Slight twist on rooster being mean to certain hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by huntersmoon, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. huntersmoon

    huntersmoon Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi,

    We got a new rooster a month ago, I quarantined him, and just let him out with the hens yesterday. During this month they have roamed where he is able to see them, but I had a double fence around his coop so they were not in close proximity. However he was able to observe them. I have 7 hens: five who were raised together and two who I added a couple of months ago. The dominant hen has never liked these two (barred rocks) and they are at the bottom of the pecking order. (Maybe it's because I didn't quarantine them well/long enough and they were mixed in together before seeing each other for several weeks?)

    Anyway, when I let the rooster out yesterday, he too has started attacking these barred rocks. He chases them away from the food and today I saw him actually running them down and pecking them. I quickly shut them up with the other hens and left him alone and lonely outside their coop. The other hens have never done this with them, they just snip at them once in a while if they get too close (and with my hens, they do seem to rotate pecking order except for the top hen, so they have shared the scorn with two other of the old-timers and are not physically harmful to the barred rocks, so I was just letting them be).

    Could the rooster have picked up on this pecking order from watching the hens?

    The former owner has agreed to take him back, but I wondered if there was anything else I should do? I tried keeping all of the other five hens up today and only having the two barred rocks out with him, thinking he might warm up to them, but that was not successful.

    Should I look at rehoming dominant hen too? Frankly I like the barred rocks the best and feel protective of them, I would rather not give THEM away as long as the probable hen behavior is that they will move on to someone else soon. I just want to be sure that just sending the rooster away is the right approach. I have toyed with the idea of keeping him and giving the two barred rocks away (despite my affinity for them, to protect them), but if he's selectively mean to two now, what's to say he won't do this with other new additions?

    I was hoping to move to a closed flock, so I am bummed about him not working out.

    Thanks for any insight,

    Shannon
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think you might just need to give it some time. Chicken society is hard for humans to watch, cause we want everyone to be nice and get along. Chickens want to peck and chase and prove who is the boss.

    Was the rooster mating any of the hens?

    Did he draw blood?

    I go on the no blood/no foul theory. He's the new guy and might not feel up to taking on the higher up hens, that may be why he's starting with the barreds. So again, I'd just let them work it out. They'll be a lot of noise and flapping and chasing, but things should work out.




    That said, I did once have a rooster that stalked 2 hens. They were all free range, there were probably 20 other hens, but he psychotically stalked them. The hid under the porch and he waited to pounce the moment they came out. This was an ongoing behavior and the hens were miserable. He tasted great!
     
  3. huntersmoon

    huntersmoon Out Of The Brooder

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    He has not drawn blood... yesterday he chased them away from some scraps I was tossing out and pecked the near one on the back.

    Today I kept the five original hens in the coop and let out the rooster and two barred rocks. He pretty much stayed near the coop, and when the barred rocks wandered back near the coop, he would chase them. He was working his way around the coop, and whenever he would round a corner and see them he would run at them. The first time he caught up to one, he jumped upon it as if he were mating, and pecked the back of her neck... it was an attack peck though, it was not like I've seen him mate with other hens. I couldn't tell if he actually mated or if he just dominated and pecked her. The second time he caught up to one, he ran and attacked her from the side, pecking at her side and wing until I moved toward him.

    From then on, he would round the corner chasing them, see me standing guard as they ran behind me, and literally skid to a stop and run the other way.

    I could give it another day and watch over them - let them all out together and see how it goes?

    Thanks
    Shannon
     
  4. duckinnut

    duckinnut Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The chicken social ladder is hard thing to watch. Everybody trying to find their place in the flock. Sort of like high school. My rooster has been with the girls about 2 years and clearly likes the more submissive hens and makes sure they eat versus the wouldn't give him the time of day crowd which he chases away. Like they say you have to let nature take its course. Hard to watch but when the dust settles and feathers stop flying it will be sorted out. He might be trying to get to the top(where most roosters like to be) but may encounter competition from the older hens.

    Like donrae said give it time. It took about 3/4 months for my rooster to calm down when he was permitted access to the girls. One thing with chickens I learned is PATIENCE.
     
  5. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Roosters don't have the same social order as hens. He isn't in it, nor does he enforce it. At least he shouldn't. Adult males inhabit a separate hierarchy in which they are in direct competition with each other, and they also keep an eye on younger males who they keep in line, who may be threats in future. All other chickens, including chicks from hatching up to puberty, are under the jurisdiction of hens. Once a young male hits puberty the hens will still tell him off if he's rude but at that point he's graduated into the adult male's club, and now the roosters will take a stronger stance towards him.

    In this way, as strange as it sounds, chickens are a lot like a wolf pack, socially. Dominant male and dominant female, each controlling their own gender. As with wolves there are many variants on this system. A roosterless flock may have a hen who mates with others, but once a rooster is introduced, the social place for him awaits. He doesn't need to fight any hen to get it. The same is true of turkeys.

    What breed of hens are the others? Could it be that the barred rocks have larger/redder crests and wattles which is confusing him into thinking they're male?

