Cockerel behavior help: aggressive male picking on another male

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Bawkbagawk, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. Bawkbagawk

    Bawkbagawk New Egg

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    Mar 1, 2012
    Gilbert, AZ
    Hello! I'm new to owning back yard chickens, and I have a question regarding male behavior in my first flock. We have 20 chickens (18 female, 2 male: Orpingtons and Wyandottes). They are about 5 mos old so they are sexually maturing and their hormones are in full swing. I have noticed that one of the cockerels is definitely king of the castle, and while neither of the boys shows aggression towards me, the dominant one is picking on the other male quite a lot. It began last week when I noticed all of the other cockerel's tail feathers had been plucked. There are no bloody spots (no damage to his skin or tissue), just his long feathers were gone. Over the past few days, I've seen the two really go at it. At first, the weaker of the two would stick up for himself somewhat, but now it usually involves the dominant cockerel chasing the other around the run until the other runs inside the attached coop to hide. When I opened the ramp this morning for them to come out into the run, the bullied cockerel didn't even want to come out. He is very fearful of the dominant male to the point of running in panic at the sight of him. He has been acting submissive and withdrawn as of today which is not the norm. I'm worried the constant bullying is taking its toll on him. Each chicken has 14' sq-ft of space and I read that a good ratio is 10:1 for female to male. I'm not sure what to do to help the other cockerel not get picked on. Or maybe that's nature and there's really nothing I can do... I really could use your advice! Thank you!
     
  2. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    How the alpha rooster relates to the other roosters lower on the pecking order can depend so much on their individual temperaments. Maybe you can set up some perches and other spots where the bullied cockerel can get out of the way of the boss. He is probably afraid of getting cornered. At least they are not out and out fighting.
     
  3. Bawkbagawk

    Bawkbagawk New Egg

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    Mar 1, 2012
    Gilbert, AZ
    Thank you for the response! There are two 8' long perches inside the coop about 3' off the ground, and that's exactly where the less dominant cockerel ran to when he was chased out of the run this morning (last night I also saw him hiding in one of the nest boxes with the alpha waiting for him outside on the ground). So you recommend putting perches inside the run itself? Yes, I'm glad they're not out and out fighting, but at the same time, I feel so bad seeing the one tormented by the alpha.

    My neighbor who has owned chickens for some time has a plastic dog kennel and said he uses it to temporarily separate an aggressive rooster from the flock. I don't know if this would work or if the alpha would go straight back to his old behavior upon being re-introduced. Any opinions on this?
     
  4. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    It is hard to say what would happen. After being separated, the alpha may rejoin the flock with something to prove. It might be interesting to see what the alpha does if he is temporarily separated to part of the run and see if the other one ventures out more without bothering the hens.
    Perches in the run could give the bullied cockerel a quick escape if he is in the run.
     
  5. Kev

    Kev Overrun With Chickens

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    I personally don't recommend separation if you want to keep both roosters and don't want to make new and separate accodomations. Roosters often take up bad behaviors with 'a little extra vigor' when reintroduced. Best thing in this case is to provide extra perches, shelter but make sure none of the shelters are made so the loser cannot be trapped and exposed to the dominant one- he could peck him to death. He won't understand the loser is simply unable to move out of his area to show him respect... all he understands is this rooster is right in front of him and NOT MOVING AWAY...and that makes him madder and madder.

    The loser trying to stand up for himself is also a clue, that will re-ignite the dominant's urge to show his dominance with more vigor. The same thing will happen if you separate, and the loser decides to try challenging him again..


    It's a sad sight to see the loser being bullied right now. Often the boss will eventually and gradually cool off on chasing him around until to the point the other is merely tolerated. Do expect the possibility that the dominant will never tolerate his presence, some roosters are just like that.
     
  6. Bawkbagawk

    Bawkbagawk New Egg

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    Scratch & Kev, thanks for the advice. I just got home from work and went to check on them. 19 were in the run so guess who was inside the coop all by himself...?

    I tried this by grabbing the alpha and holding him in my arms for about 15 minutes to let the other cockerel wander out. He seemed to appreciate the freedom and is very gentle with the hens.

    I really would like to keep both if possible and will continue to keep a close eye on them. I will try what you said and place some perches inside the run to give the weaker guy a quick place to escape.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012

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