Chicken math

Kaford

Chirping
Nov 22, 2021
30
88
59
So I had posted before about debating on adding to my flock. However, I am in a pickle you see.. I have 4 chickens that were all meant to be hens.. but then to our surprise we have a rooster on our hands and only 3 girls. Now here's the delimma, I now know thanks to all who responded to my last post that chicken rule of thumb is 8-10 hens per 1 rooster. What do I do now. Will my 3 girls get over bred? Do I add more ladies in the spring and hope that the girls i have now will be ok until then? There's so many thoughts to consider. I really like my surprise rooster and not so sure I want to give him up.
TIA :)
 

Isadora

If at first you don't fricassee, fry, fry a hen
Premium Feather Member
Mar 29, 2021
5,463
28,761
856
IN
Why not just keep him until it proves to be a problem? The 8 to 10 hens is a rule of thumb for fertility reasons and for overmating, but sometimes some boys aren't as randy as the others and they do okay with less hens. If I were you, I would have a plan to get rid of him if there's a problem, but would keep him for now. Or, if you have the space, get him some more ladies.
 

Kaford

Chirping
Nov 22, 2021
30
88
59
Why not just keep him until it proves to be a problem? The 8 to 10 hens is a rule of thumb for fertility reasons and for overmating, but sometimes some boys aren't as randy as the others and they do okay with less hens. If I were you, I would have a plan to get rid of him if there's a problem, but would keep him for now. Or, if you have the space, get him some more ladies.
He hasn't seemed to be mating with them yet so they're all doing well as of now.. Hopefully he's just not an overly randy rooster!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,278
23,529
907
Southeast Louisiana
I now know thanks to all who responded to my last post that chicken rule of thumb is 8-10 hens per 1 rooster.
That is taken out of context a lot on here and has caused people a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. You, for example. The commercial hatcheries have found that if they use a rule of thumb of 10 hens per rooster for full sized flocks and 12 to 15 hens per rooster for bantams the pretty much get 100% fertile eggs if they use the pen breeding method. That's just a starting point, they test for fertility and adjust the number of roosters up or down as necessary. A hatchery's business is to produce fertile eggs so fertility is very important to them. The pen breeding method is where you might have 20 roosters in the same pen as 200 or so hens. That ratio has nothing to do with roosters fighting or overbreeding hens.

What do I do now. Will my 3 girls get over bred?
What do you envision "over bred" to look like? It's a scary term. Do you see marauders raping and pillaging as they travel through the countryside? Nothing pleasant about that for the hens.

Your biggest risk is when they are immature adolescents. The boy's hormones take over, he has no control. He is not trying to fertilize eggs that are not being laid, he is wildly mating them because that's how he establishes dominance. The one on top is dominating the one on the bottom, either willingly or by force. The immature girls don't know what is going on but they do know they don't want to be dominated so it is almost always by force. That means it can be violent. If it is violent there is a risk of injury.

One aspect is that the pullet or hen can lose feathers during mating. The male hops on her back and holds on with his claws. That might create a bare spot where he is standing. Part of the mating act is that the male grabs the back of the female's head with his beak. That is a necessary part of mating. The head grab is the girl's signal to instinctively raise her tail put of the way so he can hit the target. There would be no fertile eggs without the head grab. It is not unusual for a few feathers to occasionally be lost during mating. That's not a big deal. The risk if a lot of feathers are lost is that his claws or beak may cut her and cause a wound. Chickens will sometimes (not always but the risk is real) peck at a wound, maybe even becoming cannibals. This can lead to serious injury or death. Often this feather loss looks a lot worse to humans than it really is but I don't dismiss it lightly.

Another possibility is that the girls don't want to be mated but the boys insist. So the girls avoid the boys. Especially if your room is a little tight the girls may stay in the coop while the boy is outside. They may even stay on the roosts to make it harder for him to get to them.

