Starting my first flock! Thoughts on choosing Silkies, Polish, and Americana?
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Are you planning on hatching eggs? If so what do you want the offspring to be like? What characteristics do you want the chicks to have?
When to get a rooster is a harder question to answer since it depends on opinion and individual experiences. How much room you have could play a part. Some people will advise you to wait to get a rooster until the pullets grow into hens. I raise mine with the flock.
I’ll attach something I wrote for another question at the end of this post. It doesn’t exactly apply to your situation but I think it might help you understand some behaviors. When they are adolescents the cockerels mature faster than the pullets and are often severely driven by hormones. The pullets mature later and don’t understand the part they are supposed to play. Since the cockerel is driven, it is very possible it can get pretty physical in the coop and run. That phase is often much harder for someone to watch than it really is on the chickens, but watching that phase is often not for the faint of heart. Children especially can be upset if they think one chicken is hurting another. Each chicken has a different personality and each flock has their own dynamics. There is no guarantee as to what you will actually see down there, sometimes this phase passes so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was. But the odds are pretty good you will see some rough behavior. If you wait until the pullets are mature hens and bring in a mature rooster (say 1 year old at least), the rooster normally mates with the hens to establish his dominance and mature hens usually willingly submit. The former dominant hen may or may not resist giving up her flock dominance so you may still see some rough behavior as he convinces her he really is the boss, but most of the time it goes pretty smoothly.
In my opinion this is the main reason you might want to wait to get a rooster. Others could easily have different opinions.
If you wait to get a mature chicken to integrate with your flock you have the issue of quarantine to consider. Many people integrate other adults a lot without serious issues but it is always possible another chicken could bring in a disease or parasites. Your biggest risk are parasites like mites, lice, worms, or the bugs that cause coccidiosis. Al these can be dealt with but require treatment. It is always possible the new chicken could bring in a disease that wipes out your flock. A standard way to reduce some of these risks is to totally isolate the new chickens (maybe also treating them for mites, lice, and worms before you integrate them) for about 30 days to look for symptoms. I don’t introduce adult chickens to my flock because of this risk but many people do without problems, even when they don’t quarantine. It’s a personal decision and in my opinion, not an easy one for many people, especially if they don’t have the facilities for a good isolation which is the heart of quarantine
I personally like to raise my cockerels that will eventually be the flock master with the flock but my goals are different from yours. My facilities probably are too, I have a lot of room. I have adult hens and usually an adult rooster in my flock which affects flock dynamics during their adolescent phase. I’m used to seeing the behaviors of adolescents in the flock and understand the risks. It really is hard for some people to watch this phase, they are sure their pullets are being brutalized. I’ll mention space again. The less space you have the more likely you are to actually have an injury during this phase. Some people seem to think that every chicken and every flock worldwide are identical and that all out facilities are identical, but they are not. And that can seriously affect behaviors.
I told you when to get a rooster was a hard question to answer. Getting one as a seven week old chick and raising it with the pullets can work, bringing in one later can work. Silkies are notoriously hard to sex too at that young an age. It’s always possible one you think is a pullet is actually a cockerel. That’s also true of Polish and others but especially Silkies. That’s another reason you might want to wait to bring in a rooster, be sure you don’t already have one. There is no clear cut answer on this. I feel you were looking for a definitive answer on this, it is universally better to do one or the other. I’m sorry, I can’t provide that answer.
Anyway, I’ll attach that other post I mentioned. Good luck, however you decide. And welcome to the adventure. We tend to make it sound harder and more complicated than it really is. There are a lot of different ways that can work. The problem is usually that you have too many options instead of just one definitive way to go.
Typical mating behavior between mature consenting adults.
The rooster dances for a specific hen. He lowers one wing and sort of circles her. This signals his intent.
The hen squats. This gets her body onto the ground so the rooster’s weight goes into the ground through her entire body and not just her legs. That way she can support a much heavier rooster without hurting her legs.
The rooster hops on and grabs the back of her head. The head grab helps him get in the right position to hit the target and helps him to keep his balance, but its major purpose is to tell the hen to raise her tail out of the way to expose the target. A mating will not be successful if she does not raise her tail and expose the target. The head grab is necessary.
