Sydney, known to BYC members as BantamLover21, has been a member of our community since July 2013. Another of our wonderful all-rounders, she is known for her friendliness, good advice and beautiful flock of chickens. She will often be found in the What Breed Or Gender is This? forum section, helping members identify their flock members.
1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Hi fellow BYCers! I’m Sydney, though I go by BantamLover21 on the forums. I’m actually Wyandottes7’s sister, so my interview will probably repeat some things that she mentioned. I apologize ahead of time for the similarities (hopefully they won’t make this interview too boring), and I’ll try my best to share some new information based on my own perspective.
I’m a relatively young member of BYC (perhaps younger than some members may imagine). I lurked on BYC for several months, enjoying reading everyone’s helpful information, before finally joining in July 2013. I spend most of my forum time on the “What Breed or Gender is This?” section, though I occasionally respond to questions relating to emergencies, exhibition, flock management, and incubation. I used to be really active on the New Member Introductions section, but during this past summer I fell behind on answering due to a busy schedule—I’m trying to become more active again. Wherever I am on the forums, I always strive to be helpful!
I live in the Midwestern United States, in a small town, with my family. My largest hobby is raising and showing quality chickens at both local and non-local open poultry shows. I’ve shown in six different states and have met many great mentors, all while having fun improving my show birds. I’ve been involved in many organizations, including the Youth Exhibition Poultry Association, my state’s Junior Poultry Association, my local 4-H club, various poultry/rabbit breed clubs, and the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
Some of my other hobbies include hunting; showing rabbits; shooting trap (shotgun sport), archery, air rifle, and air pistol; drawing; knitting (occasionally); attempting to fish (haven’t been very successful yet); geocaching; participating in various community services; and mentoring 4-H members on several animal projects. My busiest time of year is probably the summer, since there are many shows/events (poultry and rabbit) to attend.
2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens?
I began keeping chickens in 2011 after participating in an effort to get a chicken-allowing ordinance passed in my town. Our group’s efforts succeeded, and city members were allowed to keep four female chickens in their backyards. Originally, my family’s reason for wanting chickens was for tasty eggs and as pets. We ordered, as part of a group (to reach the 25 chick minimum), four female chicks from McMurrary Hatchery in Iowa: One Columbian Wyandotte, one Easter Egger (sold as an “Americana,” of course), one “Rhode Island Red” (production red), and one Silver Laced Wyandotte. The chicks hatched on April 1st and arrived in great condition a few days later. I immediately fell in love with them, particularly the Columbian Wyandotte.
During the next few weeks, the chicks grew rapidly as we hurried to complete their coop. All of the chicks became very tame with daily handling, but one stood out to me: the Columbian Wyandotte. “Columbie,” as she was called, seemed to think differently than the other chicks. She was terrified of sheets of paper, but enjoyed eating bread, snuggling with people, flapping her tiny white wings, and playing with an orange, beetle-shaped clicker toy affectionately known as her “buggie.” Columbie continued to be very loving and non-chicken-like as she matured. With the help of bread (her favorite treat), she learned how to jump on things and come when called. She also developed the cute behavior of jumping on peoples’ backs if they bent down.
The four pullets in their finished coop.
The coop turned out very nice, and all of the now six-week old chicks settled in quickly. A few months later, in August, we got our first egg. The first one to begin laying was Silver (the Silver Laced Wyandotte) followed by Columbie, Easter (the Easter Egger), and Red (the production red). None of their names were very original, but I loved all four birds anyway and enjoyed gathering eggs each day. All four birds are now about 4 ½ years old and are still healthy and laying when they’re not molting.
I enjoyed my backyard flock for their pet and egg-laying qualities, but I became interested in showing chickens. A breeding/show operation obviously wouldn’t work in a backyard where I could only have four females, but there were other options. Some friends out in the country, when approached, agreed to let my family raise show quality bantam chickens out there. We rehabbed an old chicken coop on the farm in the summer of 2012, purchasing our first show bantam chickens that fall. The two bantam breeds we decided to raise were Light Brown Dutch bantams and White Wyandotte bantams.
Why those two breeds? Well, several years earlier, I had seen a photo of a Dutch bantam in a poultry breeds book. I loved the way it looked, so when thinking of bantams to raise, I decided that Dutch would hopefully be one of them. Fortunately, a Dutch bantam breeder was located about 2 hours away from me, so we were able to purchase two pairs of Light Brown Dutch in the fall of 2012.
