Dutch Bantams

Monte Bowen
Plevna, KS

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2000, 5(4):3-4

The name itself is a misnomer, as all Dutch are bantams. They are one of the few "true" bantams, not originating from large fowl. There is no large counterpart of the Dutch. There are large and bantam Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Sussex, Lakenvelders, and so forth, but no large Dutch. Bantam Island, in the Dutch East Indies, was the original homeland of this docile, proud little bird that was imported into the United States shortly after World War II. Details on shape, color and other particulars can be found in the ABA Standard. The Dutch is the smallest, in weight, bantam recognized by the ABA. Pullets should be 18 oz., hens 19 oz., cockerels 20 oz., and cocks 21 oz., making them lighter than the Old English and Modern Game bantams.

I grew up on a Kansas farm during the 1960s and raised large and bantam White Plymouth Rocks. Being a member of the Ark Valley Poultry Club helped nurture the love of poultry by knowing some of the old poultry breeders of this area, such as H.B. Patten, Claud Heaton, Fritz Hirst, James Childers, and Wes Ingram. Fritz is my "chicken buddy" for raising Dutch, and as any two chicken people worldwide, we can spend hours talking and looking over our birds. Military service and jobs in cities kept me away from my chicken ŇhabitÓ for thirty years. When I moved back to the small town life, the first priority was setting the hen house in order and deciding on a breed. Fritz and I spent many an hour on that topic! I have no regrets for choosing the Black Dutch Bantam.

Dutch are bright, perky, regal birds that thrive by being raised on the ground with room to roam. They remain active and perky when confined. Fritz and I have kept breeding trios in standard double show coops with good success, and the birds are not crowded. When allowed to roam, the Dutch are ever on the lookout for food, insects, and that favorite of all healthy fowl, the good old fashioned dust bath. I belong to the old school, the one that believes that chicks should have hens hatch them and dirt for scratching. Unfortunately, broody hens are not always available when needed, so a couple of incubators can be found in my bedroom. Yes, I live with my chickens, or so I have been accused.

In very cold Kansas winters you may even find (and hear) breeding pens in my sunlit basement. Once that chicken bug invades the bloodstream it is incurable, and ain't it grand?! I do draw the line at helping chicks out of the shell. If a bird is too weak to get out of the shell, chances are it will be a feeble adult. Strong, healthy chicks will be able to hatch cleanly. Weak birds will weaken your flock, and don't we have enough to worry us with color, type, size, comb, and legs, without the bother of puny chicks?

I also use the old method of choosing breeders. Handle and LOOK at the birds. Spend some time in a chair, either in or near the chicken pens. Just sit and mentally sort the birds for future reference. Observe your birds and enjoy the entertainment they provide. Of course, keep notes and records of your birds and breeding pens. A flock of chickens, a rocking chair, several shade trees -- who needs anything more on a lazy summer afternoon?

The Dutch hens lay a nice sized egg for such a small bird, nearly the size of a pheasant egg. They often lay daily with a day off now and again. The hens are excellent setters and brooders. Because of their size, seven or eight eggs is a sufficient clutch for them. Eggs often pip on the 18th and 19th day and hatch quickly if the chicks are healthy. Leaving for work one morning, I noticed two eggs pipped. That afternoon I found eleven chicks in the incubator. Chicks do well whether hatched under a hen or in an incubator. Broody hens are very attentive to their chicks, which are alert and active shortly after hatching. Small wire enclosures are best for brood coops. If the chicks become frightened they can wriggle through one-inch poultry netting. Use half-inch hail screen, or as the "new generation" of shopkeepers call it, hardware cloth. Dutch chicks are tiny at hatching, being about half the size of a Barred Rock bantam chick. They have very delicate legs, so be careful when handling them. Chicks grow quickly and often by the third day sprout tiny wing feathers. By the time the chick is fully feathered it is the size of a large sparrow. I tend to put birds into one of four categories: chick, sparrow, teen age and adult. Once the wing feathers are in, at about three weeks, be certain the brooder has a good top or you will spend endless hours chasing chicks.

I feed new chicks 20% chick starter and on the third day add a bit of chick scratch grain and chick grit liberally "peppered" over their starter. I also add a vitamin and electrolyte-rich supplement to the drinking water for the first few weeks. This gives them a boost to help them over the hatch, which is hard work for babies. By the time the chicks are fully feathered, at the teen stage, they tend to be nervous and flighty. By three to four months of age they calm down considerably and actually come around looking for a bit of attention. When the birds go into the breeding pens they receive a ration of 20% lay granules supplemented by a bit of scratch grain and greens. Greens are important year around and can include lettuce, grass clippings and alfalfa, all easily procured.

The males are a fascination unto themselves with their proud, erect carriage and graceful tails. I am convinced the males are possessed of 70% Dutch, 30% fighting cock and 50% snapping turtle. Now, donŐt get the misconception that these birds are mean, after all, how tough can a 21 ounce cock be? My snapping turtle theory comes from this: Dutch Bantams don't peck and run. They find some meat, whether it is a another bird's comb or a handy finger and hang on while turning to with a drubbing from wings and feet. The Dutch male is a tiny dynamo who defends his territory well. I witnessed two four-month-old cockerels take on a full-grown tom cat and send him packing. A few days later, another cockerel tried a large Partridge Plymouth Rock rooster on for size. It was a one-sided match, but the little lad gave it a good try! Given a daily dose of attention, the males are as docile as the females and delightful to watch.

The Dutch is a calm, alert, proud little bird that is a joy to keep, whether in confinement or free range. They forage well and turn out a good supply of eggs. What of the culls? An extra pen is the answer to that situation. The cull pullets lay eggs for my breakfast, and with any luck, supply a setting hen for that clutch of eggs "I don't really need to hatch, but would think a shame not to." Know what I mean?

[Old Dutch]


[Chickens D-O]


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