Need to Pick A Roo: Advice Needed On What is Normal/Appropriate Juvenile Cockeral Behavior

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by GuppyTJ, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All,

    I'm trying to pick a roo out of my set of 8 cockerals, aged 17 weeks. I'll keep 1 primary roo and a spare roo. I have 7 pullets. I'm interested in your ideas/advice on picking a rooster. The 6 "extra" cockerals I'll prepare for the dinner table at between 18 and 20 weeks.

    I'm leaning towards my Barred Rock cockeral as my primary roo. He's already the lead cockeral, very much marching around, corralling the others, almost herding them. He does a little "stompy, stompy" thing to get them to go in the direction he wants. He bosses the other cockerals around but not in too bad a way, just some minor chasing really. He even breaks up fights between the other cockerals. All good rooster behavior, I believe.

    In addition, he's nice to me but as he's matured, he won't let me pick him up or pet or hug him anymore. But he doesn't bite or attack me either. He just seems to want to have less and less to do with me. Which I understand as he reminds me of a teenager who starts separating himself from his parents. Plus, I get the idea he's very busy doing his job as juvenile flock master. So... I think this is normal for a maturing cockeral, but can anyone confirm? Do they change towards humans as they grow up, and get less affectionate?

    The one characteristic he does that concerns me is I have 5 younger (just 2 weeks younger) pullets that I added to the flock about 2 months ago. The other 10, 8 cockerals and 2 pullets, all grew up together in the brooder. The BR cockeral is from this group of 10. The BR cockeral scares the crap out of the 5 newer pullets. He chases them and pulls out their back feathers trying to... I don't know what he's trying to do. It may be that he's trying to mate with them and just can't get them to hold still long enough to mount them? I don't know why he's only chasing the 5 newer pullets, as he's regularly in contact with 2 other pullets that he grew up with and he never treats those 2 this way. I do realize he's a juvenile rooster and hasn't yet learned to dance, entice the pullets with food, etc. But is this normal for a juvenile rooster or is he a bad pick for a rooster because he's treating these newer, somewhat smaller and less familiar pullets this way? Should I pass him over and pick a different rooster or is this again, normal?

    One other piece of possibly useful information is that I have the 8 cockerals penned in a separate fenced run and separate coop area from the 7 pullets. I truly free range (no fence, no run, nothing) and I put them in a secure coop at night. Sometimes, I let the cockerals out to free range but only after I've locked up the 5 newer pullets so the BR can't get to them and scare them so badly. I never bother locking up the 2 pullets the 8 cockerals grew up with because none of the 8 cockerals, including the BR, bother them. If/when any of the 8 cockerals start bothering the 2 pullets, I'll lock the 2 pullets up as well when the 8 cockerals are free ranging. Just FYI in case this is relevant.

    Thanks so much in advance for your guidance,
    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2013
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    A dominant rooster has a lot of responsibilities. One of those is to be dominant rooster. He can’t allow the others to show dominant behavior so he suppresses that. That’s why it’s really hard to tell how a non-dominant cockerel might behave if he becomes the dominant one. I practically always have a dominant rooster in the flock with the cockerels so it’s a little harder to choose which cockerel to keep based on behavior. That behavior can easily change when Daddy meets that great crockpot in the kitchen and fame and fortune are thrust upon the young cockerel. And it is possible that behavior can change as he matures, not just from the freedom to express himself without Daddy whopping his butt.

    Instead of discussing yours I’ll mention the things I’m looking for. First are the physical things since those are right before your eyes. Can you eliminate any candidates because of physical deformities, color or pattern, maybe size or configuration? Only consider the ones that you want the offspring to look like.

    I want a cockerel that is near the top of the cockerel pecking order. I don’t want a wimp that the others are beating up on. He likely lacks the self-confidence to be a good flock master. In my opinion, the wimpy ones are more likely to become bullies and brutes because they cannot impress the ladies just on personality. I think they are also more likely to become human aggressive because they are reacting more out of fear. He does not have to be at the very top, but near the top.

    A good flock master should dance for his ladies instead of ambushing them. He should find them food, call them over, and let them eat first. They should come when he calls. He should not give the “I found food” call just to get them to come over and ambush them. A great sign is when a hen or pullet willingly submits to him instead of trying to run away.

