When should I start breeding?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by BackyardDove, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

    233
    8
    64
    Oct 8, 2014
    Central Texas
    This is my first time breeding chickens and I want them to have a good first batch, so I want to try and do this as perfectly as a first-time chicken breeder can. I have three Silkie hens and one Booted Bantam hen who are all 10 months old now. They've laid eggs and have learned the proper places to lay, but haven't shown any signs of wanting to brood. I think this may be a lighting issue, the nests I have were intended to just be used as a place for hens to lay and not really a place for them to lay and incubate eggs. I'm going to try and see if I can maybe make that area darker for them, but if anybody have suggestions or advice regarding why they aren't brooding, I'll be more than happy to listen!

    Anyways, the roosters and hens are separated into two different pens. I did this because I don't want the Booted Bantam crossing with a Silkie and I don't want the Silkies to breed with the wrong color. I have a small breeding area for them though. I figure I should put them into this area for a couple days, then switch to the next pair. I want the hens to raise the chicks themselves, so I've sheltered a part of the hen area in case of a storm and so that I can put heating lamps out there until summer starts. Summer temperatures around here can easily reach the 100's, so I figure heating lamps at that temperature is a bit overkill. I'll keep the chicks for about a month, then sell them. I'm waiting to sell them because I learned first hand how hard it is to raise day old Silkie chicks from the store and I figure it's really not healthy for them to be moved around so much after just being hatched. Aside from this, I don't know what else I can do to help ensure the chicks will survive nor do I know if I should go ahead and breed my hens. I realize they are of age to breed for normal chickens, but since Silkies take so long to mature and my hens were no exception, I don't know if it's safe to go ahead and breed them. If anybody needs to know, I live in central Texas. Thank you!
     
  2. dheltzel

    dheltzel Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    4,161
    701
    261
    Nov 30, 2013
    Pottstown, PA
    A few notes, you can research these for more info.
    1. Convincing any hen to go broody is an exercise in frustration. I've found the only go broody the day after you give up and buy an incubator, LOL. They will go broody when they want, possibly all at the same time and then you will have no eggs to set.
    2. Heat lamps are never needed if you have a broody hen, even in the depth of winter, even in North Dakota, but especially not in Texas.
    3. Separating the breeds and colors is a good idea to maintain purity, but a hen can save sperm for weeks and so you need them to be more or less permanently separate to ensure parentage.
    4. If there are fertile eggs being laid (you can examine the germ cell on the yolk of an egg before you cook it to see - pictures in other posts on this site), you can hatch them. It's no extra stress to the parents (obviously), and the chicks are still gonna live (at least most of them).
    5. I have never found silkie chicks to be any harder than other breeds to raise. Smaller chicks might present a bit more of a challenge initially, but it's far from hard if you know the basics. In my experience, weak chicks are the result of inbreeding or delayed hatching from lower than optimal temps. The stragglers in my hatches are the ones that dies early, especially if I have to help them out, but a certain percentage survive, making it worthwhile to give them a chance, though perhaps those should not become breeders.
     
  3. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

    233
    8
    64
    Oct 8, 2014
    Central Texas
    Thank you very much! I do keep them permanently separated. The only time they are put together is when they will be bred. Perhaps I just had bad luck, but in the first batch of about 5 only 1 survived.The next batch I got was about 10 and none survived. This last batch I got 10 months ago had 11 and only two died.

    I have another question. How often should they breed? I don't plan to breed them very often, but it would be nice to know if there is indeed a grace period between raising and breeding again. Like I said I plan to have the chicks stay with the hens for a month, so after that month is it safe for them to breed again or do they need a resting period?
     
  4. dheltzel

    dheltzel Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    4,161
    701
    261
    Nov 30, 2013
    Pottstown, PA
    I'm a little confused about how you are going about this, perhaps I should give an example of what I do. I have a pen that is 4 x 6 feet inside one of the coops. It has a roost area with a "poop board" under it, and a double nest box and feeder under that. There is a black copper Marans rooster and 4 hens in there. They have been together since birth, growing up with about 20 other chickens of other breeds, and getting separated into their own pen last November. They are always together and get along great. The roo breeds the hens every day, at least, and the eggs are all very fertile. If the hens want a rest from laying they take it, I don't average 4 eggs a day, more like 2, but that is good enough for my purposes.

    Why were you planning to separate them?
     
  5. BackyardDove

    BackyardDove Chillin' With My Peeps

    233
    8
    64
    Oct 8, 2014
    Central Texas
    The roosters and hens I have get along and were raised together. I separated them a few months back to prevent crossbreeding. Their pens are right next to each other, so they can still see each other. When I do sell the chicks, I don't want to tell the person buying them that I don't know who the father is and I don't know what color they might turn out to be. I have 4 hens and 5 roosters. 1 Black Silkie hen, 1 Black Silkie rooster. 1 Buff Silkie hen, 1 Buff Silkie Rooster. 1 White Silkie hen, 1 White Silkie rooster. 1 Black Booted Bantam hen, 1 Black Booted Bantam rooster. The fifth rooster is a Silver Partridge and will be used when I feel comfortable with experimenting with the colors he might produce with a black, white, or buff hen. I didn't intend to get a pair of each, that's just how they turned out. I can't keep all the chickens together because of the possibility of colors or breeds mixing though. Aside from just wanting pure colors and breeds, the rooster/originally the horse pen was not designed nor can it be altered to accommodate breeding hens. The other chicken area where the hens live isn't big enough for 10 chickens to live in either. Both of the chicken areas are free range, there are no coops, only a roosting area. The other issue is that, before I separated them, my hens were becoming very stressed from several roosters constantly attempting to breed. There is not enough room in the yard, and I don't have the money, to build 4 extra areas just to keep a rooster and hen together permanently. So, what I plan to do is use a small, fenced off area in the rooster pen as a breeding area, where I will put the desired hen and rooster in together for a couple of days.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by