Maybe naive

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Den, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. Den

    Den Out Of The Brooder

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    This is crazy! I have a very mixed flock. I have 2 hens that live in a small coop they are several months older then the 6 hens that live in the big coop but when I put them together the older ones won't even let the younger ones in the coop for food. The question is I have a rooster who lives with the 6. He keeps grabbing at the Red Orphs and I found him totally on top of the white Easter egger. Was he trying to mate or was he attacking? I pulled him out and now he is living in a guest room of the small coop. He is really gentle with people He just grabs at them and olds on!! And they cry! Am I being the wimp. I know the pecking order is natural but I am so afraid of drawing blood.
     
  2. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    The sight of a rooster mating with a hen is quite shocking. Roosters grab the head of the hen to help maintain balance while doing the deed. Some hens squat submissively-and these are the ones who end up with bald backs-while other hens run from the rooster. Many times the hen who runs ends up being dragged around by the rooster because he is intent on breeding. Since roosters don't have hands they have to use their beaks, and occasionally blood will be drawn. Good thing they don't have thumbs...the human race would be in trouble....
     
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Put them all together, go in the house, shut the door and windows and don't look for a day or two. By the time you get back out there, they should have it pretty well worked out. Put some extra food and water out for the younger ones so that when the old ones don't let them in the coop they have their own food supply. Yup, they may draw blood. Chickens can be brutal. They'll heal.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Some people just should not have roosters.

    There are a lot of different components to a chicken mating. In the ideal situation, the rooster dances for the hen to let her know his intensions. He does this by dropping one wing and circling the hen a bit.

    The hen squats. This puts her on the ground and off her legs so the weight of the rooster is spread out and not concentrated. Most roosters are a fair amount larger than the hens of the same breed. The squat allows her to support his weight without problems.

    The rooster hops on and grabs the back of her head. This helps him maintain his balance and puts him in the right position, but the head grab is the hen’s signal to raise her tail out of the way. It’s not a vicious attack. It’s a required part of the mating ritual.

    The rooster quickly touches his vent to hers and hops off.

    The hen stands up, fluffs her feathers, and shakes. This is not her way of telling him that she’s had better. She is positioning the sperm in her body.

    That’s all in the ideal situation where both rooster and hen do their part properly. But it doesn’t always go that way.

    Sometimes the rooter does not dance but just grabs hold and hops on. That’s bad technique but usually not a real problem. I’ll mention technique later.

    There are often some variations to this. Sometimes the rooster dances and the hen runs away. The rooster then forgets about her.

    Sometimes the hen starts to run and the rooster chases her. Within a few steps she stops and squats. She just wanted to see if he was serious.

    Sometimes the hen starts to run, the rooster chases and she keeps running. He may quit or he may keep after her until he catches her. As long as she squats when he does catch her, she is not harmed at all. If she refuses to squat and he tries to force her it can get rough.

    As long as any of these scenarios end in the hen squatting, she is not hurt.

    Some roosters are brutes and always treat the hen rough. They should not be kept. Some hens never learn to submit to the rooster. I don’t keep these in my flock because they disrupt the natural order that allows peace and tranquility in a flock. The hen has her responsibility in the flock too. It’s not always just the rooster.

    A lot of times you will see problems with adolescent chickens, male and female. At that age their hormones are running wild and they have little or no self-control. That’s when you see most of the complaints about the mating ritual on here. The young roosters have not learned proper technique and they can’t control their hormones. If given a chance, most grow out of that phase and become mature responsible adults. Many potentially good roosters have died because of that adolescent period.

    The mating ritual is not just about mating. It’s a dominance thing. The one on bottom accepts the dominance of the one on top. I’ve seen the dominant mature hen “mate” other hens and pullets when there was not a dominant rooster in the flock to show that she was top dog.

    With young roosters, they often don’t have the maturity to exert that dominance, especially with older hens. Some hens will squat for anything in spurs, but a mature hen often expects a rooster to dance first, find her food, look for predators, break up fights, and keep peace in the flock, all the things a mature rooster should do. It’s pretty normal for older hens to teach the young roosters better manners. I’ve seen older hens mate another hen right in front of an immature adolescent rooster to show him she is the boss. I’ve seen them knock a young rooster off a pullet that did submit. I’ve seen mature hens beat up a young rooster that got fresh with them.

    The hen has to accept the dominance of the rooster before things will go peacefully in the flock, but many hens expect the rooster to earn that respect and dominance. If a hen can never learn to accept that dominance, she’s no good to me. I’ve had roosters that earned that respect at 4 months. That is extremely rare. I’ve had roosters where it took them 10 months to earn that respect. I give them time but at some point if I determine a specific rooster is not up to speed or a hen will just not accept any rooster, they are gone.

