Once your hens have laid eggs, you’ll need to make up your mind whether you’re going to hatch them naturally or with an artificial incubator. Use an artificial incubator if you’re looking to sell the broods, or you have too many eggs to hatch. On the other hand, allowing Mother Nature to do her job, i.e., letting the eggs incubate or hatch naturally is the best way to enlarge your poultry farm.
However, many poultry farmers do not adopt the natural process because they’re apprehensive a proportion of eggs will give birth to cocks. Nevertheless, it cannot be disputed that hatching pullet eggs naturally is the most effective means to expand your flock. Also, the natural incubation procedure gives birth to chicks that grow up to be healthy and vigorous hens and roosters.
You’ll require chicken breeds with excellent brooding traits that’ll sit on the eggs for 21 days for natural hatching. It would help if you kept in mind that not all the breeds you have in your farm are “broodies.” Some kinds of hens have an inherent or innate desire to perch on the eggs for the entire hatching period.
The eggs that you’d want to hatch naturally are known as “setting” or “clutch,” and the “sitting” hen goes broody once it has laid about a dozen.
First Determine Which Breeds are Ideal for Brooding or Incubating
Remember, not all breeds of poultry are not ideal for brooding or hatching. There’s a high likelihood that many breeds in your farm will not take any interest in sitting over the hatched eggs. Some chicken breeds tend to be more “effective broodies” compared to the rest.
Chicken breeds that are regarded by poultry farmers and homesteaders as the best broodies include Brahma, Asil, Cochin, Dominque, and Delaware. Some other popular broodies are Barnevelder, Dorking, Holland, New Hampshire Red, Japanese, Sussex, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Silkie, and Rhode Island Red. Never compel a hen breed to perch if she has not been reared as a broody; the chicken may not be willing to sit for three weeks at a stretch.
Choose a Breed with Good Broody Traits
There’s nothing you can do to make a breed of hen become broody-it’s an essential attribute that some breeds have, and others don’t. If you want to incubate eggs and breed hens naturally, then you’d be better off choosing reputed broodies such as Jersey Giant and Old English Game. Even after selecting chicken breeds that are recognized for their brooding quality, there’s no guarantee that they’ll sit on the eggs for full three weeks.
So all you can do is wait and see what happens in the long run. If you have never experienced the natural incubation procedure, you can bet you’ll like to watch how hens behave when they perch. She’ll sit upon the eggs quietly and patiently for hours at a stretch, and leave her roost only once in a day.
She’ll leave her perch on time every 24 hours to drink, eat, and poop. You’ll catch her sitting puffed up over the eggs for the better part of the day. She’ll peck and hiss at you if you come anywhere near her and try to drive her away from her roost.
You’ll need healthy cocks or male fowls for breeding chickens
At the outset, you’ll need healthy cocks or roosters to fertilize the eggs from which the chicks will emerge. Of course, you’ll not need the male fowls to make the hens lay eggs, but roosters are indispensable for hatching the eggs into broods. You enjoy several benefits when you raise and keep some roosters in your flock.
For a start, the male chickens will guard the rest of your flock, protecting the hens and chicks from predators. Roosters and cocks help promote and maintain the natural selection process associated with your congregation. Nevertheless, you should take note that the cocks will not help in fertilizing all the eggs laid by the hens.
Ensure to always go for purebreds
You’ll want to go with pure breeds of pullets if you’re going to turn your poultry farm into a money-spinning venture. So make sure you steer clear of mixed breeds if you want to turn the results to your advantage. The first step comprises selecting two purebred chickens and giving them the space to breed at their convenience.
Buy a flock, say 12-15 pure breed hens and roosters, and let them breed naturally at their own pace.
For best results, see to it that you house the different chicken breeds separately.
Give full leeway to mother hens to brood
Allow the mother hens to sit on the eggs as long as they like to and make them feel as comfortable as possible. The idea is to make the mother hens feel thoroughly safe and secure while they’re roosting. After all, you’ll not want them to get up and walk away from the incubating eggs just when the hatching process is about to conclude.
Place water and food close to the mother hen but do not position them too close, or else she might spill them accidentally over the eggs. In time, the chicks will hatch, and you can stay rest assured that their mother will take good care of the broods.
Check out the incubation from time to time
Do not get disheartened if all ‘clutches’ or ‘sittings’ do not fertilize, and hatch-it is a normal part of natural incubation. Do not expect chicks to come out from all the eggs even if the broodies have sat on them for 21 days at a go. Some chicks will die inside the eggs while some will perish after hatching, and then again, some eggs may not hatch at all.
Provide proper nutrition to both the mother and her chicks
For the first few weeks following the hatching of eggs, ensure to feed the broods, and mother hens the same starter food. Anyway, you’ll not have any other option other than offering the same feed as the mother, and her chicks will stay together.
Take your time in acquainting the broods with the flock
To stay on the safe side, it is better if you keep the freshly hatched broods wholly segregated from the rest of the poultry. Once the chicks are about 5-6 weeks old, introduce them to your flock, starting with 10-12 broods. After you notice that the initial batch is getting along well with the flock, release the remaining chicks into the fold.