Advice on rooster over-breeding and hen being bullied

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cgbalch, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. cgbalch

    cgbalch Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 5, 2017
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post, but I've been coming to BYC for advice since I first got my chicken flock! I have 5 hens and 1 roo, which I got as chicks last spring. The hens started laying at the end of the summer and they've always been a happy family until the past month or so. Now there's trouble in paradise and I could use some advice on management of my little flock. I started to notice that one of my hens (Betty) was loosing some of the feathers between her wings. I came to BYC and saw that this was likely due to my roo over-breeding her. Then one day Betty had a big bloody hole in the side of her neck. My guess is that my roo bit her while breeding her (or trying to pin her down to breed her) and then the hens pecked at it and turned it into a big gash. Back to BYC for advice! I cleaned it up and separated her in her own section of the coop for a week until it had healed. She's back with the group now but everyone is being really terrible to her! She is bullied to the point where they won't let her eat or drink. She spends most of her time on a perch, and only comes down to eat/drink when I'm there to keep the others away from her, or after dark when all the other chickens have perched for the night. The two main culprits seem to be the alpha hen and the roo (he is still always chasing her around). I've also noticed that 2 of the other hens are now loosing their saddle feathers too. Is my rooster particularly un-gentleman-like? I know that I should have a 10:1 ratio and am planning on getting more pullets in the spring. Until then though, should I try out some hen saddles on the girls? I don't want them missing too many feathers since I live in Canada and our winters are very cold! Or should I just separate my rooster? And what can I do to help poor Betty?

    Here are a couple pics of the feather loss on Betty's back. Does this look like typical over-breeding?


  2. KikisGirls

    KikisGirls Reading. Must read more. Premium Member Project Manager

    Jul 31, 2015
    Houston, TX
    My Coop
    She is a pretty girl!
    I personally would remove him, but that is just my opinion.
    I'd hate to see my girls all beat up.

    BTW Welcome to BYC!!
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Yep, it does. Separate him until you can get him enough mating opportunities that he doesn't wear them all raw backed. A young rooster can easily service 15 hens and still put some wear on their saddle feathers a bit. If you don't need him for breeding and increasing your flock, you may consider finding him another home so you won't have to always keep him separate.

    Your hen will eventually find her place back in the pecking order, it just takes a little time. If you could do daily feedings for awhile in a trough style feeder so they can't run her off the feed, it may help her get some food. They'll be so busy eating they won't bother to run her off the feed and she will be able to still have access to a feeder that has two sides and is long.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What are your goals for that rooster? Why do you have him? The only real reason you need a rooster is if you want fertile eggs. Everything else is just personal preference. Plenty of people want a rooster even if they don’t want fertile eggs, that’s your business. But one possible solution for a lot of this is to get rid of the rooster if that’s acceptable to you. After a few days the others won’t miss him. Chickens are adaptable that way.

    Technically yours are still pullets and a cockerel, not hens and a rooster. When they are going through puberty this kind of problem is pretty normal, but yours are getting old enough that should pretty much be beyond that. Still, it’s possible your cockerel is late maturing, so some of this could be due to youthful enthusiasm. I find the late maturing cockerels are often the rougher ones. If you decide to keep him, I’d isolate him for a month or more and see if it is a maturity problem.

    In Ontario, how much room do they have? All kinds of behavioral problems can be rooted in them being kept in tight spaces. That goes for the hens losing feathers problems to your reintegration problem. Since that pullet is staying on the roosts, it sounds to me like they are confined to the coop. If there is any way you can give them some outside room you might help yourself tremendously.

    One way to let a chicken eat and drink when the others are hogging the food and water is to have multiple feed and water stations. That’s one of the reasons I feed and water both inside the coop and the run. I’m always integrating and that allows them all to eat and drink. If they are confined to the coop that may not be easy to do. If you can, maybe build a platform up high but lower than the roosts so you can put food and water up there. I don’t know if that will work, but it might create more space in your coop.

    If that head hen continues to bully that pullet with the cockerel gone, isolate her for a while. Give that pullet a chance to integrate back with the others. By isolating the head hen you might knock her down in the pecking order so she has more to worry about than picking on one specific hen when she rejoins the flock. Sometimes it works.

    Good luck!
  5. tuner06

    tuner06 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 22, 2014
    Jarrettsville MD
    Hello I had 14 roosters up until a week ago. My hens look like yours lots of teather loss. So decided to get rid of all be 3. I have been using saddles to help my hens. Now I have more hens then you but about 50-100. So I think my roo ratio is good. Your Betty will find her way back.
  6. cgbalch

    cgbalch Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 5, 2017
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the advice everyone! Thought I'd give an update on the status of things in my coop!

    I really don't need my rooster, I have no current plans to breed them (maybe someday in the future), but I am keeping him because I like him! I wasn't planning on getting a cockerel, but the breeder that I purchased the pullets from wanted to get rid of him. And since then he has really grown on me! His name is Magnus and I like him because he's funny and full of personality. He knows me and is not aggressive at all towards me. I like his crowing and I also really enjoy taking photographs of our farm, and he really adds a certain beauty to photos! I took the advice though and have separated him from the ladies to give them a break and let their feathers grow back.

    The hens are indoors for the winter, but they have a very large coop in our barn. It's divided into 2 big sections, so a hen can get out of sight of another hen for a bit if she needs to. Their summer coop isn't insulated, so I moved them into the warm and dry barn for the winter. The winter coop don't have an outdoor run, but area-wise the winter coop is just as big as their summer coop plus its attached run. And on the weekends when I'm home, I open up the coop so everyone can go outside to free range. For the most part though, they don't want to go outside in the snow, but prefer to explore and peck around in the rest of the barn.

    Betty seems to be settling back in with the group a little better now. I've added a second feeder to their coop, a trough feeder, so she has the option of eating there. But now I have a rat that has moved in, so solve one problem and create another! Betty has become my little pet though! In the mornings she flies up onto my arm and has some scratch grain out of the scoop before I scatter it for the rest of them.

    Thanks again!

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