My first pair of Light Brown Dutch, named "Tuck Tuck" and "Cinnamon."
As for the White Wyandotte bantams, my sister and I decided on those since they were cute, pretty, and of good quality in our area. Dutch bantams are beautiful, but they are less perfected than other bantam breeds, and therefore unlikely to win. Simply raising birds is fun, but winning can be the icing on the cake. So, we decided to go with Dutch, but also to get a breed (White Wyandotte bantam) that was likely to do well at shows. We found a good breeder of White Wyandotte bantams, and soon had a young pair of them.
My first pair of White Wyandotte bantams, "Cream" and "Puff."
Since then, my flock has grown. I now have eight Light Brown Dutch bantams and six White Wyandotte bantams, in addition to my original four backyard birds. In the summer, I usually have more than that, but no more than twenty-five since my show coop (sadly) is small. In the winter, I cut down to just breeder birds to save money on feed and heating. Each year, I usually hatch 20+ Dutch bantams and Wyandotte bantams and sell them to poultry raisers in my area, and even in other states. I still love my backyard hatchery hens, but raising and showing exhibition poultry is my favorite hobby.
One of my current Dutch hens laying an egg.
3. Which aspect(s) of chicken keeping do you enjoy the most?
Hard question, since I enjoy so much of it! However, I’d have to say that breeding my bantams to the Standard of Perfection and showing the resulting birds are my favorite things. Part of the draw of breeding and showing is the challenge of it. I’ve quickly learned that you can cross two great birds together and get no-so-great offspring—just as you can cross two “average” birds together and get offspring that wins shows! This can make showing difficult, especially in a small breeding operation, but that doesn’t deter me.
Each breeding season, I pick out my few “best” birds, combine them in breeding pens, and collect as many eggs as possible in a 14-day period. Then, I set the eggs in one (or two) of my two incubators and hope for a great hatch. With my Dutch bantams, I typically have 90-100% fertility, and nearly 100% of the fertile eggs hatch. My Wyandotte bantams aren’t so easy to breed. Until last year, I was lucky if I got a 50% hatch of fertile Wyandotte eggs. Last winter, though, I tried trimming the feathers around my breeding Wyandottes’ vents. That seemed to help, and the hatchability rose. It still isn’t at Dutch bantam levels, however.
A young Light Brown Dutch bantam chick.
Once the chicks hatch, it is a waiting game to see how many males I have (lower numbers are better), and their quality. I cull chicks with serious deformities; fortunately, I haven’t had many of those. As the chicks mature, I choose ones to keep longer and sell the others. I continue to make “cuts” in my kept chicks throughout the show year, eventually ending up with my winter breeders.Another part of breeding and showing chickens that I enjoy is meeting poultry friends. I have met several people in my three years of competitive showing who I now consider great friends and mentors. When I go to a poultry show, I enjoy discussing birds with my poultry friends and observing the judging together.
Lastly, I simply enjoy doing well at poultry shows with birds I’ve bred and raised myself. This isn’t to say that showing is all about winning—it certainly isn’t. However, there is nothing like walking to Champion Row and seeing one of your favorite birds, which you raised all the way from fertile egg to adult, standing regally in a cage. I’ve been fortunate enough to have birds I’ve raised win champions and reserve champions of classes, Reserve in Show, and even Best in Show. I attribute that success to the good stock I started out with, the help of mentor breeders, my diligent study of poultry breeding and showing, and correct care that keep my show birds in top condition.
"Primrose," one of my winning White Wyandotte bantams. In her show career, she won one Best in Show, one Reserve in Show, and several class champions.
4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?
I’ve had a lot of outstanding members in my flock. The first one was, of course, Columbie. She stands out to me because of her beautiful appearance and entertaining behavior. Even though Columbie came from a hatchery, she is (at least in my probably-biased opinion), of decent show quality for a hatchery bird. She has such beautiful feathers, a stately carriage of her head, and a lovely “necklace” of laced feathers around her neck. Not only is Columbie pretty, but she also is productive, laying around 300 eggs her first year and continuing to lay at least 200-250 each following year. Yes, Columbie will never win anything at a poultry show, but she is still a valuable, loved member of my backyard flock.
