What Are Bantam Chickens and Why Do I Want Them?
What are Bantam Chickens?
Bantam chickens have been domesticated for centuries. In fact, they are one of the oldest known domestic animals. Marco Polo wrote about banties in his journal.
While all bantams are chickens, not all chickens are banties. What is the difference?
The Bantam is a small type of chicken overall. Some bantams have been bred from "normal sized chickens" to retain the characteristics of the breed only in a smaller size. Others are as they have been for centuries - totally unique. All bantams are smaller than regular chickens and they share some unique personality traits.
People who raise bantams say that they have more personality than chickens do, are more able to care for themselves, and find more of their own food. They seem to keep the grasshopper population down better than other types of poultry. Because they are small they are easier to keep in an urban area and so they are a great way for city and suburb "farmers" to achieve self sufficiency.
Healthy bantams are curious. They will check out anything that seems unusual and loudly announce the arrival of visitors whether it is the next door neighbor's dog or the Pastor coming for lunch.
They do best in small social groups of one rooster and three hens. Because of this, banties do exceptionally well when housed in chicken tractors.
Bantams lay eggs just like every other chicken. A banty egg is very small and it will take about three to make one normal sized chicken egg. The banty, although small, can be used as a meat bird. Primarily they are not raised for meat but when the birds are culled most people will agree that the culls make a nice cacciatore.
Why Do I Want One?
Simply, Bantams are easy to keep. They are quite independent and are happy to rid your garden of as many bugs as they can hold. This means not only do they require less feed because of their small size, they also forage very well.
Since they are small they are easy to house. Although Bantams like to roost in trees it is still important to put them in protected housing at night because of predators.
Their small, often colorful eggs are unique and can bring premium prices in some markets.
Most of all, Bantams are friendly and fun to watch.
Housing and Care
Housing banties is very much like housing any other poultry. They need to be protected from predators, the weather, and other dangers. Bantams need clean water, plenty of nutritious food, and the same care as other chickens.
Housing is generally smaller because the banty does not have the same space requirements of bigger birds.
Which ever type of bantam chicken you fall in love with you can be sure that you will enjoy the personality and the antics of these "pocket poultry".
Dutch are the smallest of the bantams. They are an inquisitive bird with stamina and personality. They have a beautiful coloring and do well at shows because of both their uniqueness and their confident attitudes. The hens are very broody and will easily set eggs.
This type of poultry was first standardized in 1906. It is a tiny breed that can only hatch 3-4 eggs at a time.
Silkies, Popular Bantam Breed
The Silkie bantam was domesticated about 4,000 years ago. There are ten varieties of silkies with various colors. Silkies weigh in at between 28-35 ounces depending on the sex of the bird. Like many banties they can fly better than their larger cousins; however the distance tends to be less than five feet. The eggs are light brown in color and a normal Silkie will lay an average of 120 a year. The eggs hatch in twenty one days and the birds reach sexual maturity at five months.
Silkies are much loved by the people who raise them. Part of the reason is that a Silkie is exactly that- silky. The feathers do not have barbs on them and are very soft giving the Silkie the look and feel of a long haired cat.
Belgian Bearded d'Uccles
Belgian bearded d'Uccles were developed in Belgium in the 1900s. They are a beautiful cross between Bearded d'Anvers and Booted Bantams. They are one of the more tame species of bantams, and on the quiet side.
The hens are very broody and will set a brood every year. The eggs are beige in color and the chicks are many combinations of colors. By the time they are adults they will look like their parents. A good place to view these beautiful birds is the gallery at Cackle Hatchery.
There are many more types of bantams.To compare the various types of standard chickens and bantams check out this excellent chart of 60 different breeds. There are notes on size, color, personality, and egg color and production. This makes this chart a very valuable tool for someone that is new to raising poultry of any type. With it you are able to consider the needs of the breed with your own needs and situation and come up with a good match for your homestead.