Farm Animals

Raising Bantam Chickens

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Bantam Chickens:

Most bantam chicken varieties have been bred to be small versions of standard chickens. Whereas a typical laying hen might weigh five to eight pounds, most bantams are rarely heavier than twenty-two ounces. Because its small size demands it, the bantam is a tough little chicken. An older bantam rooster will dominate younger standard cockerels in the flock, chasing them away from the hens. Because they are quick, bantams are also good foragers for insects. Unfortunately, they are usually good fliers and difficult to keep penned up if they don't want to be.

The bantam rooster may be small, but he has a big voice. He is a staunch, feisty defender of his hens and will even square off against the family dog. Bantam hens lay eggs about half the size of standard large eggs, with a higher proportion of yolk to albumin. Some bantam hens are good brooders, and old-time farmers used them to hatch eggs, while the standard hens which were in the mood to hatch, or broody, could be "cooled" and returned to egg production.

Because they are small, bantams are easy prey for flying predators like red-tailed hawks. If you have a hawk population in your area, you will want to provide your bantams with a yard or exercise area that has a net covering. This will also stop them from flying out to free range.

Bantams need clean water every day. Their feed requirements are the same as standard chickens: cracked corn, a scratch grain mix and laying crumbles if you are using the eggs.

Bantam combs may be somewhat more susceptible to frostbite, so their housing should be weather-tight for the coldest winter weather. Of course, the size of the space they require is only about a third to half of that required for a standard poultry flock. Their laying boxes can be the same size, about a cubic foot. The bantam chicken coop, like housing for standard poultry, must be predator proof. Be sure any gap larger than the width of two fingers is covered with chicken wire. Snakes are a danger to bantams, particularly chicks. And snakes love eggs. Windows must have screens. Don't be surprised if your bantams find the highest place in the coop to perch, as they seem to feel safer there.

If you are raising bantams from purchased chicks, they are incredibly small when they arrive, some no larger than an inch tall. This is when they are most vulnerable. They need to be taught to drink and eat the same hour they arrive. Because they are smaller, they may be picked on by standard chicks if you are brooding the two sizes together. The brooding requirements for bantams are the same as for other poultry. Your brooder pen should be free of cold drafts. A heat lamp should be used to provide a temperature of ninety degrees at the height of the chicks for one week, decreasing the temperature by five degrees each week, until they are six weeks old. Even at six weeks, bantams are tiny. If you are introducing them into a flock of standard-size chickens, do so by using a wire barrier between the flocks for a week or two. This gets the older chickens accustomed to the younger, smaller ones and may prevent serious injuries from pecking. Chickens are often cruel in the establishment of their social, or pecking, order.

Once bantams are full grown and properly housed, they are robust against disease, reliable egg producers and enjoyable to watch.

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