Keeping peace in the chicken yard despite "too many" roosters and interfering with pecking order

halefamily_flock

Songster
Sep 16, 2020
329
827
176
Southeast Misssouri
For nearly a year, I have had a free ranging, predator savvy flock with with access to 100+ acres & an automatic chicken door that lets them out in the morning and closes them in at night. My four 9-month old roosters, raised together, had co-existed peacefully with fewer than 25 hens between them. I love how easy they were to manage and how many roosters I was able to keep! However, as I started hatching my own eggs, I didn't want to leave it up to the flock to decide which roosters sire my chicks, so I started experimenting with a breeding pen. I learned, the hard way, the dangers of putting a low ranking rooster in a pen with "someone else's" hens, especially within sight and in a way that feels like they're all still hanging out together. One morning, I was shocked to see how much blood one rooster had flung inside coop walls and dripped all over feeders, waterers, roosting bars and the hens he was roosting with. I had seen the battle (which was taking place THROUGH the flexible fencing of the breeding pen) and separated the roosters and locked them in their respective coops the night before. It wasn't until the light of day that I realized how bloody the battle had been.

Fast forward 30 days...I now have 3 of the original roosters (circled in red) and three 15-week-old cockerels (in yellow) all living peacefully together. Elvis used to be #1, but our new #1 (Gimpy) is a much better leader of the flock. He keeps everyone in line with minimal aggression.
Roosters 11-24-20 named.jpg


Here's how I managed them:
  • Goldie was the one who engaged Gimpy (in the breeding pen) in the bloody battle through the fence that I mentioned above. Previously, Goldie had been a good flock protector and very mellow to people & other roosters. He was my favorite. I broke up the fight and locked Goldie in a smaller coop inside the main coop for a couple of days. Lesson Learned: By giving too many hens to Gimpy in the breeding pen, and leaving 3 roosters to compete for too few hens on the outside, I had severely upset the pecking order. Before letting Goldie out, I sent the least-suitable-for-breeding rooster (Squeaky) to freezer camp. I also downsized my breeding pen, so Elvis and Goldie would have more hens to share on the outside. At this time, Elvis was top rooster. After I returned Goldie to the free range flock after a couple of days, he seemed to have lost interest in challenging Gimpy in the breeding pen. I breathed a sigh of relief.
  • For another week or so, I collected eggs and setup the incubator. After candling eggs to find they were all developing well, I decided to release everyone from the breeding pen so I could get hens used to laying again in the main coop and get things setup for the new chicks. Lesson Learned: Once a rooster has been appointed king of his own flock for a couple of weeks, he may not be willing to go back to being #2 in the larger flock.
  • I had hoped Gimpy and Elvis would sort things out on their own, since there were now fewer full-grown roosters to the total number of hens than there had been prior to the breeding pen experiment when they were all living happily together. (We also now had 2 pullets coming of age, and 3 cockerels just starting to assert themselves but they were still being denied by the girls, so no rooster-on-cockerel challenges had started yet)
  • As soon as Gimpy and Elvis saw each other, both on the outside now, they started the bloodiest battle yet. I was rooting for Gimpy to win because Elvis needed an attitude adjustment. Elvis was our most handsome rooster, but had started showing aggression to people recently (in addition to being a rooster bully). If not for his good looks, he would have already been in freezer camp by now. I let them fight for about 20 minutes and finally broke it up and put Elvis in the breeding coop by himself. Goldie didn't challenge Gimpy, and everything on the outside appeared to return to normal.
  • After a couple of days, I started letting Elvis out into the breeding pen, where he could hang out with the other chickens but stay out of reach. I was relieved when Gimpy left him alone, but was convinced I would probably have to say goodbye to Elvis because of everything I had read about jerky roosters (which Elvis definitely had become)
  • After a couple of days without incident, I gave him one Speckled Sussex hen to keep him company, so he would have someone to snuggle with at night if the temps dropped below freezing. After a few more days, things remained peaceful. Roosters and hens were sharing a space and hanging out together (but still separated by fencing). My incubating eggs were developing nicely and I needed to figure out whether Elvis was going to be able to return to general population, or if I would have to send him to freezer camp so I could get the breeding coop ready for the new babies.
Yesterday afternoon, just before dusk, I gave Elvis one final chance to stay. I let him and the Sussex out of the pen, tossed treats around to bring the flock together, and watched to see what would happen. Nothing! Elvis had accepted his position as #2 and Gimpy didn't seem to have anything left to prove. Other than a few very minor scuffles, they all went about scratching for the treats I threw out, with all 3 of the roosters trying to win favor with the hens but not at all focused on each other. At the same time, Crazy Train, the top cockerel, attempted to mount a few hens, who chased him off. Olaf and Fancy, the other cockerels, were trying to look cool while getting bullied by hens. The big roosters didn't seem to pay any attention to any of them.

So, for now, I have technically too many roosters, and I'm expecting to hatch a few more (along with more hens, hopefully). But my hens are holding their own, and the roosters are living in harmony, working as a tag team to protect the flock from a couple of hawks that have been relentlessly stalking for weeks now (only one casualty so far). These are heritage breeds who have survived for hundreds of years, so they must have been able to live with "too many" roosters, at some point. Let's see how it goes.

Meet the boys...
Gimpy (Cream Legbar)
Legbar_Roo.JPG
Elvis (Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben)
Elvis.JPG
Goldie (Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben)
Goldie.JPG
Crazy Train (Spitz x Dominique)
CrazyTrain.jpg
Olaf (Legbar x Dominique)
Olaf.jpg
Fancy (Spitz x Dominique)
Fancy.jpg
 
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SulkyBantam

···ʞɔǝꓒ ʎɹǝʌƎ ɥʇᴉM ɹǝʇɹoɥS ɓuᴉʇʇǝꓨ sI ʞɐǝꓭ ʎW
Nov 3, 2020
3,147
12,077
606
The Emerald Isle
My Coop
My Coop
That's so nice!
I'm sure people will tell you to get rid of some
(I only have 2 and have been told that on here) but looks like you are managing well and they are happy so WELL DONE, lucky flock!
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,146
16,984
706
USA
Thanks for posting that!
I like the way you explained what happened, what you learned, what you did next, and so forth.
And It's a very good example of how the "wrong" sex ratios can be a problem or just fine, depending on the exact conditions.
 

MysteryChicken

Unique minded, open minded Chicken Lover
Premium Feather Member
May 31, 2018
28,363
56,985
1,141
East, Tawas Michigan
This is all I do.
20201120_141544.jpg
20201120_141546.jpg
The only thing that goes on is pecking order arrangements, which includes the occasional fight, over mating isn't a huge problem with my flock of uneven ratio(Hen Saddles Are Used Just In Case) not everyone needs a hen saddle. They manage themselves really well.
 

JedJackson

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 6, 2016
7,038
21,469
942
NW Washington state
Yeah, sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone with chickens. When you separate them they will have to hash out the pecking order again when they're reunited, even if they can still see each other.

Elvis and Goldie are gorgeous cockerels and by far my favorites.
 

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