Breeding your own broilers can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to ensure the continued supply and quality of the meat you consume.
Successful rearing of broiler breeders requires a combination of knowledge, skills, and careful management.
Choosing the right breed, providing optimal housing and environment, feeding a balanced diet, implementing disease control and biosecurity measures, and proper breeding management are all essential aspects of successful broiler breeder rearing.
Why breed your own broilers?
Breeding your own broilers can be a great way to take control of the meat you consume both in terms of supply and in quality.
By raising your own chickens for meat, you can ensure that the birds are treated humanely and fed a healthy diet. You can also save money on grocery bills, as broiler chickens can be expensive to purchase.
It can also be a source of income for you and your family.
Choosing the right broiler breed:
Some breeds are better suited to meat production than others. Don't be afraid to cross breed your own birds as buying breeding broilers can be expensive and require a license as some are protected by trademark.
I spent several years using Bresse cockerels over Cornish hens to cross breed my own broiler stock.
Factors to consider when choosing a breed include climate adaptability, temperament, and egg-laying ability (if you plan to use the chickens for both meat and eggs).
Below: Slower growing broilers are often better suited to the home production environment.
Some of the popular broiler breeds include Ross, Cobb, and Hubbard. Ross broilers are known for their fast growth and high feed conversion rate. Cobb broilers are known for their strong immunity and ability to thrive in different environments. Hubbard broilers are known for their meat quality and yield.
Here are a few broiler breeds to consider:
- Cornish Cross: This breed is the most popular for meat production, as it grows quickly and has a high meat-to-bone ratio.
- Freedom Ranger: This breed is known for its flavorful meat and ability to forage for food.
- Jersey Giant: This breed is the largest and slowest maturing of the meat chicken breeds and produces a good amount of meat.
How you plan to keep the birds and the local climate conditions will affect your choice of birds. Pure bred broilers can not really be kept with other chickens and if you intend to keep them free range then you will not be able to keep Cornish cross types.
Feeding broiler breeding stock:
Broiler breeders require a balanced diet to support their growth and development. The diet should consist of high-quality protein, energy, and essential nutrients.
Feeding broiler breeding stock should be limited and done at regular intervals, and the birds should have access to clean water at all times. Broilers have a tendency to gain weight easily so food needs to be carefully provided.
Choose a high-quality feed that is specifically formulated for breeding stock, limit treats and scraps, as too much can lead to health problems and supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals as needed. Seaweed flakes is my favourite supplement for chickens
Genetics and breeding broiler parent stock:
Proper breeding management involves selecting the best birds for breeding, ensuring optimal breeding conditions, and monitoring the fertility and hatch-ability of eggs.
Both the size and shape of broiler chickens makes it difficult to breed them successfully and often fertility is a big problem when breeding your own broiler stock.
With this in mind you will need to keep more cockerels in the flock than you would with layer hens.
Regular health checks and vaccination programs should be implemented to ensure the health and well being of the birds. The use of artificial insemination and other breeding technologies can also improve the efficiency and productivity of broiler breeding operations.
Disease control and biosecurity.
Disease control and biosecurity are essential aspects of successful broiler breeder rearing. The birds should be regularly checked for signs of disease and treated promptly if any are detected. Biosecurity measures should be put in place to prevent the entry and spread of diseases.
Some biosecurity measures include restricting access to the farm, disinfecting equipment and facilities, and controlling the movement of people and vehicles.
Housing and care of breeding broilers:
Broiler chickens grow quickly and need ample space to move around. They also need more floor space as they do not fly or perch.
Nesting boxes for broilers should be at floor level and eggs should roll away from the nests as the big heavy and ungainly meat chickens often break their eggs in the nests.
Here are a few tips for providing suitable housing and care:
- Provide at least 2 square feet of space per bird.
- Use a deep litter system for bedding, which will absorb moisture and odours.
- Provide access to fresh water and high-quality feed.
- Monitor the temperature and humidity in the brooder, as chicks need to be kept warm and dry.
- Feeding needs to be regular and limited to control weight.
The temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions in the housing should also be carefully monitored and controlled. Optimal temperature ranges for broiler breeders are between 18-22°C (64-72°F) during the day and 13-16°C (55-60°F) at night. Relative humidity should be maintained at 50-70%.
The lighting schedule should be 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness per day.