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An Ode to Small Things
Monday, October 3, 2011
Bantam breeds are not for me. I’m not being sizeist here. Okay, maybe I am. But when you have to get on your hands and knees and track a tiny bird around the farm in the full Florida sun just to snap a few good pictures, you start to get the feeling that their smallness, their flightiness, their innate sense of alarm is just not working for you.
There have been few birds at Greenfire whose presence I have almost cursed. These included the Sebrights, spangled Hamburgs, and bantam Campines. I apologize if this offends any of the bantam fanatics out there! They’re gorgeous, lovely, endearing with their big, doe eyes, etc. I just haven’t been captivated to the point of adoration quite yet (is it just me, or when they fly at you, do their talons seem to have eye radar?). Incidentally, I could cuddle the bantam chocolate Orpingtons to death. They have the will-to-flee of shrubbery AND the doe eyes.
When we first received the Olandsk Dwarf a year ago, it was an instant favorite with the rest of the crew. Sure they were cute. They have that obsession-with-tiny-objects appeal. I almost wanted to put a pancake of one of the hen’s heads and photograph it for an internet wildfire phenomenon. But I wasn’t fooled. In an 8’x10’ pen, of course they were cute, but I was already picturing what photographing them would be like. And you could forget balancing a pancake on one of their heads.
What I was completely shocked to find was the fact that when I got into the pen with them, I found the first ever of its kind: a sleek, narrow-bodied bantam with the personality of a large fowl sweetie. They weren’t especially fearful or alarmed. They didn’t try to fly eight feet overhead to evade me. In fact, the butterfly net I had brought in with me wasn’t even necessary. They inspected me, walked around my feet, checked things out. They were confident.
Now surely this had something to do with the breeder we had imported them from! They were babied and cooed over before they made it to Greenfire and I was seeing the results of a dedicated chicken socializer with plenty of hands and few birds (socializing chickens is an activity that I admire but don’t always have the sunlight for). However, after breeding them for a year, I can say that this assuredness, this calmness, is a quality innate to the breed. They are truly well-adjusted bantams with tons of personality and none of the high-maintenance flakiness.
Enter the new, small man in my life. Bert, F1 of our original import. He’s tiny and he has a Napoleon complex (but not in an annoying way, if that’s possible). He might just be my favorite bird on the farm today. I credit the naming of Bert to our good friend, Beth. She took on a pair of Dwarves this summer to observe, photograph, love and shower with attention. She was, by the way, a quick convert to the dwarf as well. Bert was returned to us once he started crowing as there’s an ordinance against roos in Beth’s neighborhood.
At any rate, Bert is a brazen creature. That’s kind of an understatement, actually. He’s about 2 pounds and I’ve seen him take on a wire hooked to a cattle charger, unfazed. In fact, here he is pictured by said wire.

The wire runs the ground of one of our large colony pens, and right now, the jubilee Orpingtons reside there. He has faithfully hung out around the jubilee Orpington pen every day since he returned to the farm. I think he’s convinced he’s one of them, which is a laughable size comparison. He’s about one-fifth of the size of a jubilee rooster. Though he’s small, he’s a fierce lover. The reason I know this is because despite the hot line between him and the hens, he struts and dances along the wire trying to entice them. 10,000 volts can’t quell his libido.
The lover dynamic aside, I have a lot of respect for this bird. We only have a few birds that free-range the farm. It’s been a tough season for predation. The hawks and owls are relentless and you can see a fox at least a few times a week which bodes poorly for winter. The only other free-rangers that make it here are the pumpkin Hulseys, and they’re tree-roosting, aggressive game birds. They clearly have a leg up on a dwarf. I don’t know how he does it. All I can manage to impress upon you, readers, is that this breed has been full of surprises since day one and I’m not surprised easily.
So now, I grudgingly admit, the obsession-with-small-things has arrested me. Tiny eggs look stunning on a brunch plate (with silver dollar pancakes, of course).

And ultra tiny chicks have a way of stealing even the hardest of hearts!