There is no doubt it is a magical experience hatching your own chicks, watching the whole process is incredible, and there is nothing cuter than a day old chick or duckling! If you have been keeping chickens for a while it can seem like a natural progression, hatching your own, however, there are certain considerations to think about first. Hopefully this article will give you some food for thought!
Before You get an Incubator – What about Cockerels?
The burning question before even thinking of buying/making that incubator or setting eggs under a broody hen – what to do with the surplus boys?
Unless you hatch hundreds the ratio always seem to favour boys –this can be up to 70% Of course you might be lucky, but if you just need a few layers, think again and maybe buy a few days olds already sexed.
Getting rid of surplus cockerels is always hard. If they are pure bred, you might be able to find a few takers, breeders looking for new stock, however if they are not pure–bred it is very difficult.
The sad news is that if you off-load to a local auction they will more than likely find their way to the pot, or maybe even used as “practice” for the illegal sport of cock-fighting.
Start by researching the breed, do you know any breeders reasonably close who might be interested in a spare cockerel? Networking through local poultry clubs is a good place to start, you will have to join one to be able to advertise your spare stock though.
Don’t forget to check out our Breeders Lists
Research Your Breeder Before You BuyCheck where you purchase you hatching eggs from. Those wonderful, rare, gold-laced, chocolate, champion bred Orpingtons may hatch into something rather different if you are not careful! If possible, visit the breeder, see the parent stock and collect your hatching eggs. The health of the parent stock will have a major influence on the quality and vigour of the chicks, and believe you me, having to cull young chicks that don’t thrive or are too poorly is truly heart-breaking!
Of course you could always raise a few for the freezer, be prepared though to do the “deed” yourself or find someone competent and trained to do it for you. Have a look around for courses to how to kill and prepare for the table yourself.
Cockerels – They Crow!
Finally, cockerels will eventually “crow” and some may even start as early as 7 weeks old, this unless, you have no neighbours can increase the pressure to get rid of the birds quickly and be very, very stressful for everyone concerned.
While a cock crowing is a lovely natural sound far preferable to a ghetto blaster, however, at 4.30 am in the morning your neighbours might struggle to see it from that perspective. You have been warned!
Incubating, Hatching & Rearing
- Things to Consider Before Hatching Chicks
- Incubating Chickens & Ducks – Brief Guide
- Rearing & Sexing Chicks and Ducklings