Crazy about Bantam Chickens

“As a hazel-nut is to a walnut, a Brussels sprout to a cabbage, an Austin to a Cadillac – so is a Bantam to a regular chicken,” writes Eva Le Gallienne in Flossie and Bossie,her 1949 novel about two bantam hens in a barnyard. It’s out of print, but you may be able to find a copy at your local library.

Rosecomb bantams are among the True Bantams, the breeds for which no large fowl correlate exists. They are one of the Top Ten most popular breeds in the American Bantam Association and one of the oldest recognized by the American Poultry Association. Both black and white varieties were included in the APA’s first Standard in 1874. Today, The APA has added blue to its standard, but the ABA recognizes 26 colors. The Rosecomb Bantam Federation cautions that not all are shown and some may no longer even exist.

Silkies are another true bantam breed with appealing feathers that are more like hair. Their pet-me feathers and sweet disposition make them welcome as companion birds. Those who wish to hatch eggs naturally often keep Silkies to brood them. Most hens are willing to be broody on occasion and some prefer to be broody all the time. Their black skin and bones have been part of Chinese traditional medicine for more than 1,000 years. Chinese scientists have tried to support that belief but facts remain elusive. Chefs and gourmets agree that the flavor is excellent. Perhaps that’s enough to make you feel better.

Small birds require less space than large ones, so you can keep more. Their many colorful varieties let you choose more than one favorite. Lewis Wright, writing in his 1890 Illustrated Book of Poultry, about bantams reflects in language of a different time about advantages that still apply today:

“Many a lady, tired of having nothing to pet but a tom-cat, has wondered longingly whether she might not keep a few fowls; but looking at her garden with regretful eyes, has decided that half of it would be needed, and that she could not spare that; when the happy thought has crossed her mind, “Why not keep Bantams?” A little space – just that strip which can so easily be spared – will content them; and as to crowing, who in the world would mind the voice of a little fellow no bigger than a pigeon? She is made happy; and even the tom-cat, ousted at first from his olden place, but who has provided for him a never-ending subject of interest in the perpetually intense speculation as to the possibility of some peculiarly tiny chicken coming some day through to the wrong side of the wire – even he is made happy too. Decidedly, Bantams have their place in the world.”