Part of Raising backyard chickens is to be able to raise chickens to breed. You could have a whole organic range free chicken farm on your homestead in no time if you breed in the right conditions!
Raising Chickens to Breed
There are two forms of basic care for chickens: breeding and brooding. Maybe you will only do one of the two, maybe you’ll do both. If you are breeding a flock, your primary concern will likely be the supply that they can give to you. You don’t have to worry about up keeping a flock if you plan on buying chicken every so often as replacement layers. Small families like to breed on occasion because it’s easier and works with a land of any size. It is one method that works well because you get the chicken as you need them with less worry of maintenance. However, whether you live in a big or small area, you can still hatch eggs from the beginning if it is your preference. This method is just as good for families who are looking to have a sufficient amount of meat and eggs pretty much around the clock. If you are looking for chicken that are great layers you can choose to raise your chicken in a mechanical brooder or naturally; the choice is completely up to you.
8.1 – Brooders
A brooder is a hen who wants to hatch their eggs. This event can last for a few weeks, several times a year. This situation could be breeder’s worst nightmare if they bought this chicken specifically to produce eggs continually. The ability to lay an abundant number of eggs is important to commercial producers and families who are solely interested in how many eggs they can provide.
Owners will turn to natural brooding if they are away from their home often or do not have as much free time to get involved in the process. When chicks are born, they usually stay with their mother for about two weeks. After that, they are keen on exploring and making new friends. To protect those cute babies and the chicken from wandering off too far, you can provide them with a brooding pen to keep from free from predators. A brooding pen is mini chicken coop that provide just enough space for hen and her chicks. You do not require much space to build a pen. All you need 3×3 square feet of space. You could even use the inside of a clean drum or a little doghouse as a pen if you wanted to. When you install your pen, do it in an area where prey cannot attack them. You can alternatively surround the coop with mesh or a wired fence. The box is a favorable pick because it can host plenty of chicks in a small amount of space. A hen does not foster her eggs alone – she can be raised to take care of any chick you give her, even of bird that is a completely different species. You can increase the probability both sides will accept one another if you place the youngster beneath the hen during nightfall. You will want to be awake and prepared in case your plan didn’t work as you expected. Whatever tactic you choose to do you will know the hen accepts a youngster if she rushes to its call when in distress covers her wings over it or gives it food. If you want to keep your chicken away from brooding or you enjoy doing it yourself, you could get a box and battery or area brooder instead of the pen. A box brooder is comprised of metal or metal and plastic with heat, light and a feed built in. The heat source is called a hover. The metal trays are removable and are organize in a stacked manner. The more trays you have stacked vertically, the more chicks you can brood. After about weeks of ages, chicks can no longer live it at as they grew too big for it.
The area brooder is another type of mechanical brooder. It has one thing the box and battery box doesn’t: it is highly expandable. You and not only brood hundreds of chicks at a time, you no longer have to be concerned they will grow out of it anytime soon. The hover on this brooder hangs from the ceilings. When it is on, you will see your chicken start to gather around the heat source. The feeders and waterers are usually located around the edges or at the center of the heat source so the chicks can see them. If you are using this type of brooder, make sure to place a guard around it, so the chicks do not venture off away from the heat source.
You can easily make this kind of brooder as well. You can either use a hefty cardboard box or with an adequately sized plastic bin. For easy protection, you could get one that has a snap on-lid (ventilated of course) to keep them safe from predators. Since plastic tends to attract moisture, make sure to clean it at least each week. Plastics can get hot easily so you will need to watch your chicks comfort level.
Brooders are meant to keep chicks secure, fed and warm and minimize any distress or sickness from occurring. A good tip to reduce stress on your chicks is to approach and pick them up from the side, not from above. This way they are aware you are coming, and they are not frightened because surprise does not occur. When you initially brood your chicks, you should keep the temperature around 95 degrees Fahrenheit and drop it by five degrees each subsequent week after until it matches the temperature in the environment. You will know whether or not your chicks are comfortable or not with the temperature. If they are not feeling warm they will pile on top another; if they are hot, they will move away from brightness, along the edges and eat less. Perfectly cozy chicks are simply happy and musical. For the first few days, chicks do not require much space between each other, but as they grow older and more active, space requirements are necessary. You want to do this slowly and start the space gap at half a foot. Small bantam birds will not need as much space, but big broilers will need more. Know which breed you are taking take to determine the size. If you see very little room for them to move, dirty brooder floor or provisions that finish quickly, they are ready to expand. They are the type to be afraid when you move them to an unfamiliar area so for the first couple of nights you will want to keep the lights low and check on them.
8.2 – Breeders
People will choose to become breeders because it allows them to produce meat eggs on their own for their family, develop quality show birds or to preserve an endangered breed. There are two groups within the small scale chicken circle of people who hatch and collect eggs: the multipliers, who have a higher affinity for quantity and the breeders who have a higher affinity for quality. Both of them hatch plenty of eggs. As the name states, multipliers have a sole goal of producing a large number of chicks. Though the breeder produces a lot of chicks, the result is what is most important. The more chicks they can grow, the more they can cull, or slaughter for meat. Breeders research genetics heavily to have a better quality stock while multipliers just leave everything up to the rooster and hen.
Chicken owners who become breed layers decide a hen’s worth by looking at the approximate number of eggs a particular family line lays. This method gives an accurate determination as to whether or not a hen’s offspring is likely to have good laying ability – even if the mother did not. A “good layer” is not a heritable trait that is determined by genes. It is rather passed directly between a hen and her chicks. If a hen were to have a less than average production, even if she was an incredible layer, she might not be able to pass it on to her daughters. Don’t forget to look at the males as well. For any breed, you should pick the make from your most active hens for best breeding. A good cock has a wide back and adequate space between its pelvic bone and keel. If you are not concerned about the whole genetics or family line talk, in the least you should know what chicken are the best breeders (as mentioned in chapter one). Those who breed for meat, look for good broiler chicken that naturally grows faster than the average chicken. A broiler has a wide back, deep body, wide breasts, and spacious heart girth. If you wish to breed your broiler birds on your own, there are methods. Small families widely use flock breeding or own dual purpose and layer birds. Pedigree breeding is namely for exhibition purposes and aims to recover endangered species. Line breeding is breeding that particularity looks at families for superior offspring. You may choose to raise pure breeds, hybrids or can mate both of them for a desirable characteristic.
That was Chapter 8: Raising Chickens To Breed from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Backyard Chickens