Did you already think about how you want to breed your chickens?
Well, if you just start keeping chickens, you’ll probably prefer natural breeding. The advantages of this method are that you do not have a lot of work with the chicks because the mother hen does all the rearing and that it is also better for the chicks to grow up with a real mother. Disadvantages are that you cannot control the date when chicks should hatch out and that you can only breed about 10 eggs per hen.
Well, no matter whether you prefer natural or artificial breeding, let’s first talk about the natural way:
In general you breed heavy races in January, light-to-heavy races in February and light races in March. The appropriate time for breeding varies depending on the climate. Living in the Black Forest, we don’t breed chicks before March when it is warm enough for them to go out.
It is easy to recognize if a hen wants to breed. She makes special sounds and sits on the nest the whole day. So you should prepare a separate nest for her out of the reach of other hens. The nest should be fixed in a dimly lit corner of the hen house, which will calm the hen. After sitting on the nest for two or three days you can give the hen the eggs. You should give her the amount of eggs that she is easily able to cover and warm.
The eggs should be as fresh as possible and in no case older than four weeks. If you don’t already have enough of them you should save them in a fridge with a temperature of about 8 to 12 °C . It mustn’t be colder than 5 °C because otherwise the eggs would lose their ability to develop. Everyday you should rotate them at least two times so that the egg yolk doesn’t stick to the eggshell. If you got the eggs by post, you should leave them rest for 48 hours before you give them to the hen because this facilitates the development of the germ.
After you gave the eggs to the hen, you should lift her from the nest once every day, so that she can eat and drink and perhaps take a bath in the dust to clean her feathers and to protect her against lice. You should feed her only grains because they fill her stomach better than siftered food.
If it is not possible to let the hen sit in the hen house you may also save a place for her in the cellar or in the washhouse. In this case you can prepare food and water for her at a distance of one meter and she will take care for herself. On the 7th day of brooding, you can X-ray the eggs to sort out the eggs that have no germ. Eggs without a germ are still clear while the others look like a spin cob because of the blood vessels.
On the 20th day of breeding the chicks will hatch out and on the 21st day all the chicks should be ready to leave the nest.

Artificial brooding
First carefully read the operating instructions that came with your breeder and then switch it on. If there are several shelves you have the possibility to arrange the eggs of different hens. If there aren’t any of these shelves you can easily make them yourself of carton or wood.
If the device does not rotate the eggs automatically, you should rotate the eggs at least two times a day. Ideally, rotate them eight times. Breeding by X-Raying is not different from natural brooding.
When the chicks are hatched out, you can mark them with a felt-tip until you have rings to identify the chicks.

The picture shows a breeder with eggs on rolls. The blue stick rotates them automatically the whole day.

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