If you think you have a love of poultry, if you have the time and space to put into it, and you want to provide others with high quality birds to raise on their own and have the same enjoyments you have found with your birds, consider breeding chickens. There are certainly a number of things to keep in consideration when embarking on such a mission, but with the right knowledge and tools you'll be set! Here are some quick tips to help you get started.
1. Hen to Rooster Ratio
You really only need one rooster no matter how many hens you have. However, it is important that owners realize that pairing or trio-ing your birds can lead to hen damage. They will begin balding in the back and can receive damage from the spurs. If you have the space, consider adding a few more hens so your rooster has to spend more time between the women. If you notice your women looking a little bald in the behind, check under their wings for damage from your rooster's spurs. This can often go unnoticed and untreated which can lead to infection.
2. Choose to be a breeder!
While it is perfectly fine to simply go into breeding your chickens for fun, you also want to make sure that you're providing the best for your chickens and their offspring. Look into the birds you are buying and make sure that they are the highest genetic quality possible. You will need to cull, or remove, chickens that have undesirable traits that you would not want passed on. Have a long term plan that includes knowing what you want your flock to attain, getting the best birds you can, keeping detailed and accurate records of lineage, and culling birds that have traits you do not want.
3. Reproduction Facts
Not every egg will be fertilized, and not all fertilized eggs are chicks right off the bat. In order for a fertilized egg to activate, it needs heat. This is why a hen can lay a single egg every day over the course of a week, then become broody and set and have all the chicks hatch at the same time. Until your hen sets, there isn't enough heat to activate the development process. This is a great thing for you, the owner, because it means you can store your fertilized eggs for a little while and then hatch them in an incubator! Allow your rooster ten days with your hens before collecting the eggs for incubating.
4. Meat or Eggs?
Decide which birds you want to produce. Do you want layers or do you want fryers? This is an important decision and you won't want to switch halfway through to the other option. If you go for layers, go hybrid. Bring in other breeds with an excellent laying history and use those to help boost your production.
5. Keep them healthy
Make sure that you provide a good diet as this helps keep both your birds, eggs, and chicks healthy. Protein is essential! Your rooster should court his ladies but not be a bully, just like a husband. All your chickens should be free of parasites and diseases before you begin. This extends to choosing the eggs you will hatch. Only hatch eggs that are the proper size, shape, color and texture. Read the standards for your breed so that you know what to look for.
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