Sexual maturity and fertility questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mhn1957, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. mhn1957

    mhn1957 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 21, 2010
    McDermott, Ohio
    I bought two RIR cockerels from a guy who has an amazing amount of RIRs. Probably 200, free range, and not a blade of grass at this point. He only wanted to sell roos. I promised the guy I would not eat them, but didn't promise not to eat their children. ANYWAY!, when I got them a month ago, the had just a hint of spur buds, and so I thought, come spring, we can have chicks. I got two, because I thought a spare would be prudent. The boys didn't like it here at first, and the hens were merciless, chasing and pecking them. They sleep below the chickens, and if they try to roost up at the top level, they get pecked, but in general, things had settled down. Then, the one guy has grew huge, and has started to crow. I wasn't expecting him to grow so fast, and start mating with everyone. I also wasn't expecting him to catch a mouse today and eat it, but he sure did.

    1) Do roos practice mating prior to being fertile?
    2) Do roos come fertile before they grow spurs?
    3) Am I going to have an issue this winter with the two roos fighting?
    4) Right now, one of them likes to eat raisins out of my hand, and the other doesn't trust me. Should I expect this to continue?
    5) They have 8 hens to share. Will that be enough?
    6) Do I need to make a bachelor pad? Right now, they they can climb up with the hens into the coop, but they won't come out the bottom ramp in the morning. They are too tall, I think. They are in a coop/run, inside another run, and the dogs keep the racoons away. I have to open the side of the coop to let the guys out. I let them all free range, when I can listen for trouble.

    Mark
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Northwest Arkansas
    Each chicken has its own unique personality. You can't really tell exactly what one individual chicken will do, but they do have tendencies in some things. Sometimes we can tell what they will probably do.

    1) Do roos practice mating prior to being fertile?

    Possibly. Mounting is a form of dominance. I've seen mature hens mount immature pullets to show dominance in an all-female flock. But the odds are that he is not just practicing if the hens allow him to mount them or even if he forces them. If you want to know if your eggs are fertile, you can look through this thread. It has pictures to show you the bull's eye you are looking for.
    Fertile Egg Photos
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=16008&p=6


    2) Do roos come fertile before they grow spurs?

    Yes.

    3) Am I going to have an issue this winter with the two roos fighting?

    That is one of those that is hard to answer definitely. With hens present, two roosters will determine which one is the boss. Sometimes you don't even notice this happening. If one is sufficiently more dominant than the other, it is more intimidation than fighting. They flare their neck feathers, jump at one another, and it immediately turns to one running away and the other chasing for a short while. Sometimes they fight to the death. Which they do depends on their personality much more than size. With your two, they already know which one is boss, but they are not totally mature. As they continue to mature, there may be other flare-ups as one challenges the other. Again, these could be more running than fighting or they could be real serious. You just never know. But when they mature enough to dominate the hens and assume their flock master roles, they can and usually do form a good team working together to protect the girls.

    4) Right now, one of them likes to eat raisins out of my hand, and the other doesn't trust me. Should I expect this to continue?

    No idea. I don't hand feed mine.

    5) They have 8 hens to share. Will that be enough?

    That's one that can't be answered. You'll see a magic ratio of 10 hens for each rooster that is supposed to be required, but it really is not. That 10 to 1 is the ratio commercial operations that supply hatching eggs use to assure a good fertility rate when they use the pen breeding method. That's where they may have 20 roosters in a pen with 200 hens. That ratio is really not valid for anything else, although it does make for a nice flock.

    There are a couple of things you need to watch for, and they are worse with adolescent roosters with their hormones running out of control. Usually when the roosters mature these problems go away, but not always. Breeders regularly keep one rooster with one or two hens in a breeding pen without these problems showing up, which to me debunks the 10 to 1 myth. Sometimes people have reported these problems with one rooster and over twenty hens.


    One is that the hens become barebacked. It is not unusual for a hen to occasionally lose a feather or two during a mating. That's no big deal. But sometimes a rooster will strip so many feathers off with his claws and spurs that he can cut the hen during mating. Chickens can become cannibalistic if they see another chicken bleeding and that chicken can quickly wind up dead. If you see this happening, there are steps you can take. You can get saddles for the hens that need them or you can clip the sharp points of the claws and spurs, making them blunt. I think the claws do more damage than the spurs.

