Bantam chickens are small birds with big personalities! These bite-sized chickens are at home in a mixed flock or kept on their own.
What are Bantam Chickens?
Bantam chickens are small of chickens. It varies with the breed but a bantam is generally 1/4 to 1/5 the size of the standard sized birds.
Bantam isn’t a specific type or breed of chicken, it’s a weight class. Just like in MMA and boxing it’s used to describe the little guys.
What are True Bantams?
We call chickens “true bantams” when there isn’t an equivalent full sized bird. There are a few kinds of true bantams including the Belgian d’Uccle, the Seabright, the Rosecomb, and the Nankin.
Those breeds only exist in bite-sized form. Which sucks because I’d love a 12 pound d’Uccle!
The rest of the bantam chickens, like bantam Brahmas and bantam Easter Eggers, have a full-sized counterpart.
The breed standards are the same for the standard and bantam sizes, just smaller. The leg color, color patterns, comb shapes and any other physical characteristic should be exactly the same.
Popular Bantam Chicken Breeds
Silkies are probably the most popular bantam chicken. I have no data to back that up but even people that aren’t chicken people know about the fluffy teddy bear birds.
Silkies are easy to identify, they have black skin, extra toes and fine fur-like feathers. In general they have calm personalities and if you’re after pet chickens silkies are a great choice.
Read more about Keeping Chickens as Pets
When it comes to weight class silkies are somewhere in the middle. They’re a small bird overall and in the United States you’ll have a hard time finding any silkies that aren’t bantam sized. Silkie roosters in the US are around 2.25 pounds and hens are about 2 pounds.
In Europe there are two distinct sizes with the bantams being tiny at 22 oz for rooster and only 18 oz (just over a pound) for hens. The European standard size silkies are a little bigger weighing in around 4 pounds for roosters and 3 pounds for hens.
Another popular bantam is the bantam Easter Egger, like full-sized Easter Egger Chickens they lay blue, green and pinkish eggs. Easter eggers aren’t a specific breed and they come in a huge range of colors. If you want a single breed flock with different looking birds they are a great choice.
Read more about Easter Egger Chickens
The Benefits of Bantams
First things first, I’m writing this from the perspective of a crazy chicken lady living in the northeast (aka frozen hellscape) with a large, mixed species free-ranging flock.
I’m really bad at giving concise or definite answers to questions about chickens because so much is situational. Something I consider a pro might be con for you and vice versa. That’s why I try to explain my reasoning.
Bantams are Cute!
It’s a universal truth from hamsters to kumquats that tiny things are just cuter. I don’t care how bitter and jaded you are, bantam chickens are cute as heck.
Even when they’ve reached their full size they maintain that baby-cute quality that makes them irresistible. My ex-husband called my original bantam Easter eggers my ‘fake chickens’ but even he admitted their uselessness was overshadowed by their adorable appearance.
Bantam Breed Chickens Easier to Handle
Bantams are popular for kids, their smaller size makes them easier for a kid to handle and generally less intimidating. My old Brahma rooster was a gentle giant that could look eye to eye with my 3 year old, even though he was sweet as pie it’s a bit scary.
If you’re just starting with chickens bantams aren’t a bad way to start. Differernt breeds of chicken have differernt personalities and bantams are no different.
Silkies, Cochins, and Brahmas are popular bantam varieties with calmer personalities.
Rosecombs, Sebrights and Old English Game bantams are more active and less likely to enjoy a cuddle. Not that I’m a big chicken cuddler, I prefer to treat my chickens like livestock.
I have noticed that my calmer and more docile birds tend to stay closer to home and out of trouble. My barn/coop is set back from the road and it’s pretty rare to even see the silkies in front of the house, never mind in the road.
Bantam Chickens Need Less Space
If you only have a small yard or pen bantams are your best choice. Chickens are flock animals and 3 is the absolute minimum I would be comfortable keeping.
I have a large coop inside my barn, an attached run (that currently doesn’t have a door) and then acreage for my flock. Space isn’t really a concern for me when I’m selecting birds but it might be for you.
Standard sided chickens need about 4 square feet of space per bird in the coop, bantams only need 2. That’s a pretty big difference.
You will need more space if you are keeping your birds contained, each full-sized bird will need an additional 10 square feet in a run while a bantam would be content with an extra 5 square feet.
I’d never recommend you start out with one of those pre-built chicken coops from Tractor supply or Amazon just because they’re so small but if all you want is a handful of bantams you’ll be ok.
