Frizzle Cochin being abused by roo

hilaryeve

In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 25, 2013
13
0
22
Near Boston, MA
Hey guys,

I have 10 full sized amazing chickens and three bantams. I recently learned one of my bantams, a silkie, is a rooster. He only came out as a rooster after having him for well over seven months. One bantam hen will not let Mr. Tiny Roo mate with her, she jukes and gets away. That leaves only one poor little banty, my Frizzle Cochin. He mounts her over and over and over! Poor baby, I am at a loss as what to do. I went away for five days (my husband and family stayed home) and when I came back, the little Frizzle was bald. He plucked her bald! Do I need to find him a new home? I am going to get a few more bantams this summer, but not enough for the "harem" desired by the average roo. My little frizzle lovie just can't take all of this abuse. I am sure it will cut down on her life span (and productivity.) Advice in any capacity, please!
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
He's only young, so he may settle down, though it sounds like he's really rough. Over time he should start trying to mate with other hens. But your little one may need separating, and if you have to separate her she may never be accepted back into the flock and may suffer a lifetime of ostracizing, which could mean you basically lose your flock's equilibrium regarding her, all because of a silly roo. If she is more valuable to you, and separating her is the only option you can see asides from getting rid of him, then get rid of him.

In my experience, a decent roo won't abuse a hen or pluck her, even when he's just young and experiencing all those 'raging hormones' people quote as an excuse for abuse. Clumsiness is tolerable and normal, but continual damage to the hen, and continual ignoring of her rejections, is abusive and not natural. If he doesn't grow out of it I'd remove him for her sake. We've altered and bred in and out all manner of instincts in them, and other domestic animals, which negates the common and erroneous view that if an animal does it, it means whatever they did is 'natural' and correct for their species. It's akin to 'bulling' in cattle, where some young animals in the steer pen will pick a victim and mount him repeatedly, and all the others will join in, until he dies, unless he's separated first. This is not natural by any stretch of the imagination, but a byproduct of human breeding and management of the species.

In my experience it is not the number of hens that makes a rooster treat them well; you will often hear of a rooster who lives with a hundred hens, or more than he can actually 'cover' anyway, who nevertheless picks on one single hen. It's not the number of hens that makes a good rooster. It's nothing to do with the hens.

Also, all a rooster really 'needs' is one hen, and if he can't treat her well he doesn't deserve more. He'd have to be carrying some incredibly valuable genes to be worthy of an exception there. Any more than one hen is a bonus, not some kind of basic need. Some roos even feel stressed when they have more hens to look after, especially those with better instincts. They can measure food supplies etc at a glance, which is why some roos starve while feeding hens, when not enough food is given; hens will do the same for chicks; this is one reason why an intelligent roo trying to look after too many hens will be stressed by it.

Generally speaking, the more stupid he is, the more abusive he is, but the more suited to a massive harem he is, too, as all he's good for is mating and then being turned into dinner. He's not concerned about looking after them, so being overcrowded by stressed hens doesn't bother him in the slightest; obviously this sort of rooster is ideal for some intensive commercial operations. That sort of rooster, if you choose to keep it, is best suited to being the sole rooster in large flocks. I don't like that sort. Too stupid for their own good, too much bother, and too damaging to their flockmates. Often they're human aggressive too.

Giving abusive roos more hens doesn't make them not abusive as they usually simply continue to pick on their 'favorite'. Some will stop though. It's worth a try if you really like him and don't mind the rough treatment of the hens. If he's not abusive but is making a pest of himself with his attempts to mate often, then by all means supply more hens. Some hens are not interested in roosters and will never invite a mating or participate without complaint. I found with my hens they liked to mate approximately as often as the roosters, and being treated well was apparently quite the aphrodisiac. Not being harmed during mating also meant they didn't start avoiding the roosters, too, so it worked for all of them. Young cockerels just into puberty never had to fight or chase to get hens, because they had instincts about being good mates that the hens apparently found irresistible. Hens like roos that look after them, generally. Some high production hens, or those raised without roosters, can never find an appreciation of having a mate though. Sometimes it can take a generation or two of rearing them with a family unit before their offspring begin to act naturally. Roosters raised without hens can also be socially inept to put it nicely. This may fix up over a generation or two, is what I'm getting at there, but your hen may not last that long and there's so many great roosters you can keep instead of abusive ones.

He can understand she's not keen and is protesting, and that he's hurting her when he rips out feathers, they're not that stupid, but some just don't care. A good roo looks after hens and doesn't hurt them, and part of that is being intelligent enough to back off when she lets him know she doesn't want to mate right now.

