Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bantams and historic conservation

Traditional breeds are best for small backyard flocks. They have adapted over their history to local conditions. Finding the appropriate breeds and learning about them is part of the fun. Telling your birds’ story enriches your experience.
Doris Robinson, director of the Youth Exhibition Poultry Association,
is developing a program to help YEPA members earn recognition for focusing on heritage breeds that have become rare. She encourages YEPA members to consider keeping breeds such as Ameraucanas, Andalusians, Dorkings, Rosecomb and Single Comb Nankins, Buttercups, Minorcas, Crevecoeurs and Langshans. Aylesbury bantam ducks.

White Silkie rooster
The ABA compiles census information on all bantams shown at ABA shows. It’s extra work for the show secretary, but having facts on the number, breeds and varieties shown helps ABA leaders know what birds are being raised. Old English Games remain far and away the most popular bantam, and Silkies have a strong following. Polish are regaining popularity, especially the White Crested Black and White Crested Blue varieties.
ABA President Matt Lhamon of Ohio gets requests almost daily for the full range of bantam breeds. He usually refers them to the appropriate breed club, but information about all breeds is available in the Yearbook, which comes with membership, $25 a year.
“The ABA yearbook alone is worth the price of the membership,” he said. “If you want to find a bantam, you can find it in the Yearbook.”
Lhamon raises Modern Games and is a member of that breed club.

Modern Game
“No single breeder can save everything,” he said. “A breeder needs at least five males and ten females to have a solid foundation. There’s a difference between multiplying them and keeping a breed going.”

Bantams that have been on the Inactive list are occasionally shown, and the breed brought back to Active status. Cornish bantams have declined in popularity, but the Ko-Shamo, newly recognized in 2013, has attracted a flurry of new breeders. Their unusual erect stance, split wing, and sparse feathering mark them as distinctly different from the conventional image of a chicken.

This KoShamo cock is from Germany, credit feathersite
Lhamon has updated the ABA books on Silkies and Cochins and is working to revise the book on Wyandottes. 

Blue and Black Cochins

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bantams make good mothers

Bantams are often known for their broodiness and willingness to be good mothers. Chickens need to be instinctually driven to set for the 21 days required to hatch eggs. Not all chickens retain this natural drive. Chickens stop laying eggs when they become broody, so breeders who are focused on egg production select hens who don’t get broody for their flocks. Over time, many breeds, especially large fowl, have lost the ability to brood their own eggs. Bantam hens are often willing to hatch any eggs placed under them.

"My Nankin hens will try to hatch a rock," said Mary Anne Harley of the Nankin Club.

This quality became part of the plot in a book, Flossie and Bossie, published in 1949. “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,” Eva Le Gallienne wrote in her novel about two bantam hens in a barnyard. Ms. LeGallienne drew on her observations of her own bantams to write the book. It’s now out of print, but your local library may be able to locate a copy for you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bantams touch the heart

Bantams come in dozens of colorful varieties. 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:

Modern Game bantams
“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.”

Old English Game bantams

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kids and Bantams

From Piper's Bantams: Black; Gold and Silver Sebrights; White; and Modern Game
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, kids can take responsibility for care and husbandry. They are easier for children -- and adults -- to shampoo for a show.

Poultry can be a lifetime enjoyable hobby or it can lead to a satisfying career. Leadership is needed in the poultry business.

Rosecomb Bantams by Schilling
Joining the American Bantam Association and getting involved in YEPA helps young people succeed. The APA and the ABA joined together in 1995 to create a youth program, and YEPA became an independent organization in 2015. The A.C.E. Program: Activities, Competition, Education is one of the most popular. Kids get started as young as eight years old, and can continue to build their knowledge through four levels, to age 21, at which point they can apprentice to become poultry judges. 
“They learn the basics about pure bred, exhibition poultry,” said  Doris Robinson, director of the Youth Exhibition Poultry Association.
The program requires members to learn about their breed and others, history, husbandry, candling and hatching eggs, health and medications. They keep notebooks and Health Maintenance Records of their flocks. They track income and expenses to arrive at a financial summary of their project.

"The kids have to work extremely hard,” says Mrs. Robinson. “It’s a great reference for kids who want to go to college in poultry. They go into adulthood with a lot of knowledge.”

More than 1,200 kids are now signed into the program. It is financed by donations from APA, the Crossroads of America Poultry Show and others. Individuals and organizations are invited to become supporters. Contact Mrs. Robinson at 865-717-6270 or through the web site.
One of my bantam Sumatras