I have a young flock of mixed breeds and mixed ages, ranging from 8 weeks to 3 weeks. I thought I had a decent plan for males but I am now rethinking it. Firstly I should say that the younger chicks are separate, but in the same area, I was hoping to fully mix all ages this weekend but may now not.
My plan had been to eat males as and when they became problematic through their crowing or through their behaviour with the pullets. My only previous experience with chickens is a batch of table birds, Ross 308, so I had unrealistic views on how large they would be when they became problematic. I wasn't expecting full carcasses but I was expecting enough for two people to have a light meal. Today I saw my only confirmed cockerel trying to mount one of my pullets, he held her comb in his beak and while she complained loudly he tried and failed to get on top of her. I heard her a few more times and also heard his rather cute crow a few times. He is bothering the same pullet repeatedly, she has the reddest wattles of any of my pullets. They are both 8 weeks old this Friday, she is a barred rock and he is a wheaten marans, he is pretty tiny. He is certainly not worth butchering.
The other side to this is that I have been reading that cockerels that grow up without a rooster or older dominant hens around tend to be nasty little boys. If my housemates and neighbours don't mind the crowing, I would like to have a rooster, but can I expect to get a nice rooster if it has grown up without being put in it's place by any older chickens? The most logical choice seem to be to buy a mature rooster, but I would then only have pullets for him, so then I aught to buy some POL hens for him.. I have hatched all of my current flock and I would like to keep a closed flock, adding only with hatching eggs. I would also feel pretty stupid if I bought some hens and a rooster at relatively high expense, brought them home, only for the rooster to make a nuisance of himself, have to eat the (expensive) rooster and end up with some hens I hadn't planed on.
I now see more clearly the logic of the "bachelor pad", this is a possibility but I would like to avoid it, especially as I can only identify one cockerel at this point. If I did go that route, I don't know how I would choose a cockerel to keep (assuming I have more than the one cockerel) as I wouldn't be seeing the way they treat the pullets. Also, would the cockerel be any less aggressive in a few months or would he be just as poor mannered but larger and stronger?
If I leave him in with the pullets, where should I draw the line? Should he be removed if he draws blood, or.. what?
Culling him is an option, but I am really looking forward to eating some dual purpose birds and also to hopefully watching a cockerel grow to being a good rooster.
I have also wondered if I should separate him behind some wire mesh so he is still part of the flock, but unable to hurt any pullets. This option seems kinder than keeping him alone in a bachelor pad but also like it might just wind him up and make him impossible to integrate back into the flock..
Lastly, the younger chicks (3 weeks) are separate from the rest of the flock, although they can see each other and I have done some successful test introductions. I want to mix the two groups fully this weekend, but will my hyperactive little thug be a problem? So far I have only seen him bothering the one pullet (with the most red face), the younger chicks are a smaller group (5 younger, 11 older) of the 5 younger I am quite sure one is a cockerel.
Thats allot of questions, I welcome any insight/ observations.