    He should break up fights and keep peace in his flock. He has to have the respect of the others before he can do that. I don’t worry about him trying to keep the flock together though some people like that trait. But he should watch for danger and alert the others if he spots something. If something unusual is going on, he should go investigate. When I carry something strange in my hand, like a camera, it’s good when the rooster puts himself between me and his flock. It doesn’t bother me if a rooster leads his flock to safety instead of positioning himself between the apparent danger and his flock as he sends them to safety but he should be willing to investigate.

    Yours is still a teenager and lacks maturity. But the more of these behaviors you see, the better.

    I don’t know what is going on between that BR and those pullets. He may see them as invaders and is trying to run them off to protect his flock. They are not mating age yet. If they were he might not act that way. He may be trying to go through the mating ritual to establish his dominance and they are having nothing to do with it. He might see that as a challenge to his authority. I don’t see it as a reason to get rid of him yet but it will be interesting to see how he reacts when they are laying age. And you said you were keeping a back-up.

    I don’t cuddle and pet my chickens so I can’t comment on that behavior.
     
  3. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    All wonderful advice. Same things I look for.

    I rarely see a young male who doesn't ambush the girls. They outgrow this mostly.

    I have two Barred Rock Cocks that are at the top of the pecking order. Not only do they break up fights between other chickens, they keep the bad boys away from ME until I get a chance to process them (with the meat kings I have growing out). I know as long as my two boys are there, I am fine to turn my back. I am not scared of the bad boys, but they will attack strangers, and if my back is turned I won't have time to react properly. I have caught them mid kick no problem if I was facing them. Little buggers.. You know these two are ones I babied after we had a fire. I was really sentimental.. I should NEVER have done that.. that made the cockerels unafraid of humans.. they see humans as part of the flock, and try to put us in our places. Not good..

    [​IMG]
    To add to good rooster traits I require: They absolutely HAVE to be good with chicks. No exceptions.
    Here is the only rooster I am keeping from my 3 I had left from the fire. They were in my basement as chicks. I coddled all three of them. Cletus is the only one who didn't end up a jerk. He's passed the worrisome age. His hormones are not raging as they were early summer. He does not rape any hen within sight any more. He will feed, dance and impress the girls.

    Now your rooster ambushing the younger girls is most likely trying to mate them. Their reactions is what is making you wonder. Once they are breeding age, they will allow him to mate and it will be less traumatic for you to witness.

    I do suggest getting more girls though. 7 pullets to two roosters is a very low ratio. I would have at least 7 or 8 hens per rooster.

    [​IMG]
    How to know when your pullets pick their favourite rooster ;)
    Not really.. just had to share this adorable picture. I adore my barred rock roosters. All three of them I have now are wonderful.

    My bad boys are both bantam mixes. Silkie x NN and Barred Rock x Old English Game (seriously.)
     
  4. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, Ridgerunner, I truly appreciate your insights and the time you put into this response.

    Regarding having a dominant rooster in your flock making it hard for the cockerals to show what type of rooster they'd be, I think I'm having the same issue with the other 7 cockerals. The BR is pretty dominant so it's hard to see/know what the others would be like if he wasn't in charge. He's pretty much the only one that crows at this point, for example. A few of the others have crowed in the past but not since the BR really established himself as the leader.

    This BR has been my pick for a rooster since the beginning. I just liked him as he was very curious as a chick, showed a lot of confidence, never picked on the others, was friendly to me and other people. He does seem to show many of the qualities you mentioned, like investigating a sound or something new like a camera. He sounds the alarm if a butterfly or song bird (he's learning!) flies overhead and the others pay attention. He does seem to break up fights, although there aren't that many, really. He does NOT dance for the ladies but he's still young so I'm hoping/expect this will come as he matures.

    There are 2 of the remaining 7 cockerals I can more easily eliminate due to personality or breed. I plan on preparing these 2 for the dinner table, maybe starting next week. I've never done this before so this will be new for me. Butchering them is going to be something emotionally I'll have to get used to. But, in any case, this leaves 5 to select from for the back up rooster. There is an Australorp that I like how he looks and he seems to get along with the BR pretty well. The Australorp seems to be in the middle of the cockeral pecking order, not picked on but not 2nd in command either. And he seems to get along best with those 5 pullets.

