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Basic Question Regarding Breeding

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm a new chicken raiser and have only raised my current flock which is 6 months old and just started laying, and a flock of broilers which of course is no longer around. I'm very interested in breeding and I'm currently reading several books on the subject. As I've been thinking about breeding I'm figuring out that one would have to be pretty skilled in integrating chicks and roosters if you're line breeding and rotating roosters. I've read where a lot of general flock owners avoid integrating like the plague since it's difficult and risky, but from what I can tell it's very necessary if you ever hope to have a successful program running. Also, with regard to chicks, do most people select eggs and incubate most of the time or do they let the hens brood chicks? I'd think you wouldn't want the hens doing the work because you may have to wait for a while to get hatchlings and you also wouldn't have as much control. Also I know some birds don't make good mothers, like Leghorns, so I'm guessing if you didn't incubate Leghorn chicks you may never get any hatchlings. Is this generally true and am I on the right track? Any info would be appreciated. 

post #2 of 7

I'm working on breeding a line of Easter Eggers that breeds true (no small task). When integrating, I get my chicks out in a grow out coop, near the adult coop, as soon as possible. They start having playtime in their grow-out setup at just a week old, weather permitting. By 3 to 4 weeks they are feathered in enough to stay out full time. Then they get to spend time in the adult run, while the adults free range. After a week, they are free to mingle with the adults. By 6 to 8 weeks they move in to the adult coop on their own. Once they learn to give the older birds space, it's pretty smooth. Since the chicks are so young, they aren't a threat to the pecking order like chicks over 8 weeks can be. The adults just ignore them for the most part. 

I only have one or two mature rooster at a time. Most cockerels are sold or eaten by the time they are 14 weeks old. That's one big thing to keep in mind. About half of each batch of eggs you hatch will be cockerels. You need to have a plan in place to deal with excess males. You also need to be prepared to end a chick's life if there is something seriously wrong with it. I've had malformed chicks, weak and sickly chicks, and chicks that just never did well. Ending their suffering was hard, but necessary. It's part of breeding any animal. Not all of them will be perfect and healthy.

I do use an incubator most of the time. Hens rarely go broody when you want them to. Some breeds never will go broody. I've only got one really good broody hen, and she's almost 2 weeks into raising her batch of chicks for this season. I choose the eggs that she gets to sit on and hatch. She does the hard part of raising the chicks. If you want broody hens to be part of your chick raising strategy, you should probably make sure you have a breed that does tend to go broody. Leghorns have had broodiness bred out of them, along with a lot of other high-producing breeds.

What's important to you for breeding goals? Do you want meat, eggs, or both? Are you wanting to breed 'ornamental' chickens that are mostly for pets? Is there a particular look that you want to breed for? Goals are important. With any breeding program, you need to know where you are going, so you can keep heading in that direction.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by junebuggena View Post
 

I'm working on breeding a line of Easter Eggers that breeds true (no small task). When integrating, I get my chicks out in a grow out coop, near the adult coop, as soon as possible. They start having playtime in their grow-out setup at just a week old, weather permitting. By 3 to 4 weeks they are feathered in enough to stay out full time. Then they get to spend time in the adult run, while the adults free range. After a week, they are free to mingle with the adults. By 6 to 8 weeks they move in to the adult coop on their own. Once they learn to give the older birds space, it's pretty smooth. Since the chicks are so young, they aren't a threat to the pecking order like chicks over 8 weeks can be. The adults just ignore them for the most part. 

I only have one or two mature rooster at a time. Most cockerels are sold or eaten by the time they are 14 weeks old. That's one big thing to keep in mind. About half of each batch of eggs you hatch will be cockerels. You need to have a plan in place to deal with excess males. You also need to be prepared to end a chick's life if there is something seriously wrong with it. I've had malformed chicks, weak and sickly chicks, and chicks that just never did well. Ending their suffering was hard, but necessary. It's part of breeding any animal. Not all of them will be perfect and healthy.

I do use an incubator most of the time. Hens rarely go broody when you want them to. Some breeds never will go broody. I've only got one really good broody hen, and she's almost 2 weeks into raising her batch of chicks for this season. I choose the eggs that she gets to sit on and hatch. She does the hard part of raising the chicks. If you want broody hens to be part of your chick raising strategy, you should probably make sure you have a breed that does tend to go broody. Leghorns have had broodiness bred out of them, along with a lot of other high-producing breeds.

