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Discussion in 'Chicken Breeders & Hatcheries' started by Carmen Zukowski, Nov 10, 2013.
What is the ratio of hens per roosters
Basically whatever you want it to be but there are some issues. Some of that depends on your reasons for having roosters.
There is a ratio going around the forum that says 10 hens per rooster. It’s not a bad starting point and will give you a nice flock, but there is no magic associated with it. It will not stop roosters from fighting nor will it stop possible over-mating or barebacked hens.
The 10 to 1 ratio comes from commercial operations that provide hatching eggs using the pen breeding method. That’s where they keep maybe 20 roosters with 200 hens in one large pen. Due to the randomness of mating, they have determined that 10 to 1 is the most efficient ratio to better ensure that practically all eggs are fertile. Some of that depends on the virility of the individual roosters too. Some are more active than others.
In different management methods, such as a relatively small flock that free ranges or at least has a lot of room, one rooster with decent virility can normally keep 20 hens fertile.
Roosters are going to determine which one is dominant, normally by fighting and intimidation. It’s possible they can have a fight to the death, especially with certain breeds like games that have been bred for this. Usually, especially if you have enough room, they work out their differences and work together to protect the flock. What normally happens is that two will face off, flaring neck feathers and glaring at each other. This is often but not always followed by a quick skirmish where they jump at each other. Usually one quickly determines they are not going to win this thing so they run away. There is usually some chasing involved but as long as the weaker one has room to run away and get away, it’s settled peacefully. There can be rematches to drive the message home and make sure it is settled but it ends up with them working together. It’s when they are fairly evenly matched and one is not quick to run away that you see problems, either injury or even death. The personality of the individual roosters is more important in this than the hen to rooster ratio.
The next issues are somewhat related but not totally, barebacked hens and overmating. A barebacked hen is where the feathers on her back come off, leaving bare skin. That skin is subject to being cut by the rooster’s claws and maybe spurs during mating. It’s a dangerous situation because the others may go cannibalistic if they see blood. It’s not unusual or even bad for a hen to occasionally lose a feather during mating but if that feather loss gets extreme it is dangerous.
There are several different things that can cause a hen to be barebacked; overmating, bad technique by the rooster (adolescent roosters are notoriously bad about this), the female not cooperating so the rooster gets physical, or even brittle feathers. I’ve had hens that had really brittle feathers become barebacked through no fault of the rooster’s technique. The feathers just break really easily. I’ve had more problems with barebacked hens when I had a really great hen to rooster ratio than when I had a lousy ratio. When I permanently removed those hens from my flock, the barebacked problem never came back. Some people on this forum have said they had barebacked hens with one rooster free ranging with over 20 hens.
Overmating can cause hens to be stressed to the point they spend more time trying to get away from the roosters than eating and such. They often spend a lot of time on the roosts where the rooster can’t get to them instead of taking dirt baths, foraging, or just hanging out.
There is no magic ratio of hens to roosters that will stop these problems. There are just too many variables for one number to work for all of us. Some breeders keep one rooster in a breeding pen with one or two hens for the entire breeding season without these problems, but they normally use mature birds. Most of these problems occur with adolescent immature chickens. But I do recommend you keep as few roosters with your flock as you can and still meet your goals. That’s not because you are guaranteed to have these problems with more roosters, but that you are less likely to have problems with fewer roosters.
Not a clear answer, I know. I don’t know your goals, set-up, management techniques, flock size, or any of the many variables that will affect this. As I said, 10 to 1 is not a bad place to start if that meets your goals.
Wow, Great info.... I have 6 roosters and 5 hens all from the same flock. They are now 28 weeks.... (Buff Orpington) know I need to get rid of the roosters but I would love to keep 1..... First time with chickens so lots of learning.
We just want eggs and maybe, if all goes well in the spring, we can hatch some of our own. I guess by your reply I should just try and see what happens. ???
Thanks for your feedback