Topic of the Week - Adding a Rooster to the Flock

sumi

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Pic by @Eel Noob
Many chicken keepers start their flocks with a few hens and some stage decide to add a rooster. For protecting the flock, for eye candy, or in most cases for fertile eggs. Whatever your reason, the questions remain the same:

- How do you pick a good rooster for the flock? I.e. What do you look for when selecting a mature rooster?
- What is the best way to go about adding a rooster to an existing flock of hens (with no rooster)


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BantyChooks

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Interesting. I'll be following along---I don't add mature cocks, as a general rule.

I was without them at one point, though, when the large RIR and the small OEGB I had got eaten by a weasel. Or maybe it was butchered for bad behaviour? I don't remember. I just replaced 'em with a batch of chicks and let them grow up with the flock. Went off without a hitch, and I got lucky and ended up with two wonderful cocks despite not having an older male to keep them respectful. Since then I've had anywhere from 1--15 cocks/cockerels at a time.

Might be helpful to add my selection ideals for which cockerels to keep in my flock, though.

First thing I look for, very first thing, is whether he's an aggressive mater. That right there will break a deal. I have old and fragile hens sometimes and absolutely NO pinning down from the young boys is tolerated. None. I don't think it's a huge goal, probably 70% are respectful of old hens from birth and dance nicely for the younger ones. I've found those only get better with age. My current lead cock is almost too respectful and nearly never mates.

Second is temperament. Might be bad of me but I'll put up with a bit of off behaviour if he's good with hens. It might be hard for a new chicken owner but I've found there's some specific body language and 'tones of voice' that are good harbingers of nastiness or not. Some easier behaviours to watch for and correct (or eat) are dropping shoulders towards people and tilting head, a fraction of a second delay in moving from people where everyone else scatters, and a low minor key sound to his regular cluck when you come around. Often paired with the low shoulder but not always.
There are a few other things I use for indicators but they are too difficult for me to explain. That's the basics though. I keep all cocks/cockerels older than a month or two at least at arm's length away from me at all times, unless they have proven to me that they can be trusted.

Third is leadership ability. Ultimately I want cocks to be confident, able flock protectors that break up fights amongst the young cockerels and hens. This generally takes a few years to emerge. I don't want sniveling wussies that place first priority on heading for cover when a blue jay darts from a bush. Cocks that send the hens for cover and THEN follow themselves, staying at the edge of the woods and watching to see if the threat goes away are a great asset to a flock.

Another thing I place high importance on is health, even more on lead cocks. The reason for this is that I do not handle my cockerels much. I don't meddle in their business, they don't meddle in mine. I will even skip health checks unless they look bad. I don't need them being prone to lice or whatever parasite or illness comes around the block next.

As an aside, I have found the in-your-pocket truly sweet cock birds to be rubbish at protecting flocks. Just leave the bird alone, already---he'll do a much better job at guarding his hens.
I had a really nice cockerel (~11mo) one time that would not go away despite my best efforts to get him to detach from me. His manner was such that he was one of those rare male animals that I believe was safe around people and children. He never made an aggressive move and was a darling with visitors. Unfortunately, he was killed by a dog a bit after his first birthday, but he remains the only cockerel I have left tame because his personality was trust-able enough for it.
 
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Chicken Girl1

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Mar 3, 2015
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- How do you pick a good rooster for the flock? I.e. What do you look for when selecting a mature rooster?
When I have to choose between multiple roosters to stay with the flock I look for the ones that are respectful of me and the one who treats his hens right.

- What is the best way to go about adding a rooster to an existing flock of hens (with no rooster)
I've never have had to integrate a full grown rooster into my flock, I've always raised them from chicks and integrated with the rest of the young pullets.
 

Cyneswith

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I am not an experienced chicken owner, but should I choose to expand my flock to 7 hens and 1 rooster, I will choose a rooster breed known for being gentle with hens, good with people, and dual purpose with excellent laying (for progeny). That basically means Salmon Faverolles.

With 2 small children, temperament is my primary concern for my entire flock. As such, I want to hand raise my flock - chicks are the best option. Also, I want my roos to respect my hens, so if I can introduce him before he's bigger than them, that'd be a plus.
 

lazy gardener

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- How do you pick a good rooster for the flock? I.e. What do you look for when selecting a mature rooster?

Temperament always first. Above all, he must not be human aggressive. It is helpful that I have always raised up my cockerels, never adding a mature bird from an outside source. I get to watch him grow up, train him, and watch him interact with his brood mates, and later with the mature birds. Second: conformation. How does the bird's body shape, size and feathering, his comb and other physical attributes match the desired characteristics I am breeding my flock for?

- What is the best way to go about adding a rooster to an existing flock of hens (with no rooster)

No matter what bird(s) being added, be it a group of chicks, or a hormonal cockerel, I like to start the face to face intro while birds are free ranging, with plenty of treats on ground for them to scratch for. Initially, I am present, ready to separate birds. As trust level increases, I increase their time together on free range, while decreasing my supervision. Next step is to let new bird(s) interact with flock in the run, and finally, I move him/them into the coop.

