Will my rooster stop damaging my hens when he's older?

Phoenixsw

Chirping
Mar 1, 2015
110
12
81
Colorado Springs, CO
Hi! I need some help with my randy rooster, Frosty. He's a fantastic cockerel at only 8 months and takes fantastic care of the girls. The issue is currently 3 of my hens/pullets are wearing saddles, and the other 7 are getting to the point that they are in need of saddles as well. He has wrecked the back and wing feathers of several and my EE has bare spots. I really want to keep him, but my fear is that once his spurs come in and he's an adult, he's going to do more damage. I don't see how the girls will be happy living the next 6-7 yrs with a saddle every day. Does anyone know if this will indeed get better, or will he forever leave my girls ragged and bare?
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
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Saddles do have their tradeoffs. The hens wearing them don't have access to their preening gland and they can't groom the back feathers.

You can expect your cockerel to mellow some after he reaches one year, then by two years, he'll be pretty much as toned down as he'll ever get.

However, the mating process is hard on feathers, and eventually, shoulders and back feathers are stripped, and even heads can go bald if that's where the roo anchors himself to keep his balance in order to achieve his objective.

About the only other thing you can do is to segregate him from the hens and give him only limited access to them. As long as he can still see them and talk to them, he'll be content, and the hens aren't mated as often. You might consider this option.
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Apr 9, 2016
14,342
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California's Redwood Coast
Good morning.

Young cockerels are quite vigorous. If you separate him until he gets a little older would help. That is what I would do. You could always add more hens. I keep my boys in a stag pen.

The answer, I believe is yes.. they do calm down a bit after they mature. this being spring time and him being young his hormones are raging at full speed.

If he learns to be more gentle, I don't know.

Some boys learn to take NO for an answer from the ladies and spend time treat calling and dancing. While young males will often chase, grab feathers, and stomp them to the ground... like it or not!

I do not want my girls harrassed day in and day out. While some do enjoy hanging around the boys, I think most my girld are happier without.

If the girls feathers were completely pulled out they may grow back sooner but if just major ragged, they will not grow in again until molt. And if you need to, spurs can be trimmed or twisted off without pain I believe.

Best wishes!
 

Phoenixsw

Chirping
Mar 1, 2015
110
12
81
Colorado Springs, CO
Unfortunately, keeping him separated would defeat the main purpose for having him, and that's to protect the flock from the hawks in my neighborhood. That and I don't really have any room to house him alone, and I'm already over my limit on the # of chickens allowed in city, not including the illegal rooster. I really though 11 hens would be enough, but of course he has his favorites, and they are really suffering. In addition to losing almost all back and wing feathers, they are getting bald spots on the heads.
My only option might be to re-home him, but he is the awesome rooster I wanted for my flock after the mean failure I had last time.
On a side note, what does anyone use as sunscreen for chickens? My EE has bald spots that don't always stay covered by the wing protectors on the saddle.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,503
20,780
907
Southeast Louisiana
This sound like it is a flock-wide problem, not an individual chicken problem. So let's think along those lines. How are you feeding them? Brittle feathers can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, especially certain minerals like calcium, zinc, selenium, manganese, or magnesium. Individual hens sometimes don't process some of these minerals properly (usually genetic) so you can often get one or two hens with this problem, but since it seems every hen is affected look at diet. if the feathers are brittle, even a good rooster with good technique can cause excess feather loss.

It's quite possible it is at least partially the fault of the rooster. As you mentioned his spurs probably aren't big enough to cause the problem, it's usually not the spurs anyway. When they mount the hen they hold on with their claws. Their toenails can be pretty long and sharp long before spurs become an issue. It might help to blunt the end of his claws. It's a lot like trimming your toenails, if you stay out of the quick it doesn't hurt at all and doesn't bleed. The quick is different in different chickens. Usually if you take off less than 1/3 of the claw you don't hit the quick, but you might want some flour on hand to stop the bleeding just in case. I've used a Dremel tool with one of those discs used to cut metal to knock off the sharp point of the toenails. If you wrap the bird in a towel they are usually pretty calm through this process. I've heard of people using a dog toenail clipper but I have no experience with that.

If the toenails cause feather loss, sharp spurs can cut the skin if it is bare. The toenails can too. Bare skin is at risk, even with a cockerel and his toenails. it is something to be avoided.

Have you checked for mites and lice? They can cause feather loss.

If it is purely due to your cockerel's technique, it's possible that will get better as he and the pullets mature. The pullets can play a part in this too. The cockerel has to have the maturity and personality the pullets can respect instead of just using brute force to establish his dominance. Once he reaches that point the pullets have to have the maturity and personality to accept him instead of fighting him or resisting. I've had cockerels reach that point of maturity at five months, even with a flock of older hens. I've had cockerels reach 11 months before the last mature hen accepted him. it's not just age, it's maturity. Some never mature.

The only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertile eggs. Everything else is personal preference. If he is causing problems in the flock, do you really need to keep him?
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Apr 9, 2016
14,342
19,918
832
California's Redwood Coast
In my experience, rooster really are not much protection for the flock. At this point, he is putting them at risk of infection using his punji claws when mounting on broken skin. At his age.., he really isn't nearly as protective as he will get. So as he hits new maturity points he still could decide you are a threat and test his limits. Often when it comes to predators a rooster just ends up being a sacrifice instead of a hen. Plus they really are no match for things such as dogs, mountain lion, and the like. Hens will call out alarms just as well. And my head hen beats up the boy sometimes.

With the city limit issue you mention, I highly recommend you rehome him. It's just not worth the trouble to deal with annoyed neighbors, legal issues, and sore hens!

I don't know of anything other than standard sun block, which would be a pain to apply everyday but could be done.

The back of the head is hard for the roo to avoid when he mounts sincethat's how he holds on. But some do an extra peck or 