Monday, November 26, 2012

Breeding My Flock: Part 2

Today we had our chickens NPIP certified!

The NPIP program stands for the National Poultry Improvement Plan and is recommended for all breeding flocks. State agriculture employees will come out to your farm or house and test your flock for several diseases, including Pullorum, Avian Influenza, salmonella, and others on-site.  Here in North Carolina, it only costs a whopping $5 for your flock to be tested as long as you have fewer than 50 birds!

The lady who came to do the NPIP testing swabbed the mouths and drew blood from each of my little flock of 9 Dominiques. Poor babies!  It was very quick though, and before they had much time to protest they were released and set free to forage. They also each received metal leg bands. Of course, Rosemary was her usual pouty and mean self, throwing the biggest hissy fit of them all screaming her head off while the NPIP lady tested her. Way to set an example for the younger girls, Rosemary. 

With NPIP certification, we can show our chickens at any show without having to do testing or vaccinations immediately before the show, and we don't have to worry about passing on diseases to others if we plan to sell offspring from our breeding program.

Breeding your flock of chickens requires planning, attention to detail, and persistence. It is not something you want to let naturally happen and get out of hand if you are trying to maintain a particular breed standard. You must decide to either cull or not breed the birds that have flaws or defects that you don't want passed on to future generations. If you missed my first post on breeding, click here.

For us, that means choosing our top 3 or 4 hens that we will let mate with each rooster, only because although one of the roosters has a better comb, the other has lighter feathering (better for future pullets) and a less-crooked and longer tail. We plan to put these 3 or 4 pullets into the breeding pen for a couple of days at a time with each rooster. Hopefully this will produce enough fertilized eggs for us to put together for a successful hatch.

A potential chicken Christmas card photo- what do you think? 

The most controlled way to breed is to use an incubator, but I'm a sucker for watching mama hens raise their babies, so I will probably place these eggs in the nest box, mark them with a sharpie, and wait until one of our hens decides to go broody. I will collect the new eggs laid on top of the batch we want to hatch out (they will be the ones that are unmarked). Once a hen decides to "sit tight," on her nest, it takes about three weeks for the babies to hatch!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Breeding My Flock series where I will *try* my best to discuss how genetics plays into poultry breeding.

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