A Beginner's Guide to Breeding Chickens in Your Smallholder Flock

Every chicken keeper with a backyard flock dreams of breeding and hatching chicks. It can be incredibly rewarding, but there are plenty of factors to consider before you dive in.

Smallholder Feeds
Smallholder Poultry

Chickens are, for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on, addictive. If you keep hens for any length of time, and they provide you with nice fresh eggs every day, it won’t be long before you start contemplating the fact that each egg contains a potential chick, and with that, the realisation that you can expand your flock.

Since I began my chicken-keeping adventures a couple of years ago I’ve had a couple of attempts at hatching chicks, with what I think I’ll describe as mixed results. I made a few mistakes, I’m not ashamed to admit.

In year one I had the bright idea of hatching pheasant eggs in an incubator. This did not go terribly well. I bought some eggs from eBay - my first mistake - and set about trying to decipher the entirely baffling instruction manual to my third-hand incubator.

Despite the fact that the instructions had apparently been translated from Mandarin, into Sanskrit and thence into English by someone whose first language was Klingon, eventually and after a great deal of swearing, the machine was whirring away. Four weeks later, and much to my surprise, three of the six eggs started to pip (the term for when a chick starts to break out of their shell.)

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