« FöregåendeFortsätt »
October she has brought home seven little vivacious balls of down, that certainly would not have had to encounter the dead months of autumn and winter, had any other opinion than their mother's been consulted. THE SEBRIGHT BANTAM has very much thrown the preceding into the shade. Their beauty is of a different class, but it is questionable whether their merits are greater. Here we have delicate pencilling in the shape of brilliant colouring. How and whence they first appeared in England is a mystery, and likely to remain so. Sir J. S. Sebright has the credit of having “originated” the breed, a reputation which we believe to be as well deserved as that he “ originated” the creation of the feathered race in general. Those in his confidence were accustomed to report that he would travel, “ or send,” as far as two or three hundred miles to obtain a choice bird, which was doubtless true; but had they added many thousands of miles to the two or three hundred in the “sending ” part of the story, they would, we believe, have been still nearer. to the truth. That Sir John treated his birds, when procured, with jealous care and skilful nurture will be readily granted. But while breeders continue to be so anxious not merely to conceal their system of management (in the earliest stages at least) but even to mislead inquirers, those who cultivate natural history for its own sake, will not be justified in arriving at hasty conclusions from such information. We are at once struck with surprise at the impudence of the Sebright Bantams. Oh the consequential little atom ' That such a contemptible minikin as that should have the assurance to parade his insignificant person in the presence of great ladies, the female members of families of weight and substance, before the Misses, and still worse, the Mistresses Dorking, Cochin-China, and Malay, to presume to show marked attention, may even, I declare 1 to Well: there is no knowing to what lengths impudence will go, so long as Bantams survive extermination. Here is a little whipper-snapper | Pretty, certainly, and smart, but shamefully forward in his ways. His coat is of a rich brownish-yellow ; almost every feather is edged with a border of a darker hue, approaching to black. His neat slim legs are of a light dull lead colour; his ample tail is carried well over his back. His dependent wings nearly touch the ground. He is as upright as the stiffest drill-serjeant, or more so, for he appears now and then as if he would fall backwards, like a horse that overrears himself. His full rose comb and deep depending wattles are plump and red : but their disproportionate size affords a most unfortunate hold for the beak of his adversary; but he cares not for that ; a little glory is worth a good deal of pecking and pinching, and it is not a slight punishment, nor a merely occasional infliction of it that will make him give in. The great Hens, too, that look down upon him, and over him, think proper to do battle with him on a first introduction, though they afterwards find out that they might as well have received him in a more feminine style;
“For Hens, like Women, born to be controlled,
The plumage of the Hens is similar to that of the Cocks. They are very good layers, most excellent sitters, assiduous and affectionate mothers, but most murderous step-mothers: that is, if you attempt to change, or add to, the number of the brood they have hatched themselves, they will welcome the little strangers by making raw-head and bloody-bones of them, before you can return from fetching a pan of water to set before the coop. Their own chickens are dark-brown when first hatched, with no particular marks about them whilst young. This is the variety figured by Moubray as the “Bantam or Pheasant Fowls.”
THE BLACK BANTAM is a most beautiful example of a great soul in a little body. It is the most pugnacious of its whole tribe. It will drive to a respectful distance great dunghill Cocks five times its weight. It is more jealous, irascible, and domineering, in proportion to its size, than the thorough-bred Game Cock himself. Its combativeness, too, is manifested at a very early period. Other chickens will fight in sport, by the time they are half grown, but these set to work in good earnest. One summer we bought a small brood, as soon as they could safely be removed from their mother: there were two Cockerels among them. They were little things, beautifully shaped, but ridiculously diminutive: fairy chickens, some of our friends called them. They had not been with us long, before the liberal supply of barley began to excite them; and the two little imps spent the greater part of their time in fighting, which only made us laugh, judging serious injury impossible. But shortly observing one unusually triumphant (for it had always been a sort of drawn game between them), and the other walking about in an odd and uncertain manner, though firm and fearless, I found that this latter had both its eyes closed from wounds received the day before. I carried it to my dressing-room, to relieve it by sponging, and set it on the stain-cloth, while I went to fetch some warm water. Still blind, it began crowing vivaciously. In a few minutes its eyes were unsealed, and it was returned to the yard. But battle after battle was immediately fought, and we were obliged to eat one of the combatants to prevent the mutilation of both. We can consequently confirm the statements of those who praise the excellence of their flesh, particularly if it be accompanied by a little good bread sauce. One, that I have seen, was in the constant habit of fighting, or rather sparring, with a little spaniel that belonged to the same owner. Though apparently attacking each other with great fury, they never seemed to be really in earnest. The arrival of strangers was generally the signal for the commencement of this sham fight, which ended without bloodshed as soon as one or both of the combatants were out of breath. The spaniel was mostly the first to give in, when the victor evinced as much triumph as if he had vanquished a feathered foe.
