The Complete Guide To Bantam Chickens – Is This The Right Chicken For You?
Do you want to raise your own chickens but feel you lack the space? Are you simply looking to have pet chickens that your children can safely play with? Or perhaps you want chickens that can be easily handled and that will provide you with a fresh supply of backyard eggs?
If that’s so, then bantam chickens may be the answer, and we are here to show you the ins and outs of these pocket-sized farm fowls. Let’s begin!
What Exactly are Bantam Chickens?
We’ll begin by outlining the 2 Types of Bantam Chickens. Most people associate bantams with scaled-down versions of large fowl chicken breeds, and while that is partly true, this definition does not apply to all of them.
Broadly speaking, there are 2 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 article, however, we’ll stick to the main two.
True Bantams Chickens
True bantams are “true” for a reason, and that is because they only come in one size: small.
These bantam chickens have no regular-sized counterparts, and there were no humans involved in the making of their petite size. In other words, these birds were naturally born this way.
In fact, the term bantam was conceived when these petite poultry 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 source of food, while some managed to make it into Europe where they were quickly adopted for their uniqueness.
It is said that by the 1500s many bantam birds could be found in a number of European cities. Check out this article to learn more about the history of bantam chickens (1).
The Chabo, Nankin, Belgian d’Anver, as well as the Booted are examples of true bantam chicken breeds.
Miniature Bantam Chickens
Unlike true bantams, the size of miniaturized bantams is not naturally occurring.
These bantams have regular-sized chicken doppelgängers and are the result of years of selective breeding. This is why we see that many breeds, such as the Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, and Australorp, amongst others, offer two types of birds – the large fowl and bantam.
The bantam Rhode Island Red (2), for instance, was first created by crossing large fowl Rhode Island Reds with the Cochin and Old English bantam birds. Black Langshan bantams, on the other hand, were bred directly from their large fowl counterparts. Likewise, each and every miniature bantam was developed by following similar processes.
In his Book of Bantams (3) Stoddard H. Hudson, wrote:
In order to successfully breed bantams, one should select the smallest specimens, hatch them late in season – that is in July, August, or even September – and feed them only what is necessary to keep them healthy and to allow them to grow at a slow pace.Stoddard H. Hudson
A look at the most popular True Bantam Chicken Breeds
Lets take a look at some of the most popular bantam chicken breeds worth knowing about.
Barbu d’Anvers Bantam
The Belgian Barbu d’Anvers, also known as Quail d’Anvers or Antwerp Belgian (4), 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 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!
Currently, there are 9 recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association including the Self-Blue, Mottled, and Cuckoo.
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 that allows them to take to the air from time to time.
The ideal temperature in which 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 article on the topic and keep those feathers warm in winter.
Like the previously mentioned bantams, you can expect a Booted hen to yield about 2 somewhat small, creamy-white-shelled eggs per week.
Currently, there are 5 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 breeds.
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.
These chickens are characterized for having 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 bantams are best raised in moderate to hot climates, as they have a reputation of being rather flimsy in cold climates. Most Japanese bantams bear confinement well.
These little feathered fowls are not exactly great layers, so expect 1 small cream- or tinted-shelled egg per week.
At the moment, there are 9 recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association including the Barred, Birchen Grey, and Wheaten.
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.
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 bantams are not exactly a cold-hardy breed and so they are better off if raised in moderate or hot climates.
Nankin can tolerate confinement, and will be more comfortable 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 bantams are far from being prolific layers, so expect 1 small, creamy-white-shelled egg per week.
Currently, there is just one variety of Nankin recognized by the American Poultry Association (in addition to accepting both single comb and rose comb birds).
Rosecomb Bantam Chicken
The remarkable Rosecomb is yet another bird whose heritage is blurry; British breeders, however, 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 bantams are okay with cold to warm climates, and are known to tolerate confinement well. Expect 1 small, creamy-white-shelled egg per week.
At the moment, there are 3 recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association – namely the Black, Blue, and White.
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 12 oz or 340 g and can grow from 15 to 25 centimeters tall.
Breeders usually categorize Seramas into Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D, depending on their size. Seramas in Class A are the smallest and lightest, while Seramas in Class D are the largest and heaviest.
