We select those eggs which are produced by tolerated healthy laying hens. Of course, they must be fertilized. The eggs should be of the standard size, weight, shape and color of the shell corresponding to the breed. Therefore, they should not be too large, they cannot have cracks or a special surface.
When collecting hatching eggs, we recommend that you mark on them with pencil the date when the egg was laid or from which laying hen. Hatching eggs are stored for a maximum of 14 days at a temperature of 10-13 ° C and a relative humidity of about 60%. Longer periods and unsuitable storage conditions reduce hatchability. Hatching eggs should be placed in an upright or horizontal position. It is good to rotate them so that the yolk does not drop to one end and thus so that the germinal target does not stick to the inside of the egg.
Hatching eggs prepared in this way are either laid under a good broom or placed in a hatchery. There is a wide selection of hatcheries on the market. From manual, where you have to rotate the eggs, to fully automatic.
Eggs in the hatchery are checked by illumination between the seventh and ninth day, on the sixteenth and nineteenth days. They shine in the dark. If the egg is fertilized, you will see red spider-shaped coils, and later a beating heart. If the egg is light, it has not been fertilized and you can throw it out of the hatchery. If you see only a dark spot, the embryo has died. If the egg is broken during this period, throw it out of the hatchery.
If you don’t have a proper instrument for checking the eggs, you can easily make your own. All you need is a box, electric wire and the bulb. Make a hole in the box, light up the bulb and place the egg on the hole of the box.
After hatching, the chickens do not know how to regulate their body temperature, so we must provide them with a suitable temperature of the breeding premises. Infrared lamps, ceramic lamps or a large light bulb are used.
Raising chickens with a hen has its pros and cons. The hen will protect the chickens from danger and predators, teach them to orient themselves in the environment, when choosing food and provide them with warmth. She will take care of 15 to 20 chickens. The biggest advantage is that they come into natural contact with pathogenic organisms, such as coccidia, and we do not need to be vaccinated. On the other hand, the hen does not grow when the breeder plans to do so.
Complete feed mixtures are available on the market from the first days until adulthood, with a complex of vitamins and drugs. With soy, even without soy. The composition varies, depending on the manufacturer. However, you can also prepare the feed mixture yourself. The chickens have a certain supply of nutrients from the yolk bag after hatching. This is enough for them to learn to eat and digest food for about the first three days. Chickens have been intuitively barking since the first days, so we give them corn grits that are easy to digest. It is good to put black tea in the drinker, at least for the first 14 days. It must always be fresh.
After three days, we also present them with a hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese. Later we will add sour milk (sourdough), finely chopped nettle, dandelion leaves. It is good that they also have access to the small stones or sand needed to create gastroliths to improve digestion. Fine sand or pigeon grit will suffice. We prefer to give them food several times a day in smaller quantities so that they consume everything and do not get dirty in it.
From day 14, we can give them a compound feed composed of approximately 60 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, 10 percent barley and 10 percent oatmeal. Supplemented with vitamins or other grains, such as sunflower, peas, naked oats or millet. Basic pigeon mixtures have such a varied composition.
From four weeks, the prepared feed mixture is served roughly shredded. At this age, they can go to the paddock, where they can find supplements of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. After six weeks, they can also receive some whole grains and concentrated leftovers from the kitchen. It is important that they still have enough clean water and grit.
At the age of 6 to 8 weeks, we give them the same food as adult hens. As they grow rapidly during this period, we also give them crushed bones. The most important thing is that the feed is never moldy, stale and spoiled. If we give the hens a sufficient amount of quality feed during the growing season, this will be reflected in their future laying.