The amazing ‘Modern Game’ takes its name and heritage from the ‘old English game’. The Old English game fowl was brought to England by the romans in the 1st century and was then bred exclusively for cock fighting, which was extremely popular for centuries. It didn’t cost a lot to raise a bird up to fight so it became a sport anyone could partake in. It was so popular infact it was introduced into schools as a way to encourage students to show qualities like the old English showed whilst fighting in the ring.
However in 1849 cock fighting was banned in England meaning the Old English Game was ‘retired’ and normally this would have meant that the breed fell into possible non-existence. But it didn’t, it actually stayed very popular as at the time of banning cock fighting a raise in poultry fancying and showing birds began.
After 1849 poultry fanciers began taking their once fighting old English game bird and Malay birds, [the Malay originates from Asia], and breeding them to create the Modern Game.
It was therefore the ‘new’ or ‘modern’ version of the ‘old’ English game.
The modern game was accepted into the American Poultry Association [A.P.A] in 1874 only 25 years after cock fighting was banned in England [it was banned by the royal decree of Queen Victoria] Cock fighting is now illegal in all 50 US states although the last state to ban it was Louisiana, only in 2008.
So the modern game never fought, unlike its ancestors, it was bred only for looks and to ‘show’ at exhibitions. Whilst the old English game has powerful broad shoulders, strong wings and short but tough legs, attributes developed from fighting. Without this need for fighting the modern game began to be develop a very different look to that of its ancestors.
The popularity of the Modern Game peaked around the 1900’s and today the ‘Rare Breed Survival Trust’ in the UK has the breed ‘at risk’. Unfortunately things are no better for the breed in the US, the ‘Livestock Conservancy’ considers the breed as ‘critical’.
The good news is the breed is currently experiencing a revival surge with the Bantam Modern Game being especially popular.
The Modern Game today is a tame, curious bird with long thin legs a long thin neck and a upright body statue a ‘whip’ [pinched tight] tail. They look the part in any backyard!
A standard cock weighs just 6 lb or (2.75 kg) and a hen weighs 4.5 lb. (2 kg)
A bantam cock weighs 22 oz. (625 g) and a hen weighs 20 oz. (570 g)
Production per year
When do they start laying eggs?
Around 24+ weeks [they are slow to mature]
Modern Game Characteristics
Breed temperament – Are they good as pets?
They make excellent pets as their temperament is personable, curious and some breeders say that they recognize faces and come running over when they do recognize someone. Everyone reports them as having really great personalities, they are special breed for sure.
They are a game bird and as such typically don’t tend to lay well, but the Modern Game does lay fairly well in spite of that. The hens also make for great mothers and will sometime raise up a brood that isn’t their own, they are similar to the Old English game fowl in that instance. They do go broody, generally in the summer, but this is easy to stop.
The Bantam hens can really only fit 2 or max 3 standard sized eggs underneath them, whereas they are able to sit on more of the bantam eggs, roughly 6 or 7.
The standard size hens can sit on roughly 6 standard eggs when brooding and its ok for standard sized birds to sit on bantam eggs and vice versa.
They are good with kids, and kids love the bantam modern game as they are easy to handle with the thin long legs running easily through their fingers with the body of the bird usually fitting in just a single palm.
How many do I need to buy?
It’s never recommended to kept any breed of chickens singularly, they are social creatures that enjoy the company of others within a flock and human company too!
Generally more than one male in a flock isn’t recommended however they will live in a flock with more than male but it does depend on variety and background.
Old English game can be aggressive and sometime all that aggression towards other males isn’t fully bred out of Modern Game birds, so always ask the breed of its breeding lineage.
The best breeding ratio of modern game is 9:1. So for every 9 females you should have 1 male within any flock.
Males are fantastic as they also help to stop bullying amongst the hens and will act as the flocks ‘protector’.
How do I tame Modern Game chickens?
Very easily, they are naturally friendly and inquisitive as a breed. Start by handling chicks 3-4 times a day this will help them build up a bond with you. Then as adults they will be well socialized.
If you don’t have tame modern game and need to catch one for some reason – good luck. Id invest in a net to help, as with their long legs they can run – quickly! It will therefore pay dividends to start taming them!
Another good tip is to play on their natural inquisitiveness and throw them some treats, the cupboard love method usually works. To help bring them over to you and to tame adults, gradually throw the treats closer and closer towards your feet. Before long they will feed from your hands and you will be able to pick them up for a cuddle.
How much space do they need?
Minimum coop requirements for the standard sized modern game is 4sqft [per bird]. Id allow 10 inches roost space width too, again this is per bird. By width I’m referring to the wing to wing measurement.