As for her endearing temperament, Columbie has never acted much like a chicken; she seems to think of herself more as a dog or a person. As a result, she sometimes doesn’t understand how to do normal chicken things. When other chickens are pecking voraciously at a corn cob or hard green tomato, Columbie is feebly tapping at the object, wondering why it isn’t easier to eat. She also thinks too much of herself: she’s always trying to assert her dominance over Easter by staring at Easter, puffing up, and pecking Easter sharply on the head. Poor Easter never tries to dominate Columbie—the power threat is only in Columbie’s head.
Another bird I’ve had in the past who was special was Cream, a White Wyandotte bantam. Cream was my first White Wyandotte bantam female. She started out her show career at the relatively young age of 5 months, winning Champion RCCL at a local open poultry show. The special thing about Cream was her personality and seeming “will to win.” She always enjoyed going to shows, and always tried her hardest to win. Whenever a judge would walk by Cream’s cage at a show, she would stand up straighter and try to look her best. One night, when her show cage got unexpectedly dirty due to an anti-fighting cardboard barrier falling down, Cream seems to have slept standing up all night. As a result, she hardly got her white feathers dirty at all and took champion of her class the next day. In the coop, Cream was a dutiful, firm leader. She tolerated insubordination from no-one (much like her “successor,” 90), and would never fail to put a bird in place if it stepped out of line. This behavior led to problems when, one day, a White Wyandotte bantam cockerel escaped from his pen into Cream’s pen. The cockerel, named Stalker, was very enthusiastic and rough around hens at that age. He probably tried to breed Cream (I wasn’t there to see it), who promptly retaliated. Unfortunately for her, the cockerel was determined and ended up winning the fight. When I checked on the birds in the coop, I found Cream facing a corner, with her comb bloodied, and obviously disappointed that she had lost the fight. That was the first (and last) fight Cream ever lost, and she never challenged Stalker again. Sadly, Cream died of a respiratory problem in 2014, just weeks after winning a Reserve in Show.
My Brown Red Cochin bantam hen was another bird that stood out to me. “Brown Red” was only supposed to be in my life for a short while, but she ended up staying with my show bird flock until her death. “Brown Red” was similar to Columbie in personality, as she seemed to think differently than other chickens and enjoyed being around humans. She slept on top of a waterer each night, which (as described in Wyandottes7’s interview) eventually led to her falling into the waterer one night when the top was left off. “Brown Red” jumped onto my arm like a parrot several times in her lifetime, and always made adorable cooing noises. She would humorously trip over her foot feathers if she tried to run too fast. When laughed at, “Brown Red” would put on a confused expression and coo as if to say, “What did I do to deserve this?” “Brown Red,” unfortunately, became egg bound in May 2014. She showed none of the usual symptoms, so her condition wasn’t treated in time and she died. We only discovered her cause of death after performing my first chicken necropsy. I’ll always remember my innocent Brown Red Cochin, and I’m considering getting another one as a pet sometime in the future.
There are several other notable birds that I’ve had (and a few I still have). Pip, a Light Brown Dutch bantam, was one of my favorite birds in her short year of life. Pip was always cheerful, loved eating mealworms, and, in terms of show quality, had excellent body type and color. Sadly, Pip died in October 2013 before I got any chicks out of her.
Pip as a young pullet.
Stalker, my nearly 3-year old White Wyandotte bantam cock, is another memorable bird. Unlike many of my favorites, he hasn’t died yet (as many members have experienced, your favorites are often the first to go). Stalker was named due to his “stalking” behavior of hens when he was a young cockerel. He’s since matured and become more gentlemanly, though he’s still a voracious breeder who loves hens. Stalker used to be great friends with a Dutch cockerel I had for a while (named “Greenhead” because I had marked him with green food coloring as a chick to identify him). Greenhead was an excellent leader who protected Stalker (then a young, easily intimidated cockerel) and kept order in the male side of my coop. However, one night after I let Stalker breed a hen, he got really ramped up. When I put him back in with Greenhead and a few other cockerels, Stalker attacked Greenhead. Greenhead, though a strong leader, was frightened and ran. Stalker pursued, and that was the end of their agreeable relationship. After that incident, Stalker seemed to realize his potential (Wyandotte bantams are powerful birds who are better fighters than Dutch), and has consequently never again been able to live with other mature males. He’s a good bird otherwise, though, so he simply lives alone in his own breeding compartment, except during breeding season.
