Over-Mating - What to do with the Roo

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HollysFlock, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. HollysFlock

    HollysFlock Out Of The Brooder

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    We have 19 chickens - 16 hens and 3 roosters, all about one year old. They all free-range. Of the roosters, we have one large Barred Rock, Chicken Little, who is docile causing no trouble with people or the hens. We then have two Rhode Island Reds, Alfalfa and Boo. Boo is the smallest rooster and a sneaky attacker. We've been working on the situation for awhile without making any headway; his current plan is to either be re-homed or culled. Alfalfa is a large rooster and has very good mannerisms, he doesn't attack people, he takes care of his hens, and he scolds Boo if/when he comes after us. However, Alfalfa has developed a strong desire to mate which is not working out well for hens. I never see Boo or Chicken Little mount the hens as Alfalfa too quickly chases them away. The hens, particularly the favorites and the smaller hens, are have broken and missing feathers on their back near their tail. Affected areas are larger on the smaller birds including the back of their wings.

    This, unfortunately, took a couple weeks to figure out as we have never had chickens before. Initially I thought they were molting but noticed the pattern wasn't right. Everyone has been checked for mites and lice. There are likely some mice in the coop but the roosters haven't been bothered at all and given their larger feathers and the amount of broken feathers on the hens, I've ruled that out. I've observed closely and they aren't pecking at each other.

    He's a good rooster so if I can break him of this, I'd love to keep him; but if not, then clearly I can't. We are hoping to get more chicks next month which might even the numbers some but I don't feel comfortable leaving him in jail for an extended amount of time, and the top to our jail doubles as the top to our brooder, so I'll be needing it. I have too many hens to put aprons on them all, and too many predators to feel comfortable doing that. I have neither time nor funds to build a bachelor pad for long-term separation.

    If I separate him for a few days-a few weeks, will that fix the problem? Or do some roosters simply have stronger desires to procreate than others? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

    For the girls, I've gone back to using apple cider (just in case), giving extra black oil sunflower seeds for protein, observing their irritated backs daily to ensure there are no wounds or changes. Poor things!
     
  2. RaeRae2

    RaeRae2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is exactly why I will never own a rooster again. I have had a few different ones over the years and gave everyone of them away. The last one I had would chase the hens through the barn, and they would scream and run and try to hide. I had 8 hens, and then him. He literally went from hen to hen breeding them constantly ALL day long. It never stopped. If there was a minute go by that he wasn't mounting a hen, then he was busy posturing, dancing, and flaunting. He would even climb on hens' backs while they were still sitting on the roost pole early in the morning. They would scream and get knocked off to the floor. Those poor hens absolutely hated him and so did I. I put up with this for a few months, HOPING he would chill out as he got older, but then I couldn't stand it anymore. I gave him away just as the hens started showing bald patches.

    Honestly, I have yet to have a rooster on this farm that didn't drive the hens crazy and eventually tear out their feathers and make their backs sore. I won't go through it again if I can help it. Good luck finding a way to make it work. They make hen saddles, but I wouldn't want to mess with that. The only other thing I would try would be getting rid of the 2 subordinant roosters, and then adding a few more hens.
     
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    On the MN prairie.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
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  4. mulewagon

    mulewagon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had the same problem - the two roosters had the hens down to bare skin, and then started gashing them. (Blu-Kote from a feed store is great for healing that!)

    I now have my roosters separated inside the main pen, each in a wire circle with a roost, under a tarp. They stayed in there several months while the hens grew their feathers back - now the boys get a walk on alternate afternoons, the last 2 hours of the day when I let the girls out of the pen.

    This works well. Both hens and roosters are in good shape. Since one mating will keep a hen fertile for several days, I'm hoping all my eggs are fertile - will find out soon!

    I think this setup approximates nature (in respect to how often they can mate) more then a typical pen. In the wild, the hens would spend a great deal of time setting eggs and raising chicks, and the roosters would be watching for danger and finding food. Leaving the male nothing to do but mate is an unnatural situation, which at least in some cases can lead to injury.
     
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  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Get rid of your nasty roo and see how things go. If they're not better in a week or so *feathers won't grow back right away, but you'll see quills poking through*, remove the second roo.


    Or, as the enabler says, get about two dozen more hens and everyone'll be happy [​IMG]
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    well, I think you need to get rid of the mean roo, and the little roo, one rooster is enough for a flock that size. I would keep the head roo, as he is not bothering people. What you need is time. Mine went through the same thing, and I had 1 roo to 9 hens, I think it was a combination of molt, technique and enthusiasm on his part. When people talk here of a great roo, they talk about an older gentleman. And the problem is getting them to be older! [​IMG]

    Mine do get to free range most days. Last spring and summer, my girls looked tough, with the bare backs and broken feathers. But the flock was melding together well, and I quit losing hens to random predators when they free ranged, and my roo never attacked me or acted mean to anyone else, so I hung in there. Late summer, feathers started growing back, and now I seldom see a feather out of place, and I seldom catch him breeding.

    It just takes time, you might very well be over or nearly over the worst of it.

    Again, I would keep the natural leader, get rid of the other two. I don't understand why you would want that many roos with a small flock. As for penning them up and letting them out on alternative days - I am glad it works for the above post, but I would not like that at all. I want the roo with my hens, he keeps the flock safer, that is his real job.

    MrsK
     
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  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    oh - I noticed a big improvement starting at 1 year of age, and by 18 months quite a fine rooster.
     
  8. ella

    ella Chillin' With My Peeps

    I love roosters. I have six roosters right now, ranging from 2 to 7 years old.

    They do ABSOLUTELY get better/mellower with age.

    I hope you find a place for all your roosters, but I can totally understand if you can't.

    Good luck.
     
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  9. HollysFlock

    HollysFlock Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for the replies! We never intended to own roosters at all; we bought 22 pullets and ended up with 5 roosters and 17 hens. We re-homed two roosters pretty quickly and the other three have been fine (with the exception of the sneaky attacker) until the recent overactive/sloppy breeding.

    Given your suggestions, we will kill the sneaky attacker and go from there. [​IMG] I really had considered them as two separate issues, but that's not the case at all - thanks for bringing out the bigger picture for me. We've been discussing the situation for far too long now and need to just be don with him.

    Hopefully the over-mater will gain better skill or mellow out soon like MrsK and Ella noted. But if it continues to get worse, I think he'll need to find a new home which would be a shame. I don't see a reason to get rid of the docile rooster, Chicken Little as he bothers neither us nor the other chickens at this time.

    bobbi j, thank you for defining culling for me. I really was under the impression that culling was just a different way to say killing. Also, I hadn't considered the shift in dominance if we seclude him for a period. He is most certainly our alpha and does a great job keeping the hens safe, he just also happens to be tearing them up right now too.
     

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