Bantam refers to a poultry breed of diminutive size. Usually, they are small versions of larger, standard breeds. For example, a breed of poultry called the standard Cochin can reach a weight of 12 pounds, while a bantam Cochin may weigh only about 2 pounds. These small birds tend to be easier to house and feed, but they make up for their small size with their spirited personalities. According to the American Poultry Association, five classes of bantam poultry exist.
One class of bantam poultry, the game bantams, includes modern game and Old English game birds. Many different colors of both breeds have been developed through the years. Modern game poultry have small sleek bodies with long legs, and they stand quite upright. Old English game birds are the descendants of fighting birds, which have tight ornamental feathering and personalities that prove to be active and noisy.
A second classification of bantam poultry is single-comb clean-legged bantams. These birds have single combs along the topa of their heads and no feathering on their feet or legs. Many breeds within the single-comb clean-legged group are smaller versions of popular laying hens, such as Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons, leghorns, Australorps and Rhode Island Reds. A few breeds like the Japanese and the phoenix are true bantam breeds with no standard versions.
Rose-comb clean-legged bantams have small, broad, fleshy combs on their heads that taper to single points at the posterior section. The tops of the combs are studded with small bumps. These birds have no feathers on the legs or feet. They include breeds such as the Dominiques, Dorkings, Hamburgs, redcaps, rosecombs and Sebrights. The Sebright and rosecomb breeds are both true bantams.
All Other Clean-Legged
Araucanas, buckeyes, Polish, Sicilian Buttercups, Cornish and Yokohamas are examples of the other clean-legged breeds of bantams. The varieties in this group of poultry do not fit into any other classifications. Sicilian Buttercups have double combs that attach at the ends to form cup shapes, aptly named after the buttercup flower. Polish have elongated head feathers that appear to be hats. Araucanas lay green eggs.
The last class of bantam poultry is the feather-legged class. It includes the Belgian Bearded d'Uccles, Faverolles, Frizzles, Langshans, Brahmas, Silkies, Cochins and Sultans. All of these birds have feathering down their legs and onto their feet. Cochins are sturdy round birds that include the Frizzle variety. Frizzle bantams have curled feathers that do not lay smooth. Silkies do not have feather barbs, thus their feathers appear soft and downy.
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Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.