Raising chickens: thinking ahead to the breeding season

Spring is just around the corner so we thought we’d do a few posts to help you get to grips with breeding your birds!

Whether you’re a first time chicken breeder or a more experienced “parent” to your flock you’ll no doubt be thinking ahead to the pitter patter of tiny feet this spring.

Breeding your own birds is a fantastic way to expand your flock and if you’re interested in rare breed poultry you could be helping to save almost extinct bloodlines.

But what do you need to think about before you start your breeding programme?

Are you ready for cockerels?

cockerel_genericBreeding chickens may result in around 50% of those eggs hatching cockerels so you need to decide how you’re going to deal with this.

Keeping multiple cock birds isn’t always a problem if you have enough room and enough hens to go around but as poultry breeders will tell you – unfortunately you can’t keep them all.

If you intend to breed pure bred birds, particularly rare breeds, you might find it easier to pass on surplus cockerels to others looking to expand their flock.

However, be prepared that you might need to find another “solution” to your cockerel problem if you can’t find them all loving homes.

Choose the right time of year

The spring is generally considered the best time to breed chickens as the weather gets better, fresh food is of a higher quality, and your chicks will be almost a year old by the time the winter comes around.

However, we all know the great British weather can sometimes play tricks on us so you’ll need to ensure your hens and chicks can shelter from the elements.

Speaking of housing…

Housing

You’ll need to consider the housing that you already have and whether this is suitable both for mating and for raising chicks once they hatch.

If you’re letting your cockerel mate with all of your flock then simply let him go about his business. However, if you want to mate specific birds, usually in a pair or trio, you might want to consider a purpose built breeding house and run like the one shown below.

BreedingHouse_Run4

You’ll need to ensure that the wire used on the run is small enough to contain the chicks – you don’t want them escaping and becoming lost! Many chicken breeders also like to use a run with draught boards to offer chicks extra protection from the wind.

IMG_1325

Feeding time

If you’re looking to start breeding within the next few months start feeding your hens and cockerel a high quality feed. They’ll need to be in peak condition to breed strong, healthy chicks

You’ll also need to source a supplier of good quality chick crumb and grower’s feed for after the chicks have hatched. They’ll start eating within 24 hours so it’s best to be prepared.

Chicken feed bucket

Stay tuned next week when we’ll be giving you a step by step guide to breeding your first chicks!