A bantam is a small variety of chicken. There are some True Bantams and there are some that are small version of established full-sized breeds.
A very popular bantam breed in South Africa is the Pekin Bantam. This breed has its origins in China and it is a True Bantam. It is also an original breed, not one made up of other breeds.
They are a hardy and long-lived bird that loves company.
The Pekin comes in an almost endless variety of colours. Rarer colours are in great demand, and many breeders spend hours perfecting new lines of colours in their birds.
The feet and legs of Pekin Bantams are completely covered by their feathers. The cockerels often have longer feathers that protrude outwards from their feet.
Their wings are small and short. The head is small, with a short beak and big eyes.
The bodies are round, and their carriage tilts forward, with the head slightly closer to the ground than their elaborate tail feathers. This ’tilt’ is a key characteristic of the Pekin bantam.
According to the Poultry Club of SA, they are sometimes described as “looking like little walking tea cosies, or feathery footballs.”
The hens are good layers of small eggs and are good sitters.
Pekin Bantams are very docile, and with careful and regular handling they will be happy to sit on their owner’s lap to be stroked and petted. They make ideal pets for families with younger children for this reason. However, the cockerels can still be aggressive and defensive of their territory and mates once they reach sexual maturity.
They settle very well and require little space. Breeding stock (one cock and two hens) can be housed in a cage measuring 800 x 800 x 800 mms, preferably placed 800 mm from the ground.
Pekins can look rather pale and anaemic if not allowed on grass to forage, so they should be let out of the cage regularly.
They tend not to scratch around in flower beds so you can allow them to free range.