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Too many roos....Newbie needing advice

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I am new to raising chickens and am looking for some advice on how to manage my first flock. In September, we got 9 orpington chicks. 2 of them didn't make it. Our hope was that all of them would be hens. Of the 7 we have left, we are fairly sure that 4 are roos. I know there is no way a flock with 4 roos and 3 hens will work. I wish it would because I hate to think of getting rid of any of them. 

They are approaching 4 months of age and I need to decide what to do. They all get along okay now. I see some minor confrontations but I think it is really all show and them just figuring out who is "top dog".

I would appreciate any advice. When we started our flock, we really intended to have about 5 or 6 hens and no roosters. Now here I am with what appears to be 4.

post #2 of 20

Welcome!  Your birds will begin to have issues soon, and three or four of the boys need to go, unless you plan to have a 'bachelor pen' for the cockrels.  Straight run chicks come with lots of cockrels, and they are meant to be dinner.  That's  a good choice, especially if there's a poultry processing plant nearby.  Your third choice is to put up signs and use craigslist to move them on,  soon is best, and don't inquire too deeply on the new owner's plans for them.  If there's a small livestock auction nearby,  AND YOU CAN RESIST buying any birds there,  that's another option.  I've done all of the above, depending on the specific situation at the time.  I like having roosters, but there's only room for so many in the flock.  Mary

post #3 of 20

Au sure about the sex of your chicks?  When in doubt, wait longer to decide.  Mary

post #4 of 20

By four months, you should be aware of the cockerels by now. They may even be crowing.


I had a surplus of cockerels this year, and not being a big meat eater, I enlisted the local radio station, which had a pet placement segment each day, to find homes for the extras. Two youngsters went to homes where they are each a single roo for a nice size flock of hens.


It kind of made all the stress of finding out the hatchery screwed up so badly in their sexing worth it all.

post #5 of 20
For me, Orpington are a little harder than some others to sex. I think it is those thick feathers. But by four months it should be fairly obvious. The main signs I’d look for at four months is the color of the comb and wattles, the size of the comb and wattles with the wattles being more important, the tail feathers curving instead of being straight, the saddle and hackle feathers being pointed instead of rounded, and the legs. A cockerel’s legs should be longer and especially thicker. Some of these things may be more clues than clear identification but taken together I’ll guess you are pretty sure.

I think Mary gave you the basic options, a bachelor pad, eat the extras, or get rid of them, the sooner the better. I’m not a big believer in any magic numbers for chickens, such as hen to rooster ratios. Many breeders keep one rooster with one or two hens throughout the breeding season with no problems, but a big factor is that they use hens and roosters, not pullets and cockerels. There is a huge difference in adolescents and adults. Yours are getting ready to hit adolescence. I think you should have a sense of urgency in whichever way you decide.

The only reason you need a rooster with the flock is if you want fertile eggs. Everything else is personal preference. I always try to recommend you keep as few roosters as you can and meet your goals. That’s not because you are guaranteed problems with more roosters just that problems are more likely. For you with three hens I’d suggest your number of roosters kept with the hens is either zero or one. You’ll probably be OK with either, provided you can get through the adolescent phase. A lot of time the adolescent phase is not for the faint of heart to watch. It can get pretty wild and physical.

Different chickens mature at different rates. Some cockerels can hit adolescence as early as three months, for some it can last until they are about a year old. For most of mine the expected time span is say 4-1/2 months through 7 months. For my pullets the switch is normally a bit after they start to lay. With them it’s more of going from childhood to adulthood in a very short time frame. The maturity of your pullets has an impact in flock dynamics too.

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.


 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

Obviously, I am a novice. Please forgive my lack of use of the proper terms. Our thought that we likely have four cockerels is based on many of the signs your pointed out....size and color of comb and waddles. This morning was the very first morning we have heard someone trying to crow although we weren't  sure which one.

I appreciate and value all of your advice. I know what I should do, although it's not really what I want to do. I need to get rid of all the cockerels. I want to end up with more than 3 hens so I will have to try adding to my flock. 

post #7 of 20

You have already gotten some good advice. Just a few things I would like to add.


Other than for fertile eggs, a rooster can be helpful to protect the girls if you want to free-range your hens. I would also suggest no more than 1 rooster for up to 6 hens. 


You want to re-home the extras sooner rather than later. While you probably have a couple of months before your pullets start laying, as soon as they get close, all those cockerels will start fighting to breed them. The poor girls can get caught in the middle of the fight and can end up with a bare back, bare heads from the cockerels trying to hold onto them, or even a broken neck. 


You can advertise them in the Buy-Sell-Trade section of BYC (once you have 20 posts). If you don't mind giving them away, you could try this forum: If they come from a good breeder's line, you could try selling them, but excess cockerels are common, so have a back-up plan. There are pages on Facebook for selling chickens and livestock - you can probably find one local to you. And there is always Craigslist.


Or, you can look for a local processor or learn to do it yourself. They make good soup or stew, but don't expect a plump, tender bird like you get at the grocery store. However, the taste is usually far superior to a store bought bird.

Edited by KYTinpusher - 12/12/15 at 8:59am
post #8 of 20

If you post pictures, we will be happy to help you determine which ones are cockerels so that you don't let go of a pullet by mistake. :)

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much! I will try to snap some pics and get them posted soon. 

post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
This is one I suspect is a cockerel. The picture that follows shows his full body.
Edited by chucktownchick - 12/12/15 at 3:14pm
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