New Chicken Mama! Nervous about rooster puberty

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by ChickenMamaSue, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. ChickenMamaSue

    ChickenMamaSue In the Brooder

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    Hello to all chicken mamas, papas, and ma-pas!

    I had been doing tons and tons of research about what it is like to have chickens. And after careful consideration, planning, building of a coop, and a spontaneous trip to the local feed store almost three weeks ago, (breath) I NOW HAVE 12 WONDERFULLY SWEET BABY CHICKIES!

    Okay, okay. I may be guilty of ranting about my little ones to anyone who will listen. If there's a quiet moment in daily conversation, I automatically ask "Do you want to see pictures of my chickens?!" My husband has begun tuning me out about 10 minutes into my "chicken spiels", consisting of silly antics my babies do, fun facts about chickens, future plans for them... Oh man, you'd think I was in love. (Which i am.)
    Aaaaaaanyway, I've got 4 Rhode island reds, 3 rainbow dixies, 3 bantams, and 2 barred rocks. I wanted a colorful flock, and their feathers are coming in nicely already! I believe I have three roos in the bunch. I deciphered this through observation of their dark pink combs/ wattles, big feet, attitudes, and them being the last to grow tail feathers. One of the Barred rocks, whom I call Beefy, Spark the Rhode island red and one of the dixies, Moro.

    The smallest, and prettiest bantam, Daisy may also be a roo, for she/he made the strangest mini-crow the other day. Neck stretched and all. Daisy is hubby's favorite, she/ he will fall asleep nearly instantly when he holds her/ him. Daisy is at the very bottom of the pecking order, likely due to her/ his size, docile nature, and unique color. Racist birds? Is that a thing?

    All the ladies are pretty great, super friendly and curious. They eat out of my hand and jump on my lap when I bring them outside. No bad cases of bullying or injuries, yet! Many chest bumps are beginning to be had, however!

    All of the roos are incredibly friendly and enjoy a good petting. Does anyone think they will continue to be friendly post-testosterone poisoning? I am kind of nervous and clueless to this process, and I know it'll happen sooner or later. I already ordered chicken saddles way ahead of time, because I heard they were good for when the roos get over-enthusiastic. How else do you deal with this part of a roo's life?
     
    Arya28 likes this.
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

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    On the MN prairie.
    I suggest you read this article by Beekissed:
    Here's a post written by Beekissed regarding dealing with problem birds of any gender.

    I'm going to give you a clue on "rooster speak"....holding him down doesn't mean anything to him. If you'll watch how roosters interact between dominant ones and subordinate ones, there is rarely any, if ever, holding a bird down for a long time when there is an altercation. There is very quick flogging, gripping by the back of the head and flinging him away or getting him down and giving some savage pecking to the back of the head or neck. No holding him down and nothing else. That's a rooster on a hen maneuver, not rooster on rooster.

    Because your rooster is attacking you, you are the subordinate in this picture. You are getting dominated by your bird simply because you are walking where a subordinate isn't supposed to be walking when a dominant is in the area. What you never see is a dominant rooster getting attacked by a subordinate rooster unless there is going to be a definite shift in power, at which time the sub will challenge the dom and win...or lose. So far you are losing and not even challenging.

    If you want to win this battle, you must go on the offensive, not the defensive. He who attacks first, and is still claiming the area when the other guy leaves it, is the winner. Some people never have to go on the offensive because their movements in the coop are so decisive that they move and act like a dominant and a 2 ft. rooster is smart enough to recognize a dominant attitude and behavior...which is likely why he's never attacked your husband. Most men move more decisively than do women and children and they rarely step around a bird, but walk through them.

    Carrying him around also doesn't mean anything to him...it just doesn't translate at all. His environment is that coop and run floor and that's where you need to speak to him, in a language he understands. Because they are quick on their feet and can evade you, you need a training tool like a long, limber, supple rod of some kind...cutting a nice switch from a shrub or tree that will lengthen your reach by 5 ft. really helps in this. Don't use a rake or broom because they are too clumsy and stiff and can put the hurts on the guy when you don't really mean to.

    When you enter your coop, walk with decisive movements and walk directly towards your rooster. Move him away from the feeder and the rest of the flock and keep a slow, determined pressure on him until he leaves the coop. The stick will help you guide him. Then...wait patiently while he gets his bird mind around what just happened. He will try to come back in the coop...let him. When he gets a good bit into that coop, take your switch and give him a good smack on the fluffy feathers under his tail if you can aim it well. If you cannot, just smack the floor near him very hard and fast until he hops and runs and keep at it until he leaves the coop once again. Repeat this process until he is too wary to come back in the coop.

