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Difficult flock decision - rooster selection - input welcomed

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by The Lisser, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. The Lisser

    The Lisser Songster

    I'm still on my first batch of chickens and being a chicken mom is still pretty new to me. My little flock of chickens are about 4 months old now. I ended up with seven cockerels and two pullets. I am going to order more pullet chicks soon (as soon as the guineas can be moved out of my "brooder room"), and I hope to have about 12-15 hens total.

    I think it's time to downsize the cockerel population. I was hoping to be able to just let the roosters free range and keep the hens in a tractor but after we got started on the tractor I thought - why make the girls cooped up and let the boys have all the best choice of food and the best coop? I couldn't exactly put 7 LF roosters in an 8x9 chicken tractor - right? They all get a long pretty well now, but they have lots of room to roam during the day. If I were to try to move the tractor to another area (we have 10 acres), and if I let them free range from the tractor during the day, they would just run back to the girls, right? I have seen hens that have suffered from too many roosters and it's not pretty.

    So now I need to decide who to keep. My main goal is to keep the roosters that will be the best for the ladies. I am not interested in breeding, although if the girls decide to go broody sometimes I would like a healthy roo to pass on some good traits. Can the more experienced chicken folk help me pick the best rooster(s)?

    1. Oscar, currently the head roo. He is a Wyandotte mix with a rose comb. Large boy, he does call the girls to food sometimes and does the "sideways" dance. I haven't observed him chasing the girls too much. He was mostly black (he's my avatar) but now he's got orange saddle and hackle feathers and an orange-red patch on his sides - sort of partridge color. Although I don't know if it's because he's still growing but he does have a lot of white at the base of his feathers. The other weird thing is when he crows, he sticks his head way out to the side! Very funny looking.

    2. Mill, a Delaware roo. I haven't seen him chasing the girls although he's pretty big guy. His inner toes are crooked - have been since he was a chick (don't know if it was genetic or incubation problem). He's not crowing yet. He isn't show quality for sure but he is beautiful.

    3. Gert, (was Gertrude), a barred mix with a funky pea comb. He calls the others to food and this morning I found him making a weird noise while he was sitting on a place in the hay - I think he was trying to call someone to nest.

    4. Otis - reddish mix - looks half Buff Brahma and half RIR. Very nice, unaggressive little dude. However I don't know if he would defend the ladies. Not crowing yet.

    5. Gilbert - Barred sex-link. He's not aggressive to the ladies but haven't seen him doing them any favors either. He just started to crow.

    The silver wyandotte mix is definitely out - his name is Morris the Chickensaurus - he is always chasing the girls relentlessly. He will be Morris stew.

    So, who should I keep? Just one or would 2 do okay? We are pretty attached to all of them and we won't be eating them ourselves, we're going to give them to someone else.

    Thank you for any input!


  2. Buttercup Chillin

    Buttercup Chillin Songster

    Oct 27, 2008
    SouthEast TX
    Who's the 7th Roo? Gone already? I would keep # 3 and #1 and #4. (see Oscar note)

    I would definately not keep a sex link Roo, don't know what you would end up with in the chicks. Mill has crooked toes, that can be genetic he would be out around here and so to speak has been in the past (and it was genetic, same problem in his hatchlings).

    Oscar and the sideways neck crowing thing? Never had a Roo do that. I just don't know. If it's not a big deal with others, I'd say he's number 2 choice.

    Otis is a possibility if you wanted to keep three to see what happens with Oscar and Otis for that matter. They don't have to be all culled at the same time. When you start culling the dynamics change and sometimes new personalities come out. Sometimes, what you don't want.

    I normally cull a few at a time then watch them change. The Roos I keep will always defer to the hens for food and they will find them food and nesting areas. What Gert was doing in the hay. My boys always dance for their girls, in total frustration sometimes.

    So Gert, Otis, Oscar is my vote in that order. With 12-15 hens you will want 2-3 anyway and you have the acres where they can spread out when they want to. And yes, until you get more girls and they are older, I'd try to keep them separate. Someone else is going to have to help you on that, I don't have acrage to use a tractor on.
  3. The Lisser

    The Lisser Songster

    Thank you so much for your input, Buttercup Chillin! I was leaning the same way myself - although I will be sad to get rid of Mill, he is so pretty. I guess I could get a Delaware roo sometime in the future if I need a replacement roo.

