Bantam chickens have become one of the most popular chicken varieties around the world. Originating from the small jungle foul native to southeast Asia, the term bantam now refers to any small breed of chicken kept as either livestock or pets. The small size and docile nature of most bantams makes them an excellent starter chicken for those new to raising fowl. Breeding bantams does take a little time and effort, but a healthy clutch of chicks will be well worth your trouble.
How to Breed Bantam Chickens
Determine what your chickens will be used for. Bantams are popular as show birds and as pets, so knowing what you intend to use the chickens for is necessary for good results. Pet bantams can be any mix of varieties, but show birds must be purebred. Show chickens must also adhere to a standard of size and structure in order to be successful. Speak with an experienced show breeder to learn the standard and what to look for in a good quality show bird.
Construct a coop for your birds. Most chicken coops are made out of fine link chicken wire and include a small building to protect your chickens from predators and the elements. You need a minimum of four square feet per chicken to prevent fights and overcrowding, so build your coop accordingly. Be sure to include a number of nesting boxes for your hens to lay their eggs in. The boxes can be made of wood, metal or plastic and should be bedded with soft, clean straw to help protect and insulate your eggs.
Contact a bantam breeder to purchase your stock. Breeders often have chicks and adult birds available, so choose according to your breeding plans. If you want your own chicks as soon as possible, then adult birds are a good choice. If you decide to purchase young birds, you will need to wait at least 6 months before they will be ready to breed.
Introduce your bantams to their new coop, separating your rooster from your hens for a few days. Place fresh food and water in the coop to make your new chickens as comfortable as possible. Bantams are not picky eaters and will readily eat a commercially prepared chicken scratch. You can also supplement with cracked corn for additional weight gain if you plan on showing your birds.
Allow your rooster free access to your hens once they have all become familiar with the coop. Your rooster will show off to your hens, ruffling his feathers and vocalizing to them in an attempt to impress them. When a hen becomes receptive, the rooster will grab her neck feathers in his beak and mount her. While this may look as if they are fighting, it is all part of the mating process. Do not disturb your birds or your rooster may grow reluctant to mate in the future.
Watch you hens carefully for nesting behavior. If the breeding was successful, you hen will lay anywhere between one and four eggs, sitting on them for 21 days before the chicks are ready to hatch. The hen may become restless and shift the eggs around as they are hatching in an attempt to help the chicks out. Once the eggs have hatched, look over the chicks for any signs of illness or deformity, removing any egg shells or otherwise soiled bedding.
Keep an eye on your chickens when you first introduce them to the coop. Chickens are very curious animals and can easily get stuck in or wiggle out of any gaps in your coop. Make sure there are no bits of wire or other harmful material in your coop to prevent your chickens from ingesting them.
Never chase or otherwise over stimulate your chickens. Bantams are very social birds, but can easily become frightened if you try to force them to be petted or held. Chasing a scared bird will only make it that much more difficult to interact with.