mine mix in with the standards, and I have found them very adept at evading and maneuvering between the larger girls. They will readily fly up and out of the way if they feel threatened in any way.
These diminutive little powerhouses can live up to 10-15 years, but generally, their life expectancy is around 5-7 years.
Special Care for Bantams
Several varieties of bantam are feather-legged or ‘sablepoots’.
These types of birds require their pens to be relatively mud/muck-free. Otherwise, the foot feathers get incredibly crusted and dirty.
Amending the base of the run can be fairly straightforward. If it is prone to muddiness, add some pebbles or construction sand to the area.
When the area is dry enough, try seeding with grass, plant a couple of shrubs if you have space to.
In the early spring, I usually add two or three large buckets of mulch to the area around the doors, etc. This stuff will break down nicely, provide some ‘scratch worthy’ dirt, and keep feet a bit cleaner.
If the feet get crusted with dirt and poop, a foot bath is in order. Standing the bird in warm water and gently working at the feathers can be relaxing for the bird and you.
Remember, these are small birds, so it shouldn’t become a wrestling match as it sometimes does with the standard birds!
The foot feathers can also get broken fairly easily and cause a good deal of bleeding. The good news is that with some baking powder or styptic and some firm pressure on the area, the bleeding will stop.
Feather footed birds are also prone to scaly leg mites. These nasty little pests can set up shop quickly and remain unnoticed for some time because of the feathering.
I check my birds nightly when they go to roost but checking them once a month should suffice.
Bantam Egg Production, Broodiness, and Disposition
Bantam eggs are, of course, smaller than standard eggs, roughly half the size of standard eggs. The ratio for using them in cooking is 3 bantam eggs for every 2 standard eggs.
Bantams tend to get a bad rap for laying. Admittedly it was about eight months before mine started to lay, but they have been pretty consistent since then. This past winter, we have certainly had more bantam eggs than standard – thankfully!
Bantams of standard fowl tend to lay slightly larger eggs and are more prolific than the true bantams.
Some go broody, others not, but the broodies defend their eggs and chicks fiercely, and they make great mothers – not even standard hens will mess with a bantam broody! Many folks keep one or two bantam broodies to hatch out their standard eggs because they are reliable. Obviously, a bantam cannot cover as many eggs, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try!
They generally have a sweet temperament and are friendly to humans and chickens alike. Roosters can be sweet, but some can also be a bit aggressive, especially during the mating season.
As always, some breeds of the rooster are better than others, so research your chosen breed carefully.
Bantams mixed with standard-sized breeds must fight for their place in the pecking order from the brooder box. Bantam chicks are petite, but not all are concerned with their size, nor do they even know they are small. Bantams can be extremely bold, and sometimes flighty, birds, depending on the breed.
Adding new bantams to a coop full of established standard chickens is a recipe for disaster. You may have been able to add chickens of the same size to an established coop, and the birds work things out pretty quickly. On the other hand, a bantam may not be able to fight back, and the larger birds may trample it, peck it, or prevent it from getting to the feeder.
So if you’d like to add bantams to your flock, consider keeping a separate flock of your new little birds so they can establish their own pecking order.
No room for large chickens? Want something different that will make you smile? Look no further than bantams.
There is a large variety to choose from, whether you want a ‘mille fleur,’ speckled, barred, or plain – there is a Bantam to suit your taste.
They are always interesting to watch, with some varieties such as the Barbu D’Uccles you can have whole conversations with!
They are joyful, curious, and entertaining creatures. If I could only have one type of bird, it would be bantams.
Do you have bantams? Tell us about them in the comments section below. You know we love to hear from you…