These uncommon ornamental Malaysian bantams 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 4 cream- or tinted-shelled eggs per week.
At the moment, there is just 1 recognized variety by the American Poultry Association, that being the White.
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 bantams.
Silkies are amongst the most gentle breeds available, so these birds make outstanding pets and, when it comes to hens, also great mothers. Silkies are able to 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 a rainy weather predominates, make sure to provide a proper shelter that not only provides adequate insulation, but also 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, take a look at our list of the 5 Best Small Chicken Coops for Urban Areas or at 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 5 varieties for non-bearded Silkies and 8 varieties for bearded Silkies.
NOTE: Visit Henderson’s Chicken Chart: True Bantams and Game Fowl for further Bantam chicken breeds identification.
The 5 Best Egg Laying Bantams
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 lay unique blue eggs, but it is one of the few breeds to consistently lay around 4 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 full confinement.
The ideal climate to raise them in can range from cold to moderate, as they aren’t particularly heat hardy.
At the moment, the American Poultry Association has recognized 8 varieties of Ameraucana bantams 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 favoured family pet because of their docile temperament.
If given enough space to stretch their legs, Brahmas 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.
Currently, the American Poultry Association has recognized 3 varieties of Brahma bantams, namely the Light, Dark, and Buff.
This is one of the most well-known – if not the most well-known – chicken breeds.
The Italian Leghorn is an impressive layer that shows a superb feed-to-egg conversion ratio in comparison 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 article 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 in is one that ranges from moderate to hot, although some Leghorns may prove to be cold hardy.
At the moment, the American Poultry Association has recognized 11 varieties of Single Comb Leghorn bantams and 6 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 of 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 9 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.
From the English county of Sussex comes this fine, dual-purpose breed.
The Sussex is quiet and friendly in character and usually bears confinement well.
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 this ideal climate, you can expect them to yield 4 to 5 tan- or brown-shelled eggs per week.
At the moment, the American Poultry Association has recognized 3 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: There are more than 40 miniature bantams recognized by the American Poultry Association so, if interested, feel free to take a look at their Bantam chicken breeds list.
Charming Chicken Champions – The Most Highlighted Developed Bantams
1. Barbu d’Uccle
Developed by Michael Van Gelder of Uccle, this refined ornamental breed originates from Belgium and also goes by the name of Barbu d’Uccle or Belgian d’Uccle. They are distinguished by their beard, feathered legs, and the wide spectrum of colors in which they are available.
Similar to the Barbu d’Anvers, when it comes to temperament, Barbu d’Uccle hens are friendly, and roosters tend to be less grumpy than their d’Anvers counterparts.
These birds generally tolerate confinement better than the d’Anver, and the ideal temperature for raising them in is one that is moderate or warm.
You can expect a Barbu d’Uccle to lay 2 fairly small creamy-white-shelled eggs per week.
At present, there are 7 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, in terms of Belgium breeds the British Poultry Association also recognizes the Barbu d’Everberg, Barbu de Grubbe, and Barbu de Watermael.
The Sebright are the most outstanding example of developed bantams, being the result of agriculturist Sir John Sebright’s series of attempts to creating a small chicken whose plumage would resemble that of the laced Polish.
Now, 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 the fragility of chicks. The fact that roosters tend to breed in warm weather only and hens rarely go broody, are additional obstacles faced by breeders.
This breed benefits from cold to warm weather and is capable of tolerating confinement. You can expect hens to lay around 1 small, white- or tinted-shelled egg per week.
Currently, there are 2 recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association, namely the Golden, and Silver.
Bantam Chicken Eggs vs normal chicken eggs
Bantam eggs will normally be smaller than large fowl eggs. In fact, bantam chicken 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.
Another noticeable characteristic is that the yolk-to-white ratio is higher in bantam eggs than it is in regular ones.
As with egg shell color, the egg laying capabilities will also vary from breed to breed.
For more Bantam chicken 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 personally go to the nearest hatchery shop.
If you opt for purchasing chicks, on the other hand, you’ll have the choice of buying them from online hatchery stores, from feed stores or local hatcheries, or from 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 be charged 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!
The Bottom Line
The majority of Bantams require less space, less feed, less handling know-how… sure, they might provide you with less 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!