If you go the pre-made route keep in mind the coop space, if you’re in a place with crappy weather, rain or snow, your birds will be spending a lot of time inside.
Bored & cramped chickens will do terrible things to each other, try to keep them entertained in the coop and make sure they have adequate roosts and nest boxes.
Read more about Keeping Chickens Entertained Indoors
Some people even keep chickens as house pets. The Serama is a very tiny breed of bantam chicken popular as a house pet.
Personally, as much as I love my flock I think they belong in the barn. Flamingo lived on my porch for a month after getting hit by a car and that was more than enough.
Even though bantams are much smaller, they aren’t that much quieter or neater than full sized chickens! Bantam roosters are still roosters and they’ll crow just as loud
Do you Need a Rooster in Your Flock? Find out
The Downside to Bantam Chickens
Over the years I’ve had a handful of bantam chickens in my flock and I think they’re a great addition to a mixed flock. But I personally wouldn’t want to only have bantams.
Bantams Lay Tiny Eggs
The main reason I keep chickens is for fresh eggs. Bantam hens do lay eggs, and some of them are prolific layers. But the eggs are small.
My kids go nuts over tiny eggs, I’ve yet to find a kid that doesn’t. Honestly I still get a kick out of them. But if you’re selling eggs your customers are going to be, at best, disappointed with a dozen miniature eggs.
Read more about What to Expect from Farm Fresh Eggs
Even for home use, it can be annoying to bake a cake when all you have left is a pile of baby eggs. You can eyeball it and cross your fingers or break out the scale but either option is more of a pain than it needs to be.
Bantam Chicks are More Delicate
Bantam chicks are stupidly small. I had to delay shipping on my last hatchery order because I’d ordered bantams and they were afraid the chicks wouldn’t survive the cold.
Read more about Caring For Chicks after a Rough Shipment
Bantams aren’t a lot harder to raise as chicks but they have a few issues you should be aware of.
They a less forgiving with heat. They don’t have a lot of body mass and they will get chilled much easier than larger chicks. If you’re seeing a lot of huddling or getting pasty butt double check your temps.
Read more about Setting Up a Brooder & Preparing for Chicks
Bantam chicks are also more likely to get soaked in the waterers. You can keep prevent the water problems by adding glass marbles to the waterer, they can still drink but they won’t be able to walk in the water and get wet.
You also need to be careful brooding full sized chicks and bantams together. Make sure they have lots of space and no corners to prevent trampling.
These chicks are the same exact age, the black one is a silkie and the yellow is a Brahma.
Once you get them out of the brooders and into the barnyard they aren’t safe. There’s a sweet spot in bird size where the hawks go bananas on my birds.
It usually hits around 2-4 months where they’re the perfect size to get picked off by visiting Red Tail hawks. The problem with bantams is they never outgrow that size.
Predators are always a problem with bantams, on the bright side they don’t need nearly as much run size as full-sized chickens and they’re easy to keep contained.
Roosters are Tiny but still Jerks
I’m not anti-rooster by any means but they are one of the less enjoyable parts of chicken keeping. Bantams are no exception, don’t think that just because they look like toys they’ll be peaceful.
This little guy is a full-grown Easter egger rooster. He was evil. I had to get rid of him after he tormented my kids to the point that they wouldn’t leave the house unless they were glued to me and the neighbor boy gave them a big stick to protect themselves.
One of the most aggressive roosters I’ve ever seen was a tiny bantam Cochin my former mother-in-law had. I was over at her house and I kept feeling a gentle pat on the back of my leg.
I looked down and say the cutest tiny black ball of feathers attacking me. He could only jump about half way up my calf so I barely noticed but if it had been a kid or if I had bare legs it would be a less amusing memory for sure.
Read more about The Dark Side of Chicken Keeping
Right now I have more roosters than I need (or want) including 2 bantam EE’s and 3 Silkies along with a handful of full sized roosters. The big guys fight among themselves but they seem to leave the little guys out of it.
Maybe they don’t see the bantam roosters as a threat, maybe the banties are too quick. I don’t know why, I just know that the bantams aren’t getting beat up like the big guys sometimes are.
You Have to Buy Straight Run
Speaking of roosters, bantam chicks are tiny and I’ve only seen them sold straight run. That means they’re sold with roosters and hens mixed together as they hatch.
Read more about Ordering Chickens Online
If you’re lucky you’ll get a 50/50 split. But even that will leave you with too many roosters.
And that concludes my master class on bantam chickens. Do you keep them alone or as part of a mixed flock with standard sized breeds and other kinds of poultry?
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