What about bringing in a replacement roo: How to phase out the old King while bringing in the new Prince? I'm working on this right now. @aart began and completed the same process in her flock just recently. She removed her old guy, and turned the flock over to the youngster. I believe she would say her new flock master is a gentleman. My situation is a bit different. I am hoping to keep King Jack, while adding Prince Goliath. I want to keep both boys in residence through the winter, so I can benefit from what each of these boys brings to the gene pool. So far, Jack (4 year old EE), while he's doing a soft molt is maintaining his Kingdom. He tolerates 6 month old Goliath. (Gorgeous Buck Eye who is actually larger than Jack) The 2 boys get along together, unless Goliath makes the ladies scream. He dances, but has not learned to take no for an answer. He chases, they scream. Jack then comes on the run, and sends Goliath running for the hills. It remains to be seen if the 2 boys can share 28 girls in a coop/run situation for the winter. If not, a hard choice will need to be made.
 
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Steve J

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I added the one in my avatar, after my hens were grown because a small hawk was after them. Just put him in and a couple of hens ran up to him and did the stare thing, he half heartedly jumped up and just barely let them feel his spurs. They both ran away. That was it, nothing else happened and he loves them, protects them very well does everything a rooster should.
 

RodNTN

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-How do you pick a good rooster for the flock? I.e. What do you look for when selecting a mature rooster?

As said above, temperament is by far the most important. It depends on what you want if you are going to be breeding, feathers, comb, etc. Overall I just examine him all over.

- What is the best way to go about adding a rooster to an existing flock of hens (with no rooster)

I have never added an adult rooster, but I have added a cockerel that was a few months old. I just go with the "see no touch" method. Separate him with wire and let the hens examine him and let him examine the hens. It usually only takes a few weeks and the hens are used to him. At night I separate him again, and in the morning I let him forage with the hens until evening.
 

Lady of McCamley

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There are many different answers to these questions, so the bottomline answer, the way it works for you.

However, I can share how I did it.

First I developed a flock of hens that were the breeds I wanted. I took my time over several years purchasing from feed store chicks, breeder pullets, and hatching eggs.

I then set my goals...for me...egg COLOR! So I decided I wanted a dark layer line rooster.

I hatched dark line breeds (Marans, Welsummer) and watched and waited.

First and foremost as LazyGardner said, temperament is key. You don't want to breed forward nasty. Then of course good health. Last was decent conformation, but I am breeding for egg color not show.

I soon ruled out the Marans and Welsummer roosters I had hatched. Just plain aggressive even at young ages. Nope. Not for me.

I ended up getting some Barnevelder chicks to give company to a poor lonely only broody hatched chick. Of those 2 Barnevelder (which I had hoped to have a breeding pair), I got 2 roosters. Yup. 2 roosters.

I watched them grow up. One was clearly aggressive, while the other was not. The one rooster had a very nice temperament. In time, I re-homed his brother and kept my Barney.

Now Barney had already been socialized by the broody momma (and don't discount momma for knocking some sense into young cockerels).

When he had outgrown the broody grow out pen, I introduced him to free range with the established "big girls" along with the pullet sisters he had grown up with.

The older matrons did not truck any nonsense from my Barney boy. They let him know nonsense was simply not allowed. He would have to charm them if he wanted their affection. (While his silly sisters clung to his every move as they integrated as a sub flock).

Over time, he learned how to charm all the ladies, even the grouchy alpha hen.

Since I use a no-crow collar, it forced me to handle him some in his early teen period. I fed him sweet frozen corn as I adjusted his collar. Some say never handle a young cockerel, but for me, it worked well. He learned to submit to my handling from a young age, however, I never treated him like a pet. He knows I am boss of the chicken yard.

That is simply what worked well for me.

Good temperament and some, I believe, good handling, and savvy broody momma teaching him the rules of the coop.

LofMc
 

Mrs. K

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Temperament and aggression are important, but thoroughly discussed above.

If it comes to a choice, or a decision, one needs to look at physical characteristics of each bird also. Roosters are an easy and usually cheap way to improve your flock. However, weaknesses become more so, and strengths become less so, unless a breeder is looking at the standards for the breed.

Check with your hands, feathers can cover a multitude of sins. Check the keel bone, the leg bones, the width of the back bone, examine the head carefully, the jaw and the beak. These need to be without small imperfections, as those traits will get passed on, and can quickly become magnified. Weigh them, good gainers are thrifty.

Several times, I have added a mature rooster to the flock. All of the roosters I have added to my flock, came from a multi-generational flock, and each time it was a very easy introduction. They had chicken manners.

The only mean rooster I have had, was raised just with flock mates. Quickly became the bully, and quickly got asked to lunch.

The most important part of adding a rooster is a sharp knife. Not all roosters will work out, it is where the romance meets reality as AArt says, they are a crap shoot, and if you decide to try a rooster, one needs to be aware that no matter what you do, you might need to cull this bird.

Mrs K
 

BantyChooks

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The most important part of adding a rooster is a sharp knife. Not all roosters will work out, it is where the romance meets reality as AArt says, they are a crap shoot, and if you decide to try a rooster, one needs to be aware that no matter what you do, you might need to cull this bird.
:goodpost:
 
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