    I thought about what you said about the possible reasons why the BR is chasing/pulling feathers out of the backs of the 5 pullets. He could be trying to defend his territory or sees them as not aligning with his aurhority, that type of thing as you said. Yesterday, I had them all out free ranging. They stayed away from each other for about 4 hours but the first time the BR caught sight of the 5 pullets, he immediately chased them, trying to catch them and he keeps chasing them until he does catch them. That's the part that is different from what I've seen in the past with these chickens. In the past, one chases the other, the one runs off and the first one stops chasing. If the BR catches one of the pullets, he pulls out their back feathers as they then run off. The 5 run and hide in the trees or bushes or where ever and then bawk, bawk, bawk, BAWK that scared cry. By now, I've intervened so I don't know what would happen past this.

    Then, today, the BR saw the 5 pullets from within his fence area and he marched up and back along the fence stomping about and clucking. I suppose it's possible he forgot that he lived with the 5 pullets, sleeping in the same coop with them, for 6 weeks? Granted the 5 pullets ran off to free range away from the others as soon as I opened the coop at daybreak, but they shared the coop at night. Before that, I had the 5 pullets penned in the coop with a fence between them and the original 10 for just over 1 week before I let them integreate. Now, the BR and the other 7 cockerals have been in their separate bachelor pad area for about 2 weeks so maybe the BR forgot who the 5 pullets were. To be fair to the BR and the other cockerals, they haven't seen the 5 pullets very often in that 2 weeks because the pullets don't come back to where the cockerals are fenced in very often, because they're scared of the cockerals.

    Based on your insights, I think I'll just keep watching for a few weeks longer and see how things change. I'll start culling the cockerals I'm not keeping and get it down from 8 to maybe 4 in the next 2 weeks. By then, perhaps things will evolve to the point where I can make a final rooster selection and his backup.

    Thanks so much, again, for your help.
    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  5. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Aoxa,

    Much thanks! This makes me feel better, at least, that my BR is at least in some ways, acting like a normal juvenile cockeral. As I wrote to Ridgerunner, this BR has been my pick for a rooster almost since day one. He's curious, adventurous, active, confident. Quite the personality. In my reply to Ridgerunner, I commented on some of the proper rooster qualities I've seen him do that both you and he look for. Your BR roo looks like a great roo, strong, yet taking care of his hens. Love that pic of the hen resting her head on him!

    In terms of being good with chicks... this is a great point. I don't think I can test this out this go around as I have no little chicks for these cockerals to interact with. But this is something I will DEFINITELY look for in the future.

    I also wrote in my reply to Ridgerunner some of the details of the interaction between this BR and the 5 pullets. Can you read it and I don't know how you could, but if you can, tell me if this sounds like mating behavior or defending the flock from unknown chickens behavior? I'm trying to think of ways to test what's going on (I'm an engineer by trade!). Like, I could letting the other cockerals out to interact with the 5 pullets, EXCEPT the BR and one or 2 others that have shown this behavior towards the 5 pullets. This might tell me if any of the cockerals remember the 5 pullets or not. Or, I could re-fence the 5 pullets near just the BR and see if he settles down and stops being so aggressive towards them. Or, I could do nothing and just let them all grow up a few more weeks! I'll probably do that, just let it be and hope they all grow out of it!

    Regarding getting more hens... I don't really need more than 7 or so, based on what I'm trying to accomplish. The reason for keeping 2 roos is to have a spare, truly. I free range and since this is my first experience with chickens, I am not sure what type of predator action I'm going to see. I do want to have chicks raised by a broody at some point, hence one of the reasons to have a rooster. I wrote above in my reply to Ridgerunner my ideas for picking a spare rooster, hoping to pick one that doesn't mate often with the hens? Maybe good in theory but not sure how this will actually work in reality?

    Anyway, so much appreciate your help. I took a look at your new barn, your fire warning messages, etc. Very, very helpful. I need to go clean the dust off my light bulbs, seriously. Thanks for letting us learn from you, in so many ways.

