A while back, someone had asked if different breeds of chickens will “do what boys and girls do” and create weird offspring. Yes . . any hen in the chicken yard is fair game, according to how the roosters think.
We have big old Wilbur and he was our only full size rooster til recently.
Wilbur, a Dominique rooster, has been molting so he’s been a bit “fluffy” with all his loose feathers. The hens love to stand around and pull out all his loose feathers and he seems to love the attention. There are four hens with him, two Dominique hens and two red hens. All five of these chickens are about the same age – 2-1/2 years old.
From what I’ve read, heritage type roosters can live 10 – 15 years, though they will get slower and less “frisky” as they get older. Heritage type hens will continue to lay for about 5 years though their egg production will tape off as they get older. Hybrid chickens vary . . these red hens we have are supposed to lay an egg just about every day for 2 – 3 years and then stop laying completely. Our two remaining older red hens are still laying an egg just about every day. Of course, none of that is written in stone. I think the general feeling is that roosters live to be about 5 – 8 years old and I’ve heard of some, on rare occasions that lived to be 20+ years old.
But, Wilbur has his way with all four hens in his area. Every time we’ve had eggs in the incubator, I’ve added a couple of eggs from Wilbur’s girls as “test” eggs because I know how old the eggs are and I know how they’ve been kept/handled.
At first, I would just use eggs from the Dominique hens so I had full bred Dominique babies but the last time, I decided to put in eggs from Wilbur and the red hens too. Our red sex links, which is what the red laying hens are, supposedly came from a New Hampshire Red rooster and a Delaware hen.
The Dominiques have rose combs (kinda scrunched up and flattish) and barred feathering (the black and white almost stripes). The red hens have single combs and the chickens are red.
We call all the offspring from this coop “Wilbur’s Kids”.
See the two black/white barred (striped – not the spotted one) chicken above? Notice how one of them is obviously black and white and the one closer to the front is more black and tan? She’s from the red hen.
See the almost solid black one above? He’s also one of Wilbur’s kids with the red hen. He’s almost all black with some tinges of red. He totally lost the barring.
Now you see what happens behind closed doors in the chicken coop . . we’re going to be getting all kinds of weird babies from all the different breeds. When we want purebred babies, we’ll separate those hens and roosters and keep them separate from the other breeds til we get all the eggs we want to hatch.
In one coop, I have a few Black Copper Marans, a couple of full bred Dominiques and two Speckled Sussex. Eventually, when I’m feeling brave, I’m going to put the two Dominiques in with Wilbur. One of the youngers ones is a rooster so we may have to decide if it’s time for Wilbur to go or if we want to keep the younger rooster. I can’t have 5 hens and 2 roosters in the same coop.
I’ll pull out the 2 Speckled Sussex and put them in a separate pen in order to get full bred Speckled Sussex eggs, and that will leave only the Black Copper Marans in their coop so I’ll be able to get purebred eggs from them. Then the fun will begin when it’s time to combine them all again, and then put the babies back in with them. We’re not going to hatch any more eggs any time soon so I’m not even thinking about that right now.
Did you know . . hens have a “sperm sack” so when they mate with a rooster, the sperm go into the sack and can survive in there maybe longer than 30 days! They say that the breeds should be isolated for at least 30 days if you want to be 100% sure you’re getting purebred offspring. They also say (whoever “they” is) that the newest sperm are the most active so after about two weeks, chances are, you’re going to get the most recent sperm that are fertilizing the eggs. Since we’re not selling fertile eggs and only hatching them for our own use, we’ll probably just wait the two weeks. The longer the chickens are away from the others, the hard it’s going to be to put them back together again.
There . . more than you ever wanted to know about breeding chickens! :)