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18 week old Cockerel jumping on 9 week old chick

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Shezadandy, Aug 11, 2016.

  1. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Songster

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    Hello all,

    I just got done integrating our 8 eighteen-week-olds into our laying flock of 10 hens plus 4 nine-week-old broody raised chicks (babies). The broody has completely weaned the chicks and the days of her defending them has long since passed. There are a couple 'auntie hens' that let them stay in their vicinity, but don't actively defend them.

    Of the 18 week olds brooder-raised (teenagers), 6 are pullets and 2 are cockerels.
    After a relatively easy integration process (3 weeks spent side by side in runs), things settled down reasonably well. The Welsummer cockerel did a great job defending the pullets from the layers during the first couple of days while the SBEL cockerel mostly hid in the coop-- then he started joining his group again. Beyond the occasional 'beat-it' peck, everyone is co-existing well inside and outside of the coop.

    Now for the BUT...

    The SBEL cockerel (4.75lbs) has been trying to 'practice his craft' on the teenage pullets and some of the hens (no interference or help from the Welsummer cockerel (5.25lbs) as cockerels will. The Welsummer is 'practicing' too, but he seems to limit his attentions to the 'teenage' pullets. I expect/accept that they've got a learning curve and there's only one way to figure things out-- none of the pullets or hens have any injuries from the cockerels. The teenage pullets and hens have lots of room to get away and can also get out their sight line.

    BUT

    The problem comes when the SBEL fails to get a teenage pullet or layer to cooperate- because he immediately goes after the 9 week olds baby pullets-- who are already 2lbs, but still "peeping" not clucking, and obviously an inappropriate target. Still being babies they don't seem to know what he's about and aren't saavy enough to evade. If there's an excuse of any kind for this cockerel, I will add that the SBEL teenage pullets are 2.5lbs- tiny-- and that the 9 week old broody-raised chicks are 2lbs.

    The question is whether he's mistaking his targets because of the small size difference between his same age girls and the babies, or if he's just a dirty rotten scoundrel who doesn't care that they're babies and thus doesn't deserve a chance to be a rooster. Yesterday he ripped a bunch of feathers out of the chick's back when he tried to climb on (he's 4.75lbs), and the chick did get away, then again this morning I watched the same sequence of events- unable to get cooperation from the appropriate age, he went right back to the same baby- fortunately not as bad of a grab today, but the intention to mount/breed is clear.

    He's now by himself in the introduction pen. Is this one of those things that if he's separated for a few months he'll mature out of-- i.e. the infamous cockerel hormones running his brain? Or is this a sign of a problem roo in the making? Both of the cockerels are fine with respect to people (or they'd be in the freezer right now)- they have not been raised as pets, only handled when necessary and never hand fed. They give people plenty of space, 5-10 feet- neither has challenged a person.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016

  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

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    Both should be removed for a few months and housed where they are within the flock and can interact through the wire. Their hormones are surging and they are following their urges. It doesn't necessarily mean they are bad roosters, just Randy roosters. So remove them, they may mate each other in their pen. I would keep them penned until your youngest mature, than see how it goes.
     
  3. Wyatt0224

    Wyatt0224 Chirping

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    I wouldn't remove both, only the one who is causing problems. He just needs time to properly learn how to breed. If possible maybe you could put one or two of the older pullets in with him so he can practice. But I also wouldn't have the two cockerels separated for a long period of time because their fighting and protection instincts are not far away. Thus when you reintroduce the cockerels they could fight each other real bad.
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

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    I wouldn't let an over eager rooster practice on anyone, roosters can break necks and can severely peck uncooperative hens, they need time to mature and calm down without mating. My roosters can and do work out pecking order issues through a fence with no fighting required.
     
  5. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Songster

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    My main worry about removing the Welsummer cockerel too (Hector, my "oops" cockerel) is the very real protection he provides his pullets. The main reason I didn't merge these groups earlier was nobody could get away from my speckled sussex girls when they were smaller- and they didn't have a broody high on hormones defending them.

