Ever wonder why on earth someone would want to use bantams as a Homestead fowl?? Here's the SCOOP on our favorite, the American Buttercup Bantam:
A VERY Brief History.....
Buttercups were first imported into the US during the 1800s. They were originally brought aboard a ship hauling oranges and fruit back to the US from Sicily as 'provisions.' However, the ships captain and crew decidedly kept the birds as egg layers, and even enjoyed the hens' calm temperaments as ships pets!
Once in port, the popular poultry were spared from the dinner plate, and were instead sold as 'Flower chickens' with the hope that they would take a foot hold in the new world. However, these first imports were not very popular, and soon went extinct. Then, just as the Buttercup was going extinct on the Island of their origin, a few more were brought over to the US from England during the 1920s when they were heavily promoted by 2 breeders; who highlighted their productivity and perky personalities.
The Buttercups enjoyed a very brief success until Leghorns, and a few other Mediterranean breeds were introduced; that were seen as a 'better' utility breed because they came in white or solid color varieties. By the 1960s the Buttercups were all but extinct worldwide; with a mere 25 birds estimated to be alive in the US, and with even fewer throughout Europe! Once again, the Buttercup was in danger extinction.
It was about this time that a small group of breeders in the US banded together to help try to save the breed. Together they managed to find a few birds with the proper closed combs and of pure bloodlines to begin a restoration project. Today, Buttercups in the US owe their existence to the original breeding group (appx only 10 birds!). And since It was at this time that Bantams were also gaining popularity (especially in urban environments for their small size, economical benefits, and egg production qualities), the Bantam variety was also developed in an effort to preserve the Buttercup breed.
Since the 1980s Buttercups have made a very slow recovery, however they still remain on the ALBC watch list. The bantam Buttercup is by far the most rare however, with fewer than 500 birds total--being recorded in breeding flocks WORLD WIDE!
Why we chose Bantams over Standard Fowl:
Even though Buttercups have been imported several times into the US, and now only exist primarily in North America, Buttercups are still a little known heritage bird. Due to their rarity, and 'strange' looking comb most people think that the breed is only useful as a strict ornamental fowl. However, this assumption couldn't be further from the truth! Butters are indeed very beautiful, and do make a colorful addition to any backyard, but they are also exceptionally adaptable, hardy, good at foraging on their own, and best of all excel at egg production.
We value their alertness, and quirky behavior as quality homesteading fowl. Their plumage helps them stay camouflaged from predators as they wander our property. And because they are more weary than other fowl we have tried, they are not as easily preyed upon by hawks, or canine predators. We value this rugged quality about our butters, unlike other 'Improved' domestic breeds that have been extensively 'tamed down' to become little more than pets, butters are natural at free-ranging! While Buttercups do have a naturally calm demeanor with the people they are comfortable with (even accepting handling and treats fed by hand), they do tend to sleep, eat, and do everything else with 'one-eye-open.'
This characteristic of the breed tends to lend them the title of often being 'flighty.' They are NOT supposed to be panic prone, and we personally view birds with these strong 'self-preservation' behavior traits to be the result of poor breeding practice. But a bird with a good level of awareness we feel should be regarded as acceptable, and should be considered normal for this breed.
If you have an active family (little children/ dogs that like to play around the coop) then you may not enjoy butters as much as we have. Buttercups are overall very calm when activity around the coop is kept at a minimum, thus reducing their stress. We have not had too many birds in the flock that are unreasonably 'flighty' or overly protective. Our birds love to spend time in the poultry yard where they can 'Free-range' within a protected area, and will readily come flying to us in their pens for treats! But best of all they are good little egg making machines-- each hen averaging at 250-300 eggs/year for 4-5 years without additional heat/lighting!
We chose to work with the Bantam variety mostly due to limited space, and the economics of feeding a large flock. Our Bantams are great little foragers, helping keep flies controlled around our animals, and we enjoy the adequate size eggs we receive. Compared to other bantam breeds (Bantam Old English games, Bantam Cochins, and Danvers for example) Buttercups lay a more substantial egg.
Due to limited space we have begun working with the Bantam variety of this historical breed. Our buttercups are exceptional layers in our book. And like most Mediterranean breeds are very active foragers (diggers/scratchers), light weight, economical to feed, and are generally non-setters. However we are personally working to develop the 'setting' ability of the birds in our flock to ensure they have a place in the future
Welcome to the Suds Bucket!
Adventures, Experiences, Ideas...it's all here.