The Complete Guide To Bantam Chickens – Is This The Right Chicken For You?

It makes sense to raise bantams than full-sized chickens if your backyard size is limited. However, not all bantams are cut out as backyard chickens.

Before you buy a bantam chicken as a pet or an egg-layers, here’s everything that you need to know about these pocket-sized chickens.

What Exactly are Bantam Chickens?

We’ll begin by outlining the 2 Types of Bantam Chickens. Most people associate bantam breeds with scaled-down versions of large or full-sized fowl chickens, and while that is partly true, this definition does not apply to all of them.

There are two main types of bantam chickens: true bantams and miniaturized bantams.

Some might mention a third type (the developed bantams), which are those true bantams that were bred via human intervention. For most of this guide, however, we’ll stick to the main two.

 True Bantams Chickens

Standard chicken vs bantam chicken

True bantams are “true” for a reason, and that is because they only come in one size: small.

These bantam chickens have no full-sized counterparts, and there were no humans involved in making their petite size. In other words, these birds were naturally born this way.

The term bantam was conceived when these petite chickens were first seen by sailors stopping at the Indonesian seaport of the Island of Java, found in the Banten Province. Soon, these birds were taken in ships as a food source, while some managed to make it into Europe, where they were quickly adopted for their uniqueness. 

By the 1500s, many bantam birds could be found in several European cities. Check out this article to learn more about the history of bantam chickens (1).

The Chabo, Nankin, Belgian d’Anver, and the Booted are examples of true bantam chickens.

Miniature Bantam Chickens

The size of miniaturized bantams is not naturally occurring.

These bantams have standard-sized chicken doppelgängers and are the result of years of selective breeding. This is why we see that Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, and Australorp, amongst others, offer two types of birds – the large fowl and bantam.

The bantam Rhode Island Red, for instance, was first created by crossing large fowl Rhode Island Reds with the Cochin and Old English bantam birds. On the other hand, Bantam breeds like the Black Langshan bantam were bred directly from their standard-sized fowl counterparts. Likewise, every miniature bantam was developed by following similar processes.

A Look At The 7 Most Popular True Bantam Chicken Breeds

Lets take a look at some of the most popular bantam chicken breeds worth knowing about.

1. Barbu d’Anvers Bantam

The Belgian Barbu d’Anvers, also known as Quail d’Anvers or Antwerp Belgian (2), is an ornamental bantam breed. Not only is this old chicken breed well-known in its country of origin, but its popularity has managed to expand across the globe in recent years.

When it comes to temperament, Barbu d’Anvers bantam hens are normally gentle and make great pets; roosters, however, can turn out to be aggressive at times.

Despite their love of flying and energetic personalities, these small chickens can handle part-time confinement well.

The ideal climate in which to raise this breed is one that’s moderate, where temperatures don’t ever drop or rise enough to reach extremes.

You can always enjoy the tiny little eggs these birds produce – expect around 2 creamy-white-shelled eggs per week!

There are nine recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association. These include the Self-Blue, Mottled, and Cuckoo. 

2. Booted Bantam Chicken

The Dutch Booted, or Sabelpoot, is an old bantam ornamental breed. These are rare and special birds that have feathered legs yet unbearded faces.

Booted hens are usually calm, whereas roosters may be fairly contentious. Booted bantam chickens tolerate confinement well and are talented flyers, so they can benefit greatly from a high coop space that allows them to take to the air from time to time.

The ideal temperature to raise these birds is a moderate one that does not arrive at extremes. 

For those of you who have been wondering how cold is too cold for chickens, read our guide so you can keep those feathers warm in winter.

Like the previously mentioned bantams, you can expect a Booted hen to yield about two somewhat small, creamy-white-shelled eggs per week.

There are currently five recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association, including the Black, Mille Fleur, and Self Blue. Apart from the Booted, the Dutch bantam is another one of The Netherlands’ alluring bantams. 

3. Japanese Bantam Chicken

The ancient Japanese, or Chabo, is an ornamental bantam breed that is believed to have been developed as early as the 7th century CE and brought to Europe around the 16th century (3).

These chickens have an eye-catching tail that sits up nearly straight, in addition to having very short legs. 

Temperament-wise, Japanese hens are docile, while roosters are generally aggressive.

These bantam chickens are best raised in moderate to hot climates, as they have a reputation of being rather flimsy in cold climates. Most Japanese bantam chickens are great to have in a chicken coop.

