Breeding refers to mating poultry for either maintaining/increasing the current flock or for selecting specific individuals for improvement in one or more characteristics (e.g., for size, weight, egg production, meat quality, behavior, plumage, comb type, or a combination of factors).
An understanding of general poultry genetics is important before starting a breeding program. In order to identify chicks wing or leg bands can be used as well as notching the toes.
Toe punch guide (Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
Chicken assessment for improving productivity - Selecting for meat qualities and rate of growth (Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
Chicken assessment for improving productivity - Selecting for egg production (Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
Chicken assessment for improving productivity - Ongoing selection of breeding stock (Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
Selecting your best turkeys for breeding (Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
The Livestock Breed Conservancy offers information on selecting chickens for different breeding programs:
- Chapter 1. Selecting for Meat Qualities and Rate of Growth(PDF, 470K)
- Chapter 2. Selecting for Egg Production (PDF, 344K)
- Chapter 3. Ongoing Selection of Breeding Stock (PDF, 291K)
While hens lay eggs without a rooster being around if you want to hatch your own chicks a rooster is necessary. The number of roosters per hen varies depending on the breed but is typically 6-8 hens per rooster. If there are too many roosters they spend too much time fighting and less time breeding. If there are not enough roosters, there will not be enough matings to ensure a high percentage of fertile eggs produced. Otherwise, the management of a breeder flock is similar to keeping an egg production flock. If you are selectively breeding you can use trap nests so that the hen is trapped in a nest when she goes to lay an egg. This will allow you to identify which egg came from which hen.
If you are raising heritage turkey varieties (i.e., not commercial lines), natural mating should be necessary. If the turkeys are too big, artificial insemination may be necessary to allow for the production of fertile eggs. Managing turkey breeders requires nest boxes. If you collect the eggs daily the hen will lay more eggs and you can then incubate them yourself. Not all turkey varieties will go broody, so artificial incubation may be your best choice and will increase the number of poults you are able to hatch out. The number of hens per tom recommended varies from 8-12. Turkeys do not need to breed as frequently as chickens so it is possible to use fewer tom turkeys in a flock.
A management program for raising breeder duck flocks (North Carolina State University)