How many hens per roo?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by antigravity23, Jul 15, 2016.

  1. antigravity23

    antigravity23 New Egg

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    I ordered 15 chicks from McMurray, 3 each of Buff Orpington, Black Star, Red Star, Black Australorp and Araucanas/Ameraucanas. My husband wanted a Black Jersey Giant roo so we got one of those as well as the free exotic chick that McMurray throws in. These guys are so much fun! So happy that I decided to get into this! Unfortunately in the first few days we lost 3, one was smooshed while they were sleeping and a friend accidentally let the dog into the basement and two were picked up roughly. I know that one was a Buff and one was a Red Star that didn't make it, the other was black but I am still not sure which it was, we are hoping not the rooster. Cut to six weeks later and I am guessing it was one of the Australorps as there are two of the 6 black that have very shiny feathers with an emerald (purple) tint to them. Anyway assuming that the Jersey Giant rooster made it and the free chick is also a rooster (he has an enormous comb already compared to all the others, which I know isn't fool proof) that leaves me with 2 roos and 12 hens, how many hens do I need to keep them both, I am quite fond of my mystery man. We have an 8x8 coop, with an attached 16x16 run and they will be able to free range on about 9 acres. I have heard on the low end 5-6 per, which I have but up to 10 per on the high end so I am thinking of adding another 5 pullets at the end of Sept when they would be the same age as my current flock to provide more hens per rooster once they mature. But not sure if this is necessary/advisable given the stress for them of adding new birds? Also don't want to make quarters too cramped. Thanks!
     
  2. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Allowing them to free range each day will help a lot. And also them having grown up together will help as well. That said, I would definitely either rehome a roo or get more pullets though. I have found for myself that a 8:1 hen/rooster ratio is the minimum. 12-15:1 is better. A lower ratio means reduced egg production due to stress, and messed up or lack of feathers on the hens backs due to over-mating.

    An 8' x 8' coop gives about 60 square feet of coop space. They suggest a minimum of 4 sq. ft. per bird of coop space, so that means your coop can house up to 15-16 chickens comfortably. If they're overcrowded that causes stress, which results in reduced egg production. I think you could probably get away with keeping 20 birds in the summer months (they have a nice big run and also can free range), but on those cold miserable snowy days when they all want to be inside it will be pretty crowded.

    If it were me, I would pick one rooster to keep, along with the 12 ladies. Or, figure out a way to weather-proof part of the run, to give them more "coop space" for the winter time. The goal is to keep rain, wind, and snow out. Chickens can be pretty cold hardy, but they hate walking or standing in snow, and aren't fond of getting rained on. So during periods of bad weather during the winter, your current coop will be very cramped with 19 birds in it.

    Hope this helps. You chose an excellent hatchery and an excellent assortment of breeds! McMurray is one of my favorite hatcheries, their Buff Orp and Aussie strains in particular have been far better than the Orps I've had from Ideal and Cackle and the Aussies I've had from Ideal.
     
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    I am going to give you different advice. I don't believe in the "x number of square feet per bird theory". Here is an excellent article by user Ridgerunner who is very knowledgeable on all things chicken: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

    As far as "how many roosters per hen" that can depend on a lot of things. How much room you have and how well the boys get along are two big factors. The "10 hens per rooster" is a general rule of thumb and used by large hatcheries for optimal fertility rates. It doesn't necessarily pertain to backyard flocks. The only way to know if it will work is to try it. I will say, though, that you may want to have a backup plan in case the two roosters start fighting. It is a possibility for that to happen as they reach sexual maturity. Keep the one with the best personality and that will meet your flock goals the best, find a new home for the other. One rooster can easily cover the amount of hens you have.

    Maybe post some good, close pictures of your chickens and we can help you determine how many roosters you may have.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
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  4. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That is an excellent article, thanks for posting that.

    You make some very good points. A lot will depend on the temperament of the two cockerels; towards each other and towards the hens.

    Optimally, I would keep a rooster and 12-15 hens in that coop. But you can try keeping both roos, and see what the flock dynamics are like when they are 6-8 months old. Just be ready with a plan B if it's not working out very well. Such as penning one rooster up separate from the others, if he's getting beat up or being too hard on the ladies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
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  5. antigravity23

    antigravity23 New Egg

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    Thanks for your advice & suggestions!

    Picking one would be difficult since it'd be me vs the hubs and we are both pretty stubborn :)

    I have been thinking of putting a partial roof over part of the run to provide more shade, the coop is elevated off the ground so they have shade under there and a very small section of run is under the tree line but the pasture they are in also doesn't have a ton of shade. So now I think I will roof the entire run and come up with some kind of panels that I can use to wall off three sides in the winter. Hopefully that will be enough space to add the additional pullets. If not I can also expand the coop.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
  6. antigravity23

    antigravity23 New Egg

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    Excellent article thanks!

