We have 24 roosters and 4 hens! Need some advice

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rookiefornow, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. rookiefornow

    rookiefornow New Egg

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    We have 4 free ranging hens that are now 24 weeks. We also have 24 free ranging roosters that we are raising for meat, they are 13 weeks. They are ready to butcher at 15 to 18 weeks and we will be doing that in small batches. We do confine the birds at night because of foxes, the roosters separate from the hens. We got the hens in August and when we got the baby roosters the hens immediately let the chicks know who was in charge. Now some of the roosters are as big as the hens and starting to get their beautiful feathers. The roosters are 3 different and I think mixed breeds, the hens are barred Plymouth rocks. The hens are still in charge but a few of the roosters are starting to cockadoodledoo. The roosters were confined for the first few weeks because we lost a couple chicks to crows and hawks. They eventually starting fighting so we took are chances and started free ranging. My concern now after researching sexual maturity that with only 4 hens we may start to have some problems. We lost our whole last batch of meat birds to a fox and I don't want to wake up one morning to find that my roosters have killed each other.

    Also, we were thinking about keeping 3 of the prettiest strongest roosters and trying to fertilize some eggs. The hens haven't started laying yet but they have some different behavior lately and we're hoping it will be soon. We won't keep the roosters forever as I think because they're bred as meat birds they don't have a long lifespan, maybe I'm wrong about that???? Meyer Hatchery calls them fry pan bargains. Maybe just because they are mixed breeds they are sold as meat birds and they could live a long healthy life.

    Questions....
    Will the hens even mate with these roosters that for now they dominate?
    Will the roosters all murder each other some night when confined together?
    If I keep my favorite roosters will they die young because they are bred as meat birds?
    If I get new baby layers will the roosters kill them?
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    1 The roosters will eventually mature and mate any hen near them.
    2 The roosters won't murder each other at night, they will sleep piled up together. The roosters will murder each other at dawn, especially when there are woefully too few hens. I'm surprised they haven't done so yet. If separated from the hens, most breeds of roosters, given enough space(free ranging) usually co-exist fine.
    3 It depends upon what kind of meat bird. What breed or cross are they?
    Those that tend to not mature well are Cornish Rock crosses. Also, they won't breed true and really would be inappropriate to raise chicks from for several reasons.
    4 Probably not if given enough space. It's important to keep young birds separate from mature birds till they're nearly the same size.

    "~~Also, we were thinking about keeping 3 of the prettiest strongest roosters and trying to fertilize some eggs."
    You only need one for fertile eggs. 3 roosters is way too many for 4 hens. That is a recipe for disaster. You need about 30 hens for 3 roosters.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Your roosters will soon reach the point that your hens will have no peace. They won't be able to eat from the feeders, they won't be able to range freely, and they will be too stressed to lay eggs. That was my experience, anyway, and I had a ratio of about 1-1 roosters to pullets. They were all hatched at the same time, grew up together, and lived in harmony until the roosters started reaching their sexual maturity. They were constantly chasing the hens - not just one rooster at a time, either. They'd gang up on one then another and another. They seemed to be competing with one another. We have an 8x16' coop with an attached 12x16' run where we put them. The hens were so much happier. Now for your specific questions -1. Yes the hens will mate with them. Or, rather, they may mate with the hens whether the hens want to or not. (I do not consider that "chicken rape" - I find that term offensive. It's just what happens. Especially when you have way too many roosters.) 2.The roosters will not "murder one another during the night. Chickens are not active during the night. They may have some squabbles while settling in to roost. 3. Not knowing the specific breeds of your birds, that's a tough one to answer. If they are Cornish cross chickens, then yes - they may die at a younger age than other chickens. They don't have an expiration date, though, so it's hard to say. 4. If you get new baby layers, it's not only the roosters you have to worry about. The hens will not accept them either, unless you have a broody that you can have raise them. Broody raised chicks are easier to integrate into the flock because the mama will protect them and they will learn their "chicken manners" under her protection. People-raised chicks need to wait until they are close to the same age and size as the rest of the flock before joining them or the adults may kill them.

