It is very easy to tell if your eggs are fertile. Crack one open in a dish and look for the round, white dot known as the blastodisc. It should have the appearance of a bulls-eye if it is fertile. If it is not fertile, it will look clear in the center and indistinct in its outline.
Roosters must be sexually mature in order to fertilize an egg. This is usually achieved at five to six months of age. Roosters will begin to crow before they are fertile. Roosters fertilize by mounting the hen and depositing semen. The hen stores the semen until an egg begins to form. The egg is fertilized before the shell develops. In normal circumstances, the failure rate is around 15% for eggs being successfully fertilized.
The length of the day will have an effect on fertility. Roosters become more active in their mating as they are exposed to more daylight. Hens will also begin to lay more eggs as the days get longer. Warmer temperatures also will have an effect on how interested your rooster becomes in mating.
If you are having fertility problems you may want to limit the number of roosters in your flock to encourage mating without too much competition . Some roosters will take a secondary roll in the flock when dominated by the other roosters. Old, infertile roosters will dominate fertile roosters and not allow them to mate. A single rooster can manage ten hens. Make sure that your hens and roosters are around the same size. Drastic size differences do not help with mating.
Old roosters will lose fertility. They will continue breeding but their attempts will be unsuccessful. One problem that a lot of older roosters have is that they become overweight. This will lower fertility and also make the act itself harder to do. Roosters tend to drop in fertility after their third year.
A young cockerel can try to mate with a pullet but not succeed in getting the job done. They will need to do a lot of practicing before they start to get it right. Many older hens will also reject the advances of these young cockerels.
Diet is an important variable in fertility. Roosters on a natural diet of feed, table scrapes and foraging for bugs will remain fertile longer than those eating a calcium rich diet of layer food. The addition of vitamins such as A and E can help boost fertility. There are products such as “Rooster Booster” that may help. I would advise eliminating low nutrition food such as corn or bread which can cause roosters to become overweight. I supplement with ground up winter wheat, calf manna and green fodder in the late winter to get ready for spring laying.
Create a comfortable environment to encourage breeding. Flocks that feel threatened by predators are less likely to breed. Keep your coop clean and sanitized. Give them plenty of room to move about. Keep your roosters and hens together at all times so that they can have a set pecking order. Old roosters will need to be rehomed and new roosters can be added.
Silkies have very fluffy bottoms with lots of feathers that get in the way of semen delivery. Trim the area around the vents above and below on both your hens and your roosters. Just use a pair of scissors and cut away enough of the feathers so that contact can more easily be made.
Hopefully these tips can solve your fertility problems and soon you will have all the fluffy, baby chicks your heart desires.
VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Follow us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.