May 29, 2019
Anyone have experience introducing a new cockerel to their all-lady flock? We were given the opportunity to acquire a 10 week-old (thus far very friendly) Bielefelder cockerel to add to our 17.5-18 week-old mixed flock of 7 pullets. Here are my concerns:
  • Is the age difference okay? He's younger but already quite large. I'm thinking it might be good for the ladies to be a bit more mature than an incoming rooster so they can keep him in line before he gets to his hormonal phase (then all bets are off).
  • Biels are supposed to be exceptionally gentle giants. Has anyone had experience with this breed of rooster?
  • Is 7:1 an okay ratio?
  • Should I quarantine? How long?
  • Any tips on introductions?
We do have a spacious elevated pen in the basement we can use to quarantine; and my partner is working on building a chicken tractor that may ease introductions down the road. We also have a spacious dog crate we could place in the coop.

My biggest concern is the health of my flock--I don't want to jeopardize their peace and well-being. But we would like to increase their foraging space and feel a rooster may be a good addition.

Thank you, as always, BYC community!
I should add: we want a rooster as an added alert system, pet, and potential fertilizer of eggs should we ever want to hatch our own. BUT we can certainly live without one if the flock is better off that way!
If this is your first year with chickens, adding a male could greatly complicate things.
It sounds like you have lots of separate housing to avail of in case of problems, so that would help.

You really don't need a male unless you want to hatch eggs.
They are overrated as 'protection', IMO.

You cannot judge demeanor on breed, it's often inaccurate and there are too many other variables involved. Each bird is an individual and is affected by environment(housing/flock mates/keepers).
Thus the 'ratio' of 1:7 may be fine, or not.

Space and configuration of housing options can make huge difference.
Have you posted any pics of your coop/run/crate?
Making a coop page in the article section can be a great and easy reference.
Or post some dimensions and pics here in this thread of all this spaciousness,
I would love to see it.

Bringing in any bird can be a risk.
Consider biological/medical quarantine:
BYC Medical Quarantine Article

The age help.
But they will kick his butt for being new and for being a male once the hormones flow.
It will likely be tough on him being a single bird.

Here's some tips about....
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better.
Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.

Oh, and...always good to know:
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, (laptop version shown), then it's always there!
Thank you for being so informative--this is a big help and you've certainly provided much to consider. I have planned to add coop/run info to my profile and everything but have not gotten around to it. I will work on it!

The infirmary coop we just built in the basement is 18 sq. ft. Our run is 128 sq. ft. and includes ample roost as well as a dust bath. Coop is 25 sq. ft. (maybe too small?). We are working in penning in an additional 200 sq. ft. for protected foraging space, and also have started building a tractor coop/run (my SO loves all of these projects--by 'we' I mean 'he'). This is all I have on the coop/run:


Here is the to coop in the basement:

I will try to add more per your suggestions as I can!
Coop is 25 sq. ft. (maybe too small?)
Tight for the 7 birds you have, run looks really nice tho, that will help.

I would strongly advise against adding a male at this point.

Might want to think about building a bigger coop if you want to expand your flock.
Work it in adjacent to the existing and expanded run,
then you can use the 25sqft coop as an intro/grow-out/isolation coop.
Good winter project to start some sketching/planning while you get thru your first winter.
  • Is the age difference okay? He's younger but already quite large. I'm thinking it might be good for the ladies to be a bit more mature than an incoming rooster so they can keep him in line before he gets to his hormonal phase (then all bets are off).
Read my post (#5) in this thread.

  • Biels are supposed to be exceptionally gentle giants. Has anyone had experience with this breed of rooster?
I agree with Aart. Each is an individual. While breeds may have general tendencies you have to have enough for averages to mean much to get the average. An individual from any breed can be totally horrible or totally perfect. And, no, I've never had that breed.

  • Is 7:1 an okay ratio?
People who keep one rooster with over twenty hens can have the same issues as people that keep one rooster with two hens. For what it is worth my normal ratio is usually close to 7 to 1 but I consider that pretty much a meaningless statistic in predicting behaviors. Individual personalities (male and female), flock dynamics, how much room you have, age differences (adolescents can be hard to watch), your expectations as to what is acceptable, and so many other things all play a part.

  • Should I quarantine? How long?