    There is a certain redness of crest and wattles a healthy hen has, whereas a healthy rooster tends to have a more cherry red color. If he was raised with hens with pale crests he may be associating their sub-par health with being female or juvenile, and seeing hens with red crests as adult males. Also if he was raised with silkie, rosecomb or black skinned hens, anything else could look male to him.

    Another issue is that he may have been raised minus hens and so may lack normal social interaction skills.

    Some roosters always mix violence with mating, which I cull for. It is completely unnatural for a rooster to ever harm a hen. In the wild, sick or injured birds will often be driven away, but if wild birds attacked and killed everything they thought was sick they'd likely catch that illness via blood transmission. Naturally, hens dominate hens and roosters dominate roosters. There is a place for a rooster and a place for a hen at the top of every hierarchy and no male nor female takes the other's place; neither is one dominant over the other. No rooster has to fight a hen to get to 'top rooster spot'. If he's competing for 'top hen spot' then there's another issue. ;) But if you're introducing hens to roosters and one or both parties have not grown up with the other gender, there will likely be violence as they sort out what a male or female is.

    That's been my experience from having hundreds of roosters of all ages, breeds, backgrounds, etc. The social roles for males and females are complimentary, not conflicting or competitive. But many people keep and breed violent males thinking it's natural. Just like chick-killing hens (those who wipe out the whole clutch) and cannibalistic babies. It's normal in domestic stock, thanks to human intervention, but not natural to wild stock. It is completely counterproductive for any male to harm a female. Such males tend to fail to pass on their genes for obvious reasons.

    I bring in new roosters of all sorts all the time. The only issues with fights between males and females that I've had is with some being used to hens with smaller crests and thinking the ones with bigger crests are males. However once he tries to start a dominance-determining fight and gets ignored or avoided, he realizes he's made a mistake. If he doesn't settle down after that, then he's too violent for my flock. After all, if he's chasing/stalking and attacking chickens that offer him no challenge, what is he? A bully.

    Personally I don't tolerate any rooster too stupid or vicious to calmly join the flock when all due care has been taken in the first place to introduce them slowly. A mistake concerning gender is often made when you keep complete mongrels like I do, but while the hierarchy will be sorted with a few fights, I won't tolerate harmful animals who can't sort it out without maiming or killing each other. A couple of kicks and pecks are ok, but no spurring or wounding. Not breeding violent stock means you aren't hatching violent stock (the enormously vast majority of the time), in my experience. Best wishes to you and yours, whatever your beliefs on social structure etc.
     
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  6. huntersmoon

    huntersmoon Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for all of the replies and advice. Since he has not spurred or wounded them, has pecked without drawing blood, I will let them all out together and watch them closely. I can give him back to his former owner who will figure out what to do with him, so I have that option.

    He was with a flock of hens, I'm not sure what kind other than Buffs and Americanas. They do have some silkies but it looked like they were young and in a young chicken coop still.

    These barred rocks have small but dark red combs, they are young new layers and the other hens are 2-1/2 years old. Both of the barred rocks lay eggs, though one occasionally brays like a donkey, straightening her neck when she does as if she's crowing. Maybe he thinks they are roosters, as you said... I like the practice of not keeping roosters who doing join a flock calmly, and if he doesn't settle down I will return him.

    Again, I really appreciate all of the information and help.

    Thanks
    Shannon
     
  7. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    It's good of his previous owner to take him back. Best wishes.
     
  8. huntersmoon

    huntersmoon Out Of The Brooder

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    These are photos of my two Barred Rocks... could one of them be a rooster? I do tend to get two eggs a day from them, but they are young and maybe one is laying two? One of them brays like a donkey sometimes... it literally sounds like she is saying "ee-haw" and she stands upright and stretches her neck like a rooster crowing. The bottom pic shows black marks on her legs where spurs might come in? But I would think by this age it would look more like a rooster?

    Thanks
    Shannon

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  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    After helping produce chicks a roosters next most important function should be keeping the peace in your flock. How old is the roo in question? He seems immature. If your hens have never seen or been in a flock with a rooster then it may be them who needs more education. Hens who fail to favor a rooster by mating with him, often forgo the protection roosters can provide from over aggressive or dominant flock mates.

    As with men and boys, just because a male chicken can fertilize an egg doesn't make that chicken a rooster any more than a 14 year old boy fathering a child makes the young teen a man. In some fowl a cockerel isn't a rooster until 24 months. Others only need 12 to 18 months to grow into full man hood. I would pen the dominant hen with your male chicken for a few days.

    Just like with the hens and their pecking order, any chicken that runs from another chicken be it rooster or hen, is going to get pecked at the end of the race for its trouble.
     
  10. huntersmoon

    huntersmoon Out Of The Brooder

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    He does look young to me; I was planning on writing and asking his former owner how old he is. My hens have never had a rooster in the flock before. These two barred rocks do tend to be submissive and easily shy away from the others, and were doing so before the rooster came in.

    When they are out of the coop roaming, he does not seem to attack them any longer, but in the morning inside the coop before I let them out, he does chase them still. I just started to wonder if one of them might be a rooster and hence his animosity toward it.

    So - then if he's young and immature and the hens have never had a rooster before, do I go with the behavioral concept that a rooster should assimilate peacefully (even if young) and get rid of him, or do I give them a few months to sort things out?

    Thanks
    Shannon
     

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