The rooster touches vents and hops off. This may be over in the blink of an eye or it may take a few seconds. But when this is over the rooster’s part is done.
The hen then stands up, fluffs up, and shakes. This fluffy shake gets the sperm into a special container inside the hen near where the egg starts its internal journey through her internal egg making factory.
With five month olds you are not dealing with consenting adults. You are dealing with adolescents that have no control over their hormones. The cockerels normally mature earlier than the pullets and are being driven mad by their hormones. The pullets have no idea what is going on so they certainly are not going to cooperate.
At that age most of this is not about sex either. The mating ritual is about dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. It’s not about pecking order either, but total flock dominance. The cockerel’s hormones are screaming at it to dominate the pullets but the pullets are not ready for that. It takes both to do their part, pullets as well as cockerel.
To do his job as flock master, the cockerel has to be the dominant chicken. How can he keep peace in his flock if he can’t break up a fight without the others beating the crap out of him? What good does it do to warn of danger if no one listens? How can he fertilize the eggs if they don’t cooperate? A cockerel is usually bigger and stronger than the pullets. If they don’t cooperate willingly he is going to force them. That’s part of his job, to be the dominant chicken.
Part of being the dominant chicken is that he has to act like a mature adult. He needs to dance for the ladies, find them food, watch for danger, keep peace on his flock, and do all the things a mature rooster does to take care of his flock. He also has to have enough self-confidence to win the hens over by his personality. It takes a while for most cockerels to get their hormones under control enough to be able to do this.
Normally the pullets and cockerel will eventually mature enough to play their part in the flock. For the pullets that is often about the time they start to lay, though some take a few months longer. I’ve had a cockerel do that at five months but that is really rare. I’ve had some that took a full calendar year to win over all the ladies. Normally around seven months a cockerel will mature enough to start getting his hormones under control and act like a flock master should. Normally the pullets are ready to accept him at this time but more mature hens may hold out a little longer. It’s going to vary with each flock, depending on the personality of the individual hens and rooster.
Until the cockerel and the pullets mature enough to fulfil their duties in the flock and learn proper technique, it can get pretty rough. Normally neither the cockerel nor the pullets are harmed during his maturing process but since force is involved injury is always possible. The big problem for a lot of people is that it is just hard to watch, especially if they don’t understand the dynamics of what is going on. I don’t see anything unusual or out of the ordinary in what you describe.
You may hear that disaster is assured unless you get more pullets. Some people believe that a magic ratio of hens to rooster will solve all these types of problems, ten to one is often quoted. It doesn’t work that way. Many breeders keep one rooster with one or two hens throughout the breeding season without any problems. One secret though is that they use roosters and hens, not cockerels and pullets. That makes a big difference. You can have the same problems with very small hen to rooster ratios as you do with very large hen to rooster ratios. If you want to use this as an excuse to get more pullets by all means go for it. But it is an excuse, not a real reason.
Some cockerels crow a lot. Some don’t crow much. It varies a lot by the individual. I don’t know of any way to control that during the day. Often if they are crowing at night they see a light. Maybe you have a security light or street light shining in a window. Maybe a car passing on the road will light up the coop. Maybe it is just a full moon. If you can keep the coop dark at night you can usually reduce the night-time crowing.
Good luck! It’s probably going to be a messy down there for a couple of months, but if you can get through this phase, you should have a nice flock.
Silkies and Polish are very docile and may be picked on by ameraucanas. I have all three and haven't had this problem, but I know others have. If you want your future rooster to protect his ladies, Ameraucana would be best. HOWEVER if you want your rooster to stand a really low chance of going rotten, I strongly recommend Silkie. If you just want him to have fertilized eggs it won't matter much. But if you want him for protection, Silkies can't do much. I haven't had good luck with Polish roosters, they seem to go mean easily. Also bear in mind that Polish are very fragile as babies, but it sounds like you want them old enough to know that they're hens, so you should be good :-) As for getting him now or later, I would suggest getting him when you get your hens, but it doesn't make THAT big of a difference, but IMO when a rooster and the hens grow up together, they stay closer and he can protect them better. IF they're not free raging then it's not a big deal :-) Good luck!