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Bantams in Garden?

 
Posts: 10
Location: Ozarks of Missouri
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So after selling most of our homestead family (livestock, chickens, ducks) and moving across the country, we are finally re-establishing our homestead. We decided to start with Cochins (never had the breed before) because they are supposed to be very docile, multipurpose, and good Mamas. The biggest reason though is we wanted... no needed... a docile breed. Our son (almost 2) loves chickens and roosters, but he has very bad eyesight which has caused a massive fear when up close to fowl due to several experiences of birds flying towards him, or fluffing up at him etc. Even with his glasses, it is better, but still hard for him to be around them if they start running around. Anyways, when we went to pick up our 6 hens, the man decided to through in an extra chicken for our son. A little white bantam hen who is super cute and super docile. He is totally in love with "Miss Cluck Cluck."

The problem is that she seems to be getting picked on by the six big Cochins. We are considering getting her a few other bantam friends and keeping them as a second more so "pet" flock for my son. We have heard that you can still process the birds, just get a bit less meat, and that they eat significantly less food, and are also generally good mamas.

Anyways, since we are thinking of keeping a second flock in a dedicated area, I was wondering how it would be to keep them in the garden ( it is close to the house, fenced and has all raised beds). How much damage do bantams do? Would it be a good bug control addition or total destruction of the garden produce? Anyone have experience with raising bantams? What are they capable of, aside from stealing your heart?

Thanks!
 
pollinator
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Location: NW Montana, USA
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My experience with bantams is mostly positive, but here's a list of what I've dealt with in them in no particular order:

- They eat almost nothing, happily picking up the tiny scraps that the big chickens don't want to be bothered with
- Typically very good layers and enthusiastic broodies
- Typically very good mamas
- Typically very spastic, high-strung, vocal, spookable, and good flyers; though I never hand-raised one.  They were always broody-raised or taken in as adults, so that makes a difference
- A little bit more frail and more prone to 'accidents' (getting stepped on, injured, trapped under things, or in one case, blowing out of a tree in a windstorm in the night and drowning in the trough despite having an 'escape' ramp in the trough)
- Excellent and enthusiastic foragers

As far as the garden, they're still chickens, they still dig.  I personally wouldn't do it.  Even if you introduced the adult bantams into a fully-established garden they'll be uprooting carrots and potatoes, ripping squash leaves apart, eating your tomatoes and leafy greens, and plucking up every last sprout that crops up.

The ONLY chickens I keep in the garden are chicks 2-6 weeks old.  Once their head feathers come in I kick them out!  That's when they start digging and ripping sprouts out! But I like to brood the chicks in the garden for pest control.

Edit; I do have a friend that runs chickens in her garden.  She focuses mostly on tomatoes; her toms are in 2-3 high stacks of tires that she fills with poopy-chicken-coop-bedding.  So the birds can't get at the roots or ground around the toms and they're a couple feet above the ground.  She also cages them with 2x4" welded wire fencing and protects them when they're babies.  All of her other garden stuffs is started in a greenhouse and transplanted into chicken wire or fencing cages to protect them from the birds.  Zucchinis are likewise planted in stacked tires and trellised plants have a cage around the bottom of the trellis.  She only loses a small amount to the birds.
 
Sarah Kellogg
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Location: Ozarks of Missouri
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Thank you for your helpful information Jen! We have never had bantams before so we are excited about experimenting Thanks for the advise!
 
master pollinator
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I raised Bantam Cochins for years and love them!  Always sweet, gentle birds and the best mothers we ever had though they can't sit on many eggs because they are so tiny.  Mine did not scratch as much as chickens without feathered feet.

Because they are so little they are extremely vulnerable to hawk predation so should not be given free range except with shrub cover.
 
Sarah Kellogg
Posts: 10
Location: Ozarks of Missouri
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Thanks Tyler! Lots of cover in the area so we should be good with that!  We've may get geese at some point to help guard but for now, our bull Mastiff does a descent job keeping predators at bay 😊
 
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We have had silkie bantam chickens before, they are so cute.  My daughter Sara always called them poodle chickens.  We had 3 bantams in a flock of about 12, other breeds were Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and Silver Laced Wyandotte.  There was a pecking order, but the bantam's didn't go hungry, or have wounds, they seemed like part of the flock.
I remember my sister-in-law saying the same thing to me that you are thinking.  How wonderful it would be to let the chickens eat the bugs in my garden.  I told her Chickens eat everything and anything, and would dig up what ever they didn't eat.  Maybe after harvest let them loose. They can eat and dig and get your garden ready for next year?
My daughter Sara brought our first chickens home at the end of kindergarten.  (actually the two she brought home turned out to be roosters, and we ended up getting rid of them because they were so mean to my son who was about 4 at the time)  I didn't want only 2 so bought more.  I like variety so we always got several different breeds.  Over the last 15 years we have had many different breeds and Rhode Island Red always seem to be my favorite.  In that first flock Sara named one of the reds Sweetie Pie.  Strangely enough she was. (Maybe because Sara spent hours holding her as a chick)  My mom and dad lived in a little house on our property, and my dad loved the chickens, and took over most of the duties.  It was always kind of sweet, and funny to go in the back yard and see my dad sitting in a lawn chair with a chicken in his lap.  As soon as Sweetie Pie would see my dad sit down, she would run over and jump onto his lap.  I didn't know chickens were affectionate like that, but she seem to love getting pet and talk to.
The flock I have now are 4 Rhode Island Reds, 4 Ameraucana, and 4 Salmon Faverolles. Non of my chickens now are as friendly as our first flock because the kids aren't kids any more, and I don't have the time to spend with them, but it is still my Reds who let me pet them and come to see what I'm doing if I mess around in the coop.  So I would say get a couple of Rhode Island Reds and you and your son spend lots of time with them, and they may love him like Sweetie Pie loved my dad.
 
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https://permies.com/t/119676/permaculture-projects/Dave-Burton-Boot-Adventures-Wheaton
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