Choosing Bantam chickens for your backyard flock can be an excellent choice for urban and suburban neighborhoods. In fact, anyone who wants a hardy, small chicken with a good disposition will be pleased with the Bantam chicken’s good temperament.
Among the many wonderful reasons to choose Bantam chickens, are these facts. Bantams are good layers of delicious small eggs. The eggs are every bit as delicious as eggs from full-size chickens. Just cook a couple extra to make up for the small size. In addition, these pint-size chickens are extra fun in a small size, making them a good choice for families with small children.
Small Scale Homesteading
Homesteading on small acreage or suburban backyards requires well thought out decisions on what animals you keep. The limited space, and possible local ordinances, can limit what you can do. Choosing smaller animals that have the same end result as their full-size cousins can give you more flexibility.
Bantam chickens are counted as half a chicken under most zoning laws. That means you can, in some locations, keep twice as many Bantams as full-size layer hens. If your local ordinance limits your flock to six chickens, you can double your flock size by choosing Bantams (check with your local municipality before purchasing though).
Other benefits of raising Bantam chickens include being able to use a smaller coop. Not surprisingly, smaller chickens require less space for roosting and staying safe from night predators. With Bantam birds coming in close to 1/3 or 1/2 the size of full-size chickens, your backyard coop will take up a much smaller footprint. I do recommend a covered chicken run surrounding the coop for the safety of your Bantam chickens. Since they are smaller, hawks, owls and other aerial predators can easily take off with them.
Another positive feature of raising Bantam chickens is the lower amount of chicken food required, and subsequently a smaller mess inside the coop — smaller chickens create smaller droppings.
Bantam Breed Hens
The tiny females are powerhouse broody hens. I have been amazed at the clutch of eggs my broody hens have covered successfully. These micro hens are serious about setting on a clutch of eggs. They don’t care who’s eggs they set on. It is serious business to these smaller momma hens. And they will mother the chicks just as seriously. One factor to note, Bantam eggs hatch in fewer days than full size chicks. Most of our broody bantams hatched eggs in 18 to 20 days rather than the standard 21-day chicken incubation.
Keeping Chickens for 4-H projects and Breed Shows
The small size of Bantam chickens, and their sweet disposition makes them a good choice for young people who want to compete in agricultural themed shows. Many of the Bantam cockerels are stunning stars in the show barn.
Can Bantams be Housed in the Same Coop as Full-Size Chickens?
If you only keep laying hens in your coop, the answer might be that they can get along quite well. The problems arise if a pecking order issue begins. The full-size hen has a definite size and weight advantage over the Bantam hen. This can end badly for the smaller chicken. Keep an eye on the flock for disputes and fights, and remove the Bantams if necessary.
When a full-size rooster is part of your flock, I would not recommend keeping Bantam chickens in the same run. The tiny hens are often injured if the large rooster attempts to mate with them. Bantam roosters rarely thrive in a coop with a large rooster. The large rooster can do serious, life threatening damage to a Bantam rooster.
What Bantam Breeds are Best?
Bantam chickens exist in many breeds. When we first received Bantam chickens, I ordered an assortment of breeds. It was fun to watch them grow and develop, trying to determine what Bantam breed they were. There are quite a few choices of Bantam breeds including Cochins, Brahmas, ornamental breeds, and Silkies.
The Golden Sebright is a great choice when you are looking for a Bantam chicken that is also a strong layer.
In my experience, our Cochin Bantam hens laid very well for two years and then quit. An additional egg was found from time to time but nothing regular. By that point, it didn’t matter. These tiny Cochins strutting around on their heavily feathered legs had become farm favorites. They live out their days as chicken royalty on our farm, having contributed to our egg supply for two years and raising many clutches of farm hatched chicks.
Frizzled Bantams are a fun surprise in a Bantam mix. We have had a few of these over the years. The feathers curve outward instead of hugging the body, giving the chicken a fuzzy, ruffled appearance.
Is there a Downside to Bantam Chickens?
Some people think broody hens are the best thing since sliced bread, others would rather have the fresh eggs. Bantams, especially Silkies and Cochins, have a strong tendency to broodiness and make excellent momma hens. Here are a few other facts about Bantams to help you decide if they are a good fit for your homestead or backyard.
- The eggs are smaller, requiring 2 or 3 times as many eggs for a recipe.
- The Bantam flock may require a coop separate from the full-size hens if there are pecking order issues, or if you have a regular sized rooster.
- Bantam chickens do not change the amount of care required for keeping chickens. They still need daily checks for food, water and cleanup.
- I’ve never found a place to purchase sexed bantam chicks. They are usually sold as straight run. This means that you take the risk of getting cute little Bantam roosters with the hens. If that is a problem for your location, you might want to consider what you will do with the roosters before placing an order.
- And lastly, as cute as the Cochin and Brahma breeds are, the Bantams of these breeds do not lay eggs reliably for more than two years. If your goal is to have chickens that lay eggs longer, try to choose other breeds available in Bantam size.
Just as with any new poultry or waterfowl, knowing what to expect, before your new birds arrive, allows you to prepare the best space. Bantam chickens will reward your good care with years of fun and delicious eggs.
Janet Garman of Timber Creek Farm is an author, fiber artist and farmers with a love for animals and sustainable living. Janet has a degree in large animal farm management and animal science from the University of Maryland, and helps others learn to raise livestock, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and manage a small farm. Her articles on keeping animals, small farms and homesteading can be found in many popular websites. Janet has is the author 50 Do-it-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens, Chickens from Scratch and many books about fiber arts and farming with animals.
Photos courtesy of Janet Garman of Timber Creek Farms, Kayla Nunes, Eric Edwards, Erica Westmoreland, Teddi Yaeger, Hayden Curtis, Angela Vallencourt, Indah Erdman, Bailey Abel, and Amber Filan, Klarissa Olvera. Poultry fair winners: Isaiah, and the Spradlin and Hebrard families.