Hen that won't mate being attacked by rooster

IQL

Chirping
Jul 29, 2020
56
64
83
I had a situation that might sound familiar though it had nothing to do with molting. A cockerel was raised with the flock. Around 6 months of age he started mating with some of the pullets and hens low in the pecking order. Not the hens higher in the pecking order. The dominate hen would knock him off if he tried to mate a pullet or hen when she could see him. As he got older more hens accepted his advances but the dominate hen never did.

When he reached 11 months of age he decided he was ready to take over as flock master. Instead of running away from the dominate hen he stood up to her bullying and fought back. He won. For two days he kept her away from the rest of the flock. If she got close he'd run at her and try to peck her on the head. It was pretty vicious but no blood was drawn so I left them alone, though I did watch. After two days she let him know that she accepted his dominance and they became best buddies.

Some hens will squat for about anything in spurs, but many mature hens want a male to demonstrate that he will be a good father before they let him mate. Cockerels have to mature to a certain point before they can meet those standards. Some hens have higher standards than others.

In my opinion my cockerel was weaker than he should have been. He should have had a stronger personality and been able to win over all the hens based on his magnificence and self-confidence. But that hen was also strong. She was not ready to give up her flock master status. Some hens can be that way. That's not the way it's supposed to work. A hen can be the dominant hen but the rooster needs to be the flock master so he can perform his duties. Dominant hen and flock master are different roles when you have a mixed sex flock.

Each time is different. I had one cockerel be accepted by all the hens at 5 months. That's only happened once, pretty rare. Most if my cockerels are able to take over the flock master position at around 7 months and usually quite peacefully. Then that one time it took 11 months and was violent. The personalities of the cockerels has something to do with that but I also think the personalities of the hens has a lot to do with how peaceful that process is.

You want to keep both of them. At some point he has to take over as flock master. That will happen. That can be violent so there is a risk of injury. I chose to let mine work it out on their own since I did not see any injury. Yours drew blood, you need to separate them. When she heals you can try again and see how it goes. Or you can keep them separated for a while. I would not worry about her completing the molt but more giving him time to mature some more and gain self-confidence so she might be more willing to accept him instead of fighting. To build his self-confidence and just to see how he reacts when he is the unchallenged flock master I'd leave her locked up. When in that position you may find that he isn't such a great rooster after all.
Thank yo for sharing your experience. This is such a challenge when I want to keep both birds. May I ask what you mean in your last sentence "when in that position you may find that he isn't such a great rooster after all"? When I initially had the hen separated in the small coop by herself and the rooster was free he seemed fine. Should I be looking for certain signs/behaviours?
 

IQL

Chirping
Jul 29, 2020
56
64
83
In my book, it is not worth keeping a rooster that is not able or willing to convince the dominant hen of his qualities, but instead abuses her drawing blood etc. while she is most vulnerable.
Thank you. I am willing to try to find ways to solve this issue to avoid having to make a decision about keeping one over the other but, ultimately, I will not tolerate vicious attacks that draw blood.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,046
22,696
907
Southeast Louisiana
May I ask what you mean in your last sentence "when in that position you may find that he isn't such a great rooster after all"?
That is a fair question. When one chicken is dominant (usually a male over a male but here the hen) the dominant chicken will often suppress certain behaviors of the less dominant. That adds another level of challenge to this. Maybe a better way of saying this is that when the dominant one is removed, the character of the recently freed less dominant one can come out. What was a sweetheart might possibly become a brute. Or conversely, since there is no longer any competition the behavior may mellow out. Or it may not.

All this is might or maybe, nothing is set in stone. Go by what you see, not what you might see.
 

IQL

Chirping
Jul 29, 2020
56
64
83
That is a fair question. When one chicken is dominant (usually a male over a male but here the hen) the dominant chicken will often suppress certain behaviors of the less dominant. That adds another level of challenge to this. Maybe a better way of saying this is that when the dominant one is removed, the character of the recently freed less dominant one can come out. What was a sweetheart might possibly become a brute. Or conversely, since there is no longer any competition the behavior may mellow out. Or it may not.

