Flock Management
replacement using hens and Fertile eggs
This is similar to the Replacement Using Hens and a Rooster management system but instead of using a rooster to fertilise the eggs fertile eggs are bought for broody hens to hatch out and raise.

The main advantage is that  there are no noise problems associated with running a rooster.  The main disadvantage is that a ready supply of fertile eggs has to be available to place under the hens when they go broody.

This is a sound alternative for people with a good sized backyard but who live in a medium density housing area where keeping a rooster may create some noise issues with neighbours.

advantages/disadvantages summary

  • You do  not have all the noise problems associated with running a rooster
  • Limits the risk of parasites and diseases. 
    While there are some diseases that can be transmitted from an infected mother to newly hatched chicks via the fertile egg most parasites and diseases are transmitted via live chickens.  By only introducing fertile eggs to your flock you eliminate most of the parasites and disease risks.
  • Provides you with a supplementary diet of home grown chicken meat, which is without doubt the best tasting and healthiest chicken you will ever eat.
  • Hens love to raise their own brood of chicks.
  • Chicks raised this way easily integrate into the flock structure with a minimum of disruption.

  • Needs more chickens and space than you would using the All In All Out or the Staggered Replacement systems.
  • Not suited to chicken breeds that don't go broody or are flighty mothers.
  • While you can use egg laying chicken varieties for this management method it is best done with a duel purpose (suitable as both a meat and egg laying chicken) breed.  Most duel purpose breeds lay fewer eggs than specialised egg laying chicken breeds.
  • There still is a noise problem when the young roosters that have hatched out begin to reach maturity.
    When I used to use this method I would put a note in my immediate neighbours' letterboxes explaining that the crowing roosters will only be around for a short time.

  • You have to kill and dress your own roosters.
  • Eggs from hybrid chicken varieties such as Lohmann and Isa Brown are not obtainable as the companies that supply these chicken breeds only sell day old chicks.

sourcing fertile eggs
A number of pure breed chicken breeders will sell surplus fertile eggs to backyard chicken farmers, however the eggs are usually expensive, costing anything up to $50 for a dozen fertile eggs. 

In most cases buyers have to travel to the breeders property to pick up the eggs, which can be a problem if the only breeder with the chicken breed you want lives a long way away from you.  Some breeders offer a mail order service for their fertile eggs but these breeders appear to be in the minority.

If you know a nearby backyard chicken farmer who does have a rooster than a good way to obtain fertile eggs would be to directly swap your infertile eggs for their fertile ones.  Even if the swap was on a two for one basis it still offers the cheapest method of obtaining fertile eggs.

Inserting fertile eggs under a broody hen
The best way to insert fertile eggs under a broody hen is to do it at night as chickens have very poor night vision which limits their ability to peck you.  Slide your hand under the hen and one by one remove the infertile eggs that she is sitting on, then simply reverse the process when inserting the fertile eggs.

I found it useful to mark the fertile eggs with a texta or pencil.  This is because other hens may continue to lay eggs in the broody hen's nest box which usually results in these infertile eggs being mixed in with the fertile ones.  By marking the fertile eggs it makes it easier to separate out the infertile eggs.