To me these are the aspects of over bred or over mating. Some pullets or hens can lose feathers very easily, most are tougher. I've had some that had brittle feathers. No matter how gentle the cockerel or rooster is the feathers just break really easily, causing a bare back. I typically raise over 40 cockerels and pullets with the flock each year, the ratio being whatever it is based on how many hatch. I have over 3,000 square feet outside for them but every few years a few pullets will spend time in the coop to avoid the boys. That's pretty rare but it does happen. If I had a lot less room I'd expect that to happen a lot more.

These behaviors are pretty typical of immature cockerels and pullets going through puberty. Once they mature the cockerels gain control of their hormones and start acting like a responsible male. The pullets mature (often about the time they start laying) and understand their part in the flock's dynamics. While some kids never grow up your flock usually gets really calm when they do finally mature. Getting them through puberty can be really hard to watch even if nobody gets hurt.

If you really want to keep that boy you may consider housing him where they can see each other but can't physically get to each other for a while until they mature. On this I suggest you go by what you see. Be ready with a plan but a lot of the time there just aren't any of these issues. But there are possibilities.

Do I add more ladies in the spring and hope that the girls i have now will be ok until then?
If you want more hens then get them. But don't get them to solve this problem, if it is even a problem to start with. It's not a solution, it's just an integration you have to get through so an additional problem.
 

adstowe

Songster
5 Years
Aug 8, 2016
437
641
191
Colorado
Not hatchery breeders will often keep trios. 2 females and a male together. By the 10 hen "rule" this seems crazy, but it all comes down to your individual birds. Base your choices on how your birds behave, not on what the internet tells you is the right choice. If you want to add a few more, then do it. There's nothing wrong with that, but do it because you want to, not because some imagined issue warrants it. If you you don't want more (or aren't sure), then wait to see if there even IS an issue and address it then. I generally don't reccomend new chicken owners get a male until the females have matured and are able to keep the cockerel in line, but yours wasn't by choice. Just see how things pan out
 

Kaford

Chirping
Nov 22, 2021
30
88
59
Not hatchery breeders will often keep trios. 2 females and a male together. By dethe 10 hen "rule" this seems crazy, but it all comes down to your individual birds. Base your choices on how your birds behave, not on what the internet tells you is the right choice. If you want to add a few more, then do it. There's nothing wrong with that, but do it because you want to, not because some imagined issue warrants it. If you you don't want more (or aren't sure), then wait to see if there even IS an issue and address it then. I generally don't reccomend new chicken owners get a male until the females have matured and are able to keep the cockerel in line, but yours wasn't by choice. Just see how things pan out
Thank you very much for this! It definitely eased my mind.
 

Kaford

Chirping
Nov 22, 2021
30
88
59
That is taken out of context a lot on here and has caused people a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. You, for example. The commercial hatcheries have found that if they use a rule of thumb of 10 hens per rooster for full sized flocks and 12 to 15 hens per rooster for bantams the pretty much get 100% fertile eggs if they use the pen breeding method. That's just a starting point, they test for fertility and adjust the number of roosters up or down as necessary. A hatchery's business is to produce fertile eggs so fertility is very important to them. The pen breeding method is where you might have 20 roosters in the same pen as 200 or so hens. That ratio has nothing to do with roosters fighting or overbreeding hens.


What do you envision "over bred" to look like? It's a scary term. Do you see marauders raping and pillaging as they travel through the countryside? Nothing pleasant about that for the hens.

Your biggest risk is when they are immature adolescents. The boy's hormones take over, he has no control. He is not trying to fertilize eggs that are not being laid, he is wildly mating them because that's how he establishes dominance. The one on top is dominating the one on the bottom, either willingly or by force. The immature girls don't know what is going on but they do know they don't want to be dominated so it is almost always by force. That means it can be violent. If it is violent there is a risk of injury.