    The seventh cockerel, Liberace, is going to live in a tractor with a couple girls. He is a silkie mix and is so sweet. He also has so many feathers on his head it's hard for him to see, so I worry about him and predators. (Although I do give him haircuts). He doesn't take guff from any of the boys except Oscar is dominant over him. I have never seen Liberace chase or mount a girl - not to say he wouldn't - but I am planning to get standard hens to go with him (a cochin and a favorelle or two) so hopefully they will all be sweet to each other.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    To me, one of the benefits of keeping a mutt rooster like the sex link is that you don't know what the chicks will look like. You can get a variety of looks and I like the surprises. After another generation, you will have mutts anyway. It is not like you are going to breed them for show. Anyway, just personal preference.

    I agree you will not know how a rooster turns out until after the decisions are made and the flock dynamics have settled down. Every time you remove a rooster, the dynamics change, especially if you take out the flock leader. At 4 months, you really don't know how they will turn out when they mature, but, yeah, eliminate the ones that already appear to be trouble makers.

    Since you don't care that much about the breeding, other than keeping defects out of your flock, just try to not keep one with an obvious defect, like crooked toes. After a couple of generations, colors and patterns will be all mixed up anyway.

    If you decide to keep more than one rooster, do not separate them from the pullets. Growing up together, they are highly likely to work out the flock dominance and pecking order thing without too much violence. There will be some, maybe even deadly violence, but if you separate the roosters you are going to keep from the pullets, then try putting them back together, they have to start all over on deciding who is dominant. That can very easily get very violent and maybe deadly. Go ahead and separate out the ones you are not going to keep if they become a problem, but not the ones you are going to keep.

    Since you are not worried about meat, I'd tend toward keeping the smaller roosters, all other things being equal. They eat a little less in case you have to feed them, but the main reason is that one factor in whether you have barebacked hens or not is the size of the rooster. The more size difference in the hen and rooster, the greater the chance of having barebacked hens. There are a lot of factors that enter into whether or not you will have barebacked hens. The rooster to hen ratio is a factor but not nearly as important as many people believe. I think you will be fine with two roosters with your expected number of hens if the personalities and other factors work out, but my normal advice is to keep as few roosters as you can and still meet your goals. Three roosters might work out for you but the more you keep the higher the possibility of problems.

    I'm not going to tell you which specific ones to keep. You are looking at them and observing them. Your goals are different than mine. I'd suggest you pick the ones you want to keep and remove the rest fairly soon. The younger you remove the excess, the quicker the flock dynamics will sort themselves out. And the likelihood of it being violent is smaller the younger they are when you do that.

    Just my personal opinion. Good luck!
  5. poodlepill

    poodlepill Songster

    Feb 27, 2010
    Southern Illinois
    Hi Melissa,

    I got rid of my extra roo's (8 of them) on Craigs List, took about 2 weeks to move them along and only 2 went for meat and they should have. I ended up keeping one BO Roo and one SLW Roo. If they can both live happily together they can both stay if not I will keep the one that is the nicest to the girls and me.

    I decided to keep the largest and prettiest/smooth moving roo's (no weird leg angulation) I figured If they ever hatched out a clutch at least they would be large duel purpose and If I needed to or had to eat them for meat there would be some meat.
  6. The Lisser

    The Lisser Songster

    Well this morning I saw both Gert and Otis grab the back of the pullets' necks! I know that's how they are supposed to initiate breeding but poor Paprika now has a bald spot on the back of her neck, and Rosemary runs for the roosting spots as soon as she leaves the coop. I think that Paprika is going to start laying soon - her wattles and comb have gotten bigger and much redder recently.

    Both of these hens seem to trust Oscar. Paprika sticks to his side for protection from the others. I wonder if they would form the same relationship with one of the others. He is about 1/3 bigger than they are - whereas Gert is about their same size. Gert's comb is really weird looking - maybe it would be better described as a walnut comb. It is the only feature I don't like about him. I've never seen him grab their necks until this morning. Do you think he would stop doing that once all the competition is gone?

    Thanks again everyone for your advice.


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