A question about a rooster's behavior

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jajones480, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. jajones480

    jajones480 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi!

    I have been a long-time lurker but this is my first post. We started raising chickens this summer when we inherited 9 birds - 2 Barred Rocks, 6 Red Rocks (Barred / Rhode Island Red cross), and 1 male guinea - from a friend who sadly had a house fire and had to move out of his house for awhile and was unable to care for the birds. My wife and I had been planning on getting chickens so this worked out.

    Since July, we have added 7 more hens (Barred Rock, Americauna, Delaware, Blue Orpington, Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Blue Cochin) and one Americauna Rooster. The rooster and the Blue Orpington were the last two editions. Unfortunately, All of the hens get along great in the new 5 x 8 coop. I moved the 8 new ones in first and then added the 8 older ones two weeks later. Yes - I know that 5 x 8 is a bit tight for that many birds but they free range on about 2/3 acre during the day.

    In the last couple weeks, we've noticed that the rooster has been terrorizing the Red Rocks specifically and to some degree the Delaware. He seems to leave the rest of them alone. The behavior consists of jumping on their backs, feet digging in behind the wings, and then pecking at their heads. He will also grab them by the feathers on their head from the front and drag them around the yard. All of the reds are molting so I'm not sure if that is why he is picking on them because they all look pretty sorry. The reds have taken to cramming into the nesting boxes at night to try and stay away from him. He is a beautiful bird but at the same time, we got the chickens to lay eggs, not necessarily breed so he's expendable.

    Here is Doc Holiday.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, and [​IMG]

    This 'terrorizing' you speak of is actually the rooster mating your hens!

    When a rooster mates a hen he will grab onto the feathers on the back of their necks to hang on, stand on their backs (digging his claws in for traction, which we call 'treading') and pump his cloaca against hers. You will note that the whole thing is over and done with in about 2 to 10 seconds, after which the hen will fluff up her feathers and go about doing her business, and the rooster will fluff up his feathers and stride off, very proud of himself!

    As they get older, they do tend to mature a bit and refine the whole process so it's not so violent. But if your rooster is actually a cockerel (less than a year old) the hormones are flowing and he will take it any way he can get it - including by force. It is also really common for them to have favourites but usually they will get around to all the girls in due course. They are such players, lol.

    If your girls lose feathers, you can buy aprons ('saddles') to protect them. My roo's favourite girl is completely bald all over her back so she (and all the other girls) wear saddles now to protect the delicate skin from tearing. Our roo is not rough per se, but he is a really heavy breed and he tears out their feathers by accident.

    Hope this helps!

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2014
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  3. Toddrick

    Toddrick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    But dragging them around by their head is not normal mating behavior even for young roos is it? I was watching some YouTube videos of Toms fighting Roosters the other day, and this is how they would teach the roo a lesson (of course the lesson was quickly forgotten and the roo would attack again, only to be dragged around more heh).
     
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  4. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Normal mating behaviour is not for the feint of heart, but what you described sounds like bullying. A decent cockbird will not drag his hens around and terrorise them like that. He'll do his business when he feels like it and take care of them the rest of the day. If I see a cockbird behave like that with my hens I'll invite him to dinner and he'll be on the table, not sitting at it.
     
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  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    To save a lot of typing, I copied my response to a different post. The question was a little different than yours but I think a lot of it applies.


    At 7 months he is an adolescent, not normal yet but on his way. Normal chicken mating behavior between consenting adults:

    The rooster dances for a specific hen. He lowers one wing and sort of circles her a bit.

    The hen squats. This gets her body on the ground so the rooster’s weight goes into the ground through her body, not just her legs. That way it doesn’t matter that he is bigger and heavier than her.

    The rooster hops on and grabs the back of her head. This head grab helps get him lined up to hit the target and helps him keep his balance, but it is also her signal to raise her tail out of the way so he can hit the target. Eggs don’t get fertilized if the tail is not raised out of his way so the head grab is very important.

    The rooster touches vents and hops off. His part is done.

    The hen stands up, fluffs up, and shakes. This fluffy shake gets the sperm into a special container inside the hen. Now her part is done.

    Some hens will squat for practically anything in spurs, but most, especially more mature hens, expect him to have behavior suitable for a potential mate. He should dance for her, find her food, keep a lookout for danger, keep peace in his flock, and just overall WOW! her with his magnificence and self-confidence. Immature cockerels are seldom able to do much of that, certainly not enough to convince discriminating hens to willingly submit. That behavior normally comes with maturity, though maturity is not a calendar thing. I’ve had 5 month old cockerels that could manage a flock but I’ve also had some a year old that were just getting it.

    There is something else going onto besides pure sex. The mating ritual is a dominance thing. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, whether willingly or by force. That cockerels hormones are driving him crazy about now with a desire to be flock master, the king of all he surveys. Many of the pullets probably have not had all their hormones kick in yet. Cockerels normally mature faster than the pullets and the pullets have a part or play in this too. They often don’t know what is going on, just that this former playmate is trying to dominate them and brother, that ain’t happening. Since he is bigger than them and a lot more determined, they normally run away instead of fight, though a more mature hen may not only fight but beat him up even if he is bigger.

