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September 6, 2007

Bantam vs. standard size chickens; coops

Posted by Dervaes

Q. So, showing my ignorance again about chicken breeds...does "Bantam size" refer to a smaller Goldenlaced Cochin as opposed to the standard Golden Laced Cochin which, as you mentioned, is rare?

My basic anxiety is that I won't know what the "%#&^$ I am doing! I would love to get ideas on building a chicken coop. I have seen one coop in person recently. It was essentially a Toblerone-shaped pyramid with a hinged door at one side of the elongated pyramid for collecting eggs. Very simple.

More questions:
Does the basic advantage of having a smaller chicken as opposed to a standard type revolve around housing issues? Or is it an egg-production issue?

What is involved in raising chicks? Forgive me if you've already written this up somewhere on your site. I can't remember at the moment if this is clarified there.

Thanks,
Jody

A. Don't worry about your "ignorance", I was asking that same question 5 years ago when I started with chickens. I've been on the "other side" and still am, as a matter of fact.

Yes, a bantam is a smaller chicken. Bantams usually range from about 1/4 to 2/3 smaller than standard chickens. I like bantams, they are small and easy to carry around or let perch on your shoulder. In fact, all I've had was bantams since I started 5 years ago and this year I'm hatching more bantams for myself. The bantam cochin I have is amazing - I love her to pieces. Most bantams are considered pets because if you raised them for meat, you wouldn't get much off them.

Bantams are not your premier egg producers. They won't lay as many as most standards. But because we have ducks that produce an egg a day each, we don't really need chickens that are egg machines so that is why I don't mind bantams. So if you great egg production, standards are better. But if you're like me who just enjoys chickens, doesn't eat all that many eggs or care if they lay or not, then bantams will be okay for you. They also require less space.

Surprisingly, I did get quite a lot of eggs from my bantams -- enough that I even sold dozens in the summer. It all depends.

Why some people don't like bantams is because they are too small to tell the difference between male and female until they grow up. That is why if you do decide on bantams, then I wouldn't recommend you raise them as chicks because I can't provide you with only hens because I can't tell. You'd be better off waiting and buying pullets because I will know they are hens by that time.

However, raising chicks it's not as difficult as it sounds. You don't have to buy much equipment (don't let the catalogs fool you!) and once you get past the first week of dealing with something new, you'll find that everything's relatively easy. The hardest part of it is the time and the responsibility.

You'd have to create a brooder which is essentially a box with a heat lamp over it. Here's a link to a DIY brooder: http://www.utm.edu/departments/cece/idea/brood.shtml
They can't live outside on their own or take care of themselves completely until they are about six-weeks old so they need to be kept in this brooding box indoors and have their bedding changed at least twice a day. Essentially, you would be their mother. It sounds scary but it really isn't.

Those toblerone-shaped coops are great and easy. You can buy them for a pretty penny. A lot of people ask me about coops and I tell them that chickens are happy in anything that gives them shelter. Before they were domesticated, they were jungle fowl that lived in trees. Anything with four sides, a door, a few nesting boxes and a roost would be great. Some people I know use dog houses. I've always thought a garden shed would be an awesome chicken coop. You know those rubbermaid ones from OSH or something? Just get some ventilation windows in it with a SAWZALL and set a nesting box with some straw and that would be great.

Stick a chainlick dog kennel from OSH outside it and they would be perfectly happy. The only requirements I see in a chicken house is that it has a locking door that you can lock at night. Chickens will go in by themselves at sundown. So, just before I go to sleep (around 10) I go out and lock them in to keep raccoons or anything getting to them when they are most venerable.

You'll find that chickens are easy to keep. Taking care of them involves letting them out of their house in the morning, feeding them and filling their water and then locking them in at night. Once a week I clean out their house.

Just so you know, however, I do have a commitment to seeing the chickens I raise go to good homes so if you got chickens and change your mind later or have a problem then I will help you rehome them.

Here's a link to a chicken coop plan: http://www.buildeazy.com/chicken_coop_1.html
And some pre-built ones if you want to pay: http://www.henspa.com/


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