Stalker, watching over his beloved hens in the adjacent compartment.
Also special to me is “90,” one of my White Wyandotte bantam hens. For several years, she was second-in-command to Cream. Cream never tolerated any dominant behavior with 90, who just lurked around trying to stay out of trouble. When Cream died, though, 90 quickly took her place. Now 90 is just as strict of a leader as Cream was. She keeps good order in the coop, although she tends to “look down” on the other birds, as if she is the only one who matters. Of all my birds, 90 has consistently done the best at shows, usually surprising me. When 90 was a young pullet, she didn’t look like much at all. She had a narrow tail, poorly feathered wings, and a high carriage to her body. Without me even noticing, though, 90 eventually grew up. At her second show ever, 90 received Reserve Champion Bantam. The next summer, she won Reserve in Show despite missing a wing feather. Then, this past summer, 90 proceeded to win a Best in Show, Reserve in Show, and a Champion Bantam at three separate shows. She has the best type I’ve ever seen on a Wyandotte bantam. My only regret with 90 is that she has only given me one chick, and it didn’t turn out nearly as good as her. She’s currently in a breeding pen, and I hope that I'll hatch some chicks from her this year.
90 after winning her first Reserve in Show as a 1.5 year old hen.
5. What was the funniest (chicken related) thing(s) that happened to you in your years as chicken owner?
Many funny things have happened to me in my five years of raising chickens. Several were listed in Wyandottes7’s interview: the time Brown Red fell into a water bucket, when a Dutch pullet frantically tried to lay an egg in a feeder, Columbie’s fear of sticks, etc.
One other amusing thing that stands out in my mind occurred in November 2013. After quarantining my two new Cochin bantams (Brown Red and a black one), I introduced them to the other birds. At that point, Cream was still the leader in the hen compartment of my coop, along with her sidekick 90. As soon as the Cochins walked in, Cream and 90 walked up to them to establish dominance. Ordinarily, a few pecks from Cream and/or 90 would cause a bird to squawk and run away. However, the Cochins weren’t like any bird the Wyandottes had ever seen. Instead of running, they just stood there, protected by their heavy feathering. Cream and 90 tried a little more pecking and some wing thrashing to get some reaction from the Cochins—still nothing. They just didn’t understand why the Cochins weren’t afraid of them, and the Cochins couldn’t figure out why the Wyandottes were so unhappy. Eventually, Cream and 90 abandoned their Cochin dominating attempts in disgust.
Throughout her life, Cream also provided me with multiple laughs due to her dislike of male birds. Cream’s first mate was a Wyandotte bantam male named Puff. He was rather clumsy, but was always enthusiastic about everything, including eating, going on trips to shows, and trying to breed Cream. He never seemed to understand what Cream was really thinking (or at least she didn’t think he did). Many times, when Cream was trying to lay an egg or was otherwise unhappy, she would make a characteristic wailing noise. This was meant as a sign of her unhappiness. However, Puff would always answer Cream’s cry with a cheerful rumbling coo. This apparent misunderstanding only served to make Cream wail louder. Puff’s occasional attempts to make Cream a “nest” in a corner had similar effects.
6. Beside chickens, what other pets do you keep?
I currently have American Sable and Cinnamon rabbits as well as three American cavies (guinea pigs). In the past, I've raised fish (bettas and goldfish). For 11 ½ years, I also had a cat named Charlie. Unfortunately, she passed away in early October.
Pretty Charlie back when she was a young cat. RIP
My passion for raising, breeding, and showing rabbits is second only to my love of chickens. I began raising rabbits last year in March, starting out with a breeding pair of Champagne d'Argents and a pair of American Sables. Later, my family got a pair of Cinnamons. I really enjoyed the Champagnes, but my rabbitry is too small for me to raise and show three breeds successfully. One breed had to go, and it turned out to be the Champagne D'Argents.