    He has to become flock master to do his job. How can he break up fights if they turn around and beat the stuffings out of him? What good does it do to warn of danger or tell them he has found food if no one listens to him? He is not thinking through all this. His hormones are just telling him to get out there and dominate. Nothing more complicated than that. Most of your females are going to resist his dominance until that teenager matures a little and starts behaving like he should.

    From what you describe this is normal behavior for an immature cockerel, though this type of behavior often starts a month or two earlier. You may have one that is late-maturing.

    It is not unusual for a hen to run away from a mature rooster in an all-adult flock, but usually that is just her testing him, to see if he is really interested. He may ignore her if she doesn’t accept his advances, but he might chase her too. If he chases, she may squat after just a few steps or she may continue to run. Nothing is wrong if he catches her and she squats to spread out his weight, even if serious chasing is involved. The more she resists thought the more likely she is to be hurt. She has to accept her part too, not just the rooster.

    Good luck! Things could get pretty messy in there for a months until he matures enough to establish his dominance and get it accepted by all.



    Now more to your specific situation, the head dragging from the front. The rest sounds like typical behavior when you have an adolescent cockerel in trying to become in charge of the flock and the hens and pullets not cooperating. Head dragging from the front sounds like it could be his attempt to subdue an uncooperative hen and force her to accept his dominance. As he matures and as she accepts his dominance it could easily go away. It could also be a sign that he does not have the personality to establish his dominance other than by brute force.

    When I select a cockerel to become a future flock master, I pick from the ones near the top of the flock dominance fights among that year’s cockerels. The ones near the bottom often don’t have the self-confidence to be a good flock leader. Most will eventually develop the personality they need. I’ve had a five month old cockerel so cocky and self-confident that older hens swooned at his feet. I’ve had a cockerel that could not achieve that over all the hens until he was eleven months old. Since you only have one cockerel, there is no telling where he ranks in the self-confidence scale.

    From here, I see two options for you. The only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertile eggs. Every other reason is personal preference. Since you said he is expendable, expend him. That gets rid of the problem. I always suggest you keep no more roosters than you need to reach your goals. Sounds like your goals don’t require a rooster.

    The other option would be to house him separately for a few months, then try him again. He may have matured enough by then for the others to accept his dominance based on his maturity and things will be a lot more peaceful.

    Krista, it’s not always the rooster’s fault a hen is barebacked. Some hens have extremely brittle feathers. They are so brittle they break off during normal mating behavior, even if the rooster’s technique is perfect. I’ve had hens like that. I remove that hen from the flock and don’t allow her to pass those genetics to future flock members. When I remove her the other hens don’t have that problem, so I can’t blame it all on the rooster.

    It’s not always brittle feathers though. Some roosters do have a bad technique, especially adolescents, but some never learn good technique. It’s not unusual for a hen to occasionally lose a feather during mating but if several hens in the flock are truly getting barebacked instead of just a little bit thin, I’d think it is the rooster.
     
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  6. jajones480

    jajones480 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you all for your advice! I was wondering if he was "gettin' busy". I have watched him interact with the hens and I've never seen the dance that Krista alluded to. The hens actually run away from him (with the exception of a couple) and he will take flight and land on them, pinning them to the ground. I can winterize their old pen by putting a 4' x 4' box box in there for him to live in. I don't want to get rid of him because he is a nice chicken - he actually lets my kids pet him but as I stated, I can't have him bullying the hens.
     
  7. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree. Everything here sounded 'normal' to me, but the head dragging part is the only worrying thing. I really do think it is just his immaturity shining through though. My suspicion is that he will improve as he gets older. In due course the girls will help to put him into line too - my girls certainly taught my rooster what is acceptable and what is not! Perhaps separating him for a period of time might help, but I really do suspect it's an age thing that will improve over time anyway. As I said, at that age it is very much "I'll take it any way I can get it!" and that applies to dominance as well as mating. I do support rehoming him, however, if things don't improve over time. I'd also be very careful with your kids around him, especially at a time when his hormones are going wild. If he is ever going to attack a human, now would be that time.


    Yes, as I said my rooster is quite gentle with his girls so I don't hold him accountable for this. Whilst his favourite girl is bare backed, only two others have some minor feather loss. He is quite a good rooster by my standards, finding food for the girls, always eating last, rounds them up for bed at night and standing guard for them. He even tries to entice them into wanting to mate, dipping his wing for them and circling them in a 'tempting' fashion!

    He is a Buff Orpington, though, and a big one at that. He is extremely heavy, and sometimes I think when he climbs onto the hens his weight just makes him 'slide down' the hen's backs while he is holding on. So that probably contributes to some of the damage I've seen. He has never been rough with them though - he does not deliberately tear out feathers or anything like that. The backs of their necks do not have bald patches at all.

    Interesting discussion, thanks everyone!

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2014
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  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Here is a video showing mating typically operates between consenting adults.

    [VIDEO].
     
  9. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That's pretty much how my roo does it. Except that was super quick! My roo is usually on the hen for a good 10 seconds.

    He is only a year old though, so I guess he's keen and full of hormones. He will mate a hen every hour or so and will always have a go at one right before they all head off to bed for the night, and again first thing when they are let out of the coop in the morning!

    - Krista
     
  10. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    I do not understand why you are separating him. You will have to put him back with them later, and then the pecking order will have to be established again. He sounds like a normal boy. I think you should let him be, especially if they free range and they can get away from him.
     

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