Can a rough rooster become a gentleman?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Hummingbird Hollow, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hey friends. I've been keeping laying hens for a little over 5 years now. Several times in the past I've tried holding onto a rooster and each time I've ended up adding him to the stock pot because he's been so rough with the hens, chasing them, stressing them out and even injuring them. This summer while at the feed store I overheard a woman talking to the store owners about how one of her pullet chicks turned out to be a rooster and how can she "rehome" it. I volunteered to take the rooster as long as she understood that after being quaranteened, it would be introduced to the hens and if he was decent, he could stay, if not he'd become our dinner. Since then I've been offered two more roosters from other customers of the store. Rooster one lasted less than 24 hours (after completing a week of quaranteen). Rooster two is showing some promise, he's been out with the girls for three nights and at least tries to woo them by clucking over special treats and luring them in. However, he then launches himself at them, sometimes giving up the chase and coming back to the food and sometimes managing to corner a poor hen and hold her down. At this time I scoop him up and put him in a separate section of the run where he can see the girls but not harass them. Later in the day I let him free range with the girls and he's been pretty good.

    So, my question is, is there a way to teach this boy better manners around the ladies? He's a handsome Easter Egger rooster and I kind of like the idea of adding him to my mixed flock of Rhode Island Reds, Easter Eggers and Blue Favaucana (MPC green egg laying hybrid). The Blue Favaucanas go broody pretty regularly, so I think they'd happily hatch out a few chicks next spring. However, I don't want a rooster if it means I'm subjecting my girls to stress and abuse.

    Has anyone civilized a barbarian rooster?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Are you talking about a mature rooster or an immature cockerel? There is a world of difference in how mature roosters behave and immature cockerels behave. The hens have a part to play in that too.

    At the bottom of this I’ll copy something I posted for another thread. The topic was a bit different and I know you have had chickens for five years, but you might get something useful out of it.

    Some people just should not have roosters. There are certain interactions in a normal flock that some people just can’t stand to watch. I remember one woman that grabbed her shotgun and blew away a rooster for raping her hens. That was a mature rooster with mature hens, not even adolescents. They were doing what normal chickens do.

    Since force can be involved in normal natural interactions, it is always possible a hen can be injured, especially if a cockerel is involved. But the vast majority of times it’s normal interactions with no harm caused. The stress (what there is) comes in because the hens don’t want to accept the dominance of the rooster. It can be a power struggle. If the hens accept the rooster’s dominance there is usually no struggle or stress. The mating act is just as much about dominance as it is about fertilizing the eggs. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. Their choice. To do his job the rooster has to be the dominant one. How can he break up fights if the others turn around and beat the crap out of him? How can he warn of danger if they don’t listen to him? How can he fertilize the eggs if they won’t squat?

    I obviously don’t know enough about your situation to know anything for sure, but I suspect the problem is more about your expectations than in the cockerels or roosters or hens or pullets. Anyway, here is that other post.


    Typical mating behavior between mature consenting adults.

    The rooster dances for a specific hen. He lowers one wing and sort of circles her. This signals his intent.

    The hen squats. This gets her body onto the ground so the rooster’s weight goes into the ground through her entire body and not just her legs. That way she can support a much heavier rooster without hurting her legs.

    The rooster hops on and grabs the back of her head. The head grab helps him get in the right position to hit the target and helps him to keep his balance, but its major purpose is to tell the hen to raise her tail out of the way to expose the target. A mating will not be successful if she does not raise her tail and expose the target. The head grab is necessary.

    The rooster touches vents and hops off. This may be over in the blink of an eye or it may take a few seconds. But when this is over the rooster’s part is done.

    The hen then stands up, fluffs up, and shakes. This fluffy shake gets the sperm into a special container inside the hen near where the egg starts its internal journey through her internal egg making factory.

    With five month olds you are not dealing with consenting adults. You are dealing with adolescents that have no control over their hormones. The cockerels normally mature earlier than the pullets and are being driven mad by their hormones. The pullets have no idea what is going on so they certainly are not going to cooperate.

    At that age most of this is not about sex either. The mating ritual is about dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. It’s not about pecking order either, but total flock dominance. The cockerel’s hormones are screaming at it to dominate the pullets but the pullets are not ready for that. It takes both to do their part, pullets as well as cockerel.

