When to separate

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jatsma, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. jatsma

    jatsma Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 10, 2015
    Canada, Saskatchewan
    I've got 30 chickens that are unsexed, two months old/ish we are going to butcher all the roosters to eat and was wondering when we would have to do that? Because I'm assuming there will be a lot of fighting, if not already, will I need to seperate the roosters?
  2. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    I find that roos raised together get along pretty well. Oh squabbles happen but no knock down drag out fights. In the wild the roos would form a bachelor flock and live on the fringes of the flock any way. Unless you have game bloodlines. I would butcher when they got big enough.

  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I have a slightly different experience, but I am happy to accept that mine is the exception rather than the rule. Just keep an eye on them until dispatch day and be prepared to intervene if necessary, would be my suggestion.

  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There is just so much I don’t know about your situation that I can’t even begin to guess when and what is right for you. Your options are practically unlimited. You’ll find we all do things differently.

    What breed are they? Generally I don’t consider that hugely important unless you have a certain few breeds or size is important to you. Still, it’s good information and might have an effect.

    How much room do they have? I find if they have a lot of room, a lot, your problems drop dramatically. The tighter you have them packed in a space the more likely you are to have problems.

    How will you cook them? That could affect when you need to butcher them. A very young chicken can be cooked about any way, but as they age the cooking method needs to be adjusted. The older they are the slower you need to cook them and the more moisture you need.

    As far as behavior goes, what is your experience with adolescent chickens? What many of us see as normal behavior with juvenile chickens others will watch with horror. The cockerels have hormones start kicking in well before the pullets have any idea what is going on. At that age the mating act is much more about dominance than sex. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. With the pullets this age it is by force. The cockerels will spar with each other.

    One way chickens have learned to live together in a flock is that, in case of conflict, the loser runs away from the winner. If they have enough room to run away and get away, these cockerel fights are usually no big deal. They seldom actually get hurt. But if your room is tight, they can’t get away. This is when it can become deadly. With room the pullets can usually handle the amorous cockerels too. Sometimes they can run away, sometimes they learn to avoid brutish cockerels. Often though the cockerel catches and forces the pullet. The pullet is not injured and he is establishing dominance. But if space is tight you are more likely to have cockerels gang-raping or really beating up a pullet. I keep reading about gang-rape on this forum but I just don’t see it. I think it’s because of room but I’m not sure. As someone on here said, watching adolescents grow up is not for the faint of heart. Your expectations and tolerance level can have a big effect on what you need to do and when.

    I hardly ever have serious problems but I have seen one cockerel take an intense dislike to another. I had 19 cockerels, no pullets, roaming with my main flock. Somewhere around 15 weeks of age one started beating up on a specific cockerel really badly, chasing it and trying for the head. I did not separate them or do anything. My mistake, the stronger killed the weaker, trapped it and pecked its head until it died. After that there was no more real drama between the 18 remaining cockerels. They got along fine until they were butchered. That’s the only time I’ve seen that in all the years I’ve been doing this, but you are dealing with living animals. Just about anything can happen.

    You will often read about magic numbers on this forum about many things. One I often see relates to ratio of males to females. I don’t believe in magic numbers. I’ve had flocks with many more cockerels that pullets and not had any serious problems. I’ve had flocks with many more pullets than cockerels and had problems, even with a lot of space.

    When does all this adolescent behavior kick in? It varies by individual chicken. They mature at different rates. I’ve seen a few cockerels start before 12 weeks, I’ve had some wait until well after 4 months. With my pullets it’s normally somewhere around the time they start to lay. Pullets often go straight from childhood to fairly mature behavior. It’s the boys that have the raging hormones totally out of control over time.

    Many people butcher around 12 weeks to try to get the males before they start to crow and the worst of this behavior starts. You can cook those about any way you want but there is practically no meat on those bones. I prefer to butcher no earlier than 18 weeks with 23 weeks being about the best. Some people fixate on 14 weeks, 16 weeks, or some other age. We are all unique with our individual goals and personal preferences.

    Now to your options. You can just wait and see what happens. Especially if you have a lot of space it may not get that bad. But it is probably a really good idea to have a “bachelor pen” or “”grow-out pen” ready. That’s some place you can isolate the cockerels from the pullets until they reach your butcher age. Normally if cockerels are housed separately from the pullets the fighting isn’t all that bad. A grow-out pen is a solution a lot of people use to avoid the drama. But if you are buying all their feed instead of letting them forage for a lot of their food, it can get expensive.

    I don’t know if this helps you or not. In my mind there just aren’t any magic numbers related to butcher age, ratios, room, or anything else when it comes to keeping chickens that works for every single chicken on the planet. There are way too many variables.

    Good luck!
    1 person likes this.
  5. jatsma

    jatsma Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 10, 2015
    Canada, Saskatchewan

    New Hampshire reds and ameracana are the breed; 15 each, so it adds up to 30 chickens.
    Their coop is 10x10 and the run is 5x10. I will probably cook it every style you can think of. And not to sure about adolescent, because this is my first time with chickens. Right now they seem to be fine but I do notice there is one chicken who doesn't have feathers where all the other chickens have feathers. I have a feeling they got picked out by other chickens.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by