The Dutch Bantam Chicken: A True Bantam Breed
See Why These Bantam Chickens Are So Popular Among Chicken Keepers
By Laura Haggarty The Dutch bantam chicken is said to have originated in the Netherlands. However, historical documents from Europe tell us that the breed was brought into the Netherlands by Dutch sailors who sailed for The East India Company. The original birds apparently came from Batam Island, an island in the Riau Islands Province of Indonesia, sometime during the 1600s. Any such small birds were referred to as “bantams,” regardless of breed.
Sailors found the small size of these bantam chickens useful for providing food in the crowded conditions of a ship, and likely brought them home with them to Europe to continue to breed them for their families. Legend has it that the small birds became very popular with the lower classes because the eggs produced were not required by landlords, who only demanded large fowl eggs from their tenants. The first written reference to Dutch bantams as a specific breed is from a zoo record dating 1882, and the Dutch Poultry Club recognized the breed by 1906.
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The first importation of Dutch bantams to the U.S. was in the late 1940s and they were first shown in exhibition in the early 1950s. This initial imported group died out due to lack of interest from breeders, and the next time the Dutch bantam chicken was brought into America was not until the 1970s. In 1986 The American Dutch Bantam Society was formed (now known as The Dutch Bantam Society.)
The American Poultry Association accepted the breed in the Standard of Perfection in 1992, and currently approves 12 color varieties. There are also another dozen non-recognized varieties.
Dutch are one of the true bantam breeds, meaning it is a naturally small bird with no related large fowl from which it was reduced in size, such as the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, and other similar bantams. Dutch bantams are one of the smallest breeds of bantam and as such, are perfect for youth to work with. Their sweet temperament also makes them well-suited for youngsters to breed and care for, as most are very easily tamed (although young birds can be flighty) and can be handled by the youngest of children. There will be an occasional male who is mean; we encourage breeders not to continue such lines, as a mean bird should not be tolerated.
Their small size and comb type means they are not particularly cold hardy, as with any single-combed breed, they are susceptible to frostbite. As such it is important to provide them with snug quarters during the cold months, draft-free, but also with good ventilation and not too humid. Winterizing chicken coops is important for your Dutch bantam chickens to protect them from the cold and from chicken predators.
Some Dutch bantam hens make good mothers and will easily go broody, but some are not as well suited to the task as say, a Silkie hen. Because of their small size, Dutch females are only capable of setting a small batch of eggs. Dutch hens lay reasonably well, laying up to 160 small cream or white eggs in a year.
At the Dutch club website we find this description of these charming birds:
Dutch bantams are very small birds with the male weighing less than 20 ounces and the female weighing less than 18 ounces. The head of both sexes are pronounced by a medium sized single comb, and by the presence of medium sized white earlobes that are almond shaped.
The male Dutch bantam chicken carries his body in a stately position in which the head is above the main body with a nice display of the breast region. The hackle and saddles are covered with flowing feathers that help to enhance their character and appearance. The tail is gracefully accented with long, cardioid curved sickle feathers that drape around their nicely spread tails. The females also carry their bodies with a statuesque display of head above the body and a nicely displayed breast. The tail should be nicely spread to accent their body.
All varieties of the Dutch bantam chicken should have slate leg colors except for the Cuckoo and Crele varieties which have light legs, and maybe a few dark spots of color.
One thing those who might be considering Dutch bantam chicken for their backyard chickens should be careful of is from whom one gets their birds. There are some “Dutch” out there that have, at one time in their past, been crossed with Old English Game bantams. This cross has not been a good one, as it changes the type of the resulting birds, and not in a good way.
I encourage those who are interested in obtaining a Dutch bantam chicken to contact a breeder who has been working with the breed for some time. You can contact the Secretary of the Dutch Bantam Society Mrs. Jean Robocker, at oudfferm3 [at] montanasky.net for a list of breeders near you who carry pure Dutch. All in all, they’re a wonderful bird for the novice as well as the experienced poultry fancier, and if you give them a try you’ll be very pleased!
Laura Haggarty has been working with poultry since 2000. She and her family live on a farm in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, along with their horses, goats, and chickens. She is a Life Member of the ABA and the APA. Laura blogs at farmwifesdiary.blogspot.com/. Visit their website at www.pathfindersfarm.com.
Learn more about the American Bantam Association, or write: P.O. Box 127, Augusta, NJ 07822; call 973- 383-8633.
Originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.