How much to tolerate in a protective cockerel?

AgnesGray

Chirping
Mar 8, 2019
133
437
96
Ohio, US
I'm not 100% sure, as I would like to be, what to do about my boy Nugget and his new aggressive tendencies.

He's always been a favorite even though he's often growling and has had strong characteristics of a cockerel even when he was little. He was crowing and surverying his kingdom at just a few weeks old, but now, at 3.5 months, he's injuring my girls with his neck grabbing and possessive ways.

I've had to treat a top of pecking order hen for a bloody gnash in the side of her head and he's biting others as well.

Now, they're in part of their final space as we're finishing up their new 40x25 run, but could this improve when they go from traditional 103"x45" coop to more space? I've removed him from the 8 pullets for now, but since this is my first run in with flock issues, I ask you that have experience with this sort of thing: what would you do? Thanks

Pic attached of Nugget hanging out in my garage while we sort it out.
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DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium member
Jul 23, 2018
13,133
98,374
1,442
Apalachin, NY
My Coop
My Coop
I'm not 100% sure, as I would like to be, what to do about my boy Nugget and his new aggressive tendencies.

He's always been a favorite even though he's often growling and has had strong characteristics of a cockerel even when he was little. He was crowing and surverying his kingdom at just a few weeks old, but now, at 3.5 months, he's injuring my girls with his neck grabbing and possessive ways.

I've had to treat a top of pecking order hen for a bloody gnash in the side of her head and he's biting others as well.

Now, they're in part of their final space as we're finishing up their new 40x25 run, but could this improve when they go from traditional 103"x45" coop to more space? I've removed him from the 8 pullets for now, but since this is my first run in with flock issues, I ask you that have experience with this sort of thing: what would you do? Thanks

Pic attached of Nugget hanging out in my garage while we sort it out.
View attachment 2008922View attachment 2008923
I assume that when you write "traditional 103"x45" coop" that you are referring to one of those tiny pre-fabs you can get at a farm store? And that the area is actually the area of the run underneath the enclosed coop and the coop itself is smaller?? If so, you have major problems with over crowding if 9 LF chickens are in that.
Getting them a lot more space is crucial. And not just in the run.
In the meantime, the cockerel needs to be separated from the pullets until they mature a bit more. He can be housed within the new run in a predator proof enclosure.
Can you please post some pictures of your current set up along with the new space?
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,315
12,624
707
Southeast Louisiana
This is what I call typical mating behavior between mature consenting adults.

The rooster dances for a specific hen. He lowers one wing and sort of circles her. This signals his intent.

The hen squats. This gets her body onto the ground so the rooster’s weight goes into the ground through her entire body and not just her legs. That way she can support a much heavier rooster without hurting her joints.

The rooster hops on and grabs the back of her head. The head grab helps him get in the right position to hit the target and helps him to keep his balance, but its major purpose is to tell the hen to raise her tail out of the way to expose the target. A mating will not be successful if she does not raise her tail and expose the target. The head grab is necessary.

The rooster touches vents and hops off. This may be over in the blink of an eye or it may take a few seconds. But when this is over the rooster’s part is done.

The hen then stands up, fluffs up, and shakes. This fluffy shake gets the sperm into a special container inside the hen near where the egg starts its internal journey through her internal egg making factory.



At 3-1/2 months you don't have mature consenting adults, you have an immature cockerel. It sounds like you have 8 immature pullets the same age, no other chickens. I'm not sure how much total room you now have. The dimensions you gave are roughly 4' x 8' which isn't that far for the normal 4 sq ft per chicken in the coop recommendation on here but does that also include a run? A photo might help us understand. Both age and space are important.

Until your cockerel becomes a mature rooster and your pullets grow up to be consenting hens, the behavior you describe sounds fairly typical, though actual injury isn't very common if they have room. The cockerel's hormones are telling him to dominate the flock. A very common normal way to do that is to mate with the girls. But the girls aren't mature enough to be willing to mate. And an immature cockerel typically does not display the conduct that makes him worthy of being the father of their children even when the pullets are ready. The one on the bottom accepts the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. At that age it is practically always by force. And the more tightly that are packed the more likely that force will be excessive.

When they all mature enough to behave like adults it will probably be pretty calm, but occasionally you get one that just doesn't grow up. It can be really hard to watch that behavior until they do grow up. Since it can be violent it is possible someone can get hurt.

