Seeking advice on flock dynamics

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by islandgirl82, Nov 11, 2014.

  1. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a small free-ranging flock with seven birds of mixed ages and breeds. My two eldest are about 4 years old, followed by three 8 month old pullets and finally two 5 month olds - 1 pullet and 1 cockerel. The youngest two hatched via incubator in my son's kindergarten class this past June. The cockerel is the product of our Silver Laced Wyandotte and an Easter Egger rooster we no longer have (for spastic reasons) and the pullet was given to us when we brought our chick home so he wouldn't be lonely.
    They've all been living peacefully together for a few months and integrating the youngest went quite smoothly.

    Until the last week or two, my only complaint about said cockerel had been that he was overly enthusiastic when getting treats and would grab flesh and pull and I debated culling him for fear of aggression. However, despite his eagerness for food and with the wise words from a fellow BYC member, he learned quickly that humans are off-limits and he now keeps a respectful distance. He has recently discovered his voice and although he has fun letting everyone know he's here, he's surprisingly quiet about it and only does it on occasion - I actually haven't heard him in a few days and I work from home so I know he's not just waiting for me to leave. I have zero interest in breeding him but I had settled on him being able to live out his life as part of our flock.

    Having this flock of mixed breeds has given me a great opportunity to explore various breeds and I've decided, based upon my experience and research (and much more to do), to narrow down future additions to just two breeds which will include Wyandottes but mainly focus on Golden Spangled Hamburgs. I know I won't be ready to delve into this endeavor for another few years and will be using the time to do much more research and prepare housing for breeding flocks so as long as everyone is cooperative, I haven't been concerned with removing any flock members because...well...what's the rush?

    However, my cockerel's adolescent shenanigans are not tolerated by any of the ladies and when he goes after the youngest girl, two of the three older pullets challenge him, peck him and chase him off. I was starting to feel sorry for him but now he has turned on my GSH pullet (8 months old) and chases her away from food and treats no matter how many feeding "stations" I've given. He'll even rip food right out of her beak and clearly lacking in rooster etiquette. She has always been a bit of a loner and prefers the company of the two eldest hens. She will even come find me for company but he's completely isolating her and muscles her away from food and flock. She's very quick so he rarely gets a hold of her but when he does, he's yanking feathers out.

    I understand that he's likely targeted her because she's the smallest - less than half his size - and she is pretty non-confrontational with her flock mates but it doesn't seem like he's trying to get her to submit (no attempt at mating) so much as he is trying to run her right out of the flock. She looks to me for protection and I do stop him by walking right towards him and redirecting him away from her and sometimes the whole flock and I always wait until he's settled down and moved on before I get on to doing something else but I can't do that as often as he's going after her. Because of the size difference I have serious concerns about her being injured or worse.

    I could isolate him but because the flock free-ranges, I'm not exactly sure how to make it impossible for him not to see them. I welcome any and all suggestions on how to better manage the dynamics between these two.

    Thank you!
     
  2. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

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    Since you have no intention of breeding him, I'd just get rid of him. Cockerels tend to go through a phase where they act like total butt heads, and they typically establish themselves at the top of the pecking order and get over it, if you can stick it out and deal with them until they do. Since you intend to breed GSH in the future, I'd say she's more important to your goals than he is.
     
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  3. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    She absolutely is of more value and not just from a breeding standpoint but I genuinely enjoy her personality. She's not at all what I was expecting and I actually joined BYC specifically to write a review based on my experience with her. I had read some terrible reviews prior to getting her and I'm so thankful I didn't remember them when I went to pick up the three pullets. I traded one of my reserved pullets for her and I wish I'd traded all three! Although, I may not have been able to bond with her the same way if I had.

    I am not opposed to culling him at all, I was just hoping it wouldn't have to get to the point, at least not yet. There are pros and cons to him, I like how respectful he's learned to be of humans and how quiet he is but I won't have one who will do harm to or bully anyone, especially given how small the GSH is in comparison.

    Thank you for your input.
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I strongly consider the dynamic of the flock, and I solve FOR the dynamics of the flock. If you are hesitant about culling the rooster, pull him and see how they are getting along. If the tension in the flock falls, then there is your answer. You do not state what your set up is size wise, but your younger birds are growing up, they are taking more space. This often happens, in that what WAS enough space, becomes less space as the birds get bigger. Very often I see posts on here, similar to yours in that the flock DID get along, and then did not. Often times it is the space that has remained the same, while the birds have gotten bigger and fill the space tighter.

    You do say that you free range, but with the shorter days, the birds are confined tighter together for the long nights, and that can make for trouble even when you let them out into the space during the day.

    You might cull the rooster, and that solve the problem, but it might not. Sometimes another bird will step up to be the bully. Sometimes going down into the winter, you need to cull down a couple birrds. Make an adjustment, wait 2 weeks, and then decide again.

    Mrs K
     
  5. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you Mrs. K.

    My coop is a 4' x 8' walk-in (It was actually an old ice fishing shanty found on craigslist that I've converted to a hen house). There are two 4' roosting bars with a catch board and 3 nesting boxes below. The nesting boxes are up off the floor so they have the full 32 sq ft of floor space and going by the 4sq ft rule per bird, they each have more than enough interior space (although I know the more space the merrier). My Wyandotte is my largest hen (not sure how much she weighs) the cockerel is a bit larger than his mum and my Hamburg is obviously the smallest. Their run is 12' x 24' with roosts at various levels and a giant root ball they can scratch at and roll around under until their little hearts are content but they're rarely confined to it and otherwise have a few acres to range over (though they stay close to the house).

    My hesitation is that I think he could actually make someone a decent rooster once he's matured but I also know how difficult it can be to rehome them to be part of a flock and not dinner and of the choices, I would prefer to find him a home but will make him dinner if I must.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  6. mtngirl35

    mtngirl35 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like your typical adolescent roo to me. I've had some dandies. I picked my roo from 5 I had and culled the rest earlier today. I kept them in a roo coop and let each in turn spend a few days with the hens to see who behaved the best. He's a sweet baby who is 19 months old but he wasn't so sweet at a younger age. Now he is very gentle with my 10 girls and never eats treats til he sees they all have some. But if you plan to keep him be aware that some never outgrow the butt head stage. I culled one last spring who was a complete demon to my hens. Roosters are easy to come by and I don't put up with one who is upsetting my flock. I either segregate him or eat him.
     
  7. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For his sake, I'm hoping this new behavior doesn't stick but I don't want to risk injury to any of my girls, particularly one who, despite being a little spitfire in her own way, is less than half size of her flock mates.

    I will put him in my isolation coop and see if that sorts out his recent interest in tormenting my GSH.
     
  8. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    You are watching flock dynamics. He will take over 'leading' the flock after he dominates ALL of the hens. He has chosen the smallest one to start dominating the flock, one hen at a time.
     
  9. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You think so? It seems more like he's trying to run her out of the flock completely. He's chasing her away from everyone and from food, including stealing food from her beak. He's not trying to mount her when he has her off on her own because when she's a good distance away, he goes back to everyone else.
     
  10. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Yes, he is just new at it and is not sure how to go about it.
     

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