What problems may happen if I get 4 straight run chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by GimmeCake, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 8, 2013
    Can something happen if there is a problem with too many roos? To lower the chance, I could get something like 6, but still, no matter what, I could end up with a 4:4 hen/rooster ratio. Just what happens? Do they kill each other?
  2. ClucksAndPeeps

    ClucksAndPeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2013
    Yep, they'll fight to the death. In order for that not to happen, you need a 1:8-10 rooster to hen ratio.
  3. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 16, 2012
    You can order how many pullets you want, and you can order one cockerel from a hatchery, if you want a cockerel. That would be the simplest thing to do.

    Are you planning to buy from a farm store, a hatchery, a breeder, or some other way?
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas

    I’m sorry but this is about as wrong as it can be.

    First the odds if you order 4 straight run chicks:

    1/16 chance of all males
    4/16 chance of 3 males/1 female
    6/16 chance of 2 males/2 females
    4/16 chance of 1 male/3 females
    1/16 chance of 4 females

    Some people will tell you that you will definitely get mostly males from straight run chicks. That has not been my experience. I once got 7 out of 7 straight run all females. I’m not going to give the odds for 6 straight run chicks but it’s the same type of distribution with 1/64 chances of all males.

    Lots of different things can happen when you have multiple roosters. As they mature they will determine which one is dominant and which ones are subordinate, just like the hens do in an all-female flock. It’s possible you can have a fight to the death. It’s possible you won’t see any serious fighting. Some breeds, like games, are more prone to fighting to the death but even that depends on the individuals involved. What’s more likely is that they determine their ranking and work out how they are going to work together to protect the flock.

    A very big element of this is how much room they have. The more they are crowded the more likely you are to see serious fighting, whether with all hens or with multiple roosters, though roosters normally need even more room than hens.

    The 10 to 1 ratio comes from commercial hatcheries where they use the pen breeding system. This is where they might keep 20 roosters in a large pen with 200 hens. This has nothing to do with roosters fighting or with barebacked or overmated hens. It’s the ratio they have found in that particular management system they need so practically all eggs are fertile. If you keep your chickens in a more free-range system or with smaller flocks, one young active rooster can normally keep 20 or more hens laying fertile eggs, but that is going to depend some on your management techniques and the virility of your rooster.

    Many breeders keep one rooster in a pen with one or two hens for the breeding season and never have a problem with barebacked or overmated hens. That’s a long way from the 1 to 10 ratio, but these are mature hens and roosters, not adolescents.

    Adolescent roosters are so hormone-driven that they can spend a lot of time fighting for flock dominance or trying to mate with the hens. A lot of what happens depends on how much room you have and the flock make-up. If they are all the same age, the roosters normally mature faster than the pullets so you have hormone-driven roosters with pullets that don’t know what is going on. It can get pretty wild. If you have older chickens in the flock, they can help keep things a little calmer, though with several adolescent roosters it can still get pretty hectic.

    Something else that can happen in a flock is that one or more hens can be overmated or become barebacked. Can does not mean absolutely will each and every time. It means it can happen. The hens or especially pullets may be harassed enough that they spend a lot of their time on the roosts or in places the young cockerels can’t get to them very easily. This is where it is often really nice to have a mature rooster in the flock. It still gets rowdy but he will normally calm things down quite a bit. I regularly see a hen that is being harassed by a young cockerel run to the dominant rooster. He quickly teaches that brash youngster that he is out of line.

    A barebacked hen is one where the feathers are worn away on her back to the point that her skin is exposed. She can be cut during mating and that can prove fatal. If the flock sees blood they may start pecking at it and literally eat her alive. It’s serious and you can find it in flocks with really lousy hen to rooster ratios or a flock with one rooster and over 20 hens. It’s not unusual or even a problem for a hen to lose a feather or two occasionally during mating but if it gets bare, it’s a problem.

    There are different things that can cause this. Some hens just have brittle feathers that break easily. That’s not the rooster’s fault. Some roosters just have bad techniques, especially immature cockerels. They usually outgrow this as they mature, but they can cause damage when they grab with their toenails to hold on. The pullets and hens need to do their part too so the process goes as it should. That reduces the violence. I’ve had more problems with barebacked hens in a flock with really good hen to rooster ratios than with lousy ratios, but when I permanently removed those hens and did not allow them to breed to pass on those brittle feather genes, the problem pretty much went away. Still, it is not always brittle feathers that cause that problem.

    Lots of us keep multiple roosters with their flocks and don’t have them fighting to the death. Lots of us raise young cockerels in their flocks without them fighting to the death. I once got 4 pullets and 17 cockerels and raised them with my flock after they came out of the grow-out coop at 8 weeks without serious fighting or harassed hens or pullets. I did eat all 17 cockerels by the time they were 6 months old though.

    I always recommend you keep as few roosters in your flock as you can and still meet your goals without looking at magic ratios. Having multiple roosters is not a guarantee of having problems but the more roosters you have the more likely you are to have a problem.

    Getting straight run in the numbers you are talking about you really don’t know what you are going to get. I’d certainly recommend having a plan in place to get rid of excess roosters if you get unlucky.
    6 people like this.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Ridgerunner pretty much said it all... The only thing I can say is you'd need to have a plan to get rid of extra roosters. Either find someone ahead of time who will take them off your hands, or plan on eating them.
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    If you want hens, then order hen chicks. If you want pets that lay eggs as a benefit, then order hen chicks. If you cannot butcher a rooster, order hen chicks. If you don't have a great deal of room, order hen chicks. If you have small children, order hen chicks. and inho, if you do not have some experience with chickens, order hen chicks.

    Now even then, you might get a rooster, it happens, sexing is not perfect. Ridgerunner is right, in that you need a plan ahead of time what to do with a rooster.

    I have had flocks with roosters and without, and if people ask me, I recommend starting with just hens, till you get a couple of years experience. One can always add a rooster later to a flock.

    2 people like this.
  7. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 8, 2013
    They're bantams so I can't buy them sexed.
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Yeah, that’s a problem with bantams if you get young chicks. You might consider getting older chickens so you can be sure of sex. Also, MyPetChicken is supposed to offer sexed bantams but their prices are pretty high.
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I'd wait for older birds so you can be sure of the sex. Folks around here can't give bantam roosters away, even pretty ones.
  10. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 8, 2013

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by