Newbie struggling with flock management

SnowflakeMama

Chirping
7 Years
Jan 21, 2013
35
36
97
Prince George, British Columbia
Hi all,
I'm hoping for some advice here and I'll apologize in advance for the long-winded post I'm about to type, I'm over-thinking things as I go so I'm just going to share all my thoughts. :)

I'm new to chickens this year and while some things are going quite well (lots of delicious, beautiful eggs already!) others are not. We first purchased 14 straight run barnyard mix from a local farm. All went well, we eventually got them into the new coop and built a nice big run. We ended up with too many roosters and had to get rid of 5. I thought (hoped) after that the two we kept would be able to get on fine.

In addition, I had a friend who gave us two extra Americauna/Easter Egger mutt hens. They were younger than our birds so they were kept with the flock but separated by a wire barrier until they were big enough and everyone had ample time to get used to each other. I suspect I may have rushed fully integrating them with the flock though, as they've never been accepted and they actively work at staying away from all of the other birds. They do roost with one of our two roosters but he has also been shoved out by the rest of the flock as well so I worry that all three of them are being kept away from water, food, and play time in the run. Every time I go into the coop the three of them are hiding in there, it's just sad. They have no injuries or missing feathers, they're just living a crappy life as far as I can tell and I really want to change that. We're also now thinking that one of the younger Easter Egger mutts is actually a cockerel, which might not be helping things even though he's very quiet/gentle and definitely doesn't act like a roo.

To make things worse (first timer's mistake here... ) I have 5 more young pullets waiting to join the flock. I've decided to actually build them a separate coop for now, and have their run adjoining the main one, just in case they can't integrate with this flock when it's time. They're moving into their mini-coop this weekend, and will remain in their separate space until I get the rest of this sorted and they're old enough to join the other birds.
So here's what I have, and I'm hoping some of you can share with me how you would manage the situation:

8 hens (one of which is the rejected EE mutt)
3 roos (one very dominant, one very docile and clearly not liked by anyone but me, and one EE mutt also not accepted by the flock)
5 young pullets, nowhere near ready to join the big girls/boys

My gut says to rehome the dominant roo but I've hesitated because he does a fantastic job of protecting the girls when they're free ranging. He fought off a fox the other day and didn't even ruffle a feather in the process. However, he is clearly keeping the less "popular" birds from eating/drinking and generally enjoying an easy life. He also crows 24/7... I live semi-rurally so no one has complained yet but I know my neighbours can hear him so it's only a matter of time.

It would be nice to keep the EE mutt roo, in case do decide to hatch eggs down the road. He's a beautiful, gentle boy, easy to catch and check over, and generally just a really lovely pet.

As for the very docile older roo, he's beautiful but skittish and I definitely can't breed him because of his feet. I'd love to just keep him as a pet but I wonder if just his presence is throwing off the balance in the flock as he does fight with our dominant roo, and he's clearly not accepted and living his best life either. I would happily rehome him as a pet, but I think that would be next to impossible because of his feet. So if I don't keep him then I'm looking at culling... and that would totally suck.

I feel like I've rushed things, adding too many new birds in the first year, keeping too many roos, and just generally making rookie mistakes. So far no birds are injured or suffering and the hen pecking seems to be an acceptable level (thank goodness) but from here on out I want to do better.

Any and all advice is welcome as for which roo to keep, what to do with the two we don't keep, and even how you would integrate the 5 newer pullets eventually. And I will absolutely not be insulted if you point out where I've gone wrong so far - I really just want to learn and improve things for the whole flock.

Thank you in advance!
 
May 8, 2020
888
2,621
163
Wisconsin1
Alright, let me see what I can do to try to help you...

I personally don't have any roosters. I want to get one in the future, but I don't have one now.

Is your oldest, most dominant rooster mean to you, or other family members? I'd say, maybe keep him, and try to re-home the other two. Or maybe build another coop. This may be bad advice- I'll try to get some other people over here to give you some more info.

