Bantams are chickens that are bred to be smaller than full sized chickens ("large fowl"). There are different breeds of bantams, some are just small versions of the big chickens (like Plymouth Rock, which is both a large and bantam breed) or "true bantams" which do not have an equivalent large breed, such as the pekin. The different breeds are different sizes, but all are small (see here for more information on bantam breeds). The bantams that we have acquired are unknown breeds, one (B1) looks like a pekin to me, and the other (Bubble) seems to be a pekin crossed with a silkie (apparently there used to be a B2 and a Squeak as well). They are both tiny, about the size of a guinea pig, maybe about 500g each.
Things I like about bantams
- Bantams have a reputation for brooding, hatching and raising chicks, although they can only fit a few eggs under them at a time! I would like to try this instead of using the incubator, as this would allow the chicks to be raised by the bantams and I wouldn't have to look after them!
- Bantams are tiny, do not eat much and do not dig massive holes in the lawn (unlike the big chickens where are currently working on turning our yard into a moonscape)
- Bantams are relatively friendly, I'm not sure if they like being picked up, but they don't struggle as much as a big chicken and I don't end up with scratches all down my arms. I think they would be a good pet for children as they are a bit more cuddly and the right size for small hands.
- Bantams are CUTE! All chickens are fun to watch, but there's something about mini-chickens that is really fascinating.
- Bantams are very well suited to chicken tractors - the chicken tractor keeps them safe from predators, and being small, they don't need much area or height, they seem very happy in their small chicken tractor. I haven't let them out to free-range as I don't want the large chickens to pick on them, but they have plenty of grass in their chicken tractor. If you have big chickens and want to keep a few bantams, a chicken tractor is a good option for keeping them separate.
|B1 the pekin|
|B1 with an egg carton for scale|
Why I still need some big chickens
If I only had a small yard, I think bantams would be a really good idea, but while we have the space, I still prefer to keep a few (only 20!) big chickens for these reasons:
- Bantam eggs are small and infrequent - the eggs about half the size of a big chicken (actually surprisingly big considered the size of the birds!) and they don't lay every day, I need some big chickens to lay enough eggs for us to eat. If you had a family of four you could probably keep six-eight bantams for a (small) egg each per day.
- There's not much meat on a bantam - I don't think it would even be worth the effort of butchering a bantam, they are just too small, I'd rather raise large chickens for meat.
|B1 and Bubble in their small chicken tractor|
Have you kept bantams? What do you think of them?
If you want to know more about chicken tractors, check out my book here.