    One other thing - with 4 hens, even two roosters will likely be too many. A good ratio is 8-10 hens per rooster. Again, that's not a hard, fast rule but in my experience it has worked. So pick your favorite and eat the rest. But you will want to either confine them, or have the roosters and hens range separately. Either in different areas, or have one group range while the other is penned, and then switch.

    Good luck!
     
  4. rookiefornow

    rookiefornow New Egg

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    The roosters are Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks and White Jersey Giants. But we don't think they're pure bred. Some of the Jerseys have brown feathers on their wings and they're yellowish, not bright white. The only reason we were wanting 3 is because we wanted one of each breed but it sounds like we better just pick one. Thanks
     
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Those are not meat birds, they're dual purpose breeds, so you needn't worry about early death.

    They're called fry pan bargains because they're DP and they can't sell them. Real meat hybrids would be CornishX, Freedom Rangers or Red rangers.
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Will the hens even mate with these roosters that for now they dominate? Yes, they eventually will mate with the roosters when the roosters are of age.
    Will the roosters all murder each other some night when confined together? Not at night. Usually, male birds confined together, without access to hens, do pretty well together. There will be squabbles, but usually no to the death fighting. Posturing more than anything.
    If I keep my favorite roosters will they die young because they are bred as meat birds? No. Your birds aren't "meat birds", like Cornish cross. Meyer fry pan special is assorted heavy breed cockerels, so they'll all live long, happy, healthy lives. They're the males from the usual dual purpose layer breeds--Sex links, Aussies, Rocks, etc.
    If I get new baby layers will the roosters kill them? I'd be far more concerned about your hens killing new chicks than your roosters. If you want to get new chicks, they need to be at minimum 2 months old before you introduce them to the mature hens, and even at that age I've had dead chicks. 4 months seems to be my magic age for everyone to get along. I've never had a rooster attack a baby chick--like when a hen broods chicks in the flock--the roosters are always very considerate of the psycho broody momma and keep a wide berth from her babies.

    And the free advice---

    Don't keep 3 roosters. If you have 4 hens, keep one. While I agree chickens don't "rape", in our terms, it's still pretty horrible to see a hen ganged up on.

    At 24 weeks, you may want to start confining your free ranging hens and see if they're laying, just hiding eggs from you. New layers have no idea what those nice boxes in the coop are for, and love to put their nests under shrubs, behind garbage cans, in hay bales...you'd be amazed where they can hide eggs. Confining them would train/condition them to lay in the coop, plus it would solve the issue of maturing cockerels harassing them. Once the boys are processed, turn the hens back out.
     
  7. rookiefornow

    rookiefornow New Egg

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    Thanks so much. We are going to start to confine the hens as they are 24 weeks and because they free range I do notice that sometimes they seem to disappear. That will give us some time to process our roosters. Sounds like if we built separate pens for the roosters and keep the hens separate too we could keep 3 and get some more hens so the boys will have plenty to share. I just really get attached to the birds even though I know their ultimate purpose. I'm very hands on with them and they are actually friendlier than my girls. They are also just getting so pretty and I can't choose between the 3 breeds. Does this sound like a plan that could work? I fear the hens are not much gonna like being confined though.
    Thanks again
     
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    What kind of space do you have to keep them confined in? If you have a coop with an attached run, they'll soon get over it. (Even if you don't have an attached run but plenty of room in the coop.) They may fuss a bit at first, but as long as they have food, water and a bit of dirt to scratch around it, they'll be fine.
     
  9. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You still only need and want one rooster unless you move into the 15+ hens category.

    If you keep a RIR, you will end up with a sexlinked chick. Not a bad idea. You know what you've got from day one. They have a reputation of having a nastier personality than the other 2. If you keep a RB, than you end up with BR.

    Don't ever worry about not have a rooster candidate. Sexed pullets are only accurate to about 90% so odds are every batch of chicks you get will have one cockerel and there are always free roosters on CL.
     
  10. rookiefornow

    rookiefornow New Egg

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    Are there other benefits to sexlinked chick other than easier to sex? Does anyone know the breed a the yellow birds I have? Most of them are all just pale yellow but a couple have dark brown feathers on their wings and a few just have a random here or there colored feather.
    Thanks for every ones advice!
     

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