One aspect is that the pullet or hen can lose feathers during mating. The male hops on her back and holds on with his claws. That might create a bare spot where he is standing. Part of the mating act is that the male grabs the back of the female's head with his beak. That is a necessary part of mating. The head grab is the girl's signal to instinctively raise her tail put of the way so he can hit the target. There would be no fertile eggs without the head grab. It is not unusual for a few feathers to occasionally be lost during mating. That's not a big deal. The risk if a lot of feathers are lost is that his claws or beak may cut her and cause a wound. Chickens will sometimes (not always but the risk is real) peck at a wound, maybe even becoming cannibals. This can lead to serious injury or death. Often this feather loss looks a lot worse to humans than it really is but I don't dismiss it lightly.

Another possibility is that the girls don't want to be mated but the boys insist. So the girls avoid the boys. Especially if your room is a little tight the girls may stay in the coop while the boy is outside. They may even stay on the roosts to make it harder for him to get to them.

To me these are the aspects of over bred or over mating. Some pullets or hens can lose feathers very easily, most are tougher. I've had some that had brittle feathers. No matter how gentle the cockerel or rooster is the feathers just break really easily, causing a bare back. I typically raise over 40 cockerels and pullets with the flock each year, the ratio being whatever it is based on how many hatch. I have over 3,000 square feet outside for them but every few years a few pullets will spend time in the coop to avoid the boys. That's pretty rare but it does happen. If I had a lot less room I'd expect that to happen a lot more.

These behaviors are pretty typical of immature cockerels and pullets going through puberty. Once they mature the cockerels gain control of their hormones and start acting like a responsible male. The pullets mature (often about the time they start laying) and understand their part in the flock's dynamics. While some kids never grow up your flock usually gets really calm when they do finally mature. Getting them through puberty can be really hard to watch even if nobody gets hurt.

If you really want to keep that boy you may consider housing him where they can see each other but can't physically get to each other for a while until they mature. On this I suggest you go by what you see. Be ready with a plan but a lot of the time there just aren't any of these issues. But there are possibilities.


If you want more hens then get them. But don't get them to solve this problem, if it is even a problem to start with. It's not a solution, it's just an integration you have to get through so an additional problem.
Thank you for your response it definitely helped ! I appreciate your input on everything!
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
9,723
14,001
656
western South Dakota
The problem with roosters and advice is that people tend to give advice from their point of view - their own set up. What works in an established flock of often times, more than year s established, may not work with an immature flock just put together. A flock of 20-30+ hens is going to have different dynamics than a real back yard set up of less than 6 birds

A lot depends on the age of the birds, and the size of the set up, and the experience of the flock keeper. Roosters in my opinion, take a bit of experience.

Rules for Roosters?
  • How they are behaving today, is no indicator how they will behave next week, especially if they are less than 8-9 months old.
  • Roosters raised with flock mates often become sexually active LONG before the pullets are ready. This can get ugly. Older established hens will give a young rooster manners, (sometimes) and without them, this can get wild.
  • Roosters that are darlings, can become the nightmares towards people. Inexperienced people often vastly underestimate the violence of a rooster attack.
  • ALWAYS, have a plan B set up and ready to go. Plan B needs to have a way to catch a rooster (a long handled fish net can work) and a separate box, cage or crate to put him in. Wear jeans, a heavy sweatshirt and leather gloves if needed.
  • There really are no perfect ways to raise a perfect rooster, some rooster are just rotten roosters, if you can't cull a rooster yourself, can you find someone who can?
  • And roosters have ruined the whole chicken experience for a lot of people.
Good luck, it might work out just fine, but do have a plan set up in case it doesn't.

Mrs K
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,080
15,232
606
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Echoing others - 10:1 is for fertility, not behavior (and I find I can go higher with young roosters and young hens, anyways - not that that helps you any).

Older, mature hens are a HUGE help in teaching randy, barely mature roosters how to behave. Again, doesn't help you any, but something to keep in mind in future years.

ALWAYS always ALWAYS have a Plan B. and, for larger flocks, a Plan C. Because when a rooster becomes aggressive and is removed, that whole "pecking order" thing gets redone. Sometimes, a previously docile Roo lower on the list acts as if the new position at the top of the heap has gone to his head. Othertimes, a real showman and cad will mature into a more gentle protector when he no longer has to compete with Alpha for breeding opportunity. You never know.
 

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