One thing that all chicken enthusiasts, old and new alike, can relate to, is the trouble that arises when trying to decide which type of chicken to get. It always happens, whether it’s your first time choosing your chickens, or just that time of year for the annual chick order. The breed you pick could be based simply on likes, such as the ones with frizzy feathers, funny combs or feathered feet. But there’re some things you should consider when looking through the hatchery catalogs (or where ever else you’re getting your chickens from) to get the most out of the one(s) you choose.
Which size to choose, bantam, standard or both? This is one of the most important things to consider. Let me say that bantams require half the amount of space needed by large fowl (LF) thereby reducing costs for the construction of coops and runs, as well as obviously taking up less room in the yard and being easier to construct. In addition to that, bantams eat much less than a LF. A bantam (in general) will eat half a pound of feed per week. Whereas a LF could eat from two pounds a week for light breeds, to four pounds a week for heavy breeds. Using a bantam as a comparison to a heavy breed (HB), the HB would eat about seven times as much feed as the bantam in a week! Needless to say, you would save a lot of money on feed. But, bantams lay fewer and smaller eggs than breeds specifically bred for egg production. Also, if you’re raising chickens for meat, you should most likely look elsewhere; bantams don’t have much of a carcass. Some larger varieties of bantams, though, may suit some people as a small meat fowl. (There’re broilers that grow fast and large on minimal feed and space, specifically bred for the meat market and are available to the public. But keep in mind that these chickens are bred only for meat production and will develop an array of health problems if allowed to live too long).
So bantams are not the best for egg or meat production, what are they good for? Well, as already stated bantams have their advantages when it comes to feeding and housing. Therefore, if you want a chicken for a pet, showing, or for a hobby flock, than you should seriously consider bantams. Some other things to consider are that many bantams are excellent forager’s, broodies and mother. The majority of bantams can also fly well (I personally enjoy seeing my chickens fly, but this may present the problem of them flying out of enclosures that were designed to house LF). They come in an array of different sizes, shapes and colors, not to mention personalities. Bantams are just lots of fun!
Now as for keeping both bantams and LF in a mixed flock. It certainly is possible and can be successful. But you must consider that many bantams are tiny. A large rooster may injure a bantam hen while mating, and bantams will usually get picked on by larger birds. Also, a LF rooster may severely injure or kill a persistent bantam cock in a fight. So, if you were to mix them, it would most likely be best if they were in a flock where there are no LF roosters and there is plenty of feeder and waterer space. Although, don’t hesitate to try mixing the two sizes if this is what you planned to do. Often times it works out perfectly fine, especially in a free-ranging flock.
Just remember, the single most important thing to consider when picking your chicken(s) is to have a clear picture of what you want out of your chickens, and stick to the breeds that will fulfill that purpose.