What's important to you for breeding goals? Do you want meat, eggs, or both? Are you wanting to breed 'ornamental' chickens that are mostly for pets? Is there a particular look that you want to breed for? Goals are important. With any breeding program, you need to know where you are going, so you can keep heading in that direction.

Thanks for the info. My goal is to produce the best egg-laying chicken I can that is heat-tolerant and one of the heritage breeds. I currently have White Leghorns and Barred Rocks and I like them both a lot so they are on my list of birds I'd like to work with. I also like Dominiques an awful lot and they also are high on my list. Whichever variety I go with I'd prefer to get them from a breeder that has good stock to start with if they're breeding for layers. I've read that'll cut down on the time it takes to reach your goal but I don't know how many breeders focus on egg production; I'm thinking most probably are interested in show-birds. 

post #4 of 7

It's called the Black Australorp. They were developed in Australia, so they were intentionally bred for heat tolerance. They are also pretty great layers.

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by junebuggena View Post
 

It's called the Black Australorp. They were developed in Australia, so they were intentionally bred for heat tolerance. They are also pretty great layers.

I looked at them a while back thinking they might be just what I was looking for but then came across conflicting information. The write-up on The Livestock Conservancy said they don't go broody often and are champion egg layers. But then I read reviews on here and a few other websites and people said they were late maturing/laying and went broody often. Some of the pro's were that they had a good disposition but that alone wasn't what I was looking for. In contrast everything I read about Leghorns indicated they were excellent layers and very heat tolerant which I found to be very true with my birds. The Barred Rocks also were noted to be good egg layers which turned out to be very true in my experience as well. The BR's being a larger bird aren't quite as comfortable in the high temps as the Leghorns from what I've experienced, but 15 out of the 16 BR's I have aren't far behind; I only have one extra-large BR that seems a little more uncomfortable when the mercury goes above 100F than the rest in my flock. But yeah, if Australorps performed according to the Livestock Conservancy's write-up, and were very heat tolerant I'd certainly give them another look. I just don't know for sure if they'd outperform the BR's, Leghorns, or Dominiques.  

 

Have you raised them before? If so what was your experience?

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by ejcrist View Post

I looked at them a while back thinking they might be just what I was looking for but then came across conflicting information. The write-up on The Livestock Conservancy said they don't go broody often and are champion egg layers. But then I read reviews on here and a few other websites and people said they were late maturing/laying and went broody often. Some of the pro's were that they had a good disposition but that alone wasn't what I was looking for. In contrast everything I read about Leghorns indicated they were excellent layers and very heat tolerant which I found to be very true with my birds. The Barred Rocks also were noted to be good egg layers which turned out to be very true in my experience as well. The BR's being a larger bird aren't quite as comfortable in the high temps as the Leghorns from what I've experienced, but 15 out of the 16 BR's I have aren't far behind; I only have one extra-large BR that seems a little more uncomfortable when the mercury goes above 100F than the rest in my flock. But yeah, if Australorps performed according to the Livestock Conservancy's write-up, and were very heat tolerant I'd certainly give them another look. I just don't know for sure if they'd outperform the BR's, Leghorns, or Dominiques.  

Have you raised them before? If so what was your experience?
I've got both Barred Rocks and Australorps. My Rocks are better foragers, but they don't tolerate confinment well, and need more space. They get bored and grumpy if they don't have enogh to keep them busy. They do lay well though. My Australorps are more easy going. They don't mind smaller run spaces, they handle temperature swings better, they lay just as well as the Rocks, but they lay bigger eggs. My Australorps were the only hens this year to lay all through the winter. And the started laying at about the same time as the Rocks. Only one has gone broody, but she's a great momma, and she had a 90% hatch rate, which is better then most incubators do.

Also check out AustraWhites. They are an Australorp/White Leghorn cross.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by junebuggena View Post


I've got both Barred Rocks and Australorps. My Rocks are better foragers, but they don't tolerate confinment well, and need more space. They get bored and grumpy if they don't have enogh to keep them busy. They do lay well though. My Australorps are more easy going. They don't mind smaller run spaces, they handle temperature swings better, they lay just as well as the Rocks, but they lay bigger eggs. My Australorps were the only hens this year to lay all through the winter. And the started laying at about the same time as the Rocks. Only one has gone broody, but she's a great momma, and she had a 90% hatch rate, which is better then most incubators do.

Also check out AustraWhites. They are an Australorp/White Leghorn cross.

That's very good to know - thanks. I'll check out the whites. Sounds like a great cross.

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