How big is your coop and run? Make sure you have multiple waterers and feeders set up apart from each other, so that there is a better chance of the bullied birds to eat and drink.

@aart @Mrs. K @ChickenCanoe

Hopefully this helps!
 

SnowflakeMama

Chirping
7 Years
Jan 21, 2013
35
36
97
Prince George, British Columbia
Is your oldest, most dominant rooster mean to you, or other family members? I'd say, maybe keep him, and try to re-home the other two. Or maybe build another coop. This may be bad advice- I'll try to get some other people over here to give you some more info.
The dominant rooster is not mean to us, just not nice, and not easy to handle. He's pretty assertive with the hens but I don't see any signs of injuries or missing feathers so I don't think he's too rough. However, it takes two of us to catch him and then it's a struggle to check him over so that's tough. I chalk that up to us not knowing what the heck we're doing most of the time though, I think he senses my lack of confidence from a mile away! 😁

How big is your coop and run? Make sure you have multiple waterers and feeders set up apart from each other, so that there is a better chance of the bullied birds to eat and drink.

Hopefully this helps!
The coop is 80sq. ft. with tons of roost space, and the run is 170 sq. ft. (will be expanded another 100 sq. ft. this coming weekend). The one thing I've seen mentioned by others here is having stuff for them to perch on and hide around and play with in the run so that's on my to-do list this week too. There are a few things for them but I can definitely add more so they have plenty to keep them busy and to give them extra places to get away from each other when needed. I think right now it's a bit too wide open for my EE's.

I have two feeders and one waterer in the run and one feeder and one waterer inside the coop. I still see the dominant rooster keeping the EE's and less dominant rooster from all feeders though, so I think I need to rearrange things still and I can always add more when we extend the run. The EE's don't seem comfortable on the ground at all around the rest of the flock so I'm thinking I should add a whole bunch of roost space around the run too, there is some but more can't hurt, right?

Keeping the more dominant rooster makes sense to me (even though I really love the other two) he's excellent at his job and he's not mistreating the girls. The only thing holding me back so far is that if I rehome the EE that I suspect is a cockerel I worry that the one EE hen will have no one in her corner. They've created their own little flock along with the 3rd roo. Do you think that will create a new problem? Or maybe it'll help her integrate better in the end?

Thank you for your thoughts, you've given me lots to go on! :)
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
84,012
97,175
1,677
SW Michigan
My Coop
However, it takes two of us to catch him and then it's a struggle to check him over so that's tough.
I do all exams off the roost after dark, wearing a headlight, much easier to 'catch' them then.

How old are all these birds, in weeks or months?
FYI-PSA.....semantics, maybe, but can be important communication terms when discussing chicken behavior.
-Female chickens are called pullets until one year of age, then they are called hens.
-Male chickens are called cockerels until one year of age, then they are called cocks(or cockbirds or roosters).
Age in weeks or months is always a good thing to note.
 

SnowflakeMama

Chirping
7 Years
Jan 21, 2013
35
36
97
Prince George, British Columbia
I do all exams off the roost after dark, wearing a headlight, much easier to 'catch' them then.

How old are all these birds, in weeks or months?
FYI-PSA.....semantics, maybe, but can be important communication terms when discussing chicken behavior.
-Female chickens are called pullets until one year of age, then they are called hens.
-Male chickens are called cockerels until one year of age, then they are called cocks(or cockbirds or roosters).
Age in weeks or months is always a good thing to note.
Thanks for the tips on exams, I will absolutely try that! And for the terminology - it definitely helps to know how to be clear! :)

The first birds we got hatched around March 22, so they're around 19 weeks.
The two EE's were about a month behind so 15 weeks.
And then we have the 5 pullets which are about 9 weeks.
 

NatJ

Crowing
Mar 20, 2017
2,923
4,343
286
USA
if I rehome the EE that I suspect is a cockerel I worry that the one EE hen will have no one in her corner. They've created their own little flock along with the 3rd roo.
To make things worse (first timer's mistake here... ) I have 5 more young pullets waiting to join the flock. I've decided to actually build them a separate coop for now, and have their run adjoining the main one, just in case they can't integrate with this flock when it's time.
Rehome two cockerels, put the lonely EE in with the younger pullets. Being older, she might try to boss them around. But there are five of them and they already have a pecking order established, so they might boss her around. I think it'll work out OK, and that way you will have only two groups instead of three.

Adding more feeders and waterers might help, too. Extras don't cause any trouble for the chickens, unless there are so many they trip on them. It's only an issue for the person, who has to find/buy them, fill them, and refill them :)

Overall, it sounds like you're doing pretty well. They are alive, safe, healthy, and you have noticed a problem before it had a chance to get really bad.

If you hope to hatch eggs later--at some point you should probably learn to butcher chickens. Because about half of the chicks will be cockerels. I tend to predict 2/3 or 3/4 cockerels, because that way I am not unpleasantly surprised :)
 

SnowflakeMama

Chirping
7 Years
Jan 21, 2013
35
36
97
Prince George, British Columbia
Rehome two cockerels, put the lonely EE in with the younger pullets. Being older, she might try to boss them around. But there are five of them and they already have a pecking order established, so they might boss her around. I think it'll work out OK, and that way you will have only two groups instead of three.

Adding more feeders and waterers might help, too. Extras don't cause any trouble for the chickens, unless there are so many they trip on them. It's only an issue for the person, who has to find/buy them, fill them, and refill them :)

Overall, it sounds like you're doing pretty well. They are alive, safe, healthy, and you have noticed a problem before it had a chance to get really bad.

If you hope to hatch eggs later--at some point you should probably learn to butcher chickens. Because about half of the chicks will be cockerels. I tend to predict 2/3 or 3/4 cockerels, because that way I am not unpleasantly surprised :)
I hadn't thought to put the EE pullet with the younger pullets, that just might work!

And thank you for the reassurance that we're not too far off track. I swear I read everything I could find before starting on this journey but I still feel like I'm mucking it all up sometimes. Feels a lot like parenthood actually... 😂

As for hatching and butchering, we've got some experience culling (my DH took that on thank goodness) but I definitely do have to learn to butcher. I have a friend who's ready to show me when it's time. And until I'm ready... definitely no hatching!
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,281
9,329
596
western South Dakota
Just going to throw it out there, but I would start removing roosters, one at a time, and see what happens. You are right, multiple roosters affect rooster behavior. Roosters are a crap shoot, multiple roosters almost alway make the odds increase of things going wrong.

As for your dominant rooster at 19 weeks of age... nothing is set in stone how he is going to keep acting. You really have to get past the 6 month age, and better yet, 1 year old before you are kind of sure of what your rooster is like. A rooster crowing all the time, can be a sign of aggression, but then sometimes they just crow, but still irritating. If I don't like a rooster, that is reason enough.

And if you have a run, then I would strongly think about getting rid of all the roosters. I always recommend a hen only flock for the first year. Get some experience without dealing with roosters. Personally, I think you get better roosters when they are raised up with older birds, not flock mates. Roosters are easy to find and get, people are always wishing to get rid of really nice roosters that they can't keep. Next year would be a fine time to start with a rooster.

How old are your youngest birds? Because I have had better luck when I get them into the flock very young, between 3-4 weeks. I have a safety zone set up, that they can venture out into the flock, and retreat if the flock becomes too much.

When a bird is eating at one feed station, can he/she see birds at other feed stations? Because that will help. That is why you add clutter, so birds can get out of sight of other birds.

I would recommend, culling all the roosters. I think your enjoyment of the flock will really rise. I can hear a lot of tension and worry in your post, this is less than fun, the way it is set up. Remove the roosters, see how the flock settles. If there is still a lot of discord, cull again. Always solve for peace in the flock, they are a lot more fun to be around.

Mrs K
 

reddogmaster2

Songster
Jun 10, 2020
601
3,036
183
On The Rolling Plains of Dixie
Hi all,
I'm hoping for some advice here and I'll apologize in advance for the long-winded post I'm about to type, I'm over-thinking things as I go so I'm just going to share all my thoughts. :)

I'm new to chickens this year and while some things are going quite well (lots of delicious, beautiful eggs already!) others are not. We first purchased 14 straight run barnyard mix from a local farm. All went well, we eventually got them into the new coop and built a nice big run. We ended up with too many roosters and had to get rid of 5. I thought (hoped) after that the two we kept would be able to get on fine.

In addition, I had a friend who gave us two extra Americauna/Easter Egger mutt hens. They were younger than our birds so they were kept with the flock but separated by a wire barrier until they were big enough and everyone had ample time to get used to each other. I suspect I may have rushed fully integrating them with the flock though, as they've never been accepted and they actively work at staying away from all of the other birds. They do roost with one of our two roosters but he has also been shoved out by the rest of the flock as well so I worry that all three of them are being kept away from water, food, and play time in the run. Every time I go into the coop the three of them are hiding in there, it's just sad. They have no injuries or missing feathers, they're just living a crappy life as far as I can tell and I really want to change that. We're also now thinking that one of the younger Easter Egger mutts is actually a cockerel, which might not be helping things even though he's very quiet/gentle and definitely doesn't act like a roo.

To make things worse (first timer's mistake here... ) I have 5 more young pullets waiting to join the flock. I've decided to actually build them a separate coop for now, and have their run adjoining the main one, just in case they can't integrate with this flock when it's time. They're moving into their mini-coop this weekend, and will remain in their separate space until I get the rest of this sorted and they're old enough to join the other birds.
So here's what I have, and I'm hoping some of you can share with me how you would manage the situation:

8 hens (one of which is the rejected EE mutt)
3 roos (one very dominant, one very docile and clearly not liked by anyone but me, and one EE mutt also not accepted by the flock)
5 young pullets, nowhere near ready to join the big girls/boys

My gut says to rehome the dominant roo but I've hesitated because he does a fantastic job of protecting the girls when they're free ranging. He fought off a fox the other day and didn't even ruffle a feather in the process. However, he is clearly keeping the less "popular" birds from eating/drinking and generally enjoying an easy life. He also crows 24/7... I live semi-rurally so no one has complained yet but I know my neighbours can hear him so it's only a matter of time.

It would be nice to keep the EE mutt roo, in case do decide to hatch eggs down the road. He's a beautiful, gentle boy, easy to catch and check over, and generally just a really lovely pet.

As for the very docile older roo, he's beautiful but skittish and I definitely can't breed him because of his feet. I'd love to just keep him as a pet but I wonder if just his presence is throwing off the balance in the flock as he does fight with our dominant roo, and he's clearly not accepted and living his best life either. I would happily rehome him as a pet, but I think that would be next to impossible because of his feet. So if I don't keep him then I'm looking at culling... and that would totally suck.

I feel like I've rushed things, adding too many new birds in the first year, keeping too many roos, and just generally making rookie mistakes. So far no birds are injured or suffering and the hen pecking seems to be an acceptable level (thank goodness) but from here on out I want to do better.

Any and all advice is welcome as for which roo to keep, what to do with the two we don't keep, and even how you would integrate the 5 newer pullets eventually. And I will absolutely not be insulted if you point out where I've gone wrong so far - I really just want to learn and improve things for the whole flock.

Thank you in advance!
It appears that you are in what we call a "helluva pickle"!
I got nothing for you but next time, get an appetizer before you hit the all you can eat buffet! Good luck, I'm sure someone can help you out!
 

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