Bantams are Mini-Chickens
Bantams are mini-chickens, miniature versions of large fowl. They are separate breeds from their larger cousins. They are just like full-size chickens, but only one-fifth to one-quarter the size.
“They are easier to handle and lay beautifully,” said Doris Robinson, director of the joint American Poultry Association-American Bantam Association Youth Club. “They don’t need as much room or protection. To me, bantams are better able to take care of themselves.”
Most bantam breeds are small versions of breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association. Some, however, have no corresponding large fowl breed. Those are considered True Bantams. They include Japanese, Vorwerks, Nankins, Belgian Bearded d’Anvers and Belgian Bearded d’Uccles, Dutch, Rosecomb, Sebrights, Silkies and Junglefowl, the ancestor of all domestic chickens. There are also bantam ducks.
The American Poultry Association has a Bantam division, divided into five categories for exhibition: Games, Single Comb Clean Legged Other Than Games, Rose Comb Clean Legged, All Other Combs Clean Legged and Feather Legged. They are usually shortened to initials only at shows, resulting in an alphabet soup of letters – SCCL, RCCL, AOCCL — that looks obscure to the uninitiated. Now you know.
The American Bantam Association has its own separate Standard. Although the two organizations work together cooperatively, the ABA recognizes more breeds and color varieties of breeds than the APA, 56 breeds and 392 varieties. The ABA divides Bantam chickens into six classes: Modern Games; Old English and American Games; Single Comb Clean Leg; Rose Comb Clean Leg; All Other Combs Clean Leg; and Feather Leg. Exhibiting bantams at shows is part of the fun of owning them.
Bantams are prized for their small size, so limited weight ranges are part of the Standards. The smallest, the American Serama, recently recognized by the ABA, must not be larger than 16 ounces for a rooster, 14 ounces for a hen.
Kids who are interested in chickens can get started with bantams. They’re easier to hold and usually more gentle than large fowl. With some supervision, kids can take responsibility for food, water and clean-up.
As backyard chickens become more popular, bantam breeds are being raised by more people in more places. That helps breed conservation.
Mary Ann Harley of South Carolina raises Nankin, Dominique, Delaware and Dutch bantams. Her birds have contributed to flocks on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, a private preserve in Virginia and Colonial Williamsburg.
“More people are keeping chickens, and bantams play a big part in that,” said Mrs. Harley. “Numbers are important to breed preservation, where they are, who is breeding them.”
Many bantams are excellent layers, although their eggs are, predictably, small. One friend prefers her bantam eggs to large fowl eggs. She finds one large fowl egg not enough, and two too many. But like Goldilocks and her porridge, two bantam eggs are Just Right.