The mother hen is the most important bird in a local chicken rearing set up and therefore it must have good traits for economic viability of the enterprise. Local chicken production is fast gaining popularity as an alternative to exotic breeds in raising chicken for commercial purposes. One of the important success factors in this enterprise is to have a flock that is responsive to the market demands. This calls for careful selection and the first step is the mother hen, which will supply the eggs and chicks for successive generations in the farm. The important traits to look for when selecting a good mother hen are associated to survival of the flock, prolificacy and high growth rate.
Good mothering ability
Hens which take good care of the young chicks from day old up to weaning should be allowed to become parents of future generations. Not all hens have this characteristics hence culling should be done to dispose the ones without good mothering ability from the parent stock.
A good hen should be able to hatch all the eggs which are presented to it. This condition also depends very much on the farmer because certain management factors can also lead to low hatchability.
High egg layers
Ability to lay many eggs is another good quality which should be considered when choosing parents for commercial local chicken production. This quality also relies to some extent in the farmers’ management levels mainly feeding and brooding management.
Keeps itself within the compound
This trait can also be overstretched by lack of supplementary feeding. A good number of birds are known to walk long distances in search of food thereby exposing chicks to high risks of predators; such hens should not be kept.
Short laying intervals
Hens which lay many times in a year will definitely increase the farmers’ annual profit and this characteristic should not be lost.
Some hens lay eggs but do not go broody. These must be removed.
Not prone to external parasites
All birds (whole flock) are liable to get affected by poultry Parasites (external) depending on the hygiene level of the chicken house. However certain traits of hens are more prone to a particular parasites during brooding. This quality should be suppressed because it increases the cost of production.
Some hens attack and eat their own eggs after laying. This behavior is normally attributed to certain management factors like lack of minerals in the body but some hens display this behavior as an inherited trait. These hens should be culled from the parent stock.
Fast maturing off-springs
Hens which hatch and bring up fast growing and maturing chicks should be selected and preserved as future parents. This characteristic is also accelerated by good feeding. Hens’ without this quality should be removed and replaced with good ones.