By Lowell Sherman – A bantam chicken is a small or miniature chicken. Many standard chicken breeds have a bantam counterpart, often referred to as a miniature.
Bantams are much easier to handle because of their size and lend themselves to locations where you may not want larger fowl. The rooster’s crow does not have the decibels that the larger/standard bird might have, and is easier to live with in more densely populated urban areas.
Bantam chickens come in all small shapes and sizes. The smallest are just a little over a pound and go to as much as three pounds. Miniatures are usually one-fifth to one-fouth to one-quarter the size of the standard breed. A true bantam has no standard-breed counterpart. Examples of true bantam chickens include the Japanese, Dutch, Sebright and Silkie chickens.
Generally speaking, I would suggest that bantam chickens be kept in separate chicken runs and coops and away from the larger chicken breeds. Keep in mind, however, that bantams are able to fly much easier than the large fowl and should have covered chicken coops to prevent their escape. As a rule, you can house 10 bantams in the same space that three large fowl would occupy. They are excellent in incubating their own eggs within pens to produce their own offspring.
Bantams lay eggs which are edible and useful just as those of the larger fowl. About three to four bantam eggs are equal to two large fowl eggs when using them in the kitchen. Many love to eat bantam eggs because they contain more yolk and less white.
Wondering what to feed chickens of the bantam variety? The proper poultry feed formulation of the bantam chicken and the standard (large) fowl are basically the same—they both do well with a 16 percent protein layer feed. For bantam chickens, a crumble or mash would be better than a pellet. They often enjoy grain to scratch for in their diet.
Life spans decrease as size decreases. The chicken lifespan of a standard breed is 8 to 15 years and bantam chickens about 4 to 8 years.
I suggest you try bantam chickens. I believe you would be pleased with them.
Originally published in Backyard Poultry 2008 and regularly vetted for accuracy.