All this is might or maybe, nothing is set in stone. Go by what you see, not what you might see.
Thanks again! These next few days will be telling. We are going to move the small coop into a larger fenced off area so the rooster can come out and have space to wander. We're going to allow the hens into the area, if they wish, except the Maran for now. The rooster has been good with the other hens but we'll certainly monitor the situation closely. The maran is starting to look better but still requires a few more days at least. When the time is right, we'll introduce the 2 again - supervised - and see what happens. Fingers crossed!
 

ElizaMay

Songster
May 11, 2021
207
306
133
As LaFleche mentions, taking over as 'flockmaster' includes **convincing all the hens** he is worthy, not simply becoming big enough and nasty enough to brutalize them all into cowed submission. Sure, a rooster may appear to be nice, so long as he is getting his way and nobody expects better of him. The trst comes when he meets a challenge - like a flock lead hen.

A good dominant hen looks out for her flockmates, alerts them to danger, finds the best feeding areas, the best shelter, keeps the pecking order and stops unnecessary bullying.
So why would it be okay for a rooster to drive that instinct to protect and lead out of her with exhaustion and pain, instead of working just a little harder to convince her he can be trusted?

Roosters die all the time due to predators, disease, age. The flock should not go without a leader until a new one enters.

It isn't actually 'doing a good job' if a male bird pesters the life out of hens to the point of them losing feathers and being stressed out of lay by immature, horomone-crazed cockerels.

A *good* flockmaster will protect hens, tidbit and court them, not mate with pullets, and protect all ages of the flock from hens to pullets to chicks from stress and injury.

Lastly, there is a reason why hens can eject the sperm of unsuitable cockerels and inferior roosters - because hens are not generally strong enough to survive in peace without injury if they *don't* submit. But because a rooster can force a mating doesn't mean it's best for the hen, or the species, or that those eggs will end up fertile.
 

IQL

Chirping
Jul 29, 2020
56
64
83
As LaFleche mentions, taking over as 'flockmaster' includes **convincing all the hens** he is worthy, not simply becoming big enough and nasty enough to brutalize them all into cowed submission. Sure, a rooster may appear to be nice, so long as he is getting his way and nobody expects better of him. The trst comes when he meets a challenge - like a flock lead hen.

A good dominant hen looks out for her flockmates, alerts them to danger, finds the best feeding areas, the best shelter, keeps the pecking order and stops unnecessary bullying.
So why would it be okay for a rooster to drive that instinct to protect and lead out of her with exhaustion and pain, instead of working just a little harder to convince her he can be trusted?

Roosters die all the time due to predators, disease, age. The flock should not go without a leader until a new one enters.

It isn't actually 'doing a good job' if a male bird pesters the life out of hens to the point of them losing feathers and being stressed out of lay by immature, horomone-crazed cockerels.

A *good* flockmaster will protect hens, tidbit and court them, not mate with pullets, and protect all ages of the flock from hens to pullets to chicks from stress and injury.

Lastly, there is a reason why hens can eject the sperm of unsuitable cockerels and inferior roosters - because hens are not generally strong enough to survive in peace without injury if they *don't* submit. But because a rooster can force a mating doesn't mean it's best for the hen, or the species, or that those eggs will end up fertile.
Thank you ElizaMay. I appreciate your comments. I am hoping that when my hen's moulting is done that her "mojo" returns and life gets back to normal. The rooster seems to be figuring out that when I am around that he is to leave the hen alone. He is also starting to leave her alone in the coop in the evening because when he hasn't I have separated him to a smaller coop. I am hoping that conditioning theory works with chickens.....This needs to be corrected - one way or another - before the snow flies otherwise there will be a blood bath in the coop when the chickens are enclosed all day.
 