    Feed your hens. When he tries to come to the feeder, you "attack" him with the switch...smack the wall by the pop door just as he tries to enter. If he makes it inside, pursue him with the stick either smacking the floor or tapping him on the back or the head until he leaves in a hurry. Make him stay outside while you sit there and enjoy watching your hens eat. Use the stick to keep him from the flock..just him. Don't worry about the hens running and getting excited when this is happening...they will get over it. This is for the future of your flock and your management of it.

    When the hens have had a good tucker....leave the coop and let him come back in. Go out later and walk through that flock and use your legs to scatter birds if they get in your way...top roosters do not step to one side for any other bird in the flock. You shouldn't either. Take your stick and startle him with a smack on the floor next to him when he is least expecting it...make that bird jump and RUN. Make him so nervous around you that he is always looking over his shoulder and trying to get out of your way. THAT'S how he needs to be from now on in your lives together. Forget about pets or cuddles...this is a language and behavior he understands. You can hand feed him and such later...right now you need to establish that when you move, he moves...away. When you turn your back, he doesn't move towards you...ever.

    Then test him...take your stick along, move around in the coop, bend over with your back turned to him, feed, water, etc....but keep one eye on that rooster. If he even makes one tiny step in your direction or in your "zone", go on the attack and run him clear on out of the coop. Then keep him out while everyone else is eating.

    THAT'S how a dominant rooster treats a subordinate. They don't let them crow, mate or even eat in their space. If the subordinate knows his place and watches over his shoulder a lot, he may get to come and eat while the other rooster is at the feeder...but he doesn't ever relax if he knows what is good for him. At any given time the dominant will run him off of that feed and he knows it, so he eats with one eye toward the door. If he feels the need to crow, it's not usually where the dom can reach him...maybe across the yard.

    If your rooster crows while you are there, move towards him and keep on the pressure until he stops. He doesn't get to crow while you are there. He can crow later...not while you are there.

    It all sounds time consuming but it really isn't...shouldn't take more than minutes for each lesson and you can learn a lot as you go along. And it can be fun if you venture into it with the right attitude....this is rooster training that really works if you do it correctly. This can work on strange roosters, multiple roosters and even old roosters...they can all learn. You rule the coop...now act like it. Carrying is for babies...you have a full grown rooster on your hands, not a baby.


    Now - all of that having been said, I don't think you need to start out with the switch and swatting them right away. What I do with my cockerels - as soon as I recognize that they are cockerels - is to stop handling them. There are conflicting opinions on this, but there are so many posts that start out with, "My sweet chick/roo/cockerel (you fill in the blank) has started attacking me for no reason!" Actually, there may be a reason. There is a theory that the "friendly" males see you as a subordinate bird, or and equal that they eventually feel the need to dominate. In my opinion, the best cockerel/rooster is one that moves away from me. I don't want him in my personal space. You never know when he's going to get it into his little chicken brain that he needs to attack you. There are warning signs, but a lot of first time chicken keepers don't recognize them. The little dance they do when you feed them or let them out. It's not a "happy dance" because they're excited to see you. It's a challenge. So is the wing drop.

    As I said, once I recognize the fact that I have a cockerel, I stop handling and petting it. As they are older and let out of the brooder, I make them know that I am the boss. I walk where they are. I make them back up. If one looks at me crossways, I stare him down. Sometimes I move them away from the feeder just because I can. If one comes my way, I start walking toward him and make him back off. I have not had a human aggressive rooster since then.

    Something you will need to think about is what to do with all those males. Once they hit breeding age, they will likely harass your pullets relentlessly. The pullets probably won't be receptive to them right away, as the cockerels generally mature sooner. Now, a mature rooster won't usually try to mate a pullet that's not laying yet, but those cockerels get a little... vigorous. When you have a ratio like you seem to, sometimes the cockerels will gang breed a pullet. They won't let them eat, drink or dust bathe. At least that has been my experience. They might get along, but they probably won't. That's usually how it works out, so you will need a plan. You will want to separate them ASAP when you see trouble starting. Hen saddles won't be enough to protect them from the constant breeding. The girls will be stressed and won't lay as soon, and won't be happy. You can either remove some of the males from your place (one cockerel should be able to easily cover them for fertility), or build a bachelor pen. That sometimes works. Having them with the females will also likely cause rooster fights. Those are never pretty, and sometimes they fight to the death.