    To do his job as flock master, the cockerel has to be the dominant chicken. How can he keep peace in his flock if he can’t break up a fight without the others beating the crap out of him? What good does it do to warn of danger if no one listens? How can he fertilize the eggs if they don’t cooperate? A cockerel is usually bigger and stronger than the pullets. If they don’t cooperate willingly he is going to force them. That’s part of his job, to be the dominant chicken.

    Part of being the dominant chicken is that he has to act like a mature adult. He needs to dance for the ladies, find them food, watch for danger, keep peace on his flock, and do all the things a mature rooster does to take care of his flock. He also has to have enough self-confidence to win the hens over by his personality. It takes a while for most cockerels to get their hormones under control enough to be able to do this.

    Normally the pullets and cockerel will eventually mature enough to play their part in the flock. For the pullets that is often about the time they start to lay, though some take a few months longer. I’ve had a cockerel do that at five months but that is really rare. I’ve had some that took a full calendar year to win over all the ladies. Normally around seven months a cockerel will mature enough to start getting his hormones under control and act like a flock master should. Normally the pullets are ready to accept him at this time but more mature hens may hold out a little longer. It’s going to vary with each flock, depending on the personality of the individual hens and rooster.

    Until the cockerel and the pullets mature enough to fulfil their duties in the flock and learn proper technique, it can get pretty rough. Normally neither the cockerel nor the pullets are harmed during his maturing process but since force is involved injury is always possible. The big problem for a lot of people is that it is just hard to watch, especially if they don’t understand the dynamics of what is going on. I don’t see anything unusual or out of the ordinary in what you describe.

    You may hear that disaster is assured unless you get more pullets. Some people believe that a magic ratio of hens to rooster will solve all these types of problems, ten to one is often quoted. It doesn’t work that way. Many breeders keep one rooster with one or two hens throughout the breeding season without any problems. One secret though is that they use roosters and hens, not cockerels and pullets. That makes a big difference. You can have the same problems with very small hen to rooster ratios as you do with very large hen to rooster ratios. If you want to use this as an excuse to get more pullets by all means go for it. But it is an excuse, not a real reason.

     
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  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I have had most of my roosters turn into gentlemen roosters. The key is to manage them as they mature. Young roosters have surging hormones that makes them a bit obnoxious, and they become focused only on mating and not all the good rooster behaviors.

    I have a pen within my shed where roosters go to grow up and mature. Some can be allowed to grow with the hens, but most need some time out. Some go in my pen for a few months, others go in and out depending on their behavior. I will finally release them permanently during the late fall to early winter when hormones are at their lowest. The following Spring when the hormones surge again they should be ready to act a bit more mature.

    The older they get the more they should improve. I don't judge my roosters until they are around a year old and are ready for their first breeding spring. Most roosters aren't fully mature until 2 years old.

    If they continue to only focus on mating I will consider culling at that point. Trying to judge an immature rooster is like judging teenager boys, you just never know how they will turn out based on their behavior.
     
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  4. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you Ridgerunner and also oldhenlikesdogs,

    You are probably correct that it is my expectations that need an adjustment not my chickens. My hens are a little over a year old having been hatched spring of 2015. The rooster should probably be called a cockerel being hatched sometime in the spring of 2016. You are both suggesting that if İ am patient his behavior should improve as he ages. İs it best if İ house him apart from the hens until he matures a bit
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    That depends on whether his behavior is bothering you or is disruptive to the flock, he can stay with the hens and still be fine, I remove them mostly because it bothers me.
     
  6. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You are witnessing normal rooster behavior.

    Some do not always chase them some do.

    If their young,they may just calm down as they get older....
     
  7. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So, I've been scooping him up when he comes out of the coop in the morning and putting him in the "time out" pen under the chicken coop where he can interact with the hens through the wire but not harrass them as they start their day. Around 3:00 I let him join the ladies and then let everyone out to free range from around 5:00 till 7:00. He spends the night in the coop and then the cycle begins again. I think this strikes a balance that the girls can feed and lay their eggs in peace. This guy seems like he may be a keeper since less than a week into the introduction they seem to be sticking with him during free ranging time and allowing mating without too much drama.

    Thanks to all of you who offered advice.
     
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    That's a really good way to manage him, hopefully he calms down soon, he should as the year gets on and the hormones wane for fall and winter.
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    My thought is to let him out with the hens and get it out of his system. Sounds like he's not hurting them, just chasing. As long as you've got a decent amount of space they should be fine. I'm thinking give him a chance to mate all he wants and his hormones will balance out a little and he won't be so desperate and horny. That will help him become a better gentleman. Most guys are nicer the more release they get [​IMG]
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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