Free Range and Bantam Chicken Questions : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I have been VERY traditional in my chicken raising -- coop, fenced run, usual run-of-the mill laying/meat type chickens. Ok, you all have me convinced that free ranging chickens is the way to go, but I have a couple of questions.

If they free range all day do you still need to grain feed them, and if so, is just scratch feed okay? Do they need additional grit or do they get all they need outdoors? What about oyster shell or do they get all the calcuim they need free ranging? If you suppliment any of the above, do you provide it outdoors or do you keep it in the chicken coop? I am assuming they will go to the coop to lay thier eggs.

Also, I have never had bantams and have heard the roosters are down right mean. Is this true? I always buy my chickens in straight run and although most of the males end up in the freezer, I still like to have a couple around for that "homestead" look (LOL) and, although I know it annoys others, I love the crowing (even at 2:00 on a bright night!) How much smaller is a bantam from a full size chicken? How big are the eggs? I love the idea of having more variety and you can get so many varieties in bantams but, other than for looks, does it make sense to have bantams other than for looks or show? As always, thanks for the help!

-- Karen (, July 08, 2001


We have had bantams for years. For LOOKS only. We have a farm, and we have never fed them anything. They just eat whatever, lay eggs, and have little chicks with no care.This might not be the best way to go, but it has worked. They look great, fat and sassy. Roosters can be mean - to each other. We lost several chickens to predators, and were down to two hens and two roosters. The red was couring the ladies, and the golden was off on his own. Then one day, the tables turned, and the golden was with the ladies and the red was off on his own. A couple weeks later, I looked out the window and the golden was pecking the heck out of the red's head. Killed the poor thing. Oh well, survival of the fittest. We have a bunch of new ones and a whole new bunch of chicks from the two ladies. We love them. Bill

-- Bill (, July 08, 2001.

Karen, the advantage to having Bantams, is that they ARE more self- sufficient as a free range bird. You can provide oyster shell in the henhouse if you want. Some of the Bantam roosters do get mean, depending on the breed. And, you may assume that they will continue to lay in the hen house, but you would be sadly mistaken. Bantams LOVE to hide their nests, and bring out a bunch of fluffballs! Bantams should be about 4lb. but do interbreed, and can be bigger. I do like the eggs! They are large for the size of the bird, and they seem to be a little sweeter to me. Good luck, whatever you decide.

-- Judy C. Vaughan (, July 08, 2001.

As for egg size. My batams lay different sizes depending on breed. It seems the Old English lay the smallest. The eggs vary from the small size you buy in the store to about 1/2 of the store sized small. They come in white, creme and brown. I pickled eggs today for the first time and the batam eggs were a great size for the pint jars. We don't let any of our chickens out of the coop ever because of a nast bobcat that hangs around day and night. I have lost my favorite hen and a duck to him. Finally learned my lesson. The girls will just have to be happy in their own protected yard.

-- cindy (, July 08, 2001.

Hi Karen, I free range for the main reason of the chickens spreading my horse's and rabbits' manure. I feed the horse sweetfeed just to make it more appealing to the chickens. I suppliment them with a little food which they take or don't depending on what they found during the day. I lost all my banties to hawks and the rooster I had attacked everyone (except the hawks) I now have Dominiques. They are smaller then Barred Rocks but lay nice sized brown eggs and are a fine meat bird (which the banties aren't) I used to place a small banty egg in with the regular dozen for laughs sometimes.

-- Dee (, July 08, 2001.

My birds free range during the day and I've trained them to return to the pens at dusk. I then close the gates. Too many night time predators here. Birds are penned for 3 weeks and I free feed. This trains them to return. All my birds, guineas and chooks, return to the pens on their own at dusk to roost.

I free feed, feed is always in the hoppers. The birds wander in and out of the pens throughout the day to eat/drink/lay eggs. I don't feel that bugs, grass and weed seeds are complete nutrition; they need their feed to grow and thrive. I add oyster shell to the feed when the birds are 3-4 months old. I've never fed grit. Chick Starter is already broken down and when the birds go out to free range, they don't need grit due to all the dirt, stones, etc.

When you buy straight runs, you can just about be guaranteed that up to 50% of the birds will be roosters! Which is why I always order pullets. I still have more roosters than I should (from my own stock breeding) and almost half of my guineas are male. None of my males are mean and have never attacked anyone. What I think helps is I don't feed treats nor anything by hand.

Bantams are cute and tiny. Their eggs are, too. I have both Standards and Bantams. My Turkens lay humongous brown eggs and it would probably take 3 of the Bantam eggs to equal them. I also toss a lot of eggs 'cause there's so many! My hens lay all year around with no added heat/light.

One big difference you'll see in free ranging your birds on grass is the yolks will be orange instead of yellow. Now THAT'S a healthy bird! -G-

I have the birds strictly for insect control, and the eggs are a bonus.

-- ~Rogo (, July 10, 2001.

I've had banties for over ten years now, and I just love them! As a matter of fact, i just got a batch of 40 banties today. There are so many differnet varieties to choose from, and you can hatch the eggs and sell chicks, eat the eggs, eat the roosters, or just sell the many chicks your broody hens will hatch. I only feed my chickens in the winter, and even then they fre range a lot (they're in a dirt floored shed). They raise so many babies in the summer, and they do just fine with no help from me. As for the roosters, some of them are mean. last spring, i raised eight chicks from eggs (incubated them in my bedroom!) and one of them thinks I'm a chicken! He's hilarious. At first I think he thought I was a hen, because he'd come up to me and offer me little pieces of grain, or straw. I guess he changed his mind, cause now he follows me everywhere, and when I turn my back he attacks the back of my legs. Sometimes he even attacks my feet while I'm walking. The others are not like this, in fact, they are so tame they come up to me and stand there while i pick them up. So it's all their personalities. If you find one you don't like, get rid of it and get a better tempered one. (Thie rooster that attacks me, incidentally, is my favourite. He's not very nice, but he's got lots of personality!!!)

-- Amy Hiusser (, March 02, 2002.

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