Breeds of Chickens

Miniature Chickens

Unlike most bantam varieties, the Japanese bantam does not have a full size or 'standard' counterpart in the poultry world. And even among bantam breeds it is a bit of an anomaly with its waddling gait, its very short legs and oversized comb and tail. However it does have a majestic pose and a self-confident air.

The breed had its origins in South China (now Thailand and Vietnam) and made its way to Japan in the early 1600s. Under Japanese breeders, the bantam, often called 'chabo', reached a high standard of perfection. Around 1635, the bantams began to make their appearance in Japanese art and also in Dutch art. It is likely that Dutch traders from the Asian ports may have taken the bantams to Japan as gifts. It is believed 'chabo' is taken from the Javanese word 'chabol' meaning 'dwarf'. This word was applied to humans as well as to the bantam.

Japanese Bantam(53602)Credit: Wikimedia

By the 1800s the breed was represented in Britain and the USA and it reached Australia before 1900. The breed is very popular in Malaysia and it is also very common in Java.

Bantams and How to Keep Them (Poultry Series - Chickens)
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of May 24, 2015)
This was first published in
the 1920s but virtually all
the iformation remains
relevant today. Every
aspect of keeping
bantams is covered.

The body is deep, broad and short. Cocks weigh around 510 to 600 grams with hens being slightly lighter. The breast is well-rounded and carried well forward. It may extend past the tip of the beak. The secondaries of the wings should just touch the ground. In a show bird, the large, upright tail rises well above the level of the head. The sickles of the tail are long and there are numerous soft side hangers. The large comb is evenly serrated into four or five peaks. The ear lobes are red and the eyes large and bright. The beak is well curved. The abundant hackles fall well over the shoulders and the thighs are very short and almost invisible under the plumage. The legs are clean.

The Japanese bantam makes a great spectacle as a backyard chicken although the wings may become bedraggled and dirty from dragging on the ground. It is too small and light to do much damage in the garden. They do not have a great reputation as an egg layer and their value is really in their attractive appearance. In a home garden, they look like tiny living statues. The heritage colour is the Black-tailed White (BTW). Other colours include white, blue, buff, birchen, mottled, lavender, black, black-breasted red, grey and black-tailed buff. Frizzled varieties are also available.

Bantams (Complete Pet Owner's Manuals)
Amazon Price: $8.99 $4.01 Buy Now
(price as of May 24, 2015)
An all-inclusive explanration of more
than 50 bantam breeds. All aspects
of husbandry, housing and
day-to-day care are covered.

The Japanese is an economical bird but needs plenty of room and a warm, dry area. The combs are susceptible to the cold. They are very light and need no help to fly up to perch at night. They are happy to forage for themselves and will need little supplementary feeding if given a sufficient area to forage in. They are easily tamed and happy to be held and stroked. They are not averse to riding on one's shoulder either.

Unfortunately the gene responsible for the short legs is a dominant gene, also known as a lethal gene. If chicks inherit the short-legged gene from both parents they will die either before or shortly after being hatched. If two short-legged parents are bred, the resulting brood, all other things being equal, will be 25% dead, 50% short-legged and 25% long-legged.

The Japanese bantam is friendly and docile and has a lifespan of 13 years if properly cared for. It is certainly one cute chicken.

Image Source