Read Aart's links. Sounds like you may be better set up for a meaningful quarantine than most people on this forum. Personally the only way I add new chickens is to hatch eggs or get chicks from a hatchery or, on rare occasions a feed store because of bio-security concerns. My general thoughts on how important a good quarantine is depends on where they come from. If he comes from a closed flock where they have had no contact with an outside chicken for a month or more and you trust the person you are getting him from to recognize and tell you about any diseases, it's less risky than getting him from an auction or chicken swap where he was just exposed to other chickens.

  • Any tips on introductions?

Read my post in that other thread and Aart's links. If you quarantine for a month and then do some look but don't touch, his hormones should have hit by then. If you don't quarantine they soon will. It's likely to get pretty active down there.

My biggest concern is the health of my flock--I don't want to jeopardize their peace and well-being. But we would like to increase their foraging space and feel a rooster may be a good addition.

The only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertile eggs. Anything else is personal preference. Nothing wrong with personal preference, it can be a powerful motivator, but it is a want and not necessarily a need. You indicated you may want fertile eggs in the future.

Integrating an adolescent male can be hard to watch, his hormones can make life really exciting. Usually one of the easiest integrations is a mature male to a flock of mature hens. He WOW's them with his personality and magnificence, he mates a couple when they are introduced to claim the flock, and life is good. There can be exceptions, sometimes you get a rooster that isn't really self-confident enough to pull it off or you have a hen (usually the dominant hen) that doesn't appreciate him taking over HER flock. It doesn't always go smoothly but it usually does.

In your situation I'd pass on that cockerel. If you are going to hatch eggs you need a bigger coop anyway. Get your coop built and maybe the outside area expanded. When your pullets are all laying (you can consider them to probably act like mature hens after they have been laying a short while) introduce a mature rooster, at least a year old. Next spring might be a good target time.

To be open, I don't do it that way. I raise my pullets and cockerels with a flock that has one mature rooster, 6 to 8 mature hens, and often a lot of other chicks of various ages. I have a lot more room than you. I'm pretty tolerant of their adolescent antics but I also have a separate area I can isolate cockerels if they get to exuberant. Your situation and experience are different.

Good luck!
The benefits of keeping a rooster with your flock cannot be overstated. Finding a responsible and well mannered rooster however is somewhat difficult, but still I cannot imagine having a flock without a rooster.

Firstly roosters provide an economic way too increase the size of your flock. The best way to increase the number of birds in your flock is to add a rooster.

Secondly, Rooster is the head of the chicken family. Roosters are to their flock what sun is to our solar system. He provides guidance to the hens, he tells them when and where to move around, he alerts them when he has found the food, he maintains the social hierarchy in the flock and ensures their safety.

Thirdly, a good rooster watches over the members of his flock. He will alert the flock from a potential threat. A good rooster will also protect hens from eachother by maintaining order.

Finally, a handsome rooster will add beauty to your flock. A colourful rooster also distracts predators from your hens.

I have been taking care of my flock for last nine years and in my opinion lack of a rooster leaves a flock incomplete.
The others have given you great advice. Personally when I put a male in with females for breeding I usually put no more than 10 females in with one male. I have some coops and pens where I will have 30 or more females in with one male but not for breeding purposes, just to keep my spare males, but I only have one male in a coop with the females. I realize my situation is different. It appears you are considering enlarging your flock possibly in the future. Good luck and have fun...
I just did this about two months ago and am thoroughly pleased with how it has been going. We got a Favorelle cockerel for our flock of 8, and now only one or two of the ladies give him a peck because he is getting "at that age". He is a clown but awesome. We also just picked up a JG cockerel Saturday and he is def head of the flock. After one brief skirmish the 2 fellas can be near each other to a point, but because of free ranging space they are not hyper confrontational. The new cockerel is already keeping an eye out in the sky constantly, and is an awesome shepard of the ladies and even the other cockerel. My two tips would be this...keep them as close as possible in age and if you can, introduce the new fella while the ladies are free ranging. We did that with our 2nd cockerel and the transition has been significantly smoother. Even in the coop they are remarkably peaceful together. We plan on expanding to another coop but free ranging is a big plus in this scenario. As Kabootar stated, the beauty, watchfullness, and personality of a good cockerel or 2 are well worth doing it.
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