ElizaMay

Songster
May 11, 2021
207
306
133
I had a situation that might sound familiar though it had nothing to do with molting. A cockerel was raised with the flock. Around 6 months of age he started mating with some of the pullets and hens low in the pecking order. Not the hens higher in the pecking order. The dominate hen would knock him off if he tried to mate a pullet or hen when she could see him. As he got older more hens accepted his advances but the dominate hen never did.

When he reached 11 months of age he decided he was ready to take over as flock master. Instead of running away from the dominate hen he stood up to her bullying and fought back. He won. For two days he kept her away from the rest of the flock. If she got close he'd run at her and try to peck her on the head. It was pretty vicious but no blood was drawn so I left them alone, though I did watch. After two days she let him know that she accepted his dominance and they became best buddies.

Some hens will squat for about anything in spurs, but many mature hens want a male to demonstrate that he will be a good father before they let him mate. Cockerels have to mature to a certain point before they can meet those standards. Some hens have higher standards than others.

In my opinion my cockerel was weaker than he should have been. He should have had a stronger personality and been able to win over all the hens based on his magnificence and self-confidence. But that hen was also strong. She was not ready to give up her flock master status. Some hens can be that way. That's not the way it's supposed to work. A hen can be the dominant hen but the rooster needs to be the flock master so he can perform his duties. Dominant hen and flock master are different roles when you have a mixed sex flock.

Each time is different. I had one cockerel be accepted by all the hens at 5 months. That's only happened once, pretty rare. Most if my cockerels are able to take over the flock master position at around 7 months and usually quite peacefully. Then that one time it took 11 months and was violent. The personalities of the cockerels has something to do with that but I also think the personalities of the hens has a lot to do with how peaceful that process is.

You want to keep both of them. At some point he has to take over as flock master. That will happen. That can be violent so there is a risk of injury. I chose to let mine work it out on their own since I did not see any injury. Yours drew blood, you need to separate them. When she heals you can try again and see how it goes. Or you can keep them separated for a while. I would not worry about her completing the molt but more giving him time to mature some more and gain self-confidence so she might be more willing to accept him instead of fighting. To build his self-confidence and just to see how he reacts when he is the unchallenged flock master I'd leave her locked up. When in that position you may find that he isn't such a great rooster after all.
""Some hens can be that way. That's not the way it's supposed to work. A hen can be the dominant hen but the rooster needs to be the flock master so he can perform his duties.""

Why?

A rooster's 'duties' are two: to protect the flock from predators (by sacrificing himself if necessary) and from one another (bullying), and make more chickens. That's it.

A hen keeping her eyes open for predators, finding prime feeding and shelter, and enforcing pecking order does not diminish the rooster, she isn't stopping him from being a protector and making babies, except with her if he isn't top-notch.

Just as often an alert hen will see a predator before the rooster will, it doesn't seem sensible she should sit silent and wait for disaster to strike rather than sounding the alarm heading for cover, because the 'flockmaster' might be a bit slower. Survival is more important than rooster ego. The whole concept of 'flockmaster' to me sounds more like human-think than good flock dynamics. Weak go to the bottom, strong go to the top, and cruel/unsuitable roosters get their sperm ejected. Problem is that we humans too often choose for the 'pretty' and 'handsome' rooster (in our opinion) with no real clue what the flock finds is most compatible.
If we observe who ALL the hens accept and are attracted to, consistently lay fertile eggs, chicks that are safe to roam with the whole flock, plump sleek hens that still have good instincts to stay safe, then we have a good flock.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,046
22,696
907
Southeast Louisiana
A rooster's 'duties' are two: to protect the flock from predators (by sacrificing himself if necessary)
You put a lot more faith in a rooster being willing to sacrifice himself than I do. A good rooster tends to be a good look-out and early warning system, especially for flying predators. If a threat is identified, a rooster will usually put himself between the flock and that potential threat and check it out. That makes him more vulnerable, maybe that is what you mean. Once a threat is identified my roosters are more about leading the flock to safety than fighting a rear guard action to give them time to get away.