These little feathered fowls are not exactly great layers, so expect one small cream- or tinted-shelled egg per week. 

There are nine recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association, including the Barred, Birchen Grey, and Wheaten. 

4. Nankin Bantam Chicken

This antique breed is said to have arrived in England before the 1500s from a Southeast Asian nation that, up to this date, is still unknown.

Nankin chickens are mostly used as an ornamental breed and, in the case of hens, as broody chickens for hatching eggs of game birds such as pheasant, quail, and partridge (4).

Nankin chickens are normally calm in temperament, although roosters might suddenly become protective of hens if they happen to show any sign of distress. 

These chickens are not exactly a cold-hardy breed, and so they are better off if raised in moderate or hot climates. 

Nankin can tolerate confinement. They will be more comfortable in the chicken coop if there are more birds of their own kind around; you’ll see that they will hang around close together most of the time.

Like the Japanese, these bantam chickens are far from prolific layers, so expect one small, creamy-white-shelled egg per week. 

There is currently just one variety of Nankin recognized by the American Poultry Association (in addition to accepting both single comb and rose comb birds). 

5. Rosecomb Bantam Chicken

The remarkable Rosecomb is yet another bird whose heritage is blurry. However, British breeders have been applauded for its development.

The Rosecomb is a highly acclaimed breed in the exhibition world – perhaps because they suffer from poor fertility and are therefore difficult birds to hatch and raise. Thus, this is not the most fitting breed for newcomers.

Rosecomb chickens are usually friendly, but some roosters may turn out to be aggressive.

These chickens are okay with cold to warm climates and are known to tolerate confinement well. Expect one small, creamy-white-shelled egg per week.

There are three recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association – namely the Black, Blue, and White.

6. Serama Bantam – The Exceedingly Petite

Have you ever wondered which are the smallest chicken breeds in the world? If you have, then you’ve found the winner because this is the smallest chicken breed worldwide.  Hens can weigh as little as 11 oz or 310 g, while roosters can reach 12 oz or 340 g and grow from 15 to 25 centimeters tall (5).

Breeders usually categorize Seramas into Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D, depending on their size. Serama in Class A is the smallest and lightest, while Serama in Class D is the largest and heaviest.

These uncommon ornamental Malaysian bantam chickens are known to be wonderfully gentle pets, and they are usually kept as such in their native land.

Seramas are best reared in moderate to hot climates and can tolerate confinement well. Hens lay around four cream- or tinted-shelled eggs per week.

At the moment, there is just one recognized variety by the American Poultry Association, that being the White.

7. Silkie Bantam Chicken

Next up are the enchanting Silkie bantam chickens! Although in the UK this beloved ornamental breed is considered a large fowl, in the United States, Silkies are considered bantam chickens.

Silkie chickens are amongst the most gentle breeds available, so these birds make an outstanding pet chicken and, when it comes to hens, also great mothers. Silkies can bear confinement well, and the ideal climate to raise them is a moderate one.

If you happen to keep them in a location where extreme climates or rainy weather predominates, make sure to provide a proper shelter that provides adequate insulation and allows for enough ventilation. 

You want to keep humidity and dampness far from these birds.

If you still aren’t sure of how to build or which coop to buy, look at our list of the Best Chicken Coop: 8 Top-Rated Coop Kits For Your Backyard or our post on Small DIY Chicken Coops Plans – How to Build Your Perfect Coop?

Expect 2 to 3 small, cream-shelled eggs per week. 

Currently, the American Poultry Association has recognized five varieties for non-bearded Silkies and eight varieties for bearded Silkies. 

NOTE: Visit Henderson’s Chicken Chart: True Bantams and Game Fowl for further bantam identification.

The 5 Best Egg Laying Bantams

Want to keep and raise bantams as egg-layers in your flock? These specific bantams can give more eggs compared to other varieties.

1. Ameraucana – The Blue Egger

These sturdy-looking birds have founded their popularity as a bantam on their exceptional yielding abilities.

Not only does the Ameraucana chicken lay unique blue eggs, but it is one of the few birds to lay around four eggs per week, almost year-round. You’ll see that they may stop laying by late November or early December and get back on the saddle by January.

Ameraucanas are friendly and energetic birds that benefit from part-time ranging rather than total confinement.

The ideal climate to raise them can range from cold to moderate, as they aren’t particularly heat hardy.

Currently, the American Poultry Association has recognized eight varieties of Ameraucana bantam chickens, including the Blue, Wheaten, and Brown Red.