    A lot of times a young rooster has not learned proper technique. It’s not just dancing and earning respect but he doesn’t know what to do with his feet during the act. He moves around a bit to get himself in the right position. Those toenails can grab feathers and tear them off. It’s totally normal for a hen to occasionally lose a few feathers during the act, but if a hen gets bare the rooster can cut her exposed skin during the act. Since hens can be cannibals if they see a wound on a chicken, this can be deadly. In spite of all the hysteria your get on this forum about this, it really doesn’t happen that often. But it can happen and needs to be watched for. I’ve trimmed the toenails with a Dremel tool when an adolescent rooster starts to have this problem. I just take the sharp edges off so they are blunted, much like trimming your toenails. I’ve never had this problem from the rooster’s side after trimming them once. By the time they grow back, he has matured enough to have corrected his technique. A lot of people add hens to the flock when they have a barebacked problem, thinking that the problem is the hen to rooster ratio. When adding hens seems to cure the problem they are convinced it was the hen to rooster ratio. I think a lot of those times the rooster just natured enough to get his technique right. But these things can be a bit complicated. Often it is not just one thing causing the problem but a certain mix of things.

    But this is not always the rooster’s fault. Some scientists have studied this problem. It can be important in a commercial breeding operation. They have found that some hens have brittle feathers that are a lot more likely to break off during the mating ritual. It’s a genetic thing. So they can breed for softer feathers in their commercial flocks to greatly reduce the risk of this type of thing happening. I’ve had a few hens in my flock that were constantly barebacked. When I permanently removed them from my flock, the bareback problem went away. If I can take care of the problem by removing the hen, how is that the rooster’s fault? None of the other hens developed that problem with the same rooster.

    I know this is long. Maybe you can get something useful out of it. Chicken social interaction is complex and each chicken is a living animal. No one can predict exactly how any one individual will respond in a specific situation. If natural chicken mating offends you so, you really do need to get rid of your rooster. It will always bother you. And hopefully you won’t see your dominant hen doing the same thing.
     
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  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    About the problem of the older hens not letting the younger ones eat. That is pretty nornal. The more mature chickens will dominate the less mature chickens until they mature enough to fight their way into the pecking order. This dominance often includes pecking. That's why it's called the pecking order.

    This is likely to go on for a while. Solve the problem by feeding and watering in two different areas. Don't make the young ones have to confront the older ones to eat and drink. And fully expect to have two separate flocks for a while. The young ones will try to stay away from the older ones to keep from getting pecked. Chickens have been doing that for thousands of years. Nothing unusual about it at all.

    And don't be surprised to have problems at bedtime if they are all sleeping in the same room. I've had younger chickens leave the roosts and find safer places to sleep because older chickens were so brutal on the roosts as they are settling in to sleep. This is not a big deal unless they decide that safer place is in a nest box. I integrate younger chickens all the time. I finally put up a separate roost over the nest boxes and lower than the main roosts to give them a safer place to go.

    Chickens have been solving problems like this for thousands of years. They are living animals. Occasionally bad things happen but they usually work it out if they are allowed to.

    Good luck.
     
  6. just me

    just me Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very informative!! I'm glad I stumbled upon this thread and this post since my rooster (this is my first flock) is just now starting to try to "do the deed". I knew he was inexperienced, thus the clumsiness...just didn't know what else I need to keep an eye on as he and the pulletts mature.

    Thanks again for all of this info!!
     
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Ridgerunner - I love the information you shared. So informative, and a much better answer than mine. I wouldn't keep a rooster that is brutal to my hens, either. What I was trying so ineloquently so say, was that the chickens need to be left to sort things out for themselves, and the mating ritual isn't always pretty. (Much easier to say when I've had the day to wake up and think things through a little more clearly) Yes, sometimes things do go wrong, but as you said - chickens have been taking care of these things for a very long time. .
     
  8. Den

    Den Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2011
    Thank you for all of your information ..... And that was a LOT. I am a teacher and I want everyone working together and getting along. I guess this will be a great learning experience for me to just let nature take its course. We got the rooster because we like the cockadoodling and to keep the stray cats away. But he is such a nice rooster to people and so pretty. So tomorrow I will throw everyone together and say work it out. I might dremel the beak just as a precaution, maybe. Thank you.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Do not Dremel the beak. It's the toenails I was talking about, not the beak.

    If you blunt the beak, he will have trouble eating some things.
     

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