Successful hatching of chicken eggs starts well before the incubator is switched on, or even before the first egg is laid. Breeding stock must be healthy, strong and free of any internal of external parasites.
Nutrition of the breeder flock is really important. It should start at least about 4 weeks prior to setting the eggs in the incubator. The nutrition of the breeding stock impacts both egg quality and also impacts how the chick will develop its lifetime.
Core diet – 95%
Specialist breeding rations are available but difficult to source. Our recommendation here is to feed a high quality layers pellets as the flock’s main diet. In our experience 15% protein leads to the largest chicks, whereas an increase or decrease of protein can lead to chicks been smaller. Layers pellets should be available to the flock all day long, not restricted.
Scraps from the kitchen should cut out completely, if not reduced to enough that the flock eat up in a minute or two in the evening time. These scraps lead to unbalanced diet in the flock and can therefore impact on successful hatching.
Other Feed & Supplements– 5%
Oyster Shell Grit should always be available. Oyster shell grit is a soluble grit that will contribute to good egg shell quality. This is where the chick will develop so a strong healthy shell will be a much better environment than poor egg shell.
Oyster shell grit should be fed separately to the feed in a suitable feeder and available all the time to the flock.
A good poultry multivitamin will add the finishing touch to the diet and be well worth the small investment. This will help to build up the important vitamins in the flock.
It is important to make sure that hens are free of both internal and external parasites.
For internal parasites the flock should be wormed using a suitable product. A worm burden will impact upon the overall health level of the flock and fertility level in the cockerel.
External parasites such as red mites, scaly leg mite, northern fowl mite or lice should be eradicated at all times of the year. From a bird health and egg quality point of view they will impact upon how successful you are likely to be. Red mites will suck blood from hens leading to anaemia, and eventually to likely death. If a hen or cockerel is anaemic, it goes without saying that the eggs will be of very poor quality. To make matters worse, if the cockerel is anaemic he is likely infertile and no eggs will hatch!
Any other health issues should be sorted before the breeding season.
Housing of the breeder stock should be thoroughly cleaned and any major maintained complete prior to the start of the breeding season. This reduces the risk of disease and also is aimed to minimise the disturbance during the breeding season. Cleanliness should be maintained throughout the season and in particular in the nesting areas so that eggs are always clean when collected.
Key Points to remember
- Healthy breeding birds produce the most viable eggs.
- Good nutrition – impacts egg quality and chick development.
- Minimise disturbance by completing maintenance on the coop prior breeding season.
- Ensure you breeding stock are free of mites, lice and internal parasites prior to the season.
- Don’t neglect the cockerel. He makes up 50% of each chick so he needs to be in top condition.