I value that trait because it ensures that roosters are able to be let to run with hens and babies throughout their lifetimes, because if any of the hens are injured, laying, brooding, sick, dustbathing, drinking or any other case wherein a rooster should not jump onto a hen, the hen will simply not get jumped on. They are safe even when injured and among the whole flock. This respectful trait is a lifesaver and protects my hens and this gives them quality of life too. Way too many people only consider the rooster's quality of life and totally disregard the hens'. Their interaction with and treatment of the other gender is a heritable trait and can be bred in and out. If you get a roo who abuses hens, and you breed him, chances are most if not all of his sons will be the same or even worse. Just like breeding bullies of any stripe, it's the very same thing, but too many people consider abusive roos 'normal' and 'natural'. In the wild, males that abuse their mates don't get to pass on their genes, lol! It's not natural.

If he's cruel or callous, he isn't worth breeding. Some roos have mating instincts mixed with fighting instincts and routinely damage hens while mating, they're hateful and aggravated as a rule; these are best culled. So if you think his behavior looks like more than just youthful excitement and inexperience, get rid of him before he does away with your hen.

Best wishes.
 

hilaryeve

In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 25, 2013
13
0
22
Near Boston, MA
Thank you so much for your advice and all of the information. I have officially had my big chickens for one year (and a week) so I am still very new to this. It makes so much sense, what you wrote regarding one hen and one rooster being perfectly fine with each other. I feel like so much I have read regarding the "harem" aspect of chickens is now misleading. Why would one really need 14 hens per rooster? It just does not make sense. Perhaps the point is if you have multiple roosters, you need that many per rooster to avoid cock fighting? I just don't know. I really did not think about Emu McFuzzy Buns, our Rooster, as a teenager. That makes perfect sense. He is new to the mating game and has no idea what he is doing. He is perfectly delightful to the ladies, my Westies, and my children. He is only a punk when mating with poor Elsie. We would love to keep him. I will not get rid of my little man just because of his sex. However, if things get really bad he will have to go (but I expect that will be a while.) So, how long does the "teenage rooster phase" last?
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
Thank you so much for your advice and all of the information. I have officially had my big chickens for one year (and a week) so I am still very new to this. It makes so much sense, what you wrote regarding one hen and one rooster being perfectly fine with each other. I feel like so much I have read regarding the "harem" aspect of chickens is now misleading. Why would one really need 14 hens per rooster? It just does not make sense.

You're welcome, I hope you can find your way to a happy flock instead of putting up with perpetual stress like some people have resigned themselves to, due to well-meaning but unhelpful advice. Constant stress among a group is not natural nor healthy and should never be accepted as the status quo, but plenty of people think it's "just the way it is" and anyone advocating differently must be a fruit loop. ;)

The stress itself is one of the natural mechanisms used to correct the cause of the stress, it's a symptom in itself that things aren't right; it's never a sign that things are good or healthy.

That's a commonly repeated piece of advice, about roosters 'needing' a dozen girlfriends, but really only applies to a minority of all breeds out there and specifically to those people who want to breed certain traits on with the least expenditure. Why keep many roosters when you can keep one? For those like me, many roosters is more options breeding program wise, and I rear them for food too and having a tolerant flock is not a novelty, it's a necessity, as at any given time there will be dozens of young males reaching puberty with dozens of adult males already in residence. For the hen's sakes I don't keep males who abuse females, otherwise this situation would be unsupportable and I'd have to resort to segregating the groups and that just breeds more intolerance because it's preserving it, not culling it out; intolerant animals can shape a whole farm's policies around themselves if not taken in hand. I've known a few places run by the animals, and they were miserable.

Interestingly enough, most of the people recommending you keep more hens to appease your roosters have, almost as a rule, some seriously intolerant roosters and hens despite their methods. Whereas I keep more roosters per hen, not less, and don't have any trouble.

Some breeds have a recommended ratio of 1 rooster to 3 hens, some 1 rooster to 10 hens, etc, but these are all traits we bred into them; as with geese we've bred a few naturally predominantly monogamous species to accept more mates, for more productivity under farming environments. In the wild the standard ratio is 1 rooster to 1 hen, and not too uncommonly there may be a second and sometimes third hen if the territory and season are lush and large enough, but it's not normal for them to have a whole flock of females per male. It is normal for the average male to have a mate and make a flock of offspring with her every season, raise them, and repeat that throughout their lives. Being a good father and mate takes up all his time; a wild rooster isn't a constant 'tail chaser' and fighter, and neither are the more intelligent and instinctive domestic roosters. In the wild, a single territory cannot support a resident flock of many females and their many dozens of offspring, hence the separate hierarchies between hens and roosters: the roosters drive off other roosters, and the hens drive off other hens, with a few exceptions. They need to defend their territory's resources from extra mouths to feed, for the sake of their offspring.

