Cockerel Breeding Aggressively

Chwicks

Chirping
Mar 14, 2018
81
95
81
North Wisconsin
Hi everyone!

I have what may be a silly question. Can a cockerel breed to aggressively with hens to where it should be culled from the flock?

I ask because I currently have (3) twenty two week old cockerels and (14) pullets. I plan to get rid of at least 1 cockerel, and likely 2, but I'm waiting for them to mature a little more.

The lead cockerel is an EE, and he really won't allow the other two cockerels to breed any of the pullets, but my Cochin cockerel sneaks it in whenever/wherever he can do so.

Our Cochin is REALLY aggressive about it. I had him separated from the flock in our brooder (inside the same run as the flock, just compartmentalized) because he was molting and the other chickens were picking his feathers to the point of showing his 'parson's nose'. Every evening I let him roost with the flock to sleep, and every morning I put him back in the brooder space to protect him while he refeathered. This lasted weeks. The hens seem to run away from him when he even comes nearby, and our EE does a good job of protecting them.

Our third is a Wyandotte, and he is lowest in the order of the three. He doesn't really try to breed any of the ladies at all. His highlight of the day is making sure all the ladies are in the coop by rounding them up out of the run. Poor fella.

My biggest concern is the Cochin. I heard quite a bit of 'communicating' from the coop while I was hunting, so I went to check on the chickens when I got up to the house. As soon as I got to the run I saw a single pullet out in the run by herself. HIGHLY unusual. I went into the coop and EVERY ONE of the other chickens were on the roost and it looked like a pillow fight had occurred. I KNOW a predator didn't get into the coop - no doubt. I'm thinking it was our Cochin cockerel trying to breed her. He pulled out a whole bunch of her feathers.

He is the largest cockerel we have, and I was planning on keeping him to get some good size dual purpose birds out of future broods, but not if he's going to be hurting the ladies.

Any thoughts? Recommendations? Should I just continue to monitor?

Thanks for reading my long post and for any help.
 

Chwicks

Chirping
Mar 14, 2018
81
95
81
North Wisconsin
It sounds as if you have two other cockerels that are better candidates for flock rooster. Some people remove all cockerels from the flock until the pullets are in full laying mode. Personally he would be the first to go if he were mine.

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I guess I'm just wondering if all the male pressure is making him that much more aggressive. Maybe if I separate the other two males and let him play king for a while he'll mellow out? I don't know. I'm just hoping to tap into other people's experiences. I've put so much effort into him already, and he is by far the largest cockerel we have of the three. I'm not sure if the hen or roo contribute more to the offspring size, so I need to do some homework there too.
 

Chwicks

Chirping
Mar 14, 2018
81
95
81
North Wisconsin
Sounds as though you have already made your decision to get rid or otherwise rehome the cochin. If he is going to be aggressive like that and the other two are not then it makes sense..

No, I really haven't. I'm looking for wisdom from other owners. I've put a lot of effort into him, and he is the one I was hoping to keep, but not if he's going to be a total jerk to the ladies. I'm just looking for ideas on how to figure this out and/or if others have had aggressive breeding cockerels or roos.

I will say that Sven, the Cochin, is also really aggressive with the 3rd cockerel (a Wyandotte) too. He hones in on him and is relentless in pursuit. The Wyandotte runs hard and fast. He in no way wants to challenge Sven. The Wyandotte tries to steer clear as much as chickenly possible... I'm hoping Sven will outgrow that too, but I don't know that he will. If I get rid of the other two cockerels, that becomes a non-issue anyway. I'm more worried about the ladies.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,845
21,971
907
Southeast Louisiana
Is it possible for any chicken, male or female, to be such a brute that removing them from the flock is a good idea? Yes, absolutely. I have removed males and females because of behaviors. Is that cockerel one of them? I don't know.

Is it possible the feather loss is from a final juvenile molt instead of something going on with that cockerel's behavior? Twenty two weeks old sounds a little late but not horribly late. Possible but really hard to tell from here. I don't know how much feather loss that really is but a pillow fight sounds a lot more like molting than from a rough mating or even a chicken fight. It's not unusual for a hen or pullet to lose a feather or so during a mating, usually from the back of the head or on her back where his claws are standing. If those areas start getting bare it is too much. But it is not going to be a pillow fight. That's what confuses me the most about this.

Are those pullets laying yet? They tend to mature enough to do their part in the flock as mature members about the time they start laying. Even if they have matured to that point that doesn't mean they will accept that cockerel's dominance, especially if he is a jerk or still acting immature. But until they mature they are not likely to accept his advances and will try to run away. His hormones are running out of control and telling him to mate with them to establish dominance. Life with cockerels and pullets can be really rough. It usually gets a lot better when they become mature hens and roosters.