There are always exceptions. Sometimes a rooster will attack a threat. I've seen a rooster run crows off that were eating treats I'd tossed in the run. I certainly believe the stories on here where a rooster attacks a hawk, cat, or other critter that is a threat, perceived or real. I'm convinced that can happen. But my experience is that when a large snake is eating eggs the rooster does not attack, but the entire flock is giving an alert call. In the two dog attacks that cost me 13 chickens the dominant rooster did not lose a tail feather.

and from one another (bullying), and make more chickens. That's it.
To me part of a good rooster's duties include keeping peace in his flock. I think with chickens the term bully gets used too much or can mean different things to different people. Do you consider sorting the pecking order among the hens to be bullying or chickens being chickens? Sometimes a dominant rooster will break those up, some don't. I've seen a rooster help a broody hen take care of her chicks, especially when she gets separated from some of them.

I raise juveniles with the flock in an outside area over 3,000 square feet. It can get pretty rowdy between the cockerels or between the cockerels and the pullets. My dominant roosters usually leave them alone as long as it is between the juveniles. If that spills over to where his hens are being bothered he gets involved.

Some roosters help hens and pullets find a good nest. When they hear the egg song some of my roosters leave the flock to go to the hen and lead her back to the flock. A rooster should find food for his flock and call them over to eat and let them eat first. He doesn't get involved in the keep-away games if they find a nice treat but lets them have it. He may see that they are all in the coop at night before he shuts it down.

A lot of these actions depend on the size of the flock and how we manage them. The smaller the hen to rooster ratio and the more room you have the more likely you are to see some of these. Not all roosters do many of these things. I'm only talking about mature roosters that are flock masters, immature cockerels are totally different animals. In most of our flocks you won't see many of these behaviors, conditions aren't right. But a rooster has a lot more duties in a flock than just to protect against predators, stop bullying, and fertilizing eggs.

In my opinion the only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertilized eggs. In a flock without a dominant rooster the dominant hen will assume some of these duties. Those all-hen flocks can get along very well. Other than for fertilization I don't think you need a rooster for a peaceful tranquil flock.

Chicken society can be fairly complex but if every member does their part it can function very smoothly. A dominant hen that won't allow a rooster to fertilize eggs or lead the flock can disrupt the peace and tranquility of the flock. It takes all of them working together.
 

IQL

Chirping
Jul 29, 2020
56
64
83
Interesting and appreciated. As my flock of hens grew, I thought that a rooster would be a nice addition for many reasons, including "protection" for them. There was no issue with my dominant hen as she and the rooster seemed fine, even if she wouldn't let him mate. It was only when she started to moult heavily that the tables turned. Had I known this could happen (I'm a newbie at this), I would not have gotten the rooster. No more blood has been drawn and the hen is pretty much keeping to herself for now to avoid the rooster. The other hens don't bother the hen at all - which is good - and follow the rooster. Don't know how things will settle but I have to remain patiently optimistic as I hate to lose either the hen or the rooster.
 

ElizaMay

Songster
May 11, 2021
207
306
133
You put a lot more faith in a rooster being willing to sacrifice himself than I do. A good rooster tends to be a good look-out and early warning system, especially for flying predators. If a threat is identified, a rooster will usually put himself between the flock and that potential threat and check it out. That makes him more vulnerable, maybe that is what you mean. Once a threat is identified my roosters are more about leading the flock to safety than fighting a rear guard action to give them time to get away.

There are always exceptions. Sometimes a rooster will attack a threat. I've seen a rooster run crows off that were eating treats I'd tossed in the run. I certainly believe the stories on here where a rooster attacks a hawk, cat, or other critter that is a threat, perceived or real. I'm convinced that can happen. But my experience is that when a large snake is eating eggs the rooster does not attack, but the entire flock is giving an alert call. In the two dog attacks that cost me 13 chickens the dominant rooster did not lose a tail feather.


