Reproduction of the hen: sexual maturity, cycle

Are you attracted to the idea that your hens are breeding and raising their chicks? But you run into practice because you don’t know how to go about it. When is a hen ready to have chicks, when is she fertile, what are the precautions to be taken …? All your questions will be answered in this article which takes stock of the things you need to know to start breeding chickens.

When can a hen have chicks?

It’s pretty simple to know: a hen is ready to have chicks when she begins to lay eggs. You probably know that a hen does not need a rooster to lay eggs.

The age of his sexual maturity depends on the species to which it belongs. A hen reaches it between the 17th and the 25th week of life, the average being around 20 weeks. Once the mechanism is underway, most of the time, the following two spawning patterns are observed:

  • either the hen lays 1 egg per day for 3 consecutive days, then rests for 1 day before starting to lay again,
  • or the hen lays 1 egg per day for 7 days, then rests for 2 days before resuming laying.

These patterns are disrupted with winter: during colder periods, laying slows down and may even stop. These seasons are therefore clearly not the most favorable periods for the reproduction of hens.

Light (and more exactly UV) is an important influencing factor:

  • the frequency of spawning,
  • and mating between rooster and hen.

Mating rooster and hen

You are not going to intervene to mate the rooster to a hen. This does not happen as in the reproduction of purebred horses where the man presents the breeding male to the mare to be fertilized. In the henhouse, everything happens naturally. Before mating, and depending on its temperament, you may be able to observe the rooster performing courtship displays to seduce the hens. It’s not always the case. When the hen is convinced by the demonstration, she squats down and accepts that the male gets on her. We then say that the rooster “nicks” the hen.

The reproduction of gallinaceae takes place without penetrating one organ into another. Mating consists only in bringing the cesspool of the rooster with that of and of the hen, moment which lasts only one minute at most and during which the spermatozoa are deposited at the entrance of the cloaca of the hen. They then walk for about 24 hours in the reproductive duct of the hen. The end of the road is at the level of the reproductive cell, the ovum.

This mode of reproduction is highly efficient. The released egg can only be fertilized for an hour, but the hen can store sperm in the oviduct. It is estimated that a mating can fertilize eggs up to 3 weeks later. In addition, 1 rooster can impregnate several hens: in the case of a breed of light hens, a rooster can impregnate 10 hens, for heavier breeds of hens, a rooster can only impregnate 6 hens.

When is the best breeding season?

Opinions vary as to the best breeding season. From the point of view of nature, the spring appears to be the most favorable because it leaves time for the chicks to grow well and face the next cold. It is also at this time that the days lengthen and the hens begin to be stimulated again by the light.

Some people will tell you that the best season is in April and May instead. Finally, from the moment you do not intervene and that you leave the rooster free to tick the hens when he wishes, it will be done by itself without you asking yourself questions. These questions concern more farmers whose reproduction of chickens constitutes an economic activity in its own right and must therefore be managed to be as long and productive as possible.

The egg is an egg that grows to form the yolk. If the egg meets a sperm, an embryo develops on the surface of this yolk, surrounded by white, a thick, transparent liquid that acts as a protective layer. The yolk and the white will constitute the nutrient reserves of the future chick. The calcium shell forms all around in just over 20 days.

From the age of 2 years, the fecundity of the hen generally decreases: even during the sunniest periods, the laying is no longer as regular. The rooster remains fertile longer, on average until the age of 4 years.

Precautions to be taken so that the reproduction of the hen goes well

You must prevent any inbreeding problem. It is first and foremost a question of respect for animals. If you plan to have your hens reproduce multiple times, you also have an interest in preserving the quality of your poultry. The solution is to separate the young from the parents, around the age of 3 months. It is also possible to separate from the rooster and the male chicks to keep only the hens and female chicks.

In addition, it is important to do a little work of selection if you want the successive generations in your barn to be strong and healthy. You must rule out hens which lay little and favor the reproduction of those which are the most vigorous, whose general state of health is very good and whose development goes without abnormalities. The population of a chicken coop can quickly increase, it is useful to ring the hens to have a clear vision of the genealogy of your animals. This will help you in the selection work.

What about the eggs?

After laying, a period of 21 days passes before the chick is born. This period can be ensured in two ways:

  • natural, that is, the hen incubates her eggs. You have to be sure that the hen is a good incubator. This skill varies greatly between races. From an economic point of view, it goes without saying that this method is inexpensive, but it also limits the number of chicks. It all depends on your goals.
  • artificial, i.e. the eggs are placed in an incubator (also called an incubator). Eggs should be placed there as soon as they are laid.