    As a first time chicken owner, I'd suggest you get rid of all the males and enjoy your pullets/hens for a while first.

    If you decide to keep a rooster and hatch out some chicks, you need to have a plan in place as to what to do with extra males before you set those first eggs. That will prevent the "Help! I have too many roosters and don't know what to do with them!" posts that show up here on BYC. The options are: eat, sell, give away some of them, or make a bachelor pen. Too many with the hens causes all kinds of chaos.
     
  3. Arya28

    Arya28 Songster

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    Hi and :welcome!

    You sound like you're going to be an awesome chicken mom :D

    We have bantams and rainbows too! We thought for the longest time our Rainbow girls were roosters because they are so big. They got huge feet and huge bodies. They are still huge but they are also very pretty and lay lots of eggs.

    We also got "barred rocks" from TSC--- let's just say, they aren't barred rocks. Half of them are girls, who are cuckoo marans, and half of them are boy black sex-links. Just a heads up they don't always label them accurately! You can see that thread here. Everyone thought they were BR, but they very clearly aren't now!

    Ok, so, about your roosters. Everyone thinks we are crazy, we have about 70 chickens and about 30 of them are roosters........... we don't eat them. Right now, we have 2 pens with hens and a head rooster in each. One of our pens has 6 hens and 1 rooster. One of our pens has about 16 hens and 6 roosters. This is NOT a recommended ratio-- but 4 of those six roosters are bantams, and they don't fight with the big roosters. And then one of our big roosters in that pen is a Cream Legbar, and the other is a Svart Hona. They are both (mostly) docile breeds, but don't get me wrong--- they WILL be feisty with you if they think you are messing with their girls!!!!

    Aside from this, we have a rooster pen. No hens, just roosters. They scrap sometimes, but so far (thankfully) they haven't been too bad with us. Just keep in mind that they are roosters, and they are meant to protect hens. So to a point if they are in with hens you do want them to be protective--- but they should also recognize you as the boss. Easier said than done, I know.

    This probably sounds really mean, but it doesn't hurt them. After the first few times of them attacking our feet during puberty, we hanged them upside down by their feet until the stop struggling. We don't need to do it nearly as much now, and they mostly respect us. And yes, we do flap our wings at our roosters sometimes. After we hang them upside down, we hold them and pet them until they are calm.

    Keep in mind a recommended ratio is about 1 rooster : 10 hens. If you go above that, if they are not bantams, a rooster pen is recommended. You can check out Swedish Homestead on YouTube for more info on that-- super helpful videos!

    We just got more bantams too because we don't have any tiny girls for our tiny boys. So our tiny boys are all starting to hop on our big hens and it's not working out really well (yes, they DO do that!!!). Once our bantam chicks are bigger we are going to separate our bantam boys out and have a separate pen just for bantams.

    There are several different ways you could arrange your chickens.

    Our bantams aren't really aggressive, aside from our OEGB who bites our fingers sometimes, lol. He doesn't know he's small.

    So long story short- you need to learn to curb their aggressiveness so that they don't think they are your boss. They will be feisty, especially if they are in with girls, and you have to be prepared to spend time working with them if you don't plan on eating them. They are feisty-er when they first come into puberty and start crowing. It does get better. It CAN be done! Good luck!
     
  4. ChickenMamaSue

    ChickenMamaSue In the Brooder

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    Well it seems like the topic of roosters ia one of those which people have many differing opinions. I needed to keep at least one roo because my girls will be free range and i know we have hawks and other predators in the area. I think roosters can help act as an alarm, if not a first defense/ sacrifice! I suppose I will see which roo is the most docile and aware of his surroundings. The other two are either going to camp (last resort, I realize death is a guaranteed eventual fate for a chicken, but I haven't eaten meat in three years), to a sort of bachelor's pen, or to my neighbor's house. He's got probably 50 hens. Sucks having to give up a bird after all the hard work I put into them, which makes me more willing to eat their flesh... But it's still odd for me on a level!!!
    I wouldn't eat my cat if she died, in the same way I'd have a hard time eating my roos. In our society it is normal for us to eat the carcass of one animal and not another. One is taboo and one is delicious with BBQ sauce. These chickens show just as much affection and have just as unique and individual personalities as a dog or cat.

    Bottom line, I am sure we will figure this whole rooster thing out just fine. I am sure there's a way I can pull it off!!
     
    Arya28 likes this.

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