To me part of a good rooster's duties include keeping peace in his flock. I think with chickens the term bully gets used too much or can mean different things to different people. Do you consider sorting the pecking order among the hens to be bullying or chickens being chickens? Sometimes a dominant rooster will break those up, some don't. I've seen a rooster help a broody hen take care of her chicks, especially when she gets separated from some of them.

I raise juveniles with the flock in an outside area over 3,000 square feet. It can get pretty rowdy between the cockerels or between the cockerels and the pullets. My dominant roosters usually leave them alone as long as it is between the juveniles. If that spills over to where his hens are being bothered he gets involved.

Some roosters help hens and pullets find a good nest. When they hear the egg song some of my roosters leave the flock to go to the hen and lead her back to the flock. A rooster should find food for his flock and call them over to eat and let them eat first. He doesn't get involved in the keep-away games if they find a nice treat but lets them have it. He may see that they are all in the coop at night before he shuts it down.

A lot of these actions depend on the size of the flock and how we manage them. The smaller the hen to rooster ratio and the more room you have the more likely you are to see some of these. Not all roosters do many of these things. I'm only talking about mature roosters that are flock masters, immature cockerels are totally different animals. In most of our flocks you won't see many of these behaviors, conditions aren't right. But a rooster has a lot more duties in a flock than just to protect against predators, stop bullying, and fertilizing eggs.

In my opinion the only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertilized eggs. In a flock without a dominant rooster the dominant hen will assume some of these duties. Those all-hen flocks can get along very well. Other than for fertilization I don't think you need a rooster for a peaceful tranquil flock.

Chicken society can be fairly complex but if every member does their part it can function very smoothly. A dominant hen that won't allow a rooster to fertilize eggs or lead the flock can disrupt the peace and tranquility of the flock. It takes all of them working together.
Actually I put very *little* faith in the 'rooster ideal', and have yet in my own experience to see a rooster put himself between danger and the hens - that's more some fabled unicorn rooster I dream to meet. More often all I see males do is overmate unwilling hens and pullets while cockerels, then as roosters, eat 3 times as much as the hens do, laze in the sun while the hens scour for bugs and greens, and when danger comes, leave the hens in the dust after maybe giving a squawk. :rolleyes:

Pecking order is not bullying, like I say strong go to the top, weak fall to the bottom. Bullying is if a bird gets chased or picked on when it is trying to mind its own business, being stalked or followed wherever it retreats to. My current rooster lets that happen without an eyeblink - he's pretty useless. I am raising his son who hopefully will be better with 50% of his mom's genes. He is separate now, due to trying to forcing pullets from his hatchmate group, but will be going in with seversl mature hens as soon as my neighbor gets her flock out of my barn (temp homing due to having to relocate).

"A dominant hen that won't allow a rooster to fertilize eggs or lead the flock can disrupt the peace and tranquility of the flock. It takes all of them working together."

We are mostly on the same page here - a flock needs to work harmoniously, each bird plays a part, whether a lead or follower in the gen pop.

But a hen that won't allow a sub-par rooster to fertilize her eggs is not preventing him from fertilizing other hens, or leading the flock. If he's neglecting his duties (those you mention) and chasing her down to the exclusion of other willing hens, that would be a waste of energy better spent on care and attention to the greater number of birds, so that rooster would be IMHO an example of poor leader and father material, and has an undesireable attitude.

I honestly don't know how any hen could prevent a rooster from leading the flock? Birds (and animals) will follow the best leader, the one that keeps them healthy and happy. If that isn't the rooster, then the rooster is the problem, not the hen.

My current rooster is 'uninspired' now as a 2 year old going on 3, but not cruel or overmating my hens. He respects me, leaves the pullets and cockerels alone (while the cockerels were in with the main flock) but pushes the non-layers back from feed to allow the hens first choice - so I make sure there is enough in separate areas for all. He is 'flockmaster' by default, not because he is outstanding. It's because he is there. For now.
 

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