Pekin bantam chickens are, simply put, adorable. They’re petite, round, and covered in lots of feathers. Even their feet are feathery. Watching them waddle around the garden is pure joy.
These birds aren’t as popular as their Cochin cousins, but they are slowly gaining in popularity.
Pekin Bantam Basics
There’s some debate about whether Pekin bantams are their own breed or just a miniature Cochin. Most people consider them to be their own breed and, as such, a true bantam rather than just a miniaturized version of something else.
But others say that it is simply a Cochin that was miniaturized centuries ago before Westerners came around. Both birds were brought to the Western world at the same time, though not from the same place, so we might not know the truth until genetic testing is done.
They were brought from the Pekin (now Beijing) region of China to Europe and North America in the mid-19th century. When they arrived in England, they were further bred to create a unique breed that we now recognize as the Pekin bantam.
Other parts of the world have breeds that are considered Cochin bantams.
In the Victorian era, Cochins were a huge fad – everyone wanted a few of these beauties wandering around their garden. They were a hit for about 40 years and contributed to a period of “hen fever” in which everyone started getting interested in pretty chickens.
Pekin bantams were also popular, though they never gained the popularity of their larger cousins.
As with most bantams, they are moderately productive layers, laying around 100 small eggs per year.
But keeping one isn’t just about the eggs. The beautiful yard birds add color and style to your chicken coop. While they’re small birds, their meat is tasty, and some people treasure it. But they’re best known for their beauty.
They’re primarily decorative birds and valuable for their charming display. They’re also some of the smallest chickens out there, rarely growing as tall as seven inches high.
Their round bodies and tons of feathers make them look like little balls of fluff running around in the garden. While they aren’t the largest birds around, their feathery feet and friendly personalities are impossible to ignore.
They have fully feathered legs and feet – making it look like these birds are wearing pants. They strut around the barnyard in fully feathered splendor, clucking cheerfully at all their friends. And Pekin bantams are friends with everyone.
These sweet birds are a joy to have in the yard and the coop.
Not only are Pekin bantams fascinating to look at, but they’re also incredibly sweet, friendly birds. These are chickens your children can tend to confidently. Pekin bantams are practically pets. They like being fussed over and don’t mind snuggling up with someone.
Even the roosters are gentle. They avoid fights and are gentle guardians of the hens under their care. They love to make friends with other chickens, people, and even other animals.
Pekin bantams come in many colors and patterns: everything from blue to white, partridge, barred, silver or gold laced, and black. They are some of the most varied birds around. Almost any coloration is a possibility.
They have small, rounded combs, red ears, and well-rounded, red wattles. The roosters have longer wattles. Their feet are yellow, and all but the two middle toes are feathered.
Pekin bantams are not an auto-sexing breed. You won’t be able to tell until the chicks start to feather out. Then, you might notice longer, pointed tail feathers in the males. Males also have more prominent, and faster-growing combs.
Egg Production and Broodiness
We don’t typically keep bantams for their ability to lay eggs. But if you want to use the petite eggs, these birds lay up to 120 per year, but usually closer to 90. While they’re not production layers, like many of the modern breeds, they are consistent layers.
The eggs are white or cream.
Pekin bantams are broody. In fact, these hens go broody so readily that they make an excellent surrogate mother for other breeds. They’ll even sit on full-sized chicken eggs and raise the larger chicks as their own.
When you raise chickens just for eggs, broodiness is a bad thing. But if you want to raise chicks, you can’t go wrong with a Pekin bantam.
Pekin Bantam Meat
Pekin bantams can be raised as meat birds. Looking at them as they waddle around the barnyard, you wouldn’t expect them to be delicious. But the small birds provide a flavorful punch.
Young birds are best and make a nice replacement for quail or Cornish game hens. Butcher them at about 12 weeks for the best texture and flavor.
The females are about 20 ounces and the males are about 24 ounces, so it’s not a ton of meat, but what you do get is flavorful, especially if you prefer dark meat.
Pekin bantams are consistent foragers. They’re not picky at all, and they’ll eat almost anything they can find. You might be able to feed them entirely on a diet of forage, though you might consider supplementing their foraging with commercial food.
Although they’re light birds, they’re not enthusiastic flyers. You can keep these birds in a low-fenced yard, or you can let them wander farther. As friendly, calm birds, they’re more at risk from predators. Foxes love finding plump Pekin bantam chickens unattended.
These heavily feathered birds are incredibly cold-hardy. Their small combs and feathered feet help protect them from frostbite. Their thick layers of meat provide plenty of insulation. But in the heat of the summer, Pekin bantams can struggle to stay cool. Make sure your birds have plenty of dust to roll in, water to drink, and shade.
If you live in a scorching area of the country, think twice before getting a flock of Pekin bantams. Damp climates can be challenging for them as well. They’re too fully feathered to bear with a lot of rain or humidity well.
Those feathered legs can hold damp close to the body for too long.
Health and Wellness
Pekin bantams are generally healthy birds. They’re strong and resilient, but they do have a tendency to get fat, which can lead to liver disorders. Their feathered feet are sensitive to damp conditions, and bumblefoot is a common issue for these birds.
Their luxurious feathers can also give mites and lice a safe hiding place. Keep your coop clean to help these ornamental birds thrive.
Of course, even the hardiest chickens will suffer if they don’t have the right conditions. Remember to keep your coop clean, make sure your chickens have access to fresh, clean water, and keep an eye out for common coop pests and diseases like parasites, Avian flu, and respiratory issues.
Also, keep your birds safe from predators by building a secure coop with solid doors, and no holes for predators to sneak through. A healthy flock can be wiped out in one night by an invading fox, weasel, or fisher.
Pekin Bantam Pros and Cons
Pekin bantam chickens are stunning little birds that bring a unique aesthetic and make an adorable addition to any flock. They’re calm, gentle, and friendly birds that make great pets as well as productive additions to the homestead.
Pekin bantam chickens are consistent layers of small, cream, or white eggs. They can continue laying throughout most of the year. And they will willingly hatch and mother the eggs of other birds.
They are beautiful birds with unique plumage and plump, rounded bodies. Both hens and roosters are a lovely addition to the barnyard. These are truly recognizable birds.
These birds love sticking close to home. They’re calm, quiet homebodies who are perfect for a suburban chicken yard. But, they’ll also forage eagerly.
They make good meat birds even if they’re small.
No bird is perfect. Pekin bantams are stunning birds, but they aren’t for everyone.
Pekin bantam chickens do come with a few challenging health problems. Despite being generally healthy birds, they struggle with hot and damp environments. Their signature feathery legs can cause them to suffer in inclement weather.
As small, friendly birds, they are often at risk from predators. They’re slower than other chickens, and they can be easy picking for hungry foxes, weasels, or raccoons. Pekin bantams are not predator-wary, so watch out for them.