Why raise bantam chickens?

I have been raising bantam chickens for about 10 years now. I raised them along side my large breed chickens at first, but now keep the separate. Recently I was asked "why do you raise banty chickens?" and I honestly didn't have an answer. I mean they are cute, little and usually full of personality (especially bantam roosters!) but what made me start raising bantams? 

Well, I guess all of the above!

Should you raise bantams?

The first bantam chickens I raised were Mille Fleur d'Uccles and Silkies. I still have silkies all these years later, but currently no d'Uccles. I usually raise them for a few years then take a few years break. 

I love the breed but if you read How I make money with chickens then you know that I tend to keep breeds that are in high demand locally. Over the years I've also raised bantam Polish and a few others.

I find them very comparable to raising standard breed chickens, with just a few exceptions....

Types of bantam chickens

First of all, bantam basically means a chicken of small breed. According to Wiki, bantam chickens were 'discovered' in Indonesia in the city of Bantam now known as Banten Providence. These native breeds were useful to sailors for taking on long journeys. 

There are two types of bantam chickens, true bantams and developed bantams. true bantam means that they have no standard sized counterpart, like the d'Uccle, Rosecomb, Seabright or the Serema. There are only a few true bantams. 

Incidentally the Serema is the absolute smallest breed of chicken. In fact, the Serama's breed standard has each bird weighing below 1 Lb! How cute is that?

Developed bantams are versions of standard breed chickens that have been selectively bred for small size and stature. Like the Cochin or Polish that comes in both standard and bantam sizes. 

You may have heard the term miniaturized bantam. It's basically a way of saying these are the more modern developed bantams. Either way you look at it, both mean a standard sized chicken was selectively bred to create a smaller version of itself while staying true to breed characteristics...except size of course!

I would love to list for you all the bantam breeds that are available, but this often varies by region and can be up for debate about what qualifies or is recognized as a bantam breed. Also there are often worldwide variations on breeds we think of as bantam, like the Silkie. Here in the US only the bantam Silkie is available, but in other countries a much larger standard sized Silkie is more common.

Why raise bantam chickens?

Well for one they are super cute! Bantams are less than half the size of a standard breed chicken. Of course this means they lay eggs that are half size too. You'll need twice as many eggs for an omelette. Here is a bantam egg next to a standard hens egg.

Bantam and standard hens eggs, comparison picture

Smaller chickens also means that they need less space per bird, so you can fit more chickens in a small coop. You can fit 2-3 bantam chickens in the same size space as 1 large breed chicken. 

Of course if you live in an area that regulates how many chickens you can own I don't think they'll fall for the "each banty only counts as 1/3 since they are so small" idea. You could try though!

Smaller chickens eat less feed. If you're worried about an expensive feed bill, then these miniature chickens might be a good choice for you.

Most bantams are known for their broodiness. Every small breed I raised was more broody than my standard breed chickens. 

Certain bantam breeds are well known for their calm personalities and are great with children. They are also easier for children to handle due to their small size. 

They live just as long as standard sized chickens.

Should you keep a bantam rooster?

The roosters tend to be especially cocky. They fit a whole lot of attitude into their tiny bodies along with huge personalities. Napoleon complex if you will. They will pick fights with much larger chickens, often leading to injury.

I once had a Silkie rooster challenge a bear. Didn't end well for that little guy, that's for sure. I had another bantam rooster that liked to chase the kids around. They were teenagers at the time and still ran screaming from him. I guess his little velociraptor growl he did when he was mad was terrifying!

If you tend to butcher extra roosters and aging hens, you won't get very much meat off of a bantam chicken.

Bantam chickens and predators

Due to their small size bantam chickens make for an easier target for hawks, owls and other birds of prey. Cats can also be a problem as these small chickens are much closer in size to wild birds making them an easy target for feral cats.

I've also problems with snakes and opossums in my banty coops over the years. I have never had a snake or opossum try to kill a standard size chicken though. Of course other predators like foxes and raccoons will go after any chickens regardless of size. 

Bantam chickens can also be picked on by regular sized chickens. I haven't had much of this happen in my flocks, but you have to be very careful when adding chickens to a flock as they can get bullied. 

I keep my flocks separated now, but when they were together I kept the standard sized rooster in a separate pen to avoid breeding with the bantam hens. I didn't want them to get hurt!

When you consider the pros and cons of keeping bantams I think you'll agree that these cute mini chickens deserve a place in your flock! 

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