Advice on beginning breeding chickens, please!

My Pretty Pekins

Chirping
Apr 25, 2019
80
128
71
Hello!
First off, I'd like to apologize, because I am not sure this is the right place to post this, but anyway.

So I am a relatively experienced chicken keeper, and have dealt with chicks 3 times:
  • We purchased 8 Pekin Bantam day-olds (unfortunately 6 were cockerels, so we kept the 2 hens and the friendliest cockerel)
  • The Pekin cock and one of the hens had chicks (there were 5 of a clutch of about 7, only 1 died young, it was sickly anyway)
  • We purchased fertile eggs for the other Pekin hen when she went broody
So as you can see, I do know the basics of rearing chicks. However, I'd like to begin breeding them more.
Does anyone have any golden advice?
 
Nov 28, 2017
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Well, what are your goals for breeding them? Do you want to breed only one colour? Do you want to breed pet quality chickens or work towards a show quality line? How big of a scale will your breeding programme be? You can’t rely on the birds your breeding to brood the eggs (especially if you stay small scale but want constant eggs/chicks) as you’ll go through no egg periods, so are you set up to artificially hatch and raise chicks? If you explain your goals it’ll be easier, as advice differs with them.
 

My Pretty Pekins

Chirping
Apr 25, 2019
80
128
71
I would probably be focusing on 1-3 colors, and yes, it would probably be pet quality. Quality pet, but not show quality, if you see my point. It wouldn't be massive - I'd only hatch in spring/early summer, hoping for a few clutches each year. I am not worried about losing eggs, we keep a few full size hens for that. Does that help at all?
 
Nov 28, 2017
1,815
2,836
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UK
I’d start with one colour for now. Source non related chickens from good lines. I would start with at least 3 hens. Even though you’re keeping small, I’d invest in an incubator and brooder, it’ll pay to have those if you don’t get any broody hens or if something goes wrong with a broody.

Before, I meant that if all your hens do go broody you’ll go through a good couple of months with no hatching eggs from them. So it may be beneficial to break broody hens and incubate the eggs at first, then allow them to brood when you’ve got some chicks and growers ready.

Quality feed is a must. Male chickens shouldn’t really eat layers, especially those for breeding, so it’d be worth while buying breeder pellets or feeding chick crumb continuously and providing oyster shell for the hens.

A big coop and run is best. You don’t want stressed hens or a crowded coop.

Also, trim the Pekin’s butts! I’ve bought so many Pekin eggs from ‘breeders’ who don’t even do simple things like that. Pekins are very fluffy so sperm can get trapped in the feathers. I bought 6 mottled eggs last year, all empty!

Then once you’ve learned from your starter group, expand to more colours and bigger flocks. And research what colours are in demand in your area.
 

My Pretty Pekins

Chirping
Apr 25, 2019
80
128
71
Thank you for the thorough advice. Would you mind giving me a few more tips about sourcing them? Of course I understand what is meant by non-related, but I take it I'd have to be quite careful when I mingle them. If I began with 3-5 hens and one cock, would that serve, do you think?
Also, how much do you think is good to trim? I don't mind them looking a little odd, but I do not want to hurt them.
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,468
22,714
906
southern Michigan
Small breeding groups can work, but you will need outside birds occasionally because of that small gene pool.
Aim for the breed standard, even though you won't be showing, because good looking birds are just nicer to look at, and will sell better. Don't sacrifice temperament, fertility, or broodiness for looks though.
If you want to get really serious about it, you need to separate and identify your individual bird's offspring, rather than just do flock mating. It involves having your one excellent rooster breed the hens, and identify each hen's offspring, so you have three to five different breeding lines. Then, save the best breeders from each line, so you continue separate family groups.
This is a poor description; look up "A Conservation Breeding Handbook" from the ALBC, it's very helpful.
Whatever you do, have fun with it!
Be good about culling for physical or mental flaws, don't reproduce problems.
Mary
 

My Pretty Pekins

Chirping
Apr 25, 2019
80
128
71
I only have a couple more questions unanswered now.
  1. What is the best and most painless (for me and the chicken) way to cull if there are serious defects?
  2. What sort of coop should I buy? It MUST be easy-to-clean and have room for at least 12 bantams
  3. Does anyone have any advice on the 'different breeding lines'?
  4. How often should I be outcrossing?
Thank you all so much!
 

Acre4Me

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2017
3,380
7,190
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Western Ohio
To cull means to remove, not necessarily to kill. You can sell the ones you don’t want to keep.

Sometimes you do have to euthanize a young chick with an obvious issue: missing or underdeveloped parts (it happens), genetic issues like scissor beak, etc. Young or old, generally cervical dislocation is considered bloodless - pull the head away from the neck, many cite using a broom handle on older birds to hold the head still with your foot on the broom handle and pull the body away. Birds are more calm in a darker setup, so putting them into a darkened area prior to this can get them calm, then you can keep them calm by keeping any noise low and have definite and quick movements. One bad moment in an otherwise good life.

what breed do you want to focus on? If there is a club, see if they have a directory. Where are you located, maybe other know of a breeder in your area/region.

coop: generally best to build your own or modify a shed. However, you want bantams, so you might do ok with a large/sturdy pre-built one. It’s just that the boxes on the kits usually grossly overstate the number of birds it can hold. A farm store near me sells handmade coops from a local family, so maybe a similar resource near you.
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,468
22,714
906
southern Michigan
Premade kit coops are generally awful, avoid them! A garden shed, with modifications, works well. For separating breeding groups, you will need pens for pairs or trios at least, and then areas for chicks and youngsters being integrated into the flock. Hens can keep sperm for almost three weeks after mating, so having breeders separated for three week at least is necessary to make sure that the right cock bird is siring the chicks.
In flock mating, you might not care, but plan ahead!
Small birds doesn't make you smaller, so have a walk-in structure, and space, not minimum for your flock. Bigger is always better!
I agree, start with one color, and see how it goes.
Notice that I'm doing WHITE Chanties, not those beautiful and complicated partridge!
Mary
 
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