Categorized | Chicken, Tips

Tips On Breeding Chickens

Introduction

Ingrid_BirdmanMore people are keeping chickens as pets, enjoying the benefit of fresh eggs as well as being able to get a taste of the country whilst living in the city. The keeping of chickens is relatively simple; however, the next step to keeping chickens as pets is to breed them. This can be a very satisfying hobby for adults and extremely educational for children.

First steps

The assumption is that you already have a draught proof, weather proof chicken coop that is capable of maintaining a reasonably consistent temperature. If you are in doubt place a thermometer in the chicken coop for a few days and record the temperature several times each day and evening.

In preparation, feed your hens a good quality supplement to ensure they are in perfect condition for laying eggs. Vetafarm Breeding Aid or a similar proprietary product will be ideal. The supplements should be fed at least 1 month before you intend to breed your hens.

Obviously you will need to have access to a cockerel, this may be your own or you may ‘borrow’ one from a nearby source. You should have a ratio of at least 3 hens to 1 cockerel to prevent the hens from being pestered by the male. Leave them together for a couple of days then remove the cockerel.

The Waiting Game

There is no way of knowing for sure that your hens are fertile, so once you have removed the cockerel you should assume that your hens will start laying fertilised eggs and stop collecting them for breakfast. During this time you should continue to feed your hens on high quality food and supplements.

Ensure that the eggs cannot be accidentally knocked out of the nest by making the nests as close to the ground as possible avoiding any draughts. During this time you may find the hens are reluctant to leave the nest and may fluff up their feathers. This is a good sign and means they are ready to incubate their eggs. During this time it is important that you do not disturb the hens too much, but at the same time you must continue to ensure they are in a clean environment and are fed and watered well. You should also remove any eggs that appear to be neglected. The hens will leave the eggs from time to time, to feed and to scratch, but the eggs should feel warm to the touch at all times. Eggs that feel slightly cold have been abandoned.

Hatching

Incubation takes approximately 21 days, during this time, whilst the hens are doing their work, you will need to ensure you have food for your new arrivals and are ready with a safe environment for them to be moved to in the case of rejection by the mother or other unforeseen circumstances.

Conclusion

After the incubation period you will start to hear sounds coming from the chicken coop. These may be scratching sounds which indicate the chicks are trying to hatch, or the first sign you may notice that there are live chicks in the coop may be the tweeting noises of the chicks or the urgent clucking noise of the hen. Be aware that the chicks may be picked on by other hens and their siblings too, and if this is the case remove them to your per-prepared environment and rear by hand.

This article was written by Jason Balchand who is an expert on chickens and other birds having bred them for several years. If you want more tips on pet keeping you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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