Chickens come in all sizes and colors, with personalities and temperaments to match. There are seemingly endless breeds to choose from today, from the traditional to the truly memorable.
One type you might have heard spoken of with either admiration or admonishment is the bantam. So, what exactly is a bantam chicken?
A bantam chicken is just a smaller variety of chicken, usually weighing one-half the weight or less of a standard chicken in a given breed. Bantams are often used as ornamental birds or pets, and are exampled in many breeds.
Bantams are incredibly popular with keepers who want birds that take up less space, eat less food, and are generally easier to handle and care for in all regards.
However, bantams of any breed have their own drawbacks you should be aware of. Keep reading to learn more!
What is a Bantam Chicken?
A bantam chicken is a chicken that is smaller than the standard-sized chicken of that particular breed. They usually weigh about half as much as a standard chicken but maybe only a third as large.
You might think of them as mini or compact chickens and you won’t be wrong!
Where Do Bantams Come From?
The history of bantams is long and complicated but suffice it to say that they have been around for a very long time and were originally bred in Asia.
Bantam breeds are interesting because they have varying origins. Some bantams are naturally descended from smaller birds whereas others were selectively bred for small size.
In this regard, you have bantams that are said to be “true” bantams or “developed” bantams.
What Do Bantams Look Like?
Most bantams retain the typical characteristics of their larger counterparts but in a smaller form.
So, for example, you might have a miniature version of a Barred Plymouth Rock that looks like a regular Plymouth Rock but is much smaller.
However, there are also some bantam breeds that were specifically bred to look a little different than their standard-sized cousins.
The most notable examples of this are some Japanese and Belgian bantams which have extra-long tails.
How Big are Bantams?
This is the million-dollar question when it comes to bantams!
As we said, most bantams are about half the size of their standard-sized counterparts but some can be even smaller than that.
In any case, bantams take up a lot less room and need far fewer resources compared to their larger cousins. This is one of the reasons why they make such great backyard chickens.
Are Bantams Good Layers?
This is a difficult question to answer because it really depends on the breed of bantam chicken you have. In general, though, bantams are not as good layers as standard-sized chickens.
This is because they have smaller bodies and so can’t produce as many eggs without burning through their resources. At best, bantams lay fewer eggs and are usually slower as well.
However, there are some bantam breeds that are known to be relatively good layers, such as the Pekin and the Booted Bantam.
Can Bantams Fly?
Here is one area where bantams universally excel compared to their larger relatives. Bantams are superior flyers compared to larger breed examples, and in the case of breeds that are already pretty flighty they can pull off some serious air time. For chickens, anyway!
This can make containing bantams a bit of a challenge since they can easily escape even the most well-designed chicken coops or hop over the tallest fences.
It is a common occurrence to search for an escaped bantam only to find it staring down at you serenely from the peak of your house’s roof!
If you have bantams, make sure your enclosure is totally secure and completely enclosed if necessary.
On the other hand, you can locate their roosts and nesting boxes a bit higher than you could reliably do with other chickens since they are so adept at jumping and flying.
Do Bantams Get Along With Other Chickens?
Again, this depends on the breed. Some bantams can be quite aggressive and territorial while others are more easy-going.
In general, though, bantams tend to do well with other chickens of like kind and make great additions to existing flocks.
Of course, you need to take into account the fact that bantams are smaller than other chickens and so can sometimes get bullied by their larger counterparts.
If you are keeping bantams, it is best to either have a flock of all bantams or else to keep them separate from the rest of your chickens.
What Are the Most Popular Bantam Breeds?
There are way, way too many bantam chicken breeds to list them all here but some of the most popular include the Rhode Island Red, Pekin, the Booted Bantam, the Japanese Bantam, and the Belgian Bearded d’Uccle.
Of course, these are just a few of the many amazing bantam chicken breeds out there so be sure to do your research before deciding which ones are right for you. Again, generally bantams will maintain the characteristics of their breed if miniaturized.
What Do Bantam Chickens Eat?
Not to worry, bantam chickens eat the exact same things that larger chickens eat, only they don’t eat as much. This is because, as we said, they have smaller bodies and so need less food to sustain them.
Of course, you should still make sure that your bantams have a well-balanced diet and access to plenty of fresh water at all times.
A good quality chicken feed will do the trick for most bantams but you may want to supplement their diet with some healthy treats and additions from time to time, just like you would for any other chicken.
Do Bantams Make Good Pets?
As a rule, yes, so long as you know what to expect from chickens in general. Bantams are relatively easy to handle and make great backyard chickens since they are easy to care for.
Of course, like all animals, each chicken is an individual with its own personality so there will always be some that are more friendly and easier to handle or pet than others.
If you are looking for a pet chicken, it is best to choose one from a hatchery or breeder that specializes in friendly birds.
Since they are even smaller than already small and dainty chickens, bantams that are aggressive and decide to peck, kick or spur will inflict even less damage than a chicken normally could, which is usually not much.
This can be a boon for owners who are a little skittish when it comes to conflict or are worried about incurring a rooster’s wrath!
Bantams can make great pets as far as chickens go, but as I said they are still chickens and so they are not for everyone.
How Much Do Bantams Cost Compared to Other Chickens?
Bantam chickens usually cost a bit more up front than regular chickens since they are less common and often considered to be a bit more of a novelty. However, the price difference is not usually significant.
Of course, like with anything else, the price can vary depending on the specific breed of bantam chicken that you are looking at.
Some of the rarer and exotic breeds can cost quite a bit more than the more common varieties.
Also remember that you will spend a lot less on food, supplements, and other consumables for bantams since they need much less compared to larger birds.
Do Bantams Have Any Special Health Considerations?
Not really. Again, because they are just smaller chickens, bantams don’t have any special health considerations that you need to be aware of.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can neglect their health or well-being! Make sure to keep an eye on your birds and take them to the vet if you think something might be wrong.
But other than that, you should know that bantams are significantly more vulnerable to predation than larger chickens.
They also tend to be more sensitive to extreme temps, hot or cold, and so you will need to take care to provide them with a comfortable and consistent environment.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.