By Mike Walter – Westland, MI

(Reprinted from "ModenaTalk" discussion group, 12/11/03 – used with permission)

With some breeders starting to breed now, I thought I might put in some tips for the beginner.
Most of you are aware of these things, but new members might get some help here.

1. Never start pairing your birds until you have put your loft into perfect health. Vaccinate, debug, deworm, etc., before you think about pairing your birds.

2. Put timers in your breeding loft at least 2 weeks before you intend to breed. Start out with a
couple of extra hours of light in the early a.m. hours. Add a couple of hours to this daily until you have a total of at least14 hours of light. Make sure the extra light hours come before daybreak. You don’t want the lights to go off at night when the hen maybe off the nest (allow them to go to roost naturally – with natural light).

3. Trim the vents of both the cocks and hens. Be certain to leave the small "feeler feathers" that
are around the vent. If your bird has an extra wide head, trim the feathers around the eyes
(frontals). This will help the bird to see and eat, and it will do better breeding as well. John
Buehler has given me a great idea of using cordless beard trimmers for around the eyes, instead of scissors, as there is less chance of hurting the eye. The vent feathers are too coarse for this trimmer, however, and must be plucked or trimmed with scissors. (this step is not really
necessary for our saddle racing homers.)

4. Place your intended mates side by side, in separate cages, for 4 or 5 days before letting them mate. Seeing each other will stimulate the reproductive system and will let them get familiar with each other before placing them together. This will also allow the hen to start her egg cycle and will protect hens from getting beat up. And when you do place them together make a place where the hen can retreat if the cock gets too aggressive. A block of wood 4 inches high will help. But most pairs will be more than ready to mate after five days of being side by side.

5. Make sure the birds (especially hens) have plenty of calcium-rich grit available at all times.
This is what the hens use to make their eggs. Also, handle your hens gently, remembering that
they have fragile eggs in them now. Don’t loose patience and start roughing up the birds. Stress can make the hen lay soft-shelled eggs.

6. Make sure the nest bowls have clean fresh bedding in them. I like to use pine shavings and at least 4 inches of it. Additional bedding will hold heat longer and also prevent the eggs from

7. Don’t handle your eggs until they are 5 days old. This is when I like to do my first "candling." If  they don’t look fertile, re-check them 2 days later. I like to let my hens set their eggs (or dummy eggs) for at least 10 days – even if I "foster" the eggs out to foster parents. This will give the hen time to recover from the stress of laying. Many breeders remove the first egg and replace it with a dummy egg until the second egg is layed. This helps the babies to hatch more closely together. Some hens won’t set the eggs until the second egg is layed. In cold weather, the first egg will freeze during this time. So removing the first egg has many benefits. Keep the first egg from freezing, and turn it daily until you put it back in the nest. These are all good and proven ideas for helping you get a good start. The amount of daylight is  more important than the loft's temperature. If you intend to start early, extended artificial lighting is a must.               


Good luck with your breeding season and please share your experiences with others.

Mike Walter



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