Originally Posted by Ra_
At a recent poultry swap, a guy had 6 huge roosters in a small cage.
They were mellow. He said there was no problem because they grew up together.
I had two young roosters and two young hens caged together in a run.
They got along great until one hen began setting and I brought her inside.
Soon after, the boys got into a big fight and I had to separate them. The remaining hen seems unconcerned.
They were all doing fine until I disturbed the balance.
That's one way to interpret it. The other way is that they were all doing fine until they got old enough to care.
Most breeders can keep their cockerels together, either housed separately from the females or together, up until a certain age. What that age is depends on the breed, and the individuals, and the type of housing. But at some point most, not all but most, cockerels will decide that they don't want to share their space/hens/food/etc., and will start to fight. Usually there is a trigger, sometimes not, but it is "the chicken way" for there to be a pecking order, and you establish that by fighting. IF the dominant rooster isn't abusive, and IF the subordinate rooster is accepting of his role, acts respectfully, and doesn't continuously challenge his superior, then the two (or more) roosters can live together, mostly peacefully, become obvious friends and work together to protect the hens. My two ancient Croad Langshan roosters are like that, and when they were younger they had a cooperative relationship that mirrored military precision. It was amazing to watch, and so notable because it is fairly rare.
I raise Red Dorkings. My management style is pasturing. There are a few established harems of one rooster with 4-8 hens, and they are bonded family units that will never be separated. They each get their own one acre pasture with woods. Most of the other hens live in a layer flock until they are used for breeding, in a pasture with two old roosters that are too old to breed, but still watch the sky and alert the girls to hawks and eagles. The remaining males live in two separate pastures, four in one group and five in another. The larger group used to have six. They were all raised together, and established a pecking order relatively peacefully. Their pasture has a lot of enhancements (trees, huge draping bushes, clumps of weeping umbrella bamboo, compost piles, fruiting vines, etc) and is more than an acre, so there's plenty of room and lots to do, plus there's a lot of places to hide if you're not the dominant rooster. Everyone got along great until they were about 14-15 months old. Suddenly and without warning, the two roosters on the bottom of the pecking order, #5 and #6, got into a huge fight. Number 6 won, and moved up the pecking order. It stayed that way for about a week, then suddenly #6 decided that he wanted to be the boss. He challenged #1, and lost that fight quickly. Undeterred, the next day he decided to work his way up in a more logical order., challenging #4 and winning, then the next day #3 and winning. I wasn't too worried, as boys do this, and no one was actually injured, although I did notice that the fights were getting more violent with each challenge. Rooster #2 had always been his best friend, and is the largest rooster of the group, so I figured the climb for dominance would stop there. Everything was fine for about a week, then one day #6 decided he was moving up again. He attacked #2 with a level of violence that I have never seen in this breed. Number 2 was able to fight him off and won, but I became worried. After another week, #6 tried it again, and this time almost killed #2. Had I not been home that day and heard the commotion, which was #1 loudly and frantically trying to drive #6 off a nearly limp and now defenseless #2, it would have turned out differently. Number 2 almost died, requiring two weeks of aggressive medical care to recover (he's my best quality rooster, and I am planning on using him as the new foundation of my breeding program when he's 2 years old, so he got whatever care he needed to pull through). Number 6 was transferred to a finishing pen for fattening, and was slaughtered 3 weeks later. He had been my third best quality rooster of that group, but I won't have that level of aggression in my flock.
Keeping cockerels/roosters together in the same flock requires the individual roosters to accept their place on the pecking order, and for those higher on the pecking order to be good leaders. Abusive leaders don't allow for a peaceful flock, and birds that become too violent as they jostle within the pecking order are too disruptive, and will eventually ruin the stability of the group. It's different for every group, and it does require adequate monitoring, plus the willingness to intervene when necessary.
Edited by Sydney Acres - 1/29/16 at 10:21pm