10-mo-old cockerel bullying lead hen

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by All Ball, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. All Ball

    All Ball Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My lead BCM hen brooded some youngsters last year from fertile eggs, and I decided to try to keep one of the cockerels along with 4 of his sisters (all cream legbars). They are all 10 months old now, and the lead hen and another EE girl are 3 years old. This is my first experience with a roo...

    The cockerel used to love the BCM. A few weeks ago, he was right next to her all the time, acting like her very bestest friend. This past week, I caught him beating up on her - pecking her and chasing her away during food time. Yesterday I found her with a bloody comb (not torn up however), and he was spending the whole day chasing her away from the group, jumping on her to peck her back and isolating her. She responded by staying at the edges, turning away from him if he approached, so in other words, acting appropriately submissive. She did go in to get food, but he acted almost as if he didn't want her to eat much at all, as if he wanted to make her the bottom rung chicken.

    That eve, the girls were bickering in the coop, and charged in there to break it up - he knocked not only her head but some others and seemed to be trying to rearrange everyone's roosting positions, pecking and bullying- there was a lot of screaming and commotion until I got him out of there. I thought roos were supposed to stop the drama, not ratchet it up???!!

    I have been reading around like crazy here (thanks to all the wonderful insights centrarchid, azygous, ridgerunner, donrae!!) and there on rooster behavior....

    Based on that, here are my possible theories:
    1) He is a very young 10-month-old and kind of dumb and clueless. Question: If I kennel him until he gets smart, how long might that be??

    2) The BCM is sick but isn't showing it yet and he wants to keep the flock safe from her. He's had a history of that kind of behavior before. Since this may be the case, I am going to kennel him for a little while to see if she starts showing something. But she basically is usually as healthy as a horse...so not sure this is likely.

    3) Something made him flip and see her as rooster-like competition. She had increased her typical morning crows from 1-2 crows/morning to 4-5 shortly before this. She's used to being the flock leader, taking charge of harassing me for treats, coming up to me directly to be the first one to get food. I may have helped this happen the other day by insistently offering her first dibs at a container of scratch that he wanted to get to. Also, this boy has been kenneled separately from the backyard free-ranging flock for most of the last several months (with frequent visits from the ladies, mainly his sisters), because he had decided to try to personally cull my hen with EYP and I wanted her to live until her quality of life declined. He's also recently tested me a bit and I respond by putting him back in the kennel for a day or two. I am wondering if this undermined his power with the flock.

    Frankly, this guy used to dance like crazy, but I have to admit 95% of the time his target just danced away. He still tidbits like crazy, but he has switched mostly from dancing to morning high-speed chases and afternoon snacktime ambushes. So I am wondering if he is just missing that magic something with the girls (voice too high?? covering technique too shaky??) and he is starting to get more brutal as he tries to gain power and has fixated on her as the problem (even though she squats for him just as much as the others).

    So maybe if I release him from his latest punish kenneling, he'll develop some confidence somehow or other and go back to his usual mild nice guy self, or else he won't and he may do better with another flock where he is not seen as the youngster, or .....

    4) He is just revealing his true brute nature and it's time to pass him along to someone who will cook him.

    I would appreciate any helpful expertise or tips! Such as, would it be helpful to hang with the group with a water bottle and spray him every time he attacks her?

    Thanks for any thoughts!!
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I would separate him and keep him separated for about another 3-6 months if you are interested in keeping him. He's still immature and attempting to exert his dominance, and is making poor choices. Some get better once they mature more. He doesn't sound very nice at the moment and he doesn't have an older rooster or even competition to encourage him to behave better.
     
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  3. All Ball

    All Ball Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for your advice! It's true, he has no good role models, and once the chicks were weaned, the girls were pretty merciless to them - so they had some negative role models. I would like to keep him if there is a decent chance he can grow out of it, and if he doesn't crow my ears off complaining incessantly now that he's back in the kennel. He keeps good watch for hawks.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I keep multiple roosters. Many get pulled when they start behaving poorly at around 6-8 months. Right now in spring, chickens are more hormonal due to the increasing daylight. I personally would plan to keep him separated until after daylight starts to decrease.

    Most of mine I will actually keep confined until fall and early winter before finally releasing them. Some I have repeatedly let out than seeing that they haven't improved, I return them to the pen.

    I personally use a net to catch my birds. The act of catching them with the net, especially roosters involves chasing cornering and capturing, all things that work towards dominating the young rooster and makes him wary of me.

    My roosters never attack me. A dominant rooster chases the ones below him away any chance they get, and also will try to get a good peck in.

