Docile, small and pretty, but not a great layer, the Pekin bantam is a great bird for kids, small backyards, beginners – or all three!
Some fowls are elegant looking, some exotic but the Pekin bantam is reminiscent of a cuddly ball of feathers. You cannot go past this demure, docile bird if you fancy a pet for the children or a quiet breed for a tiny backyard. Should you harbour thoughts of showing, a good Pekin can take you to the top.
Pekins originated in China and a small number were collected up by British soldiers withdrawing after the sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace in Peking in the 1860s. These few birds were bred together in England until an outcross was introduced and showier, stronger stock was produced. They soon became the darlings of poultry exhibitors and still enjoy great popularity.
Lots To Like
Pekins are quiet and friendly, they don’t wander or fly and so will be content with a small space and a 60cm high fence. If you want to engage in natural incubation and rearing, the Pekin hen will oblige, regardless of whether you put chook eggs or those from another species under her. This breed is renowned for its broodiness and its wonderful fostering ability.
What is remarkable is the variety of colours this bantam comes in. As well as single colours like black, white, blue, lavender, red, buff or grey, there are combinations such as black-red, brown-red, mealy-grey and splash and patterns like mottled, cuckoo, partridge and Columbian. Name the colour and you can find a Pekin proudly displaying it.
These bonny bantams are fowl whose outline should touch all sides of a circle – ie, their body length appears to be equal to their width and depth. As well as looking rounded and close to the ground, they also tilt forward a little. Plumage is profuse, lots of soft and pliable feathers and volumes of under fluff. They have fully feathered feet too. Both sexes have a cushion-like tail; in the male it is free of the usual long sickle feathers.
Pekins need a little extra care but aside from this they are not demanding to look after. Ensure they are protected from dogs and foxes because they are unable to fly so can become easy victims. Remember too that perches and nest boxes need to be low or they can’t access them. Foot-feathered breeds must be kept indoors in wet weather plus regular examination of toes and legs is recommended in case scaly leg mite has moved in under the feathering.
What about egg production? Alas, you can’t have everything and this is one attribute that is mediocre. Pekins tend to be seasonal layers, which mean eggs for three or four months and then they slow right down. The eggs are reasonably small with lightly tinted shells.
BREED: Pekin (bantam only available)
TEMPERAMENT: quiet, very friendly
COST: backyard birds $25-$35, show birds $50-$100 plus
LIFESPAN: five or more years
EGGS PER YEAR: pullets around 90 eggs, hens 50-60 eggs
MAINTENANCE: extra effort required
RECOMMENDED: children and beginnerss