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autumn 2016

The Peking Bantam


During November last year, rather on a whim than a plan, I bought 16 bantam chicks. These were late hatchings and about the last to appear in the market for that year. Because it was so late in the year they were going to need heat over the first few weeks; consequently there was little competition to buy them.

I have kept bantams before, as a twelve year old, but since then have only kept regular hens. Of the sixteen, eight were cockerels. I kept seven hens and one cockerel with the intention of having some fertile eggs.

After 23 weeks they started to lay. I am amazed at how small they are as adults and the variety of colours: lavender, partridge, black, white and speckled. They are little bigger than a pigeon; they have feathers down to their feet and a comical gait best described as a waddle. They lay an egg about half regular size but it’s mainly yoke; I find three on toast makes a good breakfast.

Apparently they were kept as pets by Chinese Emperors. They are certainly a very friendly little bird and seem to like to be handled. This variety is not known to be particularly good egg layers. However, of the seven I have, they manage, on average, four or five eggs a day; more than sufficient for us with enough extra to give away about a dozen each week. A bag of layers pellets lasts months; they seem to prefer household scraps and will eat virtually anything. For anyone with even a small garden, who would like a productive pet, I recommend these.

Dave Bird