That cockerel has clearly established dominance over the other two, at least so far. That can change as they mature and either one may eventually challenge him. By being dominant he is suppressing a lot of their behaviors. Their competition may push him to more extreme behaviors than if he were the only male. If you remove him and they finish maturing their behavior could dramatically change. If you can totally isolate that one cockerel from the flock and see what happens it could be educational. But even if it works out for now things could change in a couple of months as the other one gains more confidence. It is hard to make these decisions based on behavior at this age. I don't always get it right. A lot of cockerels that will eventually mature into a good rooster literally lose their heads for being an obnoxious adolescent.

You say you like this cockerel because of his size, he would sire better table birds. That is legitimate, but behavior is also a criteria. I think you need to solve for the benefit of the flock as a whole, not in favor of just one bird.

So, at this point, what can you do? You could take his head off and enjoy a good meal. I would not argue with that decision, it sounds like he is being a jerk. I've done that before with cockerels. Pullets and hens too because of behaviors. Just take your chances with the others.

You can try isolating him until he and the pullets mature more, then put him back with them. See how they behave. I'm not sure if the size difference is worth the bother of keeping him around like this. See how the others behave while he is gone.

You could leave them together as they are and observe. As long as no one is getting injured there is no long term damage being done. In some ways I consider this as part of growing up with the flock. It is normal chicken behavior. But there are limits. Those limits can be that someone is getting hurt. And sometimes this behavior can be really hard to watch. You are important in this process too.

I just saw you question about contributing to size. Genetically the male and female both contribute equally to the size of the male. They each contribute one of the genes at each gene pair. This even considers the sex linked genes. A hen gives one copy of everything to her sons and withholds the sex linked genes from her daughters. But because males and females grow differently it's easier to see what a male will contribute.
 

Chwicks

Chirping
Mar 14, 2018
81
95
81
North Wisconsin
Is it possible for any chicken, male or female, to be such a brute that removing them from the flock is a good idea? Yes, absolutely. I have removed males and females because of behaviors. Is that cockerel one of them? I don't know.

Is it possible the feather loss is from a final juvenile molt instead of something going on with that cockerel's behavior? Twenty two weeks old sounds a little late but not horribly late. Possible but really hard to tell from here. I don't know how much feather loss that really is but a pillow fight sounds a lot more like molting than from a rough mating or even a chicken fight. It's not unusual for a hen or pullet to lose a feather or so during a mating, usually from the back of the head or on her back where his claws are standing. If those areas start getting bare it is too much. But it is not going to be a pillow fight. That's what confuses me the most about this.

Are those pullets laying yet? They tend to mature enough to do their part in the flock as mature members about the time they start laying. Even if they have matured to that point that doesn't mean they will accept that cockerel's dominance, especially if he is a jerk or still acting immature. But until they mature they are not likely to accept his advances and will try to run away. His hormones are running out of control and telling him to mate with them to establish dominance. Life with cockerels and pullets can be really rough. It usually gets a lot better when they become mature hens and roosters.

That cockerel has clearly established dominance over the other two, at least so far. That can change as they mature and either one may eventually challenge him. By being dominant he is suppressing a lot of their behaviors. Their competition may push him to more extreme behaviors than if he were the only male. If you remove him and they finish maturing their behavior could dramatically change. If you can totally isolate that one cockerel from the flock and see what happens it could be educational. But even if it works out for now things could change in a couple of months as the other one gains more confidence. It is hard to make these decisions based on behavior at this age. I don't always get it right. A lot of cockerels that will eventually mature into a good rooster literally lose their heads for being an obnoxious adolescent.

You say you like this cockerel because of his size, he would sire better table birds. That is legitimate, but behavior is also a criteria. I think you need to solve for the benefit of the flock as a whole, not in favor of just one bird.

So, at this point, what can you do? You could take his head off and enjoy a good meal. I would not argue with that decision, it sounds like he is being a jerk. I've done that before with cockerels. Pullets and hens too because of behaviors. Just take your chances with the others.

You can try isolating him until he and the pullets mature more, then put him back with them. See how they behave. I'm not sure if the size difference is worth the bother of keeping him around like this. See how the others behave while he is gone.

You could leave them together as they are and observe. As long as no one is getting injured there is no long term damage being done. In some ways I consider this as part of growing up with the flock. It is normal chicken behavior. But there are limits. Those limits can be that someone is getting hurt. And sometimes this behavior can be really hard to watch. You are important in this process too.

I just saw you question about contributing to size. Genetically the male and female both contribute equally to the size of the male. They each contribute one of the genes at each gene pair. This even considers the sex linked genes. A hen gives one copy of everything to her sons and withholds the sex linked genes from her daughters. But because males and females grow differently it's easier to see what a male will contribute.