So what can you do? Since pullets are getting hurt, isolate that cockerel for a while. When you finish building that extra space you can try again. That may be enough to make the behaviors tolerable. If not, isolate him again until they have matured some more, at least until a few of the pullets are laying. That's usually when pullets mature. It's possible he may just be a brute and never mature into a responsible adult. It's possible one of your pullets will not accept any rooster's dominance without a bloody fight. With living animals you don't get guaranties as far as behaviors. Most mature into responsible adults, but a few don't. You have to be prepared for any result.

Good luck!
 

AgnesGray

Chirping
Mar 8, 2019
133
437
96
Ohio, US
I assume that when you write "traditional 103"x45" coop" that you are referring to one of those tiny pre-fabs you can get at a farm store? And that the area is actually the area of the run underneath the enclosed coop and the coop itself is smaller?? If so, you have major problems with over crowding if 9 LF chickens are in that.
Getting them a lot more space is crucial. And not just in the run.
In the meantime, the cockerel needs to be separated from the pullets until they mature a bit more. He can be housed within the new run in a predator proof enclosure.
Can you please post some pictures of your current set up along with the new space?


At 3-1/2 months you don't have mature consenting adults, you have an immature cockerel. It sounds like you have 8 immature pullets the same age, no other chickens.
.....
You have to be prepared for any result.

Good luck!
Hi DobieLover -
Yes, will get some pictures asap! I've added a run beside the farm store prefab for extra space, and I sit with them while they free range for about an hour every evening but without a doubt they will benefit from more room when their "real" coop is done which should hopefully be soon. Should we try again when the new coop and run are done?

Thanks, Ridgerunner - I actually have 6 newly laying pullets in a coop of their own and will one day like to combine the two flocks. We'll see.

I have seen chickens mate (not my own, who are all mostly too young), but have never seen these kind of injuries from it. The annoying thing is that he doesn't want them to free range or leave the coop to hang with me and when they do, he will grab them by the neck and let them scream until he's decided it's enough. I would be sad to see him go and want to give him every fair chance, but he may leave me no choice but to cull him from the flock.

For now I have him in his own third and separate coop... but am wondering how long he can stay separated out before he will be foreign and new to the flock if we try to reintroduce him later?

Current temporary coop: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/innovation-pet-xl-superior-deluxe-farm-house-with-pvc-roof-222-11

New coop to be: (grabbed this pic on the way to work so it's probably not very helpful. excuse the mess...) we've just got to put the wire on the top of the run and hook up the electric fence and a few minor other jobs and it will be done.
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Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,315
12,624
707
Southeast Louisiana
I have seen chickens mate (not my own, who are all mostly too young), but have never seen these kind of injuries from it.

You never know how much experience someone on here actually has. And you never know what information might prove helpful.

The annoying thing is that he doesn't want them to free range or leave the coop to hang with me and when they do, he will grab them by the neck and let them scream until he's decided it's enough. I would be sad to see him go and want to give him every fair chance, but he may leave me no choice but to cull him from the flock.

He still is pretty young, those behaviors might change, but might not. I don't know why you want a rooster. The only reason you need one is if you want fertile eggs. Everything else is personal preference. Nothing wrong with personal preference, they can be pretty strong.

I don't know why you want that specific cockerel. To me those behaviors are over the top. If he doesn't straighten out when they get more room, well, there are too many good ones out there to put up with a bad one.

For now I have him in his own third and separate coop... but am wondering how long he can stay separated out before he will be foreign and new to the flock if we try to reintroduce him later?

I would not worry about that. If they can see each other he won't be foreign. Even if they can't see each other introducing a male to females is often pretty easy, especially if they are more mature. Just isolating him for a while might even change his behaviors. I can understand giving him a chance but decide for the benefit of the overall flock, not just one individual.
 

AgnesGray

Chirping
Mar 8, 2019
133
437
96
Ohio, US
I have seen chickens mate (not my own, who are all mostly too young), but have never seen these kind of injuries from it.

You never know how much experience someone on here actually has. And you never know what information might prove helpful.

The annoying thing is that he doesn't want them to free range or leave the coop to hang with me and when they do, he will grab them by the neck and let them scream until he's decided it's enough. I would be sad to see him go and want to give him every fair chance, but he may leave me no choice but to cull him from the flock.

