Getting Started with Rhode
Island Red Bantams
By Robert Blosl
What is the best method of getting started with Rhode Island Red Bantams
and who do you recommend I should go to for my start? This is a question that I have been asked for many years by beginners
and in this article I would like to explain how I would recommend to a beginner how he or she could get started. There are many excellent breeders in the country today who have fine strains of Red Bantams and when
someone ask me who they should go to I first try to find out where they live and then direct them to a Rhode Island Red Club
member within their region. There are many ways to get started such as hatching
eggs which is the least expensive, however the most risky method for beginners. Of all the skills that are needed to be a
successful breeder of Red Bantams the novice seems to have more problems in the beginning with incubators and hatching. Also,
the rough treatment that the eggs get during their shipping does not help matters either.
If you could drive up to the member’s home and pick the eggs up and transport the eggs to your home you would
be way better off in my opinion. Baby chicks is another good way to get started, but it is very difficult for today’s
breeders to have at least 25 baby chicks to place in a box to ship to you. Started chicks that are about four weeks old is
a good method and I have shipped five to ten chicks per box with great success for many years with only a very low percentage
of chicks dieing during the trip. The best and easiest method in my estimation
to learn the fundamentals of raising and breeding Red Bantams is to obtain a mated trio from an accomplished Red Club member.
These Red Bantams do not have to be perfect specimens, or winners from major show. Some of the best bantams that you can acquire
can be pen brothers, sisters or parents from such great winners. Good breeders can have minor faults, such as shortness in
body, poor combs, excess of color in surface or under color, lack of color in some sections, minor injured body parts from
rearing or from attacks from varmints or dogs. As long as these defects are not transmitted to the offspring, these kinds
of birds can be sometimes a real bonus for you to get started with.
BREEDERS HOME: So many times when people contact me I wish I could go with each one of these new
beginners to the Red Club member’s home and help them find the best Red Bantams that are for sale. To illustrate this
perception in this article I would like to demonstrate to you my reasoning and methods in finding such a breeding pen. Many
people that contact me are people who where once juniors and are now in their late thirties or early forties. Such a person
could be called Joe who was an active junior in the 1970s, in 4-H, FFA and showing in open class until he entered College.
Joe after four years of college became a junior high biology teacher, was married and with children. Like many of us who where
once Joes age after our junior years in poultry found us living the very same
way in a apartment, or small house with no room to have chickens. Through
the years we dreamed of having some birds, but had to wait till such an age as our 40s to get started. Well let’s just
suppose Joe contacted me telling me he lived in a subdivision in southern Illinois , but had a very well insulated sound proof
double garage and wanted to get just a trio of bantams to start with. He will
put his new trio of Red bantams in two 3’X3’pens that he built on a side wall in his garage. He only plans to
keep this trio of bantams in the garage till the first of May as he and his wife are planning to move to a small five acre
piece of land in the country. On this property they will have plenty of old buildings to fix up for pens and lots of land
to let the birds roam on free range and build runs on. Joe lives in Southern Illinois and I told him that I was going to be visiting an excellent Red Club member
in this area in December when my wife and I drive up to the Red-Rock Show in Indiana. I told him I was picking
up a trio of Large Fowl Reds to take home with me and I would help him pick out a good trio of Red Bantams from this wile
I was at his home.
We arrive at the Master breeder’s home early in the morning before he was heading off to the big show in Indiana. The Red Club member took
us to his conditioning room and their, he had picked out for us in show coops four Single Comb Red Bantam Cockerels. In two
separate 4’X4’ pens where four hens from last year’s matings and four six month old pullets for us to chose
from. Prior to going to the member’s house, I sent Joe a Rhode Island Red Club brochure which had the standard of perfection
requirements and a copy of a black and white picture from an old APA Standard of Perfection of the Single Comb Red Bantam. As we looked at the cockerels in the conditioning cages, I asked him which one
of these males would you like your strain to look like in the next three years? He closed his eyes for a few seconds then
looked at his black and white picture that I sent him and he pointed at the second cockerel on the left. I looked at him and
told him he has great station. His legs are dead center and his frame is true brick shape where his length is twice as long
as his dept. He had level wing carriage, a fully furnished tail with solid beetle green sheen color. The only fault that I
could find on him outside the show coop was his head. His comb was a little large, he had seven points and his blade was not
symmetrical to the points and gave the effect that it was to short in length. I took this cockerel out of the conditioning
coop and we looked at his wings. The black in the primaries was fine, but the cockerels black in his secondary wing feathers
where only half black in color. I checked his under color in his neck area and it was clean and free of smut. Then I looked
at his under color around the oil gland and the saddle area and it was rich lustrous red and the quill color was blood red.
