“My grandfather had special chickens. He called them Banties.”
Bantams are the introduction to chickens for a lot of people. They aren’t a breed, but an entire set of chicken breeds. They are just like full-size chickens but only one fifth to one quarter, 20 to 25 percent, the size. “You can have ten bantams in the space you would need for two large fowl,” said Doris Robinson, director of the joint American Poultry Association-American Bantam Association Youth Club. “Bantams are for folks who want chickens in their backyard but don’t have enough room for large fowl layers.”
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 such as Don Cable's hen and her chicks, 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.
There’s a certain Wow factor to bantams.
“I have yet to meet a kid who didn’t say, ‘How cute!’ about a Silkie,” said Laura Haggarty, chairman of the ABA’s publicity committee.
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.
Bantam eggs weigh only 1 to 1 ¼ ounces. A large chicken egg weighs 2 ounces, the usual ingredient in recipes. A small egg weighs 1 ½ ounces, extra-large 2 ¼ ounces, jumbo 2 ½ ounces. Figure accordingly for cooking and baking. Weight isn’t the sole consideration: the proportion of yolk to white is higher in bantam eggs, which may affect some delicate gourmet recipes. If in doubt, give yourself time to try using bantam eggs in the dish before preparing it for a special occasion!
Kids and Bantams
Bantams can be a good way for kids to get involved in poultry. Their small size makes them easy for small hands to manage. Most are gentler than large fowl birds. With some supervision, they can take responsibility for care and husbandry. They are easier for children -- and adults -- to shampoo for a show.
“Bantams are the ideal gateway for kids to get involved with chickens,” said Mrs. Haggarty.