    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  6. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    It sounds to me like mating/dominant behaviour. It should dissipate.


    Your pullets are going to be skittish around the cockerels until they are ready to mate, or until the cockerels stop trying to maul them every chance they get :)

    I'm glad I could help! Yes do clean your light bulbs.
     
  7. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am in the same situation as GuppyTJ, I have 8 cockerels and only can keep 2 because of my pullet/hen ratio (21 total). They are 12 weeks old and have been together since they were one day old. I have sort of picked 2 of them already but I am only basing this choice on appearance (bigger one, nicest tail, better feathered) rather than behavior since I have read that they change once the hormones kick in. My question is how long can I keep them before I can re home the extra ones? Right now they don't seem to fight much, just the usual stand offs every now and then and also a little fighting with the pullets, but not bad at all. My plan is to keep them until the fights become more frequent or more aggressive, with this extra time I will be able to watch some more on their personalities, I would hate to end up with 2 bad roosters but I guess this is like playing the lottery, if you win you have a great rooster.
    I have never had a rooster and just started keeping chickens last year so with all the experience that BYC members have, I would like some advice in this matter. Do you think it is a good idea to keep all the cockerels or will it be better and re home the extras and hope for the best on the chosen ones?
    Thanks in advice for your help it is very very welcome.
     
  8. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Aldarita,

    I didn't see a response from someone more experienced than me so I thought I'd give you what I have experienced and/or read here. My chickens are 6 weeks older than yours so I've kind of been through this period you're approaching. Mine also grew up together in the brooder, at least the 10 did and as I said, I added the 5 pullets later.

    Also, as an update on my situation, the cockeral that was chasing the 5 pullets, he is trying to mate with them. He successfully mated with one already. I feel much better knowing he's not trying to run them off and he's just acting like a normal, juvenile, immature cockeral. So, he's still my pick as my primary roo.

    Yours at just over 12 weeks old still have some maturing to do. My 8 cockerals still don't fight at 18+ weeks old. But I'd suggest at between 16 and 18 weeks, you'll want to start placing them in new homes as it's not that easy to rehome roosters as there are just too many of them so it might take you some time. One suggestion is be careful that when you re-home them that they aren't in fact ending up in someone else's kitchen pot. Unless this is OK or your intention, of course. In my situation, I live in a very rural area where roosters are pretty plentiful so I'm going to have to put mine in my own kitchen pot. It will be very hard for me but I'm determined to do it, despite my emotional ties to these guys.

    But my emotional hurdles (!) aside... back to your situation. At around 16 or so weeks, you may want to pen your cockerals off in their own area separate from the pullets. I got this advice from others and am very glad I did it. The cockerals squabble more amongst themselves and as I mentioned above, there are 3 of the bigger, more mature cockerals that I believe are interested/trying to mate with the pullets. The pullets are a lot more relaxed when the cockerals are safely behind the fence. Having this separate area for your cockerals will also give everyone time to mature so the pullets will be more willing to mate and the cockerals will learn how to impress the ladies with dancing, food offerings, etc. If you want to read more about this, I suggest you search on additional posts by Ridgerunner. He's got some great posts on juvenile cockeral behavior and what proper mating looks like. Also, penning the cockerals up will help you confirm you've got the 2 best cockerals selected. At 12 weeks, they may not have a clear pecking order set up. I know mine changed their pecking order pretty dramatically between 12 and 16 weeks. Again, using Ridgerunner as someone who's posts/methods I trust, he suggests that we pick cockerals to be our roosters that are near the top of the pecking order. I think he made this point above.

    Hope this helps! Great luck to you.
    Guppy
     
  9. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Guppy, first of all let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for your response to my post. It is very clear and filled with great advice. It just makes good sense to do what you did with your cockerels, penning them in a different area from the pullets at 16 weeks will give me time to decide which ones to keep. You are right, at 12 weeks, they have not established a pecking order yet so I need to buy time with them without affecting the pullets. All my chicks are ameraucanas so the pullets will take longer to mature hopefully the males will take longer too.
    Thank you for the tips, it make me feel better now that I have a plan of action rather than leaving everything to happenstance.
     

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