Looking to start or expand your backyard flock but not sure which chicken breeds to are the best? While I can’t tell you which chickens would be the perfect match for your particular situation—more than a dozen factors affecting your decision come to mind off the top of my head—I can share which chicken breeds worked for my family and which ones crashed and burned.
Dutch Booted Bantam
My experience with Dutch Booted Bantams (pictured above) came about unexpectedly. These were amongst the adorable “mixed bantams” that I brought home from our farm-supply store as a result of chicken math.
There were only three in the entire stock tank, and all three came home with me. Sadly, two didn’t survive the first week. To this day, I’m unsure why they perished. They’d been active; were eating, drinking; and pooping; never experienced pasty butt; and were the same size and age as the other baby bantams in the brooder. P
erhaps Dutch Booted Bantams are delicate by nature. Perhaps it was just those particular chicks from that particular hatchery. I’ll never know.
The surviving chick, Clarice, befriended the only lavender chick I’d seen in the mixed-bantams tank (and of course brought home). Edward and Clarice became inseparable, even as fully grown birds … which was all the more astounding since we discovered that Edward was not a bantam at all but rather an Easter Egger—and female at that. Another name change became imminent when Clarice began crowing.
Edwina and Clarence were quite the pair. Clarence would ride on Edwina’s back, and the two would roost together at night, Clarence often tucked beneath one of Edwina’s wings.
I never saw another Dutch Booted Bantam chick amongst the bantams bin that year or in subsequent years, so I can only assume that the hatchery had issues with the breed. It’s hard to summarize an entire breed based on my experience with Clarence, but I will say he was a very gentle, affectionate and healthy little bird with beautiful feathering on his feet. Hopefully the rest of his breed follows suit.
One advantage of getting to know the director of the local university’s poultry research farm is being alerted when hatching eggs and chicks were available for the many different chicken breeds being raised at the center. I carefully brought home one dozen of the tiniest bantam eggs I’d ever seen and watched them incubate with anticipation.
I was very disappointed when only one egg hatched. I learned soon after that Japanese Bantams, like Araucanas, carry a lethal gene that kills many of the embryos before they hatch.
The surviving chick, a gorgeous White Japanese Bantam I…