Hen-rooster ratio in normal sized chickens vs. bantams

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Petra Pancake, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    I've read a few times that the preferred ration hens to rooster is one rooster for about 10 hens for normal sized chickens. On the other hand, for bantams often a ratio of 4-5 hens per rooster is given. Why the difference?

    I'm asking because I would like to get a rooster for a bit of fun breeding next spring. I've got 4 mature, normal sized laying hens (two of them do go broody) and two pullets that are now 2 months old. I don't want to get more hens. As my hens are mixed breeds anyway, I wouldn't mind getting them a bantam rooster. I like small chickens and our space is limited.

    Would a bantam rooster and 5-6 normal sized hens get along? Could they mate? Or should I get a normal sized roo and hope he makes do with 5-6 hens?
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    The 10:1 ratio originated from commercial breeding facilities to ensure 100% fertilization efficacy.
    It is repeated here over and over and over without logical thought.<rolleyes>
    It has nothing to do with how many males and females will get along in a backyard chicken situation.

    How many males and females you keep depends on your goals, your housing space, and most of all the individual birds demeanor's. Size of birds makes little difference, unless you've got a huge giant large fowl cockbird and bunch of tiny bantam females, that could be a problem.

    Bantam cockbirds can absolutely fertilize LF hens if they can 'reach' to deliver their goods to the right place...but just cause they are small doesn't mean they 'need less hens'.

    In the end, if you have limited space I wouldn't recommend breeding/hatching at all.
    More birds need more space, crowding is not a good thing to aspire to....
    ....plus any hatching leads to extra males that need to be dealt with.
     
  3. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    The ten to one ratio is to lessen the breeding stress on the Hens.....In most cases it works.....More Space is required when a Rooster is added.....Gives the Hens more room to run from the demands of a Rooster.....

    A Bantam Roost will be fine with five Hens.............


    Cheers!
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I personally do not believe in magic numbers for much of anything to do with chickens: coop space, roost space, hen-rooster ratio or anything else. I also do not believe that behaviors are only caused by one specific factor, I believe behaviors can be a bit complex, caused by a combination of things. I understand that people starting out need guidelines to help them get started, but these are only guidelines, not absolute laws of nature. For example, I do not believe you are doomed to disaster if you give each chicken 3.9 square feet in a coop but it becomes paradise if you give them each 4.0 square feet.

    I’m a little surprised at your ratio for bantams. What I normally see on here is 1 to 10 for full sized and 1 to 12 - 15 for bantams. But you read all kinds of things on here. I’ve seen recommendations of anything from 1 square foot per chicken in a coop to 15 square feet, usually without mentioning run space. Not everyone repeats that 4 square feet magic number. Where the 1 to 10 and 1 to 12 – 15 come from is hatcheries. They are in the fertile egg business. They have determined that if you use a 1 to 10 ratio for full sixed fowl in the pen breeding system practically all the eggs are fertile. If you have 20 roosters in a pen with 200 hens, you get good fertility. That’s a dynamic ratio. If they get great fertility they may try removing an older less active rooster. If fertility drops a bit they toss in a younger more active rooster to stir up the competition.

    Those ratios have nothing to do with roosters fighting or hens being over-mated, stressed, or barebacked. It’s purely about fertility in the pen breeding system. Many of us know, by experience, that one relatively young active rooster with over 20 hens in a free ranging situation that they can and usually do keep all hens fertile. If your rooster gets old and loses virility he may not keep a half dozen hens fertile.

    Breeders often keep one rooster isolated with one or two hens for the entire breeding season without the hens being over-mated, stressed, or barebacked. Some people that have one rooster with over 20 hens experience stressed out barebacked hens. There is nothing magic about a 1 to 10 ratio. There are a lot of factors involved.

    One really big one is the maturity level of the chickens involved. The breeders that successfully keep one rooster with one or two hens do not use cockerels and pullets. They use mature chickens. Immature cockerels usually have hormones running wild with no self-control. Immature pullets often don’t have a clue what’s going on and don’t do their part. If you examine the complaints of this type on here I think you’ll find the vast majority are from people with immature cockerels and pullets, not mature roosters and hens. I don’t always solely blame the male either, I think the females play a part too.

    Each chicken has an individual personality, each flock has its own dynamics. Just adding or subtracting one chicken can alter flock dynamics if it is fairly high in the pecking order. Some chickens, male or female, are brutes regardless of maturity level though most mellow out and find their niche in the flock pecking order as they mature. But some chickens, male and female, are removed from my flock and not allowed to breed because of behavior. There is a lot of debate about how much of behavior is caused by heredity and how much by environment. I believe it is a combination and use behavior as one of the deciding factors when I decide which ones go in the freezer instead of my laying/breeding flock.

    I believe how much room you have makes a difference, though those breeders often confine one rooster and one or two hens in a fairly small space. When I crowd my chickens behavioral problems of all types increase. I think your odds of success increase if you have more room instead of shoehorning as many into a tiny space as you can.

    I’ve noticed that some hens have brittle feathers. It’s a nutrition thing. If all your hens (or rooster) have brittle feathers there is probably something missing in their diet. But that is pretty rare. More often an individual hen does not process those nutrients correctly even if she is eating them. It’s a genetic thing. No matter how gentle a rooster is her feathers break off and she becomes barebacked. I’ve found that if I remove these hens from my flock and don’t allow them to breed future generations don’t have this problem. I’ve also noticed that when I remove these hens form my flock and make the hen to rooster ratio worse the other hens do not develop a bare back. I do not believe all bare backed problems are caused by brittle feathers. Some males, especially cockerels, are brutes or have lousy technique. Some hens may resist the rooster, his instincts to fertilize the eggs and maintain dominance may cause him to be a bit rougher with them. Some hens stick like glue to the rooster while others roam further. The ones that stick around tend to get mated more often. As I said earlier, there is often not one specific cause to any one thing, it can be caused by many different things and often is a combination.