    I don't consider my rooster mature enough to judge until about a year old, if they haven't improved by then I will cull, I don't tolerate poor roosters, and I like to give them all a chance to be good roosters.
     
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  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My current cockbird has never been a problem...even when a youngster with no older cockbird to school him, tho the hens 'schooled' him.
    I've often heard the a cockbirds true temperament can often not fully emerge until after one year of age or so.
    If you're really attached to him, I would sequester him and then give him a few more tries every month or so....see what happens.
     
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  6. All Ball

    All Ball Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks you two so much for the advice! So possibly his true temperament is starting to emerge....It is interesting, oldhenlikesdogs, that the way you are describing a dominant rooster in relation to subordinate roosters is just how this cockerel was treating the lead hen - chasing off and pecking between the shoulders. Now that he is back in the kennel, she has taken up her morning crow in the a.m. This a.m., it was 3 crows, and interestingly, rather than ignoring her, the roo crowed after each of her first two crows - similar to the way a subordinate rooster will crow after the dominant rooster. He did ignore her third crow.

    It's kind of sad, he showed a lot of good behavior early on, as far as dancing and courting, but the girls have never responded much to it - He seems to never have figured out how to have the roo "wow" factor. He showed his sisters to the nest when they first started laying, and has always been attentive to laying girls and always joins the egg song, so he does show a lot of good attributes.

    He has been mostly good with me, just a few challenging moves when I was making him do something he didn't want (such as sleep in the sound-muffling bachelor pad rather than with the girls). If I respond with dominance, he quickly gets scared and runs off.
     
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I'm assuming your dominant hen has never had a rooster. I think with time she might accept him. My roosters will often work out pecking order issues through the wire, so keeping him penned next to or within the coop can help.

    In another month or so it will get hot and chickens won't be so eager to fight. I would give him time. I have had horribly mannered roosters turn around with maturity and turn into wonderful roosters that the hens adore.

    Being a Maran I believe they mature a bit slower. He has shown good rooster behavior in the past, but now he is eager and frustrated, and needs some time to calm down.

    Many mature hens refuse to comply with a young roosters wishes, which yours is doing so he's trying to dominate them, a good feisty hen like yours can be good for teaching them some manners, and he must earn their trust and like of him.

    I would keep him and see what happens over the next few months. He would probably be penned at times and released to see if he's improving. My large breed roosters continue to grow and mature for two years at least, he's still a teenager who's thinking with his hormones.
     
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  8. All Ball

    All Ball Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, you are right, she has never had a rooster before this.

    She was submitting to him, though, about as much as the other girls - in fact, she was the first of the 3 mature hens to squat for him (she was the only one of them who would regularly squat for me in the pre-roo days). She was submitting to him, but was continuing her historic behavior of interacting assertively and directly with me around food, and doing her little morning crow thing, which is just a few little crows, nothing much. And she prefers to lay her eggs in the girls' coop, while most of the others want me to let them in to the kennel to lay in the rooster coop. So pretty mild differences. That was what was surprising to me- the BCM and the cockerel seemed to get along great until last week. I'm not sure what caused him to shift and go after her; I am just surmising that maybe he got frustrated at the lack of squatting he could get from all the girls without chase/ambush, and that he is focusing on her and seeing her as competition rooster - that may be an incorrect assumption. It may be a hormonal surge, or immaturity/ignorance on his part, or something else.

    I guess another theory is that he wants to elevate his sisters to leaders of the pack, so he was driving her away to diminish her authority. But he was not challenging the second older girl, my EE - he seems to have a particular lusty taste for her these days....

    I had been hoping that these older girls would lead him to polish his manners and teach him how to be a good flock leader!

    FYI, she is a BCM, the other older girl is an EE, and then the second-generation crew, he and his 4 sisters, are cream legbars, they were all from fertile eggs I put under the BCM.

    I like that idea that maybe the heat will take the heat out of him! I will let him out periodically and see if he can approach her with a more normal roo-to-hen behavior.

    Thank you so much - I really appreciate your wisdom and experience!
     
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  9. All Ball

    All Ball Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thought I would update - seems what we have here is a lead hen who has never been anything but the boss, and does not want to submit to this young roo.

    I have tried letting him out a few times; she squats once, and then after runs away, prefers to isolate herself rather than submit to his dominance.

    And sometimes she wants to lay an egg in his coop! In these cases, she will keep trying to get in his kennel, obsessively, even if he charges and pecks her as she sticks her head through the chainlink. He gets very riled up that she is trying to get in his little territory.

    Sigh.

    Neither one is backing down. I will give it a little while longer (see if hot weather helps), then look for a new home for him....
     
  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Do they still fight? She sounds like a spunky little hen.
     

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