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Old English Game Bantams
by Carl Stough
Raising Old English Game bantams is not for a person with a laid back approach to life. Old English are feisty, aggressive, and demanding. They are, however, a great joy for the many people who raise them, including the writer.
The purpose of this article is to present a generic overview of the activities involved in raising Old English. Hopefully, this article will encourage the reader to purchase some Old English.
There are many colors of Old English, both solid and parti-colored. After choosing a color, seek out a reputable breeder. I would suggest that you visit his/her yards to see firsthand the birds and the management system. Purchasing birds through the mail is risky. Ask any questions that come to mind. Ask for a pair or trio that are related in a manner that will produce quality offspring. Avoid birds too closely related (ie: brother and sister). If your goal is to just have a few bantams for enjoyment, then healthy birds is your main concern. If you wish to develop your own strain of Old English, I suggest you buy a pair or trio from two breeders. Mate each set of birds and then cross mate with each breeder’s birds. You now have three families of birds to breed from which should provide birds for several years. Always mark your chicks from each family. Discipline yourself to keep records of the progeny from each family. Consult the literature on the art of breeding. John P. Baldwin and Fred P. Jeffrey are authors who have written extensively on the breeding of Old English.
Hatching your Old English is an important aspect of your breeding program. Have access to a reliable incubator or setting hens. Do not keep hatching eggs over ten days before setting them. Wash your eggs and keep them separate in the incubator. Study the successful procedures of hatching before setting your eggs. You may wish to have a friend hatch your eggs for you.
After the chicks have hatched, proved a brooder that maintains a temperature of 95º and reduce the heat as the chicks grow. Old English will do well on a starter that has at least 20% protein. Clean water in a clean container is very important.
Growing your Old English to maturity is a very enjoyable exercise. The birds seem to change almost daily. If possible, young birds should be placed in a grassy area. If they are raised inside, greens should be provided for them. Old English can be fed a starter-grower feed until they reach maturity. Light colored bantams such as Whites or Red Pyles should be kept in a shaded area to avoid discoloration of their plumage. As soon as you can discern the cockerels from the pullets, they should be separated. When cockerels are five to six months old they should be dubbed.
Housing for Old English is not complicated. Because they are small, they do not require a lot of space. Single birds or pairs can be kept in a 2’ by 2’ pen. Young birds need ample space to grow and should not be overcrowded. With a little forethought and some plywood, many types of pens for Old English can be built. Again, consult the literature for ideas on housing. If you have a knack for gardening, you can incorporate flowers and vegetables with your pens for beauty, shade, and treats for the birds. Sunflowers and vines make excellent shade for outdoor pens during the growing season. Tomatoes and squash are fine treats for the birds.
Preparing Old English for the shows is an exciting phase of the management program. As the young stock grows, you will pick out favorite birds that resemble size, type and color that the standard calls for. These males should be penned separately and handled daily to acclimate them to a judge’s handling them. Practice posing your birds in an exhibition size pen. Females can be penned in small groups with similar procedures used on them. Special supplements to the regular feed can be given to the show birds. Sunflower seeds, greens, dog and cat food are some treats used by breeders. An occasional washing of show birds will enhance feather quality. This applies to dark colored birds as well as white. White birds should be washed about three days before show day. Beaks and toenails should be trimmed prior to showing. Old English grow beaks at a rapid rate. Transporting your birds to the show can be done with a cardboard box from the grocery store or in a fancy hauling coop that has been built for that purpose. Do not expect to beat the breeder you bought the birds from. Be content to take less than first or second until you have "learned the ropes." The breeding of winners is a matter of time, patience, and study. When other birds place ahead of yours, ask the judge in a positive manner what improvement you need in your birds. Congratulate the winners and create a friendship with them. Over the years these friendships will pay many dividends. Always remember that raising Old English is a hobby and try to "smell the roses" in all aspects of the program, not just show day.
After you have chosen your show birds and breeders for the coming year, you will want to sell some extra birds. The birds you sell should be healthy and of good quality. Dispose of any bird that does not measure up to good quality. If you make it a practice to sell quality birds at a reasonable price, you will always have customers.
You should always plan ahead with your matings of birds. I strongly recommend that you keep a journal and record a history of your matings within the families of birds. When extra nice birds appear on the scene, you should know how they arrived.
As with any endeavor, there are problems that arise and need to be solved. I suggest you purchase a book on poultry diseases and keep a watchful eye for symptoms. I would connect with a poultry supplier who can provide you with vaccinations and medicines. Pens for Old English should be varmint proof. Birds should be examined for lice and mites and treatment applied.
As you learn about your Old English from a practical standpoint, join a breed club such as the Old English Game Bantam Club of America, the American Bantam Association, and the American Poultry Association. Through these organizations, you will learn the finer points of breeding Old English. Purchase a copy of the Standard of Perfection of poultry and study it carefully. It is your compass for breeding.
For goodness sakes, enjoy those Old English. Handle them often to learn each bird and his/her characteristics. Sometimes when you handle Old English males, you will have to impress on them just who is in charge of the henhouse, as they often like to challenge you. Organize your pens so that daily chores are a pleasurable task. Welcome visitors to your pens and enjoy sharing ideas about Old English.
This essay’s purpose was to give you an overview of raising Old English. If you pick up where these suggestions leave off, you should be on your way to a successful hobby of raising Old English.
Carl L. Stough
Poultry Hobbyist for 53 years
511 Beardsley Road
Galion, Ohio 44833