The American Sable is my new favorite breed of show rabbit. I currently have four adult American Sables: a senior buck (Samson), two senior does (Vixen and Sheba), and ayounger senior buck (Barclay). Vixen also has a 6-week old litter of four adorable Sable kits. Sheba has a 4-week old litter of two: sadly, she went late on her pregnancy and four out of the six in her litter were stillborn.
Vixen's current litter when they were a few weeks old.
Samson is my herd buck. He loves people but is very strong and can be difficult to control. If you try repeatedly to get him to do something, he gets a sad, confused look on his face. Samson has sired four nice litters of American Sables and has the three show “legs” required to become a Grand Champion (he'll be an official Grand Champion once I receive and complete the necessary paperwork).
Samson at a show. He has an outstanding "bucky" head.
Vixen is my oldest Sable doe, from my original pair. She has had three litters, with varying success. Generally, she is a great mother who raises lots of fat, happy kits. Vixen isn't the greatest show rabbit herself, but when crossed with Samson, she throws excellent offspring.
Vixen, when she was a younger rabbit.
Sheba is the spoiled 1 year old daughter of Vixen. She has probably the most entertaining (in my opinion) temperament of all my rabbits. Sheba begs for attention by pawing at her cage, enjoys stuffing herself with food, gets angry at inanimate objects (feed scoops, etc.) that are “in her way,” and seems to have a death wish: she's always getting into trouble by toppling feed bags, trying to jump off tables, or squishing herself into small spaces. Despite all her quirks, Sheba is definitely my favorite rabbit. In addition to her good personality, Sheba has also been a great show rabbit, winning 8 show “legs” and becoming a registered Grand Champion. I was really excited to breed Sheba this fall and see what offspring she produced. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and she had a hard time with her first litter.
Sheba after winning Best Opposite Sex of Breed (BOSB) as a 5.5 month old doe. This was the beginning of her excellent show career.
Barclay is the 6.5-month old son of Vixen and Samson. He is named after Lieutenant Barclay, from The Next Generation Star Trek series. I never expected Barclay to be an outstanding rabbit, as he grew slower than his brother and took a while to fill out. In fact, I had him up for sale for a few days, intending on keeping his brother. However, after some deeper consideration and taking Barclay to a few more shows, I realized he was becoming the better show animal. So, I kept Barclay and sold his brother, though I was still a little doubtful of his potential. As it turns out, I made the right choice. I sent Barclay to the 2015 American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) National Convention, the largest show in the country. To my surprise and joy, he won not only Best of Breed, but also Best of Group: a rare feat for an uncommon breed like the American Sable. His winning didn’t end there, however. At a more recent show, Barclay succeeded in winning my first rabbit Best in Show!
Barclay after his successful ARBA National Convention.
As for the Cinnamons, at this time, I only have two of them: a senior doe (Nutkin) and a junior buck (Chimp). Nutkin is currently bred and expecting babies on the 20th of December. Sheba was also bred, with the hope of a more successful litter.
In addition to the rabbits, I have three American cavies: two golden solid senior boars and one black sow. All of them are unnamed right now. The black sow is my favorite personality-wise, though she is small for her age and probably won't be able to be shown. She's really cute, though. The senior boars are brothers that get along pretty well. One of them is very outgoing, while the other one is timid and spends most of its time hiding behind the active one.
7. Anything you'd like to add?
Yes! I would like to thank BYC for the great learning opportunities it has given me during the few years I’ve been a forum member. I’m glad to have been able to improve my identifying and sexing skills, gather breeding tips from long-time breeders, learn about common diseases and medication dosages, and solve problems with incubators or brooders. In addition to learning from others, I’ve tried my best to educate as many new poultry raisers as possible, whether it is by warning them of a possible rooster in their flock, describing desired traits in show birds, giving disease treatment advice, or relating one of my incubation experiences. Overall, BYC is a great community of poultry people that I’m proud to be part of.
Of course, BYC wouldn’t be the place I enjoy if not for all of its wonderful users and moderators. There are so many members who have helped me, even if it was just by giving a kind word or describing a useful skill. To list a few by name, I want to recognize Sumi, @TwoCrows, @Yorkshire coop, @NorthFLChick, @Mountain Peeps and @Michael OShay for being so supportive, educational and friendly.
Thanks for reading this interview, and I hope you enjoyed it! I wish everyone the best of luck with their poultry raising.
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
~ Shel Silverstein
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
~ Shel Silverstein