All excellent traits to maintain strong surface color and total color balance. His
faults where only in his comb and his wing color however an outstanding bantam Red Cockerel. I put him back into his pen to
look him over one more time and I told Joe to look at the cockerel to the right of him. Notice how perfect his comb is on
his body. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have that short backed cockerels head on this cockerel? This other cockerel
would also be a great breeder except he is short in length in his body. It would be nice to have two males to get started
with, but under your circumstances you can only have one male until you move and I would go with the first male with the poor
RIGHT FEMALE: I told Joe to look over the hens and the pullets and look for the female
that had the best head points or near perfect comb and tell me who she is by her band number. After carefully looking over
all the females Joe pointed to hen number 3. I looked at her and told him she was without a doubt the finest female with the
best looking head. I also told him this could be the mother of the cockerel in the conditioning coop next to the male that
he picked with the short back. Hen number 3’s comb was a perfect five point comb and the blade fit the contour of her
head flawlessly. She was extremely dark in surface color for a hen and she only revealed one fault and that was short in body.
I took her out of the pen and looked at her wings. Her wings were excellent in color with black markings in all the right
places. The red in her primaries matched the fluff of her sides which showed great overall strength to go along with her dark
surface color. The hens under color were free of smut and the black in her tail was solid outside as well as inside towards
her body. The only fault that we could see was she was short in body length which would be compensated by the cockerel that
we had picked out who had great length of body. I looked at her toe punch and the color of her leg band and the female was
last years pen three female. The cockerel that was next to the cockerel that Joe picked out was most likely her son who also
had a short back but had the excellent wing color and head points. I told Joe I would buy this cockerel with the short back
and ask the breeder to keep it for you till you move to your new place in May. He would make a great breeder to next year’s
pullets from the male and the hen that you have just chosen based on the strengths of his mother.
THE LAST FEMALE: So the mating is half complete
and we just need one more female to mate to the cockerel that Joe plans to build his strain around. We looked for a few minutes
at the remaining Red females and Joe said, Bob what you think of the pullet with band number 30 in the corner? I looked at
her and she had outstanding head points and an excellent five point comb. She had a great top line, nice overall color and
her station was dead center. From the outside I told Joe she looks fantastic. I pulled her out of the pen and opened her wings
and saw her problem. Her black in her wings where solid, but it was spilling over in the secondaries. Her last primary feather
near her axial feather on her wing was solid black. I looked at her under color and she had a lot of smut in her back and
neck section which is why she is most likely in the cull pen. Her ticking in her neck feathers was normal and free of lacking.
I told Joe, I would use this female in your trio mating and make sure you only select birds next year that where free of excess
color or limited in these color defects. We then put the pullet up in the conditioning pen with the hen and first cockerel.
There is an excellent breeding trio that has tremendous possibilities for you and the extra short back cockerel could make
a great breeder for your pullets in the upcoming year if you decide to buy him.
CONCLUSSION: I hope this endeavor to
show to you my fictionist visit to a Red Club Member’s yard will some day help you in your attempt to get a good start
in Red Bantams. It is my belief that it would be very easy to go to a good Master Breeders home and pick out a good trio of
Red Bantams such as I have just illustrated. You simply are looking for one special Red Bantams strengths and finding a mate
to compensate for his or her weakness. The possibilities and examples are endless, but I hope I have given you some vision
in this article on how this process could be completed. In my next article, I
will go into detail how you set up your incubator, care for your eggs, toe punching, and raising your bantam chicks. Till
next time I am yours for a better Rhode Island Red Bantam.