We bred almost all paternal instinct out of the majority of breeds so most males are no longer anything more than breeding and meat-growing tools. The less paternal instinct he has, the more oriented he is on only mating and not doing anything else with his life except perhaps fighting.

How well your cockerel does with a single mate depends partly on how much she likes him and a fair bit on how instinctive he is. Instincts can waken over an individual's lifetime, too. Hens and roosters pick their mates, naturally, not just match with whatever opposite gender bird they can, so individual preference is important too. He won't ever have the best relationship with a hen who dislikes him. I expect over time he will gravitate away from her if she doesn't change her mind, but it's worth remembering that instinct is generally very attractive to other chickens, and bantams generally have instinct in spades, so she may always be very attractive to roosters she does not find attractive, but they may not relent. If they're extra smart they will spend time wooing her rather than assaulting her. There's been a lot of scientific studies done on the importance of female mate selection, showing it is actually the most important factor in the quality of the offspring when compared to other means of mate selection, like males fighting males to access females.

How many hens your rooster will do best with depends on his ancestry, particularly his most recent generations of progenitors. Rearing them in more natural environments, where they can exercise normal instincts, will gradually restore those instincts over the generations. When reared for generations in bare cages, they often develop neuroses, and when we alter their natural social structure and interactions to suit ourselves, (like we do when we keep the sexes and age groups separate), they begin to lose instincts regarding how to interact with each other. Such animals can't always be just returned to normal social environments within a single generation, as some simply will not adjust, and many will be too aggressive. They're a bit like lifetime inmates who have never been out of 'the system' and can't function normally and positively in society. Some will adjust, others never will.

It may help to think of poultry from intensively farmed backgrounds as being the same as dogs from puppy mills or cats from catteries, or any animal from a really intensive and unnatural environment. Socialization is important for all animals that naturally possess social structures, regardless of how intelligent (or otherwise) we deem them.

Perhaps the point is if you have multiple roosters, you need that many per rooster to avoid cock fighting? I just don't know.

That bit of advice is also common, but also not true as a rule. The less intelligent, less instinctive males are generally the most aggressive, and just as having extra hens won't stop him picking on his favorite, having extra hens doesn't stop him attacking other males, if he is so inclined.

There's plenty of stories on this forum about people whose large female flocks didn't stop their solo male from attacking all males introduced, and devoting all his time of day to hounding and bullying them, or killing them. The hens don't actually change the males' natures.

If he is instinctive enough, he may still be driven to spend his time observing enough 'husbandly' duties (like finding food/nesting areas, keeping watch, etc) to keep him from spending all his time attacking the other male/s, but if he isn't instinctive enough to spend any effort looking after the hens, then his primary focuses will be mating and fighting. For a semi instinctive rooster, more hens will distract him more often, but it's not a fail-safe, and generally you'll notice your birds form separate flocks and avoid one another carefully; however the most aggressive males will never leave others alone until forced to, and the same is true of the most aggressive females.

If you raise a rooster without other roosters he will be intolerant to begin with, in the vast majority of cases, because tolerance is in large part a learned behavior. So your rooster has a head-start there, having been raised more naturally.

Whether a male will or won't learn it tolerance is down to genetics and is highly heritable. For example a rooster who has never met another rooster will have a few scraps with the new one/s, but if he is tolerant by nature, and the other males are too, they will reach a truce and peace will return once the hierarchy is sorted out. If he is intolerant, even raising him with other roosters won't stop him from being a very aggressive bully. Also, if you have tolerant roosters and whittle down the male ratio to just one, he can become intolerant quickly. I found keeping a minimum of two males at all times necessary to preserve a level of tolerance for newly introduced roosters.

I keep a flock ratio that is often 50:50 males and females, and the single biggest precursor to aggression is genetics. I culled it out, so I don't have any problems from either gender. Even the 'terrible teens' are quite well mannered. Injured and ill birds can remain in the flock and not be bullied or killed; the only reason I separate them, when I do, is to keep their convalescent/special foods etc from being eaten by the others. When the boys do fight, which is rare, there are never any injuries to treat. Same with the hens. They will boot one another once or twice to sort out status then walk away and be quite polite to one another when meeting over food, or in a narrow walkway, none of the bullying some will tell you is natural or even inevitable.