    I don’t know how big your “limited” space is. I don’t know what you plan to do with the chicks you hatch, many of which will be male. Limited space makes integration more difficult. Limited space makes it a bit harder to raise chicks with a broody hen. Normally the danger point is not when they are with the broody but after she weans them and leaves them on their own with the flock. I’ve had broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks old and those chicks made it fine with the flock but I have a lot of space, it’s not limited.

    Those are my thoughts on hen to rooster ratio. Based on them I suggest if you decide you really want to get a rooster get a mature one, at least a year old. Most of the time a mature rooster will mate with a hen or two to establish his dominance and claim the flock as his own and the drama is over. The former dominant hen may resist and he may force her, but usually any drama is over pretty quickly. I don’t know what your goals are for the chicks but to me size of the rooster is irrelevant. I absolutely would not crowd “limited” space with more hens.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
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  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'd decide what you want in the offspring, and go from there.

    You say some fun breeding, and your hens are mixed already. So, what is "fun" for you? In my mind, that would be something like a Silkie rooster, that could give you some cool offspring. Or maybe a Polish, those crests are partially dominant and you'd get some funky chicks. Both those breeds are small-ish.

    It's going to have a lot more to do with the individual rooster than an overall breed, though. I've had roosters in breeding pens as trios (one rooster, two hens) and the hens have been just fine. I've had a rooster that free ranged with 2 dozen hens that psycho stalked two specific hens and tore the crap out of them [​IMG]. Pretty much all we can say is, look for a rooster you like and give it a try.

    I agree space is going to be a key factor in how well everyone gets along. So will the age of the rooster. A young cockerel may be put in his place by your older hens, but he may make life hard on the younger pullets. An older, more mature rooster that courts the ladies is often a better choice, if you can find one.

    Most bantam roosters can fertilize a large hen. Fertility may not be as good as a large fowl rooster's, but he should be able to get you some chicks on the ground.


    Or, another thought is to source hatching eggs when your hens go broody. I know it's not quite the same as hatching your own, but it would avoid the issue of keeping a rooster full time.

    Although, hatching will give you roosters to deal with, eventually......
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    The breed of bantam can also matter. A rowdy seabright will cover more hens than a sedate bantam cochin which my chosen breed. My bantam cochin roosters seem to form their own groups of one rooster to 4-5 hens so that's probably why that is recommended. They spend more time tending to hens and don't breed as much as other breeds.

    I have a couple with my large breed flock and they don't always hit their mark, and can take longer to breed a hen because of the extra positioning.
     
  7. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you all for your answers. I'll think about it - there is still plenty of time until spring. Regarding space - I could increase that a lot if I decided to let them out of the run and let them semi-free range in the entire back garden - but I'm not sure yet if I want to do that (predators, neighbors, no Avian flu protection, hidden eggs ...) If I did it, I'd get a normal sized or big rooster as a predator protection. On the other hand, if I leave them to live their lives in the coop and run, I'd be best off with a small rooster and smaller future chickens.
    In any event, surplus chicks I would have to sell as they grow up. I don't think it would be much of a problem (other than getting a lousy price for them) - most people here in Israel buy their backyard chickens "second hand" from other chicken keepers - there are (almost) no professional hatcheries that sell small batches to private people and ordering chicks or eggs by mail doesn't exist.
    I was planning on getting a mature rooster, not a cockerel - there are always people selling older roosters as well.

    @donrae - I actually thought of getting a Polish rooster, but I've heard that they tend to be a bit wacky - that's what made me stop considering them. Also, other breeds tend to peck their crests, don't they? Maybe a rooster himself wouldn't get pecked but what about the next generation? On the other hand, Polish do come in some fancy colors and look funny... maybe I'll reconsider them. Silkies are very uncommon here, hard to get and very expensive - too much for my budget.
     
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I don't know about their temperament, sorry. I do think a mature rooster would not get pecked on so much as a younger bird or a hen.

    The crest is only partially dominant, so the next generation does not have near the full headdress of the full blooded parent. You can google Polish mixes, the crest goes down to more like a crested Legbar, Swedish Flower Hen, like that. Not the big crazy 'do, just the little crest of feathers on the top. Just enough to mark them as unique [​IMG]
     
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  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    The polish roosters I have had have been only interested in mating. They aren't good look outs and can be hysterical like most members of the breed. My polish are always running from me and flying at my head to get away from me.

    If your hens haven't seen a crested bird before they will be more likely to peck the crest. I've had them pecked enough to need culling. It's always best to keep multiple crested birds together so it isn't an oddity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
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  10. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    Update: I posted photos of my two "pullets" in the breed and gender thread and it seems that they are actually cockerels. If it's really so, that sort of solves the question of which kind of rooster to buy... I'll try to keep one of them, depending on temperament and noise level.

    One of them looks like he's got Easter Egger blood - he's growing a beard. Would he pass any Easter Egger traits on to future daughters? Like, if I got female chicks from him mating with my hens(all mixed breed white egg layers), would they when they grow up lay greenish or blueish eggs?

    Regarding temperament, does the temperament of an 8 or 9 weeks old chick predict temperament later in life? The little brown Easter Egger is rather shy and a bit timid. His black beardless brother (half-brother?) from the same clutch is much more outgoing and adventurous. He already got himself stuck a few times when exploring odd corners of the coop and run and broke out successfully once. He's also less afraid of me. (not sure if that's good or bad for later...)
     

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