My rooster hates all of his sons except for one. Why?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by shanadienne, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 10, 2013
    Massachusetts, USA
    I have this rooster, Jared, top of the pecking order, who understandably does not like his sons (four total). Three of them, he chases them away from the food and kicks them off if they try to mate with a hen. This is all totally in line with how my chickens have behaved in the past. Even if a rooster tolerated another one existing in the flock, he would enforce chicken law.

    Except one of them, named Hapsburg, doesn't bother him at all. Jared seems unwilling and possibly even afraid to attack him, and if Hapsburg manages to mount a hen, Jared kind of lazily jogs over and is disapproving but doesn't interfere. He still outranks Hapsburg, who runs away from him/respects him, but Jared allows him to eat/drink/sleep/chill with all the hens. And if Hapsburg is fighting with one of his brothers, Jared always chases away the other one.

    It's as if Jared has chosen an heir to the throne, so to speak, which I would just think is cool and everything, except Hapsburg is literally the worst one he could have chosen. Hapsburg pipped late, needed help hatching, had an underbite i.e. the beginning of scissorbeak which mysteriously went away, has walked with a limp for no apparent reason his whole life, was very slow to start crowing, and at full sexual maturity still doesn't outrank at least two hens. (I mean, it is hilarious to watch when he's trying to do the dance and they're just going in a circle with her growling and trying to peck his head, but when even the hens don't think he's worthy...) I'm not sure if it's a coincidence, but Hapsburg does look the most like his father in terms of plumage, build, comb, etc. It can't be an age thing because all four cockerels are from the same hatch.

    I just didn't think a prime-of-his-life rooster would choose a second-in-command with all rights and privileges, even if they look so similar some of the hens mistake them for each other. I was guessing maybe he's chasing off the healthier, virile males so that they'll get eaten by predators, and he's not worrying about Hapsburg because he can tell he's the weakest link and is already at higher risk of being eliminated, but as smart as chickens are I doubt that's Jared's logic.

  2. chicklover 1998

    chicklover 1998 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 30, 2015
    He could be picking this one because he doesn't see him as a threat because he is weaker. This has no logic at all because chickens will pick on the weakest link, but that is my theory.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I have no idea why....... but your observations are so nicely expressed I just have to give you a kudos for that.

    Maybe Hapsburg has shown proper submission and respect so is being allowed to collaborate?

    Are all these birds over one year old or.....?
    How many females and ages?
    Do you free range?

    Please do update this thread to let us know how it all works out, chicken society is fascinating.
  4. shanadienne

    shanadienne Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 10, 2013
    Massachusetts, USA
    Thank you. :D

    Jared and one of my hens are going to be three years old, another hen (Hapsburg's mother) is five years old, and all of the others hatched last July. The pullets have been laying for months. In total, there are five roosters and six hens (far from ideal, I know, and one has chicks which translates to five hens), all free-ranging but sleeping in the same coop.

    I like the idea that Hapsburg has managed to be submissive enough that Jared lets him stay, but the other roosters haven't been uppity with him either so if it is that it must be some extremely subtle behavior. Jared's initial attitude towards the chicks was "get away from our food" until one by one he realized some were females. I don't know what Hapsburg did to make Jared decide to let him eat with them. I would have noticed if Jared was actually mistaking him for a hen.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I'm with the theory of the younger bird isn't seen as a threat.

    I had a Faverolles cockerel who was very slow to mature (and maybe a touch "special", truth be told). My head rooster Eric never seemed to notice him one way or another. When he finally started crowing Eric would kind of look at him like "what do you think you're doing?" and Gabe would run away, but Eric never chased him. I sold Gabe soon after he started trying to mate, so I'm not sure how the relationship would have turned out. But I do think the other males are threats and need to be kept in line, and this bird, well, the head guy has better things to do than worry about him.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by