He still is pretty young, those behaviors might change, but might not. I don't know why you want a rooster. The only reason you need one is if you want fertile eggs. Everything else is personal preference. Nothing wrong with personal preference, they can be pretty strong.

I don't know why you want that specific cockerel. To me those behaviors are over the top. If he doesn't straighten out when they get more room, well, there are too many good ones out there to put up with a bad one.

For now I have him in his own third and separate coop... but am wondering how long he can stay separated out before he will be foreign and new to the flock if we try to reintroduce him later?

I would not worry about that. If they can see each other he won't be foreign. Even if they can't see each other introducing a male to females is often pretty easy, especially if they are more mature. Just isolating him for a while might even change his behaviors. I can understand giving him a chance but decide for the benefit of the overall flock, not just one individual.

Very true! And thank you for the detailed replies! You're so right, you never know what may be helpful. I appreciate it.

I do want fertile eggs, but he is stressing everyone out, me included. If there is a chance he may straighten out, I will keep him separated and give him one more shot when he's cooled off (hopefully). Thanks again! :)
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,596
23,044
906
southern Michigan
Because my flock has more space, and mature hens and roosters, the youngsters grow up having adults to manage their idiocies, and squelch bad behaviors. This really does help, and next year it will help in your flock.
I agree that at least this cockerel needs to be separated from the birds that he's injuring, at least until everyone has more space, and the pullets are also in lay.
Then, if he's still a jerk, there's that crock pot, at your house, or someone else's.
I have zero tolerance for cock birds or cockerels who cause injuries to their flockmates, or are human aggressive. There are so many nice birds out there! If this boy doesn't work out, or if you decide he needs to go now, raise some chicks this spring and pick a better boy!
Mary
 

AgnesGray

Chirping
Mar 8, 2019
133
437
96
Ohio, US
Because my flock has more space, and mature hens and roosters, the youngsters grow up having adults to manage their idiocies, and squelch bad behaviors. This really does help, and next year it will help in your flock.
I agree that at least this cockerel needs to be separated from the birds that he's injuring, at least until everyone has more space, and the pullets are also in lay.
Then, if he's still a jerk, there's that crock pot, at your house, or someone else's.
I have zero tolerance for cock birds or cockerels who cause injuries to their flockmates, or are human aggressive. There are so many nice birds out there! If this boy doesn't work out, or if you decide he needs to go now, raise some chicks this spring and pick a better boy!
Mary
My crockpot is definitely available. 🍲 He almost didn't make it past Tuesday night when I found injuries on one of the girls and then observed him going after another one. My husband helped me work out a space for him in the garage which saved him for now. He'll let me pick him up, will eat out of my hand, and likes a good sweatshirt snuggle, but is a vicious flock leader. Fingers crossed, but if it doesn't work out, I will definitely try again in the spring with another boy!

Thanks for your reply, Mary! :)
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,596
23,044
906
southern Michigan
If you plan to raise some chicks from your flock, think about what breed of rooster would be a good fit for the eggs you would try to hatch out, and get some straight run chicks of that breed in spring. I prefer to raise my own, rather than getting a rooster from outside, because of biosecurity issues.
Getting a polite adult rooster is another way to go, except for the disease risk he would pose to your existing birds.
Mary
 

AgnesGray

Chirping
Mar 8, 2019
133
437
96
Ohio, US
If you plan to raise some chicks from your flock, think about what breed of rooster would be a good fit for the eggs you would try to hatch out, and get some straight run chicks of that breed in spring. I prefer to raise my own, rather than getting a rooster from outside, because of biosecurity issues.
Getting a polite adult rooster is another way to go, except for the disease risk he would pose to your existing birds.
Mary

That makes sense. What breed would you suggest for good chances of a polite rooster? And where would you recommend getting them?

I would love to get them locally but haven't found any swaps or farms that sell standard breed chickens anywhere near me. I started with ducks and they came from a farm down the road and 5 of the six eggs were fertile, all of which hatched into healthy happy ducks, but haven't been as fortunate with finding a chicken breeder. My bielefelder eggs were bought online and my other chickens were shipped day old. A garden buddy recommends jersey giants and another recommends australorps.
 
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