Bantam chickens

A rosecomb bantam chicken in a show cage

I adore my bantams. I have kept 22 different types over the years and keep them around just for fun.

What is a bantam chicken?

A bantam chicken is a small chicken. There are two types of bantam, those that are a smaller version of large fowl chickens and the true bantams. The true bantams have no large fowl version whereas with the standard bantam there is a big or large fowl type.

Bantam chickens are suitable for the smaller garden or backyard where space is short. They still require a coop and run and all the same equipment as their large fowl counterparts but it can be smaller.

Bantams eat less feed so will be cheaper to keep. 

Bantams make better flyers than full size chickens and will have no trouble getting to the higher perches.

Below: This is a light Sussex bantam, a small version of the large fowl Sussex.

Bantams tend to be late to mature and rarely come into lay in less than 35 weeks. Silkies are particularly bad in this respect and sometimes don't start laying until they are a year old.

Bantams and large fowl chickens can be kept together with few problems.

How many types of bantam are there?

The ABA or American bantam association lists more than 400 types of bantam chicken. For a full list of chickens breeds see this page.

Below: Here is a flock of my gold laced bantam Barnevelders.

Bantams are as a rule more ornamental and more often shown but they can be productive egg layers and are as hardy as bigger chickens.

Some breeds of bantams lay almost as many eggs as their large fowl cousins although the eggs are smaller. 3 bantam eggs is roughly equivalent to two normal eggs.

My bantams free range with my big chickens and there is rarely any trouble.

Bantam chickens have some specific traits:

  • Bantams are known for being more broody than large fowl chickens.
  • They are easier to tame and often more friendly.
  • Bantam chickens tend to fly better and more often.
  • Bantams can be kept in smaller spaces.
  • Bantams are good with kids and make excellent pets.
  • As they are smaller they make a little less noise and mess.

Do bantams need special care? 

For the most part you can treat your bantams in exactly the same way as your would your large chickens.

Some bantams do require special care, those with feathery feet and legs need to be kept on dry ground and frizzled feathered bantams need to be kept warm. 

The Japanese, Serama, Frizzle and Dutch bantams are not generally held to be cold tolerant birds.

Bantams are more likely to be taken by hawks and birds of prey so need a covered run.

Feather legged types can suffer in the cold and wet of winter and need to be kept dry. Pekin bantams are particularly bad in the wet and soak up water like a sponge.

Below: Silkies and Silkie feathered bantams need to be kept dry as their feathers have no waterproofing.

They are smaller and will get cold more easily and with bantams you will likely need to keep them in the brooder for a few extra days.