2. Brahma – The Fuzzy-Legged

Named after the Brahmaputra River in India, these unconventional, fuzzy-legged birds make for a favored family pet because of their docile temperament.

If given enough space to stretch their legs, Brahma’s should bear confinement well. However, like the previously mentioned Ameraucana, this breed can benefit greatly from spending time outdoors.

Although they are mostly used as meat birds, Brahmas also lay a fair amount of brown-shelled eggs (3 per week).

They are also known to be good winter layers, so you can expect to receive a constant supply of eggs nearly all year long.

This breed is a hardy one that should be alright in climates that range from cold to hot temperatures.

The American Poultry Association has recognized three varieties of Brahma bantam chickens, namely the Light, Dark, and Buff. 

3. Leghorns

This breed is one of the most well-known – if not the most famous – chicken breeds.

The Italian Leghorn is an impressive layer that shows a superb feed-to-egg conversion ratio compared to that of other purebreds, and its bantam type is no exception. Thus, you can expect from 5 to 6 white-shell eggs per week.

Don’t forget that proper care can always help your birds lay at their fullest potential. Read our guide on everything you need to know about what to feed (…and what not to feed) your chickens!

When it comes to temperament, these birds are known to be lively and clever, adapting well to both free-ranging and confinement.

The ideal climate to raise Leghorns is moderate to hot, although some Leghorns may prove to be cold hardy.

Currently, the American Poultry Association has recognized 11 varieties of Single Comb Leghorn bantams. There are six varieties of Rose Comb Leghorn bantams. 

4. Plymouth Rock

The Plymouth Rock is a well-known, North American dual-purpose breed.

Known for their easy-going temperament and social personality – whether bantam or large fowl – these birds are amongst the most treasured backyard chickens.

They can tolerate confinement well and, similar to Silkies, Plymouth Rock hens have a reputation of being caring mothers.

The ideal climate to raise these birds in is one that ranges from cold to warm. You can expect a Plymouth Rock to lay about 3 to 4 brown-shelled eggs per week. 

Currently, the American Poultry Association has recognized nine varieties of Plymouth Rock bantams, including the Barred, Partridge, and Silver Pencilled.

For more info on this breed, check out this ultimate guide to the Plymouth Rock chicken breed. 

5. Sussex

From the English county of Sussex comes this fine, dual-purpose breed.

The Sussex is quiet and friendly and usually bears confinement well (6).

Like the previously mentioned Plymouth Rock, Sussex chickens also stand out as dedicated mothers.

The ideal climate in which to keep these birds is one that ranges between cold and warm temperatures, and when kept in these perfect temperatures, you can expect them to yield 4 to 5 tan- or brown-shelled eggs per week. 

The American Poultry Association has recognized three varieties of Sussex bantams: the Light, Red, and Speckled. To find out more, take a look at our complete guide to the Sussex chicken breed!

Note: The American Poultry Association recognizes more than 40 miniature bantam chickens so, if interested, feel free to take a look at their Bantam list.

Charming Chicken Champions – The Most Highlighted Developed Bantams

If you want to have bantams in your flock as ornamental breeds, these two bantams are charming and highly sought after for their uniqueness.

1. Barbu d’Uccle

Developed by Michael Van Gelder of Uccle, this refined ornamental breed originates from Belgium and goes by Barbu d’Uccle or Belgian d’Uccle. 

They are known for their beard and feathered legs, but they also are popular for their wide spectrum of colors.

Similar to the Barbu d’Anvers, when it comes to temperament, Barbu d’Uccle hens are friendly, and the bantam rooster tends to be less grumpy than their d’Anvers counterparts.

These birds generally tolerate confinement better than the d’Anver. However, you should make sure to raise them in a moderate or warm climate.

You can expect a Barbu d’Uccle to lay two fairly small creamy-white-shelled eggs per week.

There are seven recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association, including the Mille Fleur, Porcelain, and Golden Neck. Apart from the Barbu d’Anvers and Barbu d’Uccle, the British Poultry Association also recognizes the Barbu d’Everberg, Barbu de Grubbe, and Barbu de Watermael. 

2. Sebright

The Sebright chickens are the most outstanding example of developed bantam breeds, resulting from agriculturist Sir John Sebright’s series of attempts to create a small chicken whose plumage would resemble that of the laced Polish (7).

These ornamental birds are one of the very few that show the same fancy feathering patterns in both females and males.

Sebright chickens are confident and active yet tame in personality.