    And yes this all assuming that the roos get along decently and that one isn't just a jerk that has to be re-homed. So far the black one that I suspect is pretty aloof, he mostly keeps to himself and ignores me, while the other is very outgoing, comes right up to me and was the first to eat out of my hand but doesn't seem dominant at all, now I know all this can all change at "puberty" but my fingers are crossed they just get along! The picture is of my mystery roo, I will try to get pictures of the black chicks tomorrow they did not cooperate today. [​IMG]


    Now say they do fight enough to need to be separated but I wanted to keep both, would it be possible to split the flock and build a second coop but let them free range together or would that just be a redo every time they got let out to free range?

    Another question (and thanks again) if I do get 5 or 6 more pullets and make room in coop/run space for them, but then re-home a roo down the line, is there such a thing as too many hens for one roo to manage?

    Who knows what will go down, just like to have back up plans to my back up plans!
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    The outgoing behavior, coming right up to you and eating out of your hand actually could be interpreted as dominant behavior. That's what a dominant bird does to other chickens. If you research, you will find many, many "My sweet pet rooster turned into a monster!" threads. Personally, I like a rooster that moves away from me. He knows I'm boss, and while he's not afraid of me, he doesn't challenge me, either. I prefer little to no interaction with a rooster.

    If they fight and you split your flock, putting them in two coops, I would suggest free ranging on alternate days. Then you know there won't be any problems.

    It's hard to know how many hens your rooster could "manage" if you got 5 or 6 hens and then had to re-home one. I'm not sure what you mean by "manage". If you're wondering about fertility, a rooster can cover 20 or so hens.

    Having a backup for your backup is a good idea. You're dealing with living animals, so all bets are off. You never know how they're going to act.
     
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  8. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very good post here.

    Yes, unfortunately, him being that friendly with you already is actually not a good sign for later. Be ready and prepared should he challenge you later. Me personally, I make a point not to tame the roosters. A rooster with a healthy fear and respect of humans is less likely to challenge you for the alpha spot. But a rooster with little to no fear of humans can be dangerous later. Good things to do now, IMO, would be to make him move out of your way daily, even it means gently kicking him out of the way. Walking around him tells him he's the alpha, making him move means you are the alpha. And put him on his back and hold him down , for a good 30 seconds to a minute at a time, at least once a week. This should help minimize or eliminate any future problems.

    Free ranging two flocks together can work, but usually some or all the birds of one flock go to roost in the other coop. Maybe not on day one, but even a week or two or month or two later. Whether it be because they consider one coop to be better than the other, or the ladies like one rooster better than the other, or if individual birds lived in a certain coop for some time they will consider that "home," even if they have been locked up and living in the second coop for a couple weeks. You can try free ranging two flocks, but like Bobbi-J says, you'll probably have to free range them on alternate days.

    No, that wouldn't be too many hens for one roo. I once had a Buff Orpington rooster free ranging with 21 hens. It was a very peaceful flock, and fertility was nearly 100% for incubating.

    As for your little guy's breed, my guess would be Silver Leghorn. Could be wrong though. Try looking at pictures, see if he matched the chick pic in their catalog when you first got him. Here's a link: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/silver_leghorns.html
     
  9. snywalker

    snywalker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My personal opinion on number of roosters is strange. I like to have 3. I have found that they fight more if there is just 2. And I don't like having 1 because if something got him then you have none. The only thing is that the dominant rooster has to be gentle with the ladies. I have had between 11 and 50 hens, but always like 3 roosters.
     
  10. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have heard of the 3 male theory as well.... For roosters, bulls, bucks, etc. Me personally, I have found that two males who grow up together typically get along very well together. Possibly not as well as if three were raised together, but better than three males who each grew up separately, and were put together as breeding-age adults.

    The Buff Orp rooster I mentioned previously was killed two summers ago, defending his girls from a coyote. One of his hens happened to have hatched some chicks a few weeks prior, and two of them turned out to be roos. I kept both of them, and waited to see which I liked better, who treated the girls the best, which one I should keep. One was 3/4 Buff Orp and 1/4 Barred Rock (but looked purebred Buff Orp) and the other was 1/2 Buff Orp and 1/2 Barred Rock (a Sexlink). Those two grew up together, and got along really well. There were a few minor scuffles when they got to be 4-5 months old, but they came to an amicable agreement. The Sexlink was top boss, and the Buff Orp was allowed to live with the flock. If the Buff Orp tried to breed a hen, the Sexlink would run and chase him off and away from the hen 30' or so, and that was that. I never did get around to getting rid of the Buff Orp, and so the two roos lived together very well, up until earlier this year when the Buff Orp went missing. But I have no reason to believe the Sexlink had anything to do with it, they were still getting along just fine. The hens are enjoying life with just one rooster; they're not being over-mated and are less stressed. Which is a reminder to me that as much as I like to keep several roosters, the hens are happiest with one gentlemanly rooster. But yes, I often can't choose between two as well, and end up keeping both.... It usually works just fine, but the girls are happiest with just one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2016

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