Thank you. Thank you! Thank you!!! You are awesome! I truly appreciate you taking the time to type this up, and to offer your experience and wisdom.

Perhaps my "pillow fight" comment was a bit exaggerated. Someone pulled about 60 feathers off of her (I literally counted them). I clean the coop diligently daily, and I've been watching their molts. By in large, most of them are done molting. The cockerels still have some filling in to do, but not near as much feather loss happening in the flock. I picked her up to examine her and it looked like the feathers were from her back; where he would have tried to latch on to her. He is a bit of a clumsy oaf, truthfully. He is SO big compared to the pullets too. I even made comment to my husband about it, but the girls are managing.

As for laying, I have an EE pullet that started laying at exactly 17 weeks. She's pretty much laying daily now. Only one soft shell from her since she started, so I'm counting that as a hiccup. :) She laid her first egg in the nesting boxes, and all but two have been laid in there since... she's been my favorite since she was 4 days old. lol That being said, she's making the other girls look like slackers. :gig We did FINALLY get a new egg yesterday. It was brown, and our EE lays blue, so we do have someone new laying. I just need to figure out who it is now. She laid the egg in the middle of the run, so I'm hoping she figures out the nesting box situation soon. Those are the only two laying out of the 14 though.

There are only (3) pullets that seem to accept the breeding, as of now. It can be pretty hard to watch the involuntary advances. Our EE cockerel, Jon Snow, was pretty aggressive in his earlier breeding, though nothing like Sven, and now he seems to work a little harder at seducing the girls than forcing himself on them. It's clear he is their favorite and the lead cockerel. I've thought about getting rid of Jon because I truly didn't get EEs with the anticipation of keeping a male for flock management. I just wanted the ladies for a variety of egg colors. Jon's make up in no way aligns with our goals for flock management (i.e. cold hardy, sizable for a table bird, etc.), but he is gorgeous and has taken on the role of leader. He's great with the girls too, but I'm willing to look past all of that if Sven can turn out to be a good boy. I just don't want to nix Jon and Sven turn out to be an A-hole.

I've been milling around all of these alternatives for days and days. My husband is sick of hearing about it. lol. Sven (the Cochin) has been isolated for several weeks, so my husband says he's just getting it out of his system. I just reintegrated him with the flock full time on Monday. When he was in isolation there was absolute peace in the kingdom. Jon gets along with the 3rd tier cockerel (Utred) perfectly and the flock seemed to flourish.

I've told my husband I consider these to be my three options:
1) Keep Jon (EE and tiniest of the cockerels) and Utred (Wyandotte and decent size) and know that Jon is going to be the lead breeder (smaller birds as offspring in the future). If something should happen to Jon (e.g. he turns into a jerk as he matures or gets sick) then Utred would become lead roo. In this scenario, Sven (Cochin) is in a pot and our belly.

2) Keep Sven (Cochin) and Utred (Wyandotte that Sven targets) and hope Sven pulls his head out of his vent as he gets older. Then I have two decent sized birds as breed stock. I know Utred won't get much play with the ladies, but he'd be a good reserve guy if something happened to Sven.

3) Keep Sven and get rid of Jon and Utred. Thus, putting all my eggs in one cockerel. I'd hope Sven would cool his jets because the competition amongst males has been diminished.

Thank you for educating me on the genetics too. I really appreciate it.

Decisions. Decisions. :barnie

I think I'll make myself a cup of tea and go observe for a spell. Maybe I'll have an epiphany. lol

I appreciate your support, encouragement, and time! :love
 

chrissynemetz

Psalm 91 ❤
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Dec 19, 2013
21,161
141,421
1,827
Olathe Colorado
Most of Sven's behavior is hormones right now. He probably will... maybe... most likely... become more gentle with the ladies once he gets past the teenage hormones, but there's no absolute guarantee. It sounds like the other two cockerels are already a little more mellow and better with the girls.
You could always just keep him separated until he's a little more mature and see how he does. :)
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
23,515
39,426
1,106
southern Michigan
Cochins aren't known to be great egg layers, so using Sven may add size, and diminish egg production. Is this a good trade-off for your flock?
I want peace and good behavior, and it's a cull point (major) in my flock. Sven wouldn't be a winner here...
If nobody is being injured, maybe he's fine, but still.
Have you looked at Chanteclers? Putting in a plug here for the big white guys, like my avatar. Cold hardy, big, good layers.
I do understand your problem making this decision. I've picked the right ones, and the 'what was I thinking' individuals, and also am not interested in having a separate bachelor coop to put these decisions off.
Mary
 

MANNA-PRO

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