The Black Bantam, in his appearance, is a pleasing little fellow. He should have a full rose comb, clean and sinewy legs, glossy plumage with almost metallic lustre, of a different tint to the glancing green of the Spanish Fowl, arched and flowing tail, waggish impudent eye, self-satisfied air and gait. The Hen is of a duller jetty black, is less knowing in her manner, and I think in every way of inferior capacity. They have great credit for fulfilling their maternal duties well; but I have found them less affectionate and careful than other Bantams. They are great stayers at home, prowling very little about, and therefore are desirable in many situations, such as suburban villas that are surrounded by captious neighbours. They will remain contented with the range of a moderate stable-yard, and the least bit of shrubbery; and will do much good by the consumption of numerous insects. They are reputed good layers during winter; but that will depend on the liberality with which they are fed. Cooks say that their eggs, though small, are “very rich,” which means, perhaps, that they contain a greater proportion of yolk than those of larger Fowls. Guinea-fowls' eggs are prized for the same quality; and any one may, at breakfast, observe how much less a proportion of white there is in them, than in those of the Turkey. Black Bantams' eggs are smooth, tinged with buff, decidedly long-oval in most individuals, and with a zone of irregularity towards the smaller end 1n SOIne.
The new-hatched chicks are covered with black down, which occasionally has a greyish cast under the belly: bill, eyes, feet, and legs black. The female chicks are not bigger than the queen of the black and yellow humblebees, and their slender little legs appear fitter to belong to an insect than a chicken. A desire to obtain the largest possible brood, induced me to hatch some under a great Dorking Hen, because she can cover so many eggs; but I only overreached myself. The big Hen was too heavy and clumsy to officiate as nurse to such fragile atoms.
When brought up by their own mother, a spent cucumber frame covered with a net, is a good place to keep them the first month. The hottest and finest part of the season should be selected for them to pass their chickenhood in. When full grown and plumed, they are not more tender than other Poultry, though they are better suited for confinement in wards. Those who keep any other variety of domestic Fowl, and are desirous of having plenty of chickens, as well as eggs, had better not permit a Black Bantam Cock to enter upon their premises. THE WHITE BANTAM very much resembles the above in every respect except colour: the rose comb may perhaps in some specimens be a little more exuberant. But they are not much to be coveted. The white of their plumage is not brilliant, and is sure to be un-neat in the places where they are usually kept. Were they really guilty of the savage, objectless, and unnatural ferocity that is attributed to them, they would all deserve to have their necks wrung; but the tale wants confirmation. The “Illustrated News’’ for Feb. 20th, 1847, gives some particulars, THE FEATHER-LEGGED BANTAMs are now as completely out of vogue as they were formerly in esteem. We ought perhaps to have referred them to the anomalous Fowls. The chief interest attached to them lies in their hinting to the naturalist an affinity with the Grouse tribe. There were several sorts of them in repute, but they are now nearly extinct in this country. CREEPERs, so called from the shortness of their legs, and JUMPERs, from their halting gait, are rather to be considered as accidental deformities collected from unhealthy families of Bantams, than as constituting any distinct variety. A sufficient proof of which is, that many of them are scarcely able to propagate their kind. “The Bantam I spoke of as living so long (seventeen years) was of the Feather-legged sort, spotted cream and white, laying merrily as ever to the last; but not having warmth sufficient to hatch, I always made her a present every year of