Minimum coop space required for bantam modern game is less than that of the standard sized game, at roughly 2-3sqft per bird. Again these are minimums, the more space you can afford them the better. Especially as during the winter they will spend a lot of time inside the coop and if you have cold winters, remember they aren’t cold hardy, so will want to keep warm and snug.
Modern game don’t like close confinement. People often think as they are not cold hardy, at all, they would like to be in large numbers within the coop to keep warm. This is not the case, as they don’t tolerate confinement well.
Regarding outside or run space – I’d suggest a free range setting for really happy birds. An unhappy modern game can actually turn aggressive.
Will they mix with my other chickens?
The females will mix with other modern games and other breeds well. As they like to free range you will often see them leave the flock to scratch around by themselves but this is totally normal.
You shouldn’t introduce less than 2 birds at any one time into a new flock. This gives the new bird a ‘buddy’ and this will help with the integration process.
Introducing new birds causes the social hierarchy and pecking order to be thrown off balance. Some birds react, if they react at all, to new birds by guarding the feed and waterer.
They can also peck the new birds so you will need to be vigilant, as if they aren’t free range they can’t just ‘walk off’ to avoid the confrontation.
Its renowned worldwide for its long thin legs with its thighs being slightly set apart. Their necks are long and thin aswell with closely fitting hackles. The hackles are feathers around the neck area, it again gets this attribute from its ancestry. Which whilst fighting wanted feathers round the neck to be as close to the skin as possible so a competitor couldn’t grab it and gain an advantage.
The shoulder butts stand out squarely and on the side of the bird the wings are short and pleasantly curved, the wings meet at the stern of the bird, giving it an aesthetically pleasing look.
Strangely some breeders have reported that climate and soil can actually affect the color of their legs but this have never been noted down within anything official, just observations.
The American Bantam Association [A.B.A] currently has 19 recognized varieties, whilst there are 9 varieties in Standard size.
Bantam modern game ABA recognized varieties
Barred, Birchen, Black, Black Breasted Red, Blue, Blue Red, Brown Red, Crele, Cuckoo, Ginger Red, Golden Duckwing, Lemon Blue, Red Pyle, Self Blue, Silver Blue, Silver Duckwing, Splash, Wheaten & White.
Standard sized varieties recognized by the APA
Birchen, Black, Black Breasted Red, Brown Red, Golden Duckwing, Red Pyle, Silver Duckwing, Wheaten & White
Varieties accepted by the Poultry Club of Great Britain
Initially when the breed was developed in the 1800’s just 5 varieties existed, these were Black-red, Duckwings, Brown-Reds, Birchens and Piles. Present day however, there are a further 8 more varieties that have been accepted and standardized.
Tail angles do cause controversy, with the APA & ABA standards in the US calling for a tail to be carried nearly horizontally. The UK standard, however, allows for a higher carriage, but in both cases, the tails should be formed in the proper breed manor, which is in a whipped style.
Breeding modern game
Type and carriage in Modern Games and Modern Game Bantams is of great importance and shortness and hardness of feathers are also important. Exceptionally large specimens are undesirable, as overgrowth tends to coarseness at the expense of form and style of carriage which are essential characteristics of the Modern Game and even to a greater degree in the Modern Game Bantam.
Modern Game Bantam exhibition judge J.H Carre characterizes what judges are looking for:
‘’we must have the tall, fine boned bird, straight on leg, short in body and feather. The leg should be placed under the body in almost a direct line with the eye when the bird is standing straight up. Whereas, in the Old English’ Game, the legs should be placed as far back as possible, giving the bird a good front to be able to withstand a blow in the chest. So the first thing we must look for is type. I prefer a fairly small male bird and have no objection to largish females as long as they are of the correct type. Be sure to see that all the birds used are in good health’’
What should I feed them?
As chicks up to the age of 6 weeks they need chick crumb or starter chick. Either is fine. This can either be medicated or non-medicated, it’s preference. The most popular medication within chick feed is to prevent coccidioides.
From 6 weeks onward they need be fed growers mash or something similar. This contains all the correct nutrients to enable them to develop properly into adult birds.
Before they are due to lay there first egg, usually one-two weeks before, they will require layers pellets. As the name suggests this is the perfect feed to ensure they have all they need to start laying eggs. They will then continue on with this feed for the rest of their lives or laying duration.
Bantam modern game will need ‘Bantams Pallets’ these are pellets that are smaller than the standard pellet, making them easier to swallow for the smaller bantams. If your bantams still struggle, you can feed them layers mash. This is just layers pellets ground up into powder/crumble.