    The other is a bit more subtle. Sometimes the hens get stressed out by too much mating and will start to avoid the roosters. This can affect egg laying if it is real bad. Usually, once they both mature, some hens like hanging out with the rooster and some don't. If you see things like the hens staying on the roosts instead of getting on the ground so the rooster cannot have his way with them, you might have a problem.

    I've had more problems with barebacked hens when I had my "best" rooster to hen ratios and absolutely no problems with ratios that some people say are real problems. Each chicken and each flock are different. My regular advice is to keep as few roosters as you can, no matter how many hens you have, and still meet your goals. The more roosters you have, the more likely you are to have problems, but problems are not guaranteed.

    6) Do I need to make a bachelor pad? Right now, they they can climb up with the hens into the coop, but they won't come out the bottom ramp in the morning. They are too tall, I think. They are in a coop/run, inside another run, and the dogs keep the racoons away. I have to open the side of the coop to let the guys out. I let them all free range, when I can listen for trouble.

    I would not separate them. They have probably sorted things out based on their maturity level. It is not unusual for mature hens to bully immature roosters, but as the roosters mature, that will change. If you separate either one or two of the roosters from the hens then put them together with the hens later, they will be back to square one on which one is boss. That situation often leads to a serious fight. Once they are together with the hens and have it sorted, I'd not mess with that situation.

    However, you have a few options if you see problems. You can give one of the roosters away. I think that keeps your promise not to eat them. You can separate one rooster and never let him in with the other rooster and hens. You can even rotate one rooster with the hens for a while and then the other. You can build a separate coop and pen and keep each rooster with his own hens, never allowing them to free range together.

    I can't give you definitive answers on a lot of these things. You might have problems and you might not. I do think the more room you can give them and the more you can free range them, the fewer problems you are likely to have. You do need to watch, especially for the barebacked hen problem, but that can occur in any flock and with any aged roosters. Good luck!!!
     
  3. Mommysongbird

    Mommysongbird Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2011
    Small Town, Virginia
    I don't know a lot about chickens in general, still learning. But I do know that our roos befor they left our house a few weeks back were only about 24 - 26 weeks old and they did NOT have spurs and they were mating with at least 2 of my girls (only have 4 girls) and right now I have 12 eggs in our incubator that are on their 8th day, and at least 7 of them have veins showing, so they are fertile.

    Can't tell with the other eggs yet as they are too dark, but it is a chance that they are NOT fertile because one of the birds that some of those came from is one that would NOT let the roos near her that I know of.

    HTH [​IMG]
     
  4. angie3881

    angie3881 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Also, the roos may switch roles. My RIR has been the leader of the pack for 7 months, when suddenly my Barred Rock grew bigger and bigger and filled out nicely. He began to challenge the RIR until his dominance was established. I find it funny, the RIR still sleeps on the top rung of the roosting ladder, and the BR is lower, but the BR is definitely boss man. I have an Astralorp roo who is coming into age and getting pretty big. Can't wait to see what happens there as he seems to be getting even bigger than the BR. Fun to watch!
     
  5. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    My Coop
    Ditto everything Ridgerunner said.

    I would also advise against hand feeding a rooster. It can (not always, but can) let him think he is above you which will lead to him challenging you for top position in the form of a flogging. It happens lightening fast and hurts like heck. Make yourself top rooster.
     
  6. mhn1957

    mhn1957 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 21, 2010
    McDermott, Ohio
    Thanks for all the advice. I know at this point that the one roo is fertile. I have been watching the activities for the sake of the chickens and their backs, and although they seem annoyed, things are fine. I think between me, the dogs, the chickens, and the roos, everything is sorted out. As far as being attacked by animals, I can constantly injuring myself with poison ivy, honey locust, barbed wire, and I have been bitten by a rat snake already once this year. (My fault, as I didn't have complete control of its head before I tried to move it.) I have not been flogged, but I'm tall and have decent reaction time. [​IMG] Plus, I heal like Wolverine.

    The advice is very helpful.
    Thanks again.
     

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