    Hector stood up to them that first day- nobody got hurt- but there were multiple encounters- and he was in it to keep the pullets safe. I keep the SS girls because they defend the flock fearlessly without people aggression issues. With the SBEL (Gus) doing his naughty things, they are the first to jump up and save the hen/pullet getting pestered, even the newbies. They can move anyone off without a fight when it's time to change shade/sun, feeding stations, whatever- they're not the flock leaders- more like the flock muscle- one is 3rd/4th while the other is absolute bottom of the layer pecking order. The head hen in this flock rarely touches anyone. #2 mostly keeps order at roosting time, and the SS girls police everything else.

    In terms of mating behavior from Hector so far (from hours of sitting and observing everyone in action), if they make a noise or move away a little bit, he minds his manners. The only time I saw him mount were when they stood still for him- and I haven't seen him go after the little 9 week olds for any reason. So far. I know that can change at any time- and I'm around to closely monitor changes in behavior as opposed to coming home having no idea what they did to each other all day- though I realize some accidents can happen in the course of a few seconds. With all that said, I can separate one or more from the main flock, and absolutely will keep the SBEL separate. If I see negative changes with the Welsummer I will pull him immediately and then evaluate if we'll have hen/pullet issues without him.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'd remove the SBEL...at least temporarily, if not permanently.
    The competitive environment created with multiple young cockerels can be disastrous.

    My wellie cock was great when he was coming of age....until the 2 younger (by 6 weeks) cockerels became active too.
    The wellie became brutal with the girls, more so than fighting with the other cockerels.
    The second I removed the other younger cockerels, the wellie chilled back out and has been great ever since.
     
  7. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Songster

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    So down the road, if I do keep the SBEL and wish to use him over our SBEL pullets and perhaps some others, do I just put them into the pen with him for a few weeks to clear out the Welsummer's swimmers and ensure those particular eggs are fertilized by the SBEL?

    I've got a close eye on the 9 week old's behavior - so far a non-entity - but that will change soon, and I will absolutely keep your information in mind as things progress.
     

  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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  9. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Songster

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    Very good to know- we were only supposed to have the one SBEL cockerel with what would have been 17 hens/pullets- then got the "oops" roo in that shipment and had 2 for 16, and then gave fertile eggs from another farm to an unexpected broody hen, making for cockerel #3, but we got 3 pullets out of that hatch- so quite lucky there.

    Point well taken about starting the breeding process with only the desired pairing. Breeding isn't in the immediate future, but that helps plan the smaller permanent coop.
     
  10. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Songster

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    Update: The Welsummer cockerel came up limping on Friday- my guess is a bad landing of one kind or another. No broken bones or flinching, no wound either. Today I started some magnet therapy along with the aspirin so maybe that will help whatever's wrong. He's got weight on it but it's still a pronounced limp. Friday when I found him he couldn't run on it. Good patient all around.

    The SBEL got another chance with the flock this weekend with his friend out of commission. In the intro/isolation pen, he finally started tid-bitting through the fence, telling them what wonders he's found, and started dancing for them too. Also, 3 of 6 the same-age pullets started laying over the last week and just about every one of them is squatting.

    Yesterday's session was short- the SS's went after him hard and he fought back- and it turned into an endurance test. This was not the cockerel's fault. The one hen in particular continually harassed him into fighting- would not leave him be. With the 'let them work it out' plan, I kept a close eye for injuries. They opened a little wound on the side of his face/mouth which bled some, so I took him out for the night, cleaned it up and today you wouldn't know anything had happened. Today they had a very brief scuffle and then she actively avoided him instead of chasing him around, so it seems yesterday settled something, as unpleasant as it was to watch.

    His behavior has improved- maybe in part because there was no competition from the Welsummer (in the house), and I'm sure the shuffle dancing approach did some good- and if they ran off he didn't chase them down. So, he had better luck with the more receptive pullets and even managed a couple hens. Since he had an easier time with the appropriate ladies, there was no more trying to jump the now 10 week olds-- and they're considerably more savvy now.

    Overall I'm pleased and keeping a close watch.
     

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