Origin and short history of the Japanese bantam
This bantam chicken is a true bantam breed, meaning it has no larger counterpart. It is known in its native country, Japan, as the “Chabo” – a name that translates to “dwarf”, referring specifically to the ‘Chabo-hiba’, a particularly small and slow-growing bonsai tree that has been commonly kept in Japan for centuries.
Favored mostly by those of noble ancestry, the first Japanese Bantam chickens appeared in Japan within the 7th century, most likely from Indo-Chinese bloodlines. It was not until 1874 when they were finally recognized by the American Standard of Perfection.
Characteristics and breed standards of the Japanese bantam
The Japanese bantam is a petite, delicate, and stout-figured bantam chicken with the shortest legs of any breed to date. Males typically weigh around 26 ounces, and hens should weigh in at a tiny 22 ounces.
These bantam chickens have an upright, proud posture that’s quite a sight to behold, with their head held back, chin up, and their chests perpetually puffed like a strutting peacock. They are also bred to have a grand, neatly feathered tail that sits high and is always flamboyantly fanned.
The tail has a dramatic forward tilt, often with the tips of the feathers towering over the head of the males and, in birds properly bred to the standard, the the angle of the tail toward the back of the neck should be so extreme that it distinctly resembles the shape of a ‘V’.
The American Standard of Perfection currently recognizes the following color varieties:
- Black-tailed White; arguably the most common variety kept
- Black-tailed Buff, another common variety
- Brown red
Temperament and behavior of the Japanese Bantam
Peaceful and calm in nature, these birds hold their own well but are seldom bossy and typically sit comfortably in the middle or upper end of a pecking order in most coops.
These are intelligent bantam chickens that are docile, talkative, and affectionate toward people and other birds alike, and they tolerate handling well, making them an excellent option for households with children!
Pros and Cons, and Japanese Bantams in the barnyard
While there is no doubt that these bantam chickens are ideal as pets, they are on the lower end of the scale as far as their use as a utility bird in the barnyard, and can be particularly tricky to raise as chicks.
It’s easy to see why they would have little use as a meat bird, but they also lay very tiny eggs. They still make great mothers, and are among the best mothers within the bantam breeds, and they will readily sit on most eggs.
Japanese bantams fare unusually poorly in cold climate, and thrive best in climates with mild weather, or in a coop that is well insulated and weather-proofed.
Their chicks are especially delicate due to their size, and the gene that gives the breed their uniquely short legs has been regarded as a “lethal gene” – a gene linked to a higher mortality rate during early growth as well as hatching, sometimes by as much as ¼ of the eggs incubated.
This said, the Japanese Bantam is a delightful bird to watch and interact with, and it has been recognized by the American Bantam Association as being high among the ranks of the 10 most popularly kept chicken breeds in the world, showing that many chicken lovers agree that they’re worth setting aside these few troubles!