Modern Game require a really high quality feed. To supplement that feed you can add in chopped peanuts, safflower seed and cracked corn. This will help them over winter especially when they require more energy than others breeds to keep warm. The high fat foods will help them to burn calories in order to generate that warmth.
During winter especially if you notice their feather decline in sheen or quality it can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. Vitamin A supplements will really help modern game during this time. It’s found in Cod liver oil or green vegetables like broccoli. Broccoli is all natural and therefore a fantastic source of other vitamins and minerals. They will love eating it too. Raw vegetable’s contain more nutrients than cooked ones.
Ensure they have access to a good quality calcium source like oyster shells, usually just sold as chicken ‘grit’.
How much should I feed them?
Standard size modern game typically eat between 2.8-4.2oz. (80-100g) a day per bird. They will eat the high end of this maybe more in winter as discussed to keep warm and the lower end in a hot summer, but they will drink more.
Bantam Modern Game will eat less than their standard sized counterparts as they are smaller, so expect them to eat roughly half. Bantams are half the size so need half the space, eat half the feed portions – what’s not to like!
To supplement Modern Game feed, if the heat puts them off eating, you can use cucumber or watermelon as they are high water content fruits. This provides them with extra hydration to ensure they are happy.
What can’t they eat?
It’s the same for all chickens actually, two very bad foods are chocolate and beans. Dried beans are worse than non-dried. So be extra vigilant if feeding modern game birds scraps from meals, that no beans can sneak into their feeder. Or they can’t find any bean plants if they are free range. Both chocolate and beans can cause chickens to cardiac arrest due to an ingredient found within them.
What do I need specifically to keep Modern Game?
As mentioned before Modern Game are not a cold hardy breed. Its recommended to hang a heat lamp within the coop to keep them warm during the colder winter months. This should help keep the water from freezing too, so you may not have to invest in a heated waterer.
Running a 40/60W bulb will costs under $8 per month to run [being ran for 8 hours per night].
Dry bedding/litter within the coop will keep it warmer aswell during the winter and it will maintain good sanitary standards. Go for pine shavings or hemp as its better, and more preferred, than hay or straw.
Roosts should be made from something that isn’t going to freeze the birds feet to it. Something like a hard wood is best. Chickens feet when sleeping, unlike other birds, are flat. They won’t curl their toes around the roost bar. Make sure then that the bar is wide enough to accommodate a flat foot. Generally 2 inches width is plenty.
The bantams will like to roost high up, which can surprise most people who think because they are small they wouldn’t like to be off the floor. They generally will roost 3-4+ft. So ensure the coop has correct height roosts.
A great coop for Modern Game is the ‘OverEz’. It’s well built, with solid materials making it good and warm for winter. Good ventilation however ensures moisture can leave the coop, and the vents are placed in good locations i.e not in front of the roost bars which can place the birds directly in a draught. They would quickly catch cold if this was the case.
It has a sliver thermally reflective lined roof too which will cool the coop during summer by reflecting heat back out through the roof. Then during the winter will also keep it warmer.
It also has roost bars that are at two different heights, so great if you have a mixed flock of different breeds.
If you have bantams mixed with standard sized birds ensure, if you hang up your waterers, that they can drink from it. It should be hung at the back height of the birds. Its generally easier to have one specially for bantams so they don’t have to over reach and standard sized birds don’t have to crouch down.
I don’t like plastics aside from the environment aspect they just don’t last. Plastic splits and cracks, whereas a galvanized one will last years if not decades like ours has.
A fount won’t work well in the coop area as they spill a lot and will spoil the bedding if you place it down or worse, it can rot the floor of the coop. I’d go with a nipple style drinker. Founts are great for outside though.
Again I don’t think plastic lasts long enough, with all the pecking they just split. An excellent feeder is a grandpa style one. This reduces most peoples feed bill by half. It also stops vermin in their tracks.
Rats carry the mite that causes scaly leg mite in chickens. It therefore can’t be stressed enough with long legged birds to keep the vermin out. A grandpa feeder will re coop [pun intended] its initial investment, within the first year on the feed saved alone.
Winters and the cold can stress modern game birds if they aren’t warm enough. Scaly leg mite can lie dormant most of the year waiting for a stress trigger to occur so they can multiply in number. We have a page dedicated the Scaly Leg Mite, how to detect it and treat it.
With those lovely long legs you really want to do everything you can to take good care of them!
Modern Game Chickens For Sale
For really good high quality show birds your specifically looking for a ‘master breeder’. The best place to find one is through the modern game breed clubs or associations.
The US breed association website is here www.mgbca.org
The UK breed club is on Facebook
In Germany the breed club is online here www.modern-game.de