Like the Rosecomb, these birds are difficult to breed due to poor hatchability and bantam chicks’ fragility. The fact that Sebright bantam roosters tend to breed in warm weather only and hens rarely go broody are additional obstacles faced by breeders.

This bantam benefits from cold to warm weather and is capable of tolerating confinement. You can expect hens to lay around one small, white- or tinted-shelled egg per week. 

There are currently two recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association, namely the Golden and Silver bantams.

Bantam Chicken Eggs vs normal chicken eggs

Bantam eggs will normally be smaller than standard-sized fowl eggs. In fact, bantam eggs will even vary in size within the different breeds.

A Serama’s egg, for instance, will seem tiny in comparison to that of a Booted or a Brahma bantam egg. It is only natural that the smaller the bird, the smaller the egg, and vice versa.

Generally speaking, a bantam egg weighs between 1 and 1 ¼ ounces, whereas a large fowl egg weighs about 2 ounces (8).

Here’s how small are bantam chicken eggs:

Another noticeable characteristic is that the yolk-to-white ratio is higher in bantam eggs than regular ones.

As with eggshell color, the egg-laying capabilities will also vary from breed to breed.

For more Bantam information, read Countryside Daily’s article on Small and Useful Bantam Chickens

Buy A Bantam? Bantam Pullets For Sale And Adult Bantam Chickens For Sale

Don’t forget to read our post on Buying Chicks or Chickens: Where to Buy Chickens and How to do it? Before purchasing your flock of bantam chicks or mature chickens.

Keep in mind that if you opt for buying adult chickens, most of the time, your only option will be to go to the nearest hatchery shop personally.

On the other hand, if you opt for purchasing chicks, you’ll have the choice of buying them from online hatchery stores, from feed stores or local hatcheries, or local sellers via buy/sell classified shops like eBay or Craigslist.

These are some of the hatcheries that currently sell bantam chickens:

  • Cackle Hatchery – The minimum quantity of chicks is 5 per order, but you’ll have to pay a small order fee (for under 15 birds) of $20.00.
  • Murray McMurray Hatchery – The minimum quantity of chicks is 15 per order.
  • Pure Poultry – The minimum quantity of chicks is 15 per order.
  • Stromberg’s – Have begun shipping some breeds of adult bantam chickens. 

Have you decided to buy chicks instead of mature birds?

We can walk you through the process of raising baby chicks with our guide on what to feed them and how to take care of them! 

Note: Still looking for a chicken that ruffles your feathers with love? Why not take a look at our ultimate guides to Phoenix, Buckeye, And Polish Chickens. Bantams are only the beginning!

Final Thoughts

The majority of bantam breeds require less space, less feed, and are easier to handle than larger chickens. Sure, they might provide you with fewer eggs than a regular chicken would, but overall, isn’t less sometimes more?

Let us know all about your bantam thoughts, questions, ideas, and opinions in the comment section below and, if you found this article useful – which we hope you did – don’t forget to pass it on to your fowl-aficionado friends! 

FAQs

Yes, bantam chickens are good layers but it depends on the exact breed. If you compare their egg production to their bigger counterparts, they produce lay fewer eggs. The size of their eggs is significantly smaller than larger birds too. This why many chicken keepers raise Bantams as an ornament breed or as a pet.

Yes, bantam chickens can live with regular chickens. However, some bantams prefer to be in a flock with the same breed. It also depends on the temperament and personality of your flock. If one or two standard-sized chickens in your backyard flock are aggressive, you should proceed with caution. You don’t want the big guys to bully them.

Bantam chickens are good for pets or ornament chickens. Given their small bodies, they have less meat on them and can produce fewer and smaller eggs than regular birds. If you want to have a bantam, you can raise them as a family pet because they have friendly, tame, and sociable personalities. They are also great bug catchers, especially when you keep them as free-range birds.

  1. Are Bantams Real Chickens. Retrieved from: https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/are-bantams-real-chickens/
  2. Antwerp Belgian Bantam. Retrieved from: https://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/Antwerp-Belgian-Bantam-B150.aspx
  3. Japanese Bantam. Retrieved from: https://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/Japanese-Bantam-B51.aspx
  4. Nankin Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/nankin
  5. Serama. Retrieved from: https://www.omlet.us/breeds/chickens/serama
  6. Sussex Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/sussex
  7. Sebright Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/sebright
  8. Bantam Chicken Eggs. Retrieved from: https://silkie.org/bantam-chicken-eggs.html
Bantan Chicken

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