Keeping hens

...In middle age





...Table chickens

...Rearing program

...- Quality

>..Multiplying chickens

...- Incubator

So far we have assumed that all the chicks, layers and fatteners, are being bought in.

You may well decide to breed and rear your own. In fact, the margin in cash terms of buying or home-rearing point of lay birds always seems very small. However, home-reared birds have a bonus they are often the most economic and prolific egg-layers. After all they have not had a traumatic move and a change of routine to adapt to; they are not faced with a whole new lot of bugs to contend with either. The same argument applies to chicks for fattening. Naturally it is only worth breeding from really good stock of a suitable breed. A chicken that naturally produces only a few eggs a year take as an extreme example the jungle fowl which only lays one clutch of around a dozen in a year is not going to produce an economic 300 eggs however much you feed her.

To produce fertile eggs cockerels are required. With a few hens, you need one cock to 8 to 12 hens. If you are running batches of 100 hens together, one cock to every 15 to 17 hens is sufficient. Hens in their second year tend to lay fewer but larger eggs. These eggs often hatch better than first-year ones. If you select the best looking of your first-year hens, keep them until they have finished moulting and then run the cocks with them, you should get an excellent result. The eggs will be fully fertile five days after the first mating; eggs laid will continue to be fertile for five days after the cocks have been removed. Fertile eggs can be hatched under a broody hen or in an incubator. You can tell a broody hen by its unwillingness to leave the nest: if you lift her up she will trot back again in a few minutes. She can hatch up to a dozen eggs quite happily. She will sit on them for 21 days.