I have asked this question before but Sue was on holiday so I didn't get an enlightening answer
At what stage do cockerels start to do what they are supposed to do - and no, I don't mean crowing, I mean fertilizing eggs .
I'm wondering because I've had cockerels who were crowing their heads off but no fertile eggs. That was in autumn with current season's cockerels. Do they need a certain number of daylight hours??
Yes, even our adult roosters don't bother working unless the day length is increasing. I've had years where I didn't get reasonable fertility until September.
Our hens are moulting and giving up laying now. Only the Spring hatched pullets are laying now. Plus a few from the New Hampshires - until they start moulting as well.
two of my Orpington hens - both quite old - have restarted laying and they are running with a cockerel and a young rooster (the cockerel suddenly was in that enclosure as well and as they seem to get along well I left them both there). They are good hens and I have 6 eggs and I'm wondering whether they might be fertile. I don't want to break them, though. I might just break the one fertile one. Maybe I can entice one of my bantam pullets to go broody now? Have you ever hatched eggs that late? I don't want to use the incubator, too much hassle.
Rooster fertility is as much tied in with day length as hens laying eggs although individuals may vary a bit.
Feed, bodyweight and testosteone levels also play a part
If the rooster has a bright red waxy looking comb, is in full song and appears to be be mating he will probably be reasonably fertile. If you check his vent it should be moist and pink looking-actually the pinker the better[:I] especially if you squeeze it gently so it opens you can see the colour of the inside which should be darkish pink/red.
If it is pale, white or dry looking he probably isn't working!
Of course he can be working, or appear to be -and firing blanks. If you are into AI you can actually get a sample and look at it under the microscope and check for swimmers-but you need to be really skilled to train the rooster to perform!
Simkin, the crowing, although useful as a guide, will not tell you if they are mating and/or fertile, but is an indication the testosterone is flowing. Roosters will probably start to crow 6 to 8 weeks before they are fertile. At this time of the year I would expect a rooster to be fertile from 22 weeks old, if his sisters have started laying. Light breeds maybe earlier, heavy breeds may be 23-24 weeks. Shortening day length does affect them too.
I would sacrifice an egg to check if any are fertile
Incedentally roosters need much lower protein feed than hens to keep their fertility at peak effectiveness-like 12% rather than the 16% of layer feed.
More necessary in heavy breed birds-you can imagine the fun it is feeding two seperate rations to birds that live together as we used to do with Meat breeder flocks!
Sue, what age will the Australorp rooster be fertile, he must be about 18 weeks old by now, have seen him running around after the girls ( and the girls running away quicker ), he crows every morning and has a red comb....
Probably another month for your AO boy to be fertile and by then it might be too late in the season. If the hens aren't laying they won't let him mate anyway, so you may have to wait till spring to find out.
Thank you, Sue. Very valuable information.
I guess I will sacrifice an egg then. The cockerel hasn't started crowing that long ago.
How did you manage to feed different feed to males and females? I was wondering about that, mainly because of the calcium after you wrote that it is not good for chicks. My roosters get exactly the same food as the hens but they have a choice between layer pellets and straight grains plus they get mash mixed with food scraps. Also greens and whatever else they can find.
Last season I had quite a few problems with egg eating[!] until I started mixing dolomite with the mash. And of course the roosters loved it, too, and ate heaps. But I didn't give the dolomite enriched mash to my chicks - something I used to do in the past.
Sue. I have a young orpington rooster who has just started crowing.(pretty strangled, hope it improves). We have only had him a few weeks, and introduced him to our 5 Orpington hens slowly.
The problem is they give him a hard time. There is one old biddy who is not letting go of the trousers so to speak, and our rooster ( Sidney) is happy to run the other way. Spends most of his time standing by himself at the other end of the orchard. Is this normal, or have we not done introductions the right way. Hens are moulting now.
Yes Embo, I'm afraid older hens can hen-peck younger roosters. You could pen him by himself until he is older and bigger, at which time he'll have more confidence and it will be the right time of the year for him to actually do some good in the fertile egg department.
OR, you lock up the old biddy who is making his life a misery until he has established himself with the rest of the hens in the flock.
I'm more inclined to try the former, as, if there are other older hens willing to take on the young rooster, it'll knock his confidence and he may not be aggressive enough to try mating with all the hens in the flock, which will mean a percentage of your flock will only lay infertile eggs.
Also, try him with a few younger hens first and then add some of the older ones. A ratio of one rooster to 3-5 hens works well for a young rooster. I've had one New Hampshire rooster who was able to cover 8 hens with a good fertility rate, but I normally only run each rooster with 5 hens.
Simkin, I'm actually still running an incubator and will be putting the last batch of the season in tomorrow. (Mostly Barred Rock and Turkey eggs, as I still don't have enough of them)
Rooster management-another chooky subject dear to my heart-having spent many years trying to understand them
You shouldn't put young roosters, that are not sexually mature in with older hens as they can bully them and put them off sex for a long time!
However once the young boys are fully mature, probably 26 to 28 weeks old for most breeds, they will be able to cope. Putting young males in with a group that already have a senior male that may not appear to be very interested in his harem may make him buck his ideas up. If there is a big age gap, beware of fights initially but they can usually sort out who is the dominate one within a few days.
Hens will decide which rooster they fancy if there is more than one to chose from, they will initiate the mating and not let other roosters near.
Roosters which are incapacitated for one reason or another and not fertile, will probably still have a faithful harem that, although not being mated by the sick/infertile rooster, will still not let another rooster mate them-result-infertile eggs!
So if you had a sad, sexless, maybe lame rooster-it pays to take him away and give the girls another boy so you can get fertile eggs.
You can swap roosters over, giving them a rest now and again.
Back in my days with Breeder flocks we had a team of upcoming young bloods, usually about 20 weeks younger than the main flock, that we 'spiked' the flock with, replacing about 30% of the old boys with young virile ones. My flocks being roughly 6,000 hens and 600 roosters, all running together!
Simkin the seperate sex feeding is done by putting an excluder grill over the hens feeders so the roosters cannot get their heads between the grills, then the boys feeders are hung so high the hens cannot reach! Then feeding two diets of different specifications.
Light breeds like Leghorns, Minorcas and the commercial hybid types like Shavers and Hylines, can usually manage 12 to 15 hens per rooster. Heavier breeds like RIR, Rocks, Sussex etc (oh and my big Meat breeder types) can manage 8 to 10 hens each. Of course there is a variation on this, but we mated at 10 per 100 hens-even with those 600 rooster, 6,000 hen flocks. As the hens lay less eggs you can take out the equivalent boys, as too many roosters and not enough hens laying can lead to overmating and rape[:0] not to mention fights and roosters with time on their hands/beaks eat too much, get fat and lazy, which in turn impairs any fertility they may have had!
piglet, if you break open an egg you can tell whether it is fertile or not by looking at the germinal disc which lies on the yolk.
If the egg is fertile it has a fuzzy white edge and a hole in the middle, if it is infertile the disc is a bright white dot.
There were photos, I had a fertile one and I think Simkin had a good picture of an infertile egg. I'm not sure which thread they were on now-I'll try and look back!
So are you going to try to set your bantam on the eggs Simkin, or wait until Spring?
I haven't got a broody bantam but I left the eggs in their nests and if one goes broody she'll be sitting on those eggs
However, I won't use the incubator - too much hassle. I'll only end up having the chicks on my freezer in the laundry with a hot water bottle and a light because it's just sooo cold here during winter. If a hen does the job for me - great