Chicken Breeding

Chicken Breeding

Springtime is the time to start preparing for breeding chickens. Before breeding proceeds, you will need to ensure your flock is in good health to prevent any issues occurring after hatching. 

You can decide which of your flock will be breeding and treat them for worms before eggs are incubated and check them all for mites, lice and other parasites, which could lead to loss of condition.

Sharp spurs on cockerels can seriously injure hens during mating. Check them and trim them if necessary.

Check for other general health concerns like respiratory and lameness, and their diets to ensure peak rates of fertility and health. Do not over-feed breeders because overweight hens will produce less eggs and cockerels will struggle to mate.

Consider your flock for previous fertility rates and successful hatching rates and poor fertility and hatching before deciding which ones will breed. Try not to inbreed as this can result in weaker immune systems and deformities.

So not to stress out and overwork the cockerels and hens, do not try using too many hens to one cockerel.

Your cockerel/s and hens should be in a separate breeding pen two weeks prior to egg collection, so that the intended mothers and fathers are used. If they have already been mixed, you may need to separate them for a month or so beforehand.

The first few eggs laid by a hen will be small and of poor quality, wait for further eggs and only use clean, undamaged eggs for incubation. Dirty eggs should not be cleaned or used due to infection, potential disease and deformation.



The next step is to collect and store your eggs. Always write on your eggs; with a pencil, the date collected. Eggs should be stored blunt end up. During storage eggs should be kept at 75% humidity. The temperature needs do vary with the eggs age. In the first week the temperature should be 20ºC, the second week 15ºC and the third week the temperature should be at 12ºC. After three weeks the eggs should be discarded as hatchability will decrease rapidly.

Once you are ready to set your eggs make sure you keep good hatching records.

This will allow you to help track down the cause of any problems with hatchability should they occur during the breeding season. 

You can either incubate your eggs for hatching or use a broody hen to do the work for you.

The hen should be introduced to the fertilised eggs at night time and no more than 12 eggs, ensuring she is fully covering them all. This period takes approximately 3 weeks and when the hen has left the nest you can discard any unhatched eggs.

The hens and chicks should be kept in a separate location for approximately 6 weeks, providing a warm and dry environment away from the flock and provide chick feed and water. After about one week, the chicks can go outside onto short grass in a secured area.

After 6 weeks, you can introduce them to the rest of the flock but keeping a close eye on them. Hens will generally protect the chicks but look out for any anti-social behaviour and separate them for a bit longer if need be.

Throughout the whole of the breeding process, your flock should be watched closely for any aggressive behaviour that can occur during mating season.


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