Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Keeping bantam chickens

I recently came into the possession of some bantams and they are ridiculously cute.  They also have a job to do.... I'm hoping they will hatch some eggs.  I thought I better find out a bit more about them first though!  Here's what I've learnt about bantams....

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.

eight acres: all about bantam chickens
B1 the pekin

eight acres: all about bantam chickens
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.

eight acres: all about bantam chickens
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.


  1. We love our bantams. Each hen had been laying an egg a day for awhile. Now it's colder and less light, so they have slowed down. Bantam eggs make for the best hard boiled eggs!

  2. They are adorable! Love your chicken tractor too!!! We have a few bantams. Ours have always been more high-strung and un-trusting than all the others although the best "mama" we ever {EVER} had was a bantam. She just adored hatching and raising chicks.

    1. I guess there are differences between the breeds of bantams too :) I have much to learn!

  3. I started with bantams (Pekins) and even the rooster was friendly too. I've also raised bantam Araucana, and they are much more flighty. Couldn't get close to them. But my favourite of bantams for egg production, was the bantam Orpington. They were also more hardy than the Pekins.

    If you want a broody hen for raising eggs though, you can't go past the Pekin. Mine managed to hatch six standard sized eggs, at 100% hatch rate. They also don't get as cranky with humans, when it comes to going broody either.

    As long as the tractor is moved every other day, bantams love the grass. :)

    1. thanks Chris, just waiting for these two to get broody.... but we are getting eggs in the meantime :)

  4. good luck!
    i prefer big chooks to bantams but have acquired a few bantams recently as they were being given away. which is okay, once i have the pens all finished i hope to breed my own too.
    thanx for sharing

  5. We started last year with a mix of Leghorn rooster chicks and Faverolles bantam female chicks plus an itty bitty bantam chook of unknown age and breed. We now have a full size rooster and two bantamish leghorn cross hens, the two fav girls and their three 6 week old Leghorn cross chicks. Almost as big as mum now, they seem like they'll end up a decent size.
    The girls lay an egg a day mostly, between 35 and 40 grams and one of the Faverolles is back sitting on eggs already. At least two of the six are hers, but we'll need to move her tomorrow otherwise she'll just keep appropriating all the eggs.

    I'd like to have a smaller rooster when we get another one because they definitely are better for the garden. Spike has massive feet compared to all the girls and is very enthusiastic about digging for them. The only problem I've had so far with free ranging them is the two smaller favs tend to get left behind sometimes. Their legs are shorter and they're smaller overall, so a little slower in longer grass.