Modern Game Bantams by Tom Anderson from the October/November, 2009 issue of Backyard Poultry

February 7, 2013

Modern Game Bantams

By Tom Anderson, Vice President

Modern Game Bantam Club of America

When one thinks of backyard poultry, many of course think of birds raised for meat and/or eggs for the family; rightly so, as these are first and foremost in the minds of many backyard poultry keepers. There are a number of other reasons people keep small flocks, and that will be the focus of this article on my favorite breed, the Modern Game bantam.

A Black Breasted Red Modern Game cock by Tom Anderson, Willard, North Carolina. Photo by Cheryl Barnaba.

A Brown Red pullet owned by Tom Anderson. She was champion bantam at the Crossroads of America show in Indianapolis in November 2006.

As with many old breeds of chickens, their origin is not well documented. However, it is generally acknowledged that they were bred down in size from the large fowl Modern, or as it was originally known, Exhibition Game. These large fowl were developed from the Old English Pit Game used for sporting purposes. Game chickens are in the lineage of many of the popular breeds of standard breeds of poultry today. Today’s large fowl Modern, although not seen as often in the show hall, remains a viable option for those who do have an interest in a hardy, dual-purpose fowl with good mothering instincts. Several prominent breeders keep them and they have recently enjoyed some resurgence as an exhibition bird.

The Modern Game bantam though, is the ultimate fancier’s creation. Moderns are an excellent choice for someone looking for a breed for children who want a 4-H project, or birds for showmanship classes, or competition in the exhibition hall. Their naturally tame nature and small size are perfect for young folks. Adults as well are drawn to the graceful appearance, gentle nature, and ease of keep that these personable little birds possess. They just may be the ideal chicken for anyone who desires bantams as pets. They also lay well for such a small bird, and the eggs are large when compared to the size of the chicken.

My own love affair with these interesting bantams began with my introduction to them as a bird that could be kept in a small space and not eat me out of house and home. I was initially attracted to their unusual appearance as I had never seen a bird with such long legs, yet such a small body to accompany it. I guess I have always liked things that are a little different—even unique, and Moderns are certainly that! What started as a desire for a few bantams around the homestead has grown for me into a lifelong pursuit of unattainable perfection in the show hall. I must confess to the occasional dream of the ideal Modern that I strive to raise!

Moderns come in many different colors, so there are bound to be at least one or two that will appeal to you. In addition to the well-known Black Breasted Reds, Birchens, Brown Reds, Red Pyles, and Blacks, many are discovering some of the rarer varieties like Duckwings, Blues, Whites, Ginger Reds, Wheatens, and several others.

To learn more about these fantastic bantams, visit the Modern Game Bantam Club of America’s website or see our breeders listing in the back of this publication. The club welcomes your interest in this breed, and we will endeavor to assist you in any way we can in raising Moderns.

Black pullet by Jeffrey Sumner of Pink Hill, North Carolina. Photo by Cheryl Barnaba.


A Brown Red cockerel owned by Jim and Bonnie Sallee, Pine Grove, California.

A Black Breasted Red cockerel owned by Tom Anderson, Willard, North Carolina. Photo by Cheryl Barnaba

An undubbed Birchen cockerel owned by Bob and Claudia Choate, Lexington, Texas.

A Black Breasted Red pullet shown at Lucasville, Ohio, 2005. Owned by Tom Anderson, Willard, North Carolina. Photo by Cheryl Barnaba.

A Birchen pullet by Cheryl Barnaba. This bird won Champion Bantam Delmarva Poultry Breeders Society 2004. Photo by Cheryl Barnaba.