When my last daughter left for college, I decided to indulge in a a decade-long desire to become the owner of Sebright bantam chickens. For too long I had succumbed to the popular belief that they were impractical for a homestead due to their small size (lack of meat) and lack of egg productivity.
When my daughters were in 4-H, I always admired the Sebrights that were shown year after year by another exhibitor at the fair. I would stare at their feathers, which appeared to have been perfectly outlined with a magic marker. But who needs a tiny chicken that weighs less than a pound a half and lays a small number of small eggs — so small that they are not even big enough to qualify as Grade A small, meaning that they would only be for household use.
History of Sebright chickens
The Sebright is one of the few chickens that is only available in bantam size. Most bantam chickens are simply miniaturized versions of a larger breed, but the Sebright was developed from scratch by Sir John Saunders Sebright in the early 1800s in England.
No one knows which breeds he used to create the Sebright chicken, but guesses include the Hamburg, Nankin, and Polish.
What do Sebright chickens look like?
The Silver-Laced Sebright is white with black outlines on the feathers, and the Gold-Laced Sebright is red with black outlines on the feathers. Sebrights are one of the few breeds where the males are hen-feathered, meaning that they have no spangle feathers on their body. The main difference between the appearance of a rooster and hen is that the males have a much larger comb and wattle, which is practically non-existent on the hens.
This is a great breed for people who live in cold climates. Ours have done fine in our unheated chicken house even when temperatures fell well below zero. Since their rose combs are small and close to their head, frostbite is not a problem in hens at all and rarely an issue in roosters.
They have short legs and a stocky body that some say looks more like a pigeon than a chicken.
Chicks have a very smoky appearance with the Gold-Laced being darker than the Silver-Laced. You would never guess that their mature feathers would have the degree of precision that they do!
Are Sebright chickens good egg layers?
I’ve already admitted that I got my Sebrights as pasture ornaments, so we have never bothered to count the eggs we get from them, but the Livestock Conservancy says they lay about 60-80 eggs per year.
Their eggs are white, disproving the idea that egg color matches ear lobe color, which is red in this breed. The eggs weigh half as much as a Grade A large egg, so if a recipe calls for one egg, you can use two Sebright eggs.
Do Sebright hens go broody?
In 10 years of having them on our homestead, I would have to agree with everyone who says they are not a broody breed. In fact, we have never had one try to set a nest. We have, however, hatched their eggs in an incubator, so I don’t understand all the people online saying they are hard to raise because we have not had any issues with chick mortality.
Can you eat Sebright chickens?
This is actually one of my favorite things about this breed! Based on what I’ve seen other says, I may be the only person in the world who thinks that Sebright chickens make a fabulous chicken dinner!
When we hatch chicks, we process most of the males at about 4 months of age, just as we do with all of the other heritage breeds that we raise. Rather than roasting it whole or cutting it up into pieces, we simply cut it in half down middle of the breastbone and then cut out the backbone. That gives us half a chicken for a single serving, which is around 6-8 ounces.
Sebright chicken meat is absolutely tender and delicious at that age! We marinate it in lemon juice and garlic and herbs, and liberally add black pepper and a bit of salt before cooking it on our grill.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like a heritage version of the modern Cornish hen, you would be correct. Not-so-fun fact — those birds they sell in the supermarket as Cornish hens are actually just 4-week-old Cornish-cross chickens (not always hens). Yes, they are basically the same breed as the larger chickens that you can buy, but they process them at only 4 weeks of age, rather than 6 to 8 weeks, which is the usual processing time for the modern meat hybrids.
Are Sebright bantams right for you?
Keep in mind that most hatcheries only sell bantams as straight run, so you will need to have a plan for the extra roosters. As I said, they make a delicious chicken dinner, but you either need to be willing to process them yourself or have a plan for processing the extra males.
If you only have room for four or five hens, and you want a decent supply of eggs, then I’d suggest looking at other breeds.
But if you have enough space to add a few pasture ornaments, then I would absolutely recommend the Sebright bantams. I can’t help but smile every time I look at mine! And I am still in awe over their perfect feather lacing even after a decade of having them in our pasture.
Are you thinking about getting chickens? See our Raising Chickens: Beginner’s Guide (+ Pro Tips!). It will help you ask yourself all the right questions, and it will also give you a realistic idea of what to expect as a chicken owner.