Questions about Breeding from a Noobie

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Hayduke27, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Hayduke27

    Hayduke27 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 11, 2013
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    Hi all!

    I have had my flock for just about a year now, and things are going great. The chickens have pulled through the winter quite nicely, and as the days warm up, I have been getting chicks (of the chicken variety) on the mind.

    I have a mixed flock of 12, 11 hens and a rooster. The rooster has been breeding the hens for a few months now, and seems to be getting better at it. This leads me to questions:

    1.) The rooster is still pretty clumsy, and though I think he sometimes gets a full smooch in, I can tell that other times he just falls off before he can get the job done. I'm no expert and don't have a trained eye, but this early on is there still a decent chance he's fertilizing some of the hens? Surely he'll get better with age, and I don't want to incubate a bunch of my eggs if they are not fertile. I can see that he does not breed every hen, but there's a chance that if I kept an eye on who's laying, I could get some eggs from the hens that are being bred. Is this how all of this is done? Are there any tricks to this?

    2.) My rooster is a Welsummer. He's the only Welly, he's gorgeous, and I really like him. I live in a very cold climate, and after this first winter, have decided that I want future chickens to have small combs/waddles due to frostbite consideration. The welly has a huge comb/waddles. I was thinking that if he bred my light brahmas, those could be some neat offspring. I think they would be large, potentially have some nice coloring, and maybe the brahmas pea comb genes would take over? It would be combining the smallest of combs with the largest to see what happens. This seems insane to me, is this insane?

    Also on this note, I am a little worried about raising Welsummer/RIR crosses. I have 2 RIR hens, and though very friendly and sociable to me, they are not nice to the other chickens. They seek out weakness and want to destroy. I am worried if I crossed these with my rooster, I'd have huge, man eating chickens on my hands. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can tell the RIR eggs from the black sex links and the brahmas. Maybe I need to do some egg studying. Can I tell the brahma eggs from the others? My gut says they are the ones that are a little lighter in color, can anybody offer any suggestions to this effect?


    I haven't seen a lot of talk about breeding on BYC, at least in terms of specifics for beginners, so I thought I would ask these questions. I am just a casual backyard chicken guy, I'm not looking for perfect standards and will not be showing or selling my chickens. At the same time, I want good robust chickens, and don't want to start a new generation of mutts if it would be better to get pure breeds. I really like the brahmas, and if nothing else I might consider ordering some fertile brahma eggs for hatching. Would it be smarter of me to wait to breed until I have a flock that's a similar breed to the rooster?
     
  2. Hayduke27

    Hayduke27 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    P.S.- You can see the chicken variety I'm dealing with in my signature line.
     
  3. Hayduke27

    Hayduke27 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I guess my other question would be if it is worth getting a really nice incubator, or if a cheaper model can do the trick if attended properly?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I think you’ve asked some really good questions.

    This thread shows you how to look for the bull’s eye. You have to crack an egg to check it so you can’t hatch that egg, but if most of the ones you open are fertile most of the others should be. Sometimes that dot is on the bottom of the egg. Gently turn it with a spoon to look for it. I was in your position earlier this year with a fairly young rooster. Out of 28 I set, 26 developed so he was doing his job.

    Fertile Egg Photos
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=16008&p=6

    To make the comb genetics short, I’ll simplify it. The pea comb in the Brahma will be dominant over the single comb of the Welsummer. Your first generation will have pea combs. Any crosses after that could have either pea or single.

    While breeds have tendencies for egg color, each hen is an individual. Shade of the eggs is really complicated with a whole lot of different genes contributing to shell color. Unless the person selecting which chickens get to breed uses shell color as a selection criteria, bred tendencies mean even less. Don’t rely a whole lot on what shades they are supposed to lay, though it can be a clue.

    A hen “normally” lays a fairly consistent shell color, but not always. There are different things that can cause a rouge egg to be a totally different color, usually a lot lighter but not always. Also, the longer it has been since the molt or they started laying for a pullet, the lighter that egg will get. Just before the molt, some of mine get pretty light.

    With all that said, if you can see which egg a hen lays, you can often tell which hen is laying that egg by the color or shade. It’s not totally fool-proof but it’s a real good indication. Something else you might look for is size too. Again there can be variations day to day, but hens tend to lay about the same size every day.

    Some people really like purebreds for their own legitimate reasons, but the chickens farmers have been raising for thousands of years to feed their families with meat and eggs were practically always mutts. I like hatching my mutt eggs. I’m never sure what colors or patterns I’m going to get. And by selecting my breeders for the traits I want, I’m creating my own unique flock tailor to what I want. In a couple of years I should have a flock that is mostly black or red mottled that lays green eggs. Once I get that stabilized I’ll probably introduce a buff rooster and decide where to go to from there. I’m just having fun with it and not worrying about what other people think I should do. But that’s all personal preference.

    The old incubator question. Again that’s a lot of personal preference. Some people feel really strongly about that. In general the more money you spend the easier it is to use. Of course there are a lot of variations, but there are three basic types: cheap Styrofoam still (or thermal) air, middle range Styrofoam forced air, and more expensive plastic forced air. A lot of chicks are hatched with all of them. Some of them have different ways to control humidity, especially the more expensive ones.

    I like the forced air. That keeps the temperature the same throughout the incubator. Since hot air rises, you have to be more careful in a still air. I also really like my automatic turner. With it, I can go visit my granddaughter with eggs in the incubator. That’s a four day trip.

    A big difference in the styrofoam and plastic ones is ease of cleaning. You need to do a good job of cleaning the incubator after a hatch to keep from infecting the next round of chicks. Plastic is easier than Styrofoam. Plus when I take my Styrofoam incubator outside to wash it, I have to be careful if there is a strong wind so it doesn’t get damaged.

    I use a Genesis Hovabator 1588, a Styrofoam forced air with a turner. I control humidity by using different water reservoirs in a bottom plastic tray. That tray makes cleaning a lot easier. I’ll probably only hatch twice a year, depending in how many broody hens I get. If I were hatching many more times a year, I’d probably get a good Brinsea plastic one.

    We all have different goals, conditions, and set-ups. There are very seldom any cut and dried answers to much of anything to do with chickens. There are a whole lot of different things that work, a lot of which are just personal preference.

    Good luck and enjoy the adventure.
     
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  5. Hayduke27

    Hayduke27 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ridgerunner, thank you so much for taking the time to write that helpful response!
     

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