In the wild, animals have social behaviors and mechanisms designed to avoid and reduce all conflict possible, and control the severity of unavoidable conflicts with their own kind. Wasting energy pointlessly, as they do when bullying a submissive animal, and damaging one another recklessly is something they avoid when possible, and they have many behavioral mechanisms to prevent it coming to that. It doesn't mean some conflict and violence is unnatural, just that constant conflict and violence is unnatural. They learn to cope unless they are severely intolerant; overcrowding is not an issue either, when the diet is sufficient, as evidenced by the many wild animals of normally very territorial and antisocial species that will be remarkably tolerant and peaceful en mass when sufficient food resources have brought them to one location.

Roosters killing one another over territory is not the rule, it's the exception. Generally, like stags, they have a whole range of behaviors designed to gauge one another's strength/ health etc, like crowing from a distance, and if they feel evenly matched they will progress into a physical test of one another's strength, and in most cases the weaker will retreat after that. Most contests are not evenly matched so a fight to the death is not very common.

If a species has submissive behaviors, as chickens do, then they also have responses to those submissive behaviors; the natural dominant animal's response to submissive behavior is to relent, not chase and bully and continue to vent aggression; animals likewise have behaviors to let potential mates know what time is good, and for a male to ignore a female's rejection is not healthy; your rooster probably deserves some leeway because he's young and people have muddled up the instincts of the species severely, but if he doesn't learn soon you may have to remove him for the sake of the hen.

I removed all roosters who mistreated hens and now the hens are unstressed despite the number of roosters. Good social manners breed on. Those who keep one single intolerant rooster (or several separately caged intolerant males) will tell you it stresses the hens to have more than one male. Not so --- IF you don't keep males who ignore females' rejections. So if you want to keep multiple males but don't want unhappy females it really pays to not breed those who mistreat hens; otherwise you and the hens can end up living in a situation dictated by the worst members of your flock.

I've never had a rooster kill another rooster, or hens damage other hens or kill them; I've also never had a rooster kill a hen, though I have had some hens get accidental spur wounds before I removed the males whose spurs grew on the wrong angles. I don't have problems with bullying, cannibalism, chick-killing, or anything else like that because I culled out all those that showed inclinations towards it. That was many generations ago and it's been amazingly peaceful ever since. It's very strongly genetic in basis. If you take a zero tolerance stance towards negative social behaviors you can have a very peaceful flock.

I really did not think about Emu McFuzzy Buns, our Rooster, as a teenager. That makes perfect sense. He is new to the mating game and has no idea what he is doing. He is perfectly delightful to the ladies, my Westies, and my children. He is only a punk when mating with poor Elsie. We would love to keep him. I will not get rid of my little man just because of his sex. However, if things get really bad he will have to go (but I expect that will be a while.) So, how long does the "teenage rooster phase" last?

Well, it can last several months, but it may never occur at all, it's not a guarantee, it's more of an indication of the individual's nature than anything solidly based on sex or hormones. If he is kind to other hens but rude to her, he may have some antagonism towards her. If that's the case he would probably not grow out of it. Innocent clumsiness is one thing, aggressive and rough mating is another.

Some roosters come from genetic backgrounds where sex separation was the rule, and these males are more likely to exhibit aggression when mating because for them, mating was something achieved after beating another rooster into submission. Homosexual matings among animals are common for species we typically segregate by sex, and these are often seriously unnatural exhibitions of instinct that are just as likely to include the killing of the victim. There are homosexual behaviors known among sheep, goats, cats, dogs, cattle, horses, poultry, and the list goes on and on. Even wild animals may exhibit homosexual matings. There's a well known example of a wild mallard drake mating with a dead male.

Anyway, point being, in captivity these things are pretty common and males from this sort of confused or misdirected instinct inheritance being given access to females doesn't necessarily make them any gentler than they were when forcibly mating with other males. The same is true for those that have partial sexual attraction to humans, for which I blame countless generations of artificial insemination. Just because they have access to mates of their own species does not correct warped instincts within that individual's lifetime.

If he does not stop being aggressive to her I would remove him, whether you cage him separately or just rehome or cull him; if he's being very rough, you will have to gauge this by how long you think she has before the abuse does her permanent harm rather than by any arbitrary guess I could make as to when he will 'grow up'. What he's doing there isn't really that normal, but he may yet grow out of it. Time will tell, but hopefully she doesn't get killed first.

Best wishes.
 
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