Fluffy, speckled, bearded, and feather legged, you can find bantam chickens in every variety and because of their small size. They can make great pet chickens for the backyard!
Banties, as they’re so fondly known, won’t need as much space compared to standard sized chickens and some of them lay fantastic eggs throughout the year.
So, if you’re looking for some fun, cute, and cuddly chickens for your coop, in this article we’ll explain why the bantam chicken could become a great part of your flock…
DID YOU KNOW?The smallest chicken breed in the world is the Malaysian Serama with an adult weight of 200-400g. They can lay bantam eggs with a weight of 28g which makes them a chicken with the highest weight to egg ratio.
What is a Bantam chicken?
A bantam is the smaller version of larger breeds of fowl, usually measuring a quarter the size of its poultry counterparts.
For example, the standard Buff Orpington is 8-10lbs compared to the average 2lbs for a bantam. Both varieties have the same patterns, temperaments, and egg laying abilities, so the major differences are the overall height and weight of the standard versus the bantam.
The American Bantam Association has listed more than 400 bantam varieties and every year they release the bantam breed standard that birds must satisfy to be considered showbirds.
Importance of Breed Standard
Why should bantams have a breed standard? Because bantams consist of different breeds that must conform to the regulated bantam breed standards in the same way large fowl should. So, when you purchase a bantam Brahma, you are not getting a tiny version of the large Brahma but rather a bantam variety of Brahma with its own breed criteria.
Where Do Bantam Chickens Come From?
The name “bantam” is believed to come from the seaport city of Bantan in Indonesia. When the sailors from Europe would stop to collect fowl for their sea fare, they would be impressed by the appearance and usefulness of these small chickens that came to be known as the bantam.
When you look at the genetic profile of bantam chickens, breeds consisting of true bantams means that their miniature size is a part of their DNA. They are naturally occurring or naturally developed with no input from humanity. The true varieties include Silkies, Sebrights, and Barbu d’Uccles.
So how did miniaturized bantams such as the bantam Brahma come about if it is not a true bantam breed?
Well, when breeders wanted miniature versions of larger standard breeds such as Orpingtons and Brahmas, they would pair bantams with standard chicken breeds. Through a process of genetic selection, they chose the smallest chicks of their stock and bred these birds to create a dominant gene for miniatures of a particular chicken.
Now that we know a little bit more about bantams, let’s get to know the breed varieties in the following chapter.
The Types of Bantam Chickens
Bantam chickens include true bantams, miniatures, and developed bantam breeds. Let’s examine their differences and the types of chickens that fall into these categories.
The true bantam is a small breed of chicken such as the Silkie, Sebright, and Barbu d’Uccle. They have not been genetically or selectively bred to achieve their small size and do not have a large breed counterpart.
Poultry that breeders carefully selected to achieve a small size are considered miniature bantams. They exist in their small form and in standard breeds such as Brahmas, Orpingtons, and Cochins.
The developed bantams have undergone further genetic selection to produce their small size, feather patterns, and temperaments. These types include the Japanese bantam and the Pekin.
What are the Color Varieties of Bantam Chicken Breeds?
For anyone who loves keeping chickens, there is no doubt that bantams could be a vibrant part of the flock. But why would you want a tiny bird in your coop? Because bantams are available in a striking range of feather patterns, giving them a beautiful and unique look.
Along with their gorgeous plumage comes their dapper yet sweet temperament, with some even making great house pets!
A Variety for Everyone
Their varieties are what make them so popular, especially for people with less space in their backyard.
When you decide that bantams are your next backyard chickens, you will find over 34 Old English Bantam color varieties, including 12 types of game bantams in the United States. Silkies are among the categories of bantams available in white, black, and buff with black skin.
FUN FACTThe Silkie, Dorking bantam, and Faverolles are among the only chicken breeds with five toes.
While bantam birds are generally small, some are tinier than others and can sometimes be only slightly bigger than a pigeon! We look at the smallest bantam chickens next.
What is the Smallest Bantam Chicken?
While there are many breeds of bantams you can choose for your flock, there’s something about a tiny chicken that makes for an adorable pet.
To help you make the best decision for your chicken coop, we’ll now look at some of the smallest chicken breeds, their temperaments, and whether they’d make good egg layers.
