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A bantam (Indonesian: Ayam kate) is a small variety of poultry, especially chickens. Etymologically, the name bantam is derived from the city of Bantam - currently known as "Banten Province" or previously "Banten Residency" - once a major seaport, in Indonesia. European sailors restocking on live fowl for sea journeys found the small native breeds of chicken in Southeast Asia to be useful, and any such small poultry came to be known as a bantam.
Most large chicken breeds have a bantam counterpart, sometimes referred to as a miniature. Miniatures are usually one-fifth to one-quarter the size of the standard breed, but they are expected to exhibit all of the standard breed's characteristics.
Bantams are suitable for smaller backyards as they do not need as much space as other breeds. Bantam hens are also used as laying hens, with some breeds laying up to 150 eggs per year. However, Bantam eggs are only about one-half to one-third the size of a regular hen egg. The Bantam chicken eats the same foods as a normal chicken. In commercial situations they are fed grain-based foods because this is convenient and efficient for the producer. Chickens in the wild eat more insects and vegetation than grains.
Bantams have become increasingly popular as pets as well as for show purposes because they are smaller and have more varied and exotic colors and feather patterns than other chickens. Breeds such as the Sebright, Dutch, and Pekin are particularly popular show birds, and true bantams.
The Bantam rooster is famous in rural areas throughout the United Kingdom and the United States for its aggressive, "puffed-up" disposition that can be comedic in stature. It is often called a "Banty" in the rural United States.
Many bantam hens are renowned for hatching and brooding. They are very protective mothers and will attack anything that gets near their young.
Old English bantam roosters were commonly used for fighting in Europe. They were smaller and faster than normal roosters used previously.
Bantams do have a higher mortality rate when they are kept as backyard pets. They are easy targets for hawks, cats, foxes, or any other small predator. The average backyard free range bantam lives 1-3 years.
A true bantam has no large counterpart, and is naturally small. Such birds are often popular for show purposes. The local list of true bantams can vary between nations and regions due to the availability of the breeds and disputes over what qualifies.