Cockerel growth and behavior


8 Years
Jun 6, 2013
I raised 30-some chicks of various breeds this year. They're nearly 6 months old. I landed with about 15 cockerels. One male has claimed dominance. His waddles are huge, full, and flush, he stands tall, and is the *only* one that crows. All other males are quiet, with small waddles. Only two or three of them breed the hens. No fighting or over breeding issues.

My friend, who raised a similar quantity of birds, many from the same breeders though she had more variety than I, landed 50% cockerels. However she's had to cull several due to extreme aggression both between the roos, as well as too violence against the hens. ALL of her roos crow.

Our birds both free range and are kept very similarly. Any ideas as to the massive difference in behavior?
maybe one set are happier than the other set for some reason? I honestly dont know but I personally have one rooster that only crows once a week
dont really know what is going on there.
Each chicken has its own individual personality and each flock has its own dynamics. Luck on that could play a part. I don’t know what breeds are involved either. You mentioned there were some differences. While both flocks free range, there could be differences in your management styles or layout that have an effect. Different chickens mature at different rates too.

It could be that you had one cockerel that developed so much earlier than the others that his dominance is holding the others back from developing. I’ve butchered a lot of cockerels. The more mature have much larger testicles than the immature ones of the same age and act differently. I’ve also removed the more dominant and left a less dominant cockerel to become flock master by himself. His maturity level changed in a very short time. Perhaps your friend had enough that matured about the same time that the flock dynamics became more competitive.

From the numbers you gave the pullet to cockerel ratio was about the same in both flocks. Some pullets are going to mature faster than others and accept a rooster earlier than others. Some are going to resist. Them accepting a rooster for mating is not just about sex, it’s also about dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. Perhaps in your flock there was clearly a dominant rooster so they could accept his dominance. In her flock there was no one dominant rooster so the pullets did not know who was in charge.

A good flock master takes care of his flock. He finds them food, breaks up fights, helps them find a nest, provides a warning system for danger, and just takes good care of his flock. Hens respect that. Some less mature roosters, especially cockerels, don’t do that and are mostly interested in mating. That goes back to mating being a dominance thing and they are trying to establish that dominance. If a cockerel is not going to perform the duties of a good flock master, the pullets won’t respect him and don’t want him to be the father of their chicks.

Then there is the difference in people. It’s possible what she considers as extreme aggression and violence toward the pullets you consider as normal behavior in a flock.

There are a lot of different things that make up the flock dynamics. Just removing one bird can often totally change that. I normally hatch about 40 chicks a year. Some years the cockerels are a lot more troubling than others. 2013 was really rough. 2014 was pretty calm. Pullet to cockerel ratio does not play much of a role from what I’ve seen.

A lot of this is speculation. Even when looking at mine I don’t always know what is going on. I can’t even guess over the internet.
Ridgerunner, that's some good insight. I've thought of a few interesting differences that may explain the aggression. Here's more info. I didn't want to go overboard with details in my initial post.

I raised two batches of chicks. The first 22 chicks were a mix of Ameraucana, blue and black marans, blue and black orpingtons, and heritage turkeys. My friend got her 24 chicks from the same hatch, a mix of Ameracauna, crested polish, swedish flowers, orpingtons, and a few other heritage chickens.

At 1 month, I moved my chicks outdoors. They free-ranged with my 7 mature hens (who were very tolerant, though perhaps unenthused about them), and roosted in a separate pen. At this 1-month mark I got a batch of 14 turkens (Naked Necks). Another month later, the 2 month old chicks were integrated and roosting with the hens and the 1 month old turkens roosted in the chick pen. When the turkens hit 2 months they were integrated with the rest. So my chicks grew up with large, mature hens who kept them in place, and also grew up outdoors and with another age groups of chicks. I haven't had a single incident of blood or damage from bickering or fighting. None of the roos breed the pullets, only the actively laying older hens who now accept it.
The 'alpha roo' of my flock is a black maran. He and one of the blue marans were spit-fires from day 1. The black maran was displaying breeding behavior and bullying from 2 weeks old. At 2-3 months he went through a phase of attacking the dog. However, he has since stopped displaying aggression towards the chickens, the dog, or me, and just crows, breeds, and keeps a good look out. The blue maran roo is the second most well developed cockerel, however he doesn't crow or breed. It's actually the black maran and two turken cockerels who do the breeding.

My friend raised her 24 indoors for 2 months, with supervised outdoor time. All of her cockerels were displaying fighting/dominance behavior at about a month, whereas I rarely ever saw the "jump and lunge" cockerel antics. She moved them outside at 2 months, and her hens tried to kill them, so they were penned up and separated from the hens. At 4 months they were split up into two groups (on different ends of the property) and finally integrated with hens. This is when aggression started. And I mean BLOODY attacks between roos and roos against hens and pullets. So the roos were separated from the hens, and attacks escalated between males. So culling happened.

Maybe the combination of not having mature hens to establish order, and the separation of the chicks created an imbalance.

Also, I haven't medicated my chicks in any way, shape, or form. They were raised almost completely outdoors with lots of fresh fruit and veggies. My friend kept to strict 'by the book' diet, I believe she used medicated feed. She had an outbreak of coccidiosis (despite very clean living, I will say) and the birds had a round of antibiotics.

She's owned chickens for a very long time, whereas this is my 4th year with birds. I know she knows a lot more than I in many areas, but she's baffled by the aggression this year. She hasn't seen such aggression in past years.
In the first flock there seems to be one rooster who is a faster maturing bird and he has taken over the top spot all for himself.

In the second flock I doubt that there is a cockerel who is as precocious as the cockerel in the first flock.

Remember for what ever it is worth that neither one of you own a rooster yet. At 6 months cockerels are just discovering their masculinity and some of them will display more masculine development than their flock mates of the same age. Also in the first flock the precocious cockerel is likely suppressing the masculinity of his fellow cockerels because of his early development, while in the second flock the cockerels all seem more equal and they are having a good old fashion game of "King of the Mountain." Furthermore, as is true with all higher animals, masculinity or manhood is not the same as the mere biological ability of a 13 year old boy, or a 6 month old cockerel to be a father.

To be the cock-of-the-walk any cockerel or rooster must be in tip top health, or liking that better health than the competing cockerels in his flock. The second flock seems to have received the best, likely including vaccines and other modern veterinarian care thus all birds in the second flock are more equal or healthy, and their actions show it.
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chickengeorgeto: Yeah, good point. I do realize they're not full grown. It's just been interesting seeing the huge difference in the maturing of our chicks. I'm not sure how "King of the Mountain" work with roosters, how dominance battles normally are duked out. She had one cockerel that had to e completely separated because the others would chase him relentlessly, he'd be screaming, and if they caught him they'd tear him until he was bloodied. They were all inflicting notable injury on eachother.

She did not vaccinate her birds, neither have I. I take a holistic approach to animal keeping, and I'd argue quite the opposite about health. "Modern medical care" is a shameful joke, in my experience and perspective. She's lost several of her chicks to illness unfortunately. Thankfully I've had no illness, setbacks, or deaths, despite a few notable incidents that could very well have (like the neighbor's nasty, sickly wild roosters trying to take over my flock!). I'd have to say mine is likely the 'healthier' of the flocks.

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