The Malaysian Serama is the smallest chicken breed in the world. Its origins are believed to date back to the 1600s but the first Seramas arrived in the United States in the year 2000. There are 4 breed categories of Serama, with the micro class being the smallest on record. Micro Serama hens weigh only 8 ounces.
Next is the Dutch, which is also known as the world’s “littlest bantam”. Generally, Dutch bantams only reach a weight of 1lb, and while the hens are robust and good with children, the rooster can be quite temperamental.
The Belgian D’Uccle (Mille Fleur)
The d’Uccle is a preferred fancy chicken with an adult weight of only 1.3lbs. Both hens and roosters are favored for their docile personalities; however, hens only lay a few miniature white eggs during the year and are not widely considered good egg layers.
While not a common choice for a backyard bird, the Sabelpoot is worth mentioning because it only weighs 1.4lbs at maturity! Though, these hens are poor egg layers and roosters can be quite aggressive, which are the reasons they might not make particularly good pets.
Sir John Sebright bred the aptly named Sebright in the 1800s for its lacey plumage. Because they are energetic, but tame, they make incredible backyard chickens and get on well with kids too! Both hens and roosters are similar in appearance to each other and normally reach a weight of only 1.25lbs.
But these bantams lay only one small egg a week, making them a poor choice if you’re looking for a prolific egg layer.
What is the Size of Bantam Eggs?
Bantam eggs are about a third to half the size of a regular or medium-sized egg and weigh about half when compared to a large chicken egg. In simple terms, about 3-4 bantam eggs are equal to two standard eggs.
FUN FACTYou can fit 4 to 5 tiny Serama chicken eggs into one standard egg.
If it is eggs you are after, you wouldn’t typically choose bantam breeds because of how long it takes them to reach egg laying age, and they can’t lay as many eggs compared to a good laying hen. Some bantam hens can take 8 to 9 months before they start laying, but most of them will make good mothers when raising chicks.
Which Bantam Chickens are Good Egg Layers?
The good news is that not all bantams are ‘bad’ egg layers. The miniature bantams tend to lay a slightly larger egg than true bantams. You’d likely rather be looking at breeds such as bantam Brahmas and Cochins that lay 200 or more eggs per year, just like their larger counterparts.
Of the true bantams, Silkies will lay 100 cream eggs while the Barbu d’Uccle lays 200 eggs every year.
You could also add a few exotic egg colors to the mix by introducing a bantam Easter Egger or Araucana to the coop. Bantam Easter Eggers are incredibly cute and the most impressive little egg layers! They can produce up to 300 eggs per year in shades of pink, green, and blue.
The bantam version of the Araucana is another chicken that produces 280 solid blue eggs each year. That’s right! True blue eggs. The bonus is how friendly they are, which makes them a great potential choice for families.
What to Do When Bantams Go Broody
One thing’s for sure about owning a bantam; you’ll know when these little chickens get broody. Not even your larger chickens will want to mess with them in the nest box!
Bantam chickens will make great moms, and when they become broody many people will place a fertilized standard chicken egg in the nest for them to hatch eggs. Even true bantam hen will remain loyal to her eggs and defend her clutch with every ounce of her being.
Of course, if you don’t have fertilized eggs for a broody bantam hen to hatch, you will need to discourage her from sitting on the nest. Chickens stop laying eggs when they become broody, so by preventing broodiness you can help bantam hens get back into normal egg production rather than wait weeks for her to lay eggs normally again.
Special Coop Considerations
Bantam chickens are small, lightweight birds and this makes it easier for them to jump the coop! They are definitely aerodynamic little things, so your chicken coop needs to be fly-proof. The chicken coop for bantams should provide at least two square feet of space per bird.
You should also consider the number of nest boxes available for the small laying hens that are sharing space with larger breeds. Little bantams shouldn’t have to compete with all the big birds.
Fencing should be at least 6 feet high with netting over the top. Some bantam chickens are known to clear a 10-foot fence, especially when they get frightened.
Keep Them Safe
Covering the top of their boundary or chicken run will stop them from flying away. It is also the best defense against predators such as hawks.
Along with securing the run, bantams are the most susceptible to changes in outdoor conditions. They need a warm and dry chicken coop in winter and enough shade and ventilation to stay cool in summer.
Keep It Clean
Your feathered-feet breeds such as Sablepoots and Silkies need clean and dry areas where they can roost and free-range. If they get muddy or wet feet, it could lead to problems such as bumblefoot.
Here is a short video about bantam space requirements.
How to Predator Proof Coops for Bantam Chickens
Bantam chickens are easy prey for raccoons, hawks, and foxes. With predator proofing measures that include galvanized mesh and a covered run, you can prevent your fowl from becoming a predator’s next meal!
Raising Bantam Chickens
Tiny bantam chicks are delicate little fowl and need all the care they can get to grow strong and resilient. The chicks should be kept in a warm and dry space until they are fully feathered and old enough to survive in an outdoor coop.
When feeding chicks, most do well on a poultry mash and you can add warm water to their feed to make it easier for them to pick up and swallow it. After about 6 weeks of age, you can introduce a fine grit to aid their digestion and ensure their tiny crops stay healthy.
The Temperament of the True Bantam Versus Game Bantams
Most bantam chickens are friendly and get along very well with all non-aggressive poultry. By choosing carefully and learning about the bantams that you’re interested in, you can create a happy, cohesive flock.
Let’s start by looking at the nature of the true bantam.
One type of bantam found in most backyards is the Silkie chicken breed. Silkies are quirky-looking birds with puffy feathers, feathered legs, and fluffy ‘fros on the top of their heads.
Silkies are the sweetest bantams with many being easy to handle and care for when raised from chicks. Silkies make excellent house pets due to their calm temperament.
With regular interaction, silkies will follow you around the yard but always keep them in a secure chicken coop to prevent them from escaping or becoming prey.
Sebright chickens are popular bantam breeds in the show ring, adored by many. They can be quite calm and gentle, but a rooster may be more temperamental than the hens.
The Old English
The Old English bantam is a game bantam and generally considered a bird with both character and beauty. When raised from a chick, game bantams can integrate well with flock mates.
Are Bantam Roosters a Good Choice for the Backyard Flock?
What most chicken keepers find is that the bantam rooster tends to be noisier and more aggressive than the hens, especially during the breeding season.
Fortunately, not all bantam roosters are terrors in the coop! It all depends on the breed, so take the time to research which bantam chickens would be most suited to your flock and you will have many happy years with these exquisite little birds...
The Best Bantam Chickens for Kids
The best bantams for kids are friendly, naturally curious, and not too finicky when handled.
It may not be a good idea to introduce a rooster to a flock frequented by very young children because they can be difficult to manage and become temperamental in the breeding season.
Bantam chickens could make exceptional pets because they can be extremely tame, won’t need too much space, and are perfect for children who suffer from regular pet allergies.
The following bantam chickens are favorite breeds among kids:
Of all chickens, children absolutely love the appearance and the nature of Silkies. Some of them are so tame, they are nicknamed “lap chickens” and don’t mind being scooped up and cuddled.
Silkies also come in different colors and patterns which adds some flavor to a backyard flock.
Not only are bantam Cochins friendly and wonderfully feathered, but they are also great egg layers. Children will enjoy collecting their fresh eggs and interacting with their new pet chickens.
You can find Belgian bantams with funny little beards or feathers on their legs, much to the delight of children. These birds are all about being friendly and with some small enough to fit into your hand, kids can easily learn how to be gentle and care for their new pet.
Sources believe that the origins of bantam chickens date as far back as the 1800s and include only a handful of breeds from all over the world. Today, all bantams have a place in the backyard coop and many are also popular as show poultry.
Personality and Care Requirements
Bantams are fun, quirky, and with such unique chicken varieties, they have become a fan favorite for the backyard.
These chickens don’t need too much space but secure coops are necessary to protect them from predators.
They lay beautiful eggs, and breeds such as bantam Cochins lay up to 200 eggs per year, impressive for a bird that weighs so little! Bantam chickens weigh less than 2.5lbs, and you can find true bantams in different patterns or with feathered legs and feet.
If you have a flock of large chickens, introducing bantams of such small stature could be a disaster! Bossier and larger birds could bully smaller chickens, so take some time to think about your selection and the future health of your flock.
Feel Free To Share
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, be sure to share and encourage more chicken keepers to include the gorgeous bantam into their flock.
These wonderful and tiny chickens have the best personalities, and will forever have a place in the hearts of breeders and hobbyists alike.
(1) Putneypics, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons