Roo behavior: incubator vs. natural


14 Years
Apr 30, 2009
Waller, TX
What's your opinion? Has anyone else ever noticed this difference in behavior in their own flock?

My husband and I were talking the other day as we watched our flock of birds and planned the next chores that needed to be accomplished. We were watching Roo behavior as we discussed which hens needed to be separated in order to recover their feathers; also which roos needed to be butchered and which ones kept. As we noticed the violent manner in which the young roos were grabbing the hens to breed them we got to recounting the days when we first had chickens.

One thing I"ve noticed is that all the hens are afraid of these roos. The main flock of birds running together are 7 month old Australorp hens & Oprington hens with my 5 year old red star hens and my 5 year old black star hens; also five 5 year old standard cochin hens. I've taken out all but two roos: One 7 month old Orp & one 7 month old Australorp.

About 3 months ago I removed the 5 year old Red Star Rooster, the 4 year old Black Star/ducle mix, two 7 month old Australorps, and one 7 month old Orpington which was killed in the coop after seperation - wish I'd kept that one.

My other roos are rough on the hens but these guys!!!! The one Australorp roo I left with the flock is worse than the one Orp but they both will grab a hen as she darts past them in the opposite direction, yank them violently by the neck snapping them back towards them, then remove quite a few feathers as they try to mount and breed these hens. I'd swear I heard a snapping sound from one hen, yesterday. I thought the roo had literally broke her neck. It's like nothing I"ve ever seen before. Even when the older hens submit and wait for them, they will still sorta attack them in an effort to breed them. A lot of my hens will stay on the roost most of the day to avoid the roos.

Our comparison was this: our very first flock & the flocks we raised for many years thereafter all had roos that were mixed breeds and raised from egg laying varieties of hens who sat the nest and raised chicks - natural. Most were born here but some where bought from the local feed stores. Often times, we've always had 4 to 5 roos running in the flock.

We never had the problems we've been experience the past 5 or 6 years since I've been mail ordering my chicks. We never had to isolate hens so bald spots could heal, or worry about which roos we'd keep and which one we'd cull prior to mail order. They all worked in perfect harmony with each other; never assaulting & damaging our hens the way these hatchery roos have been doing. But all that ended when my final 'home grown' roo died of old age and a hawk got my prized ducle who seemed able to keep these younger hatchery roos in line. If a hatchery roo made a hen scream, that ducle would dart over and take on as many as three much larger roos to save the hen. He'd just save her, not try to breed her and claim her as his own. I sure miss him. No roo would even question his command; can't believe that tiny little guy mastered so much control over the other roos.

Anyway, They were the last of my 'home grown' roos. I even change breeds due to this problem and it seems to be even worse now. The environment and setup is the same. The number of hens & roosters is approximately the same. The breeds have always been egg laying varietys but I have now switched to dual purpose birds (orps & australorps). I never butchered my birds in the past but now I'm constantly having to cull. I don't think it's the breed because the problem was apparent with the egg laying variety that I ordered from the hatchery. And I THOUGHT I'd ordered some much quieter birds in the orps & australorps.

We do have one roo that was born and raised here but he has only had the hatchery roos to learn from. Hence, he is just as hard on the hens as our other roos. I used to think he was just plain retarded.

So could it be:

* The hatchery's stock? ( I have only been ordering from the same, 'top rated' hatchery)

* Incubator hatched chicks not having a mother and natural flock to learn proper behavior from?

* breed???? (I'd have to rule that out do the the varieties I"ve experienced it with)

* other????

Just curious what you guys thought about it or if anyone else has noticed this behavior.
Brooder raised, I've noticed, don't seem to act like normal chickens until they co-mingle with other, older and wiser chickens. Hen raised are the best. Your younger roosters are going to behave that way until they get over their raging hormones, since they do not have an older top rooster to keep them in line. After their first year, they will start to mellow out. Keeping them apart from the hens will make it worse, and having more than one or two hormonal adolescent roosters is very detrimental to the health of your hens. They will gang up on them, especially the ones lower in the pecking order. It's terrible the damage they can cause. Sometimes, if you have a good top hen, she can help keep them in line and teach them manners, but more than one or two is going to be too much for even her.

Sometimes, you'll come across a young male that will be one of those natural flock leaders but they're very rare.

Not all hatchery fowl are bad. I had a great barred plymouth rock rooster who I picked up from the feed store and raised. He was just more vocal than I liked, always getting excited over what his hens were up to, which would start the whole yard up, so he had to be re-homed.
Interesting Cuban Longtails.

Maybe I should not butcher my oldest, not so rough as the rest, roo. After I clean out the hen house that is housing all the culls (there are hens in with that batch or roos - one of which is the meanest hen I've ever owned but she's an egg eater and doesn't lay eggs herself), I plan on putting the Orp roo with a few choice hens in that house to get a pure breeding from that group. They are the gentler of the breeds so far. But I LOVE the Australorps. They are soooo beautiful. I just need the roos to learn how to be a gentleman.
I really think keeping an older roo and one younger roo would keep it in order. It seems that all chaos has broken look like mad hell since your master roo left.
There isn't a real solution, however you can buy or make things like hen protectors so the roos don't hurt them...I don't have link hmmm...
I know some users on her have them...
So could it be:

* The hatchery's stock? ( I have only been ordering from the same, 'top rated' hatchery) Top rated does not mean top quality. Some hatcheries have agressive lines in certain breeds. So yes this can be part of it or not.

* Incubator hatched chicks not having a mother and natural flock to learn proper behavior from? Hen raised will be smarter and nicer hands down. For they learned their behviour from mom.

* breed???? (I'd have to rule that out do the the varieties I"ve experienced it with) Not so much breeds but lines in breeds this goes back to what I said on the hatchery.

* other???? Hormones and being young. Most likly the problem, time should calm them down. But if it does not look for a local roosters to replace. Many sell off extras or ones they can not keep because they do not want a rooster. Rehoming an unneeded rooster will be your best bet for a nicer rooster. They have been with a flock so Should be better. Even a mean rooster from one place can change attitude in a new home.
Ok, well that didn't go well. 3months of separation, even though they could see each other through the chicken wire and scratch side by side, was enough to cause problems with reintroduction. I didn't expect it either. I've been adding roos & hens to the culling hen house with no problems - minimal conflict & quick resolution. But when I took the 5 year old Red Star roo and put him back with the 7 month olds....
well, I had to stop it before it turned into a blood bath. And I do believe the 7 month old Australorp roo would have killed the Red Star. Guess I've gone about this all backwards and will have to learn from my mistakes. (I've also been so busy with a sick 14 year old Aussie, guess I didn't plan this chicken thing out too well. [sigh].
I forgot to update this post:

I finally got things back under control.

I caged the three roos (the new orp, the new australorp, & the old red star) in a hen house with no hens. After a week or two, I opened the doors on the cages and let them run in the hen house together. That went well. So the next day, I let them in with the hens. That went well, too. No more fighting to the death stuff!

I have the first set of 2010 chicks running on the ground; hen raised

I'm expecting another batch to hatch out in about a week or so; also hen raised.

If I can EVER get my old garage turned into two or three seperate hen houses with runs, I will seperate the orp & Aussie roos with a few choice hens for some purebred, hen raised roos. right now, it's a free for all. The way things go around here, I'm sure I will have plenty of roos among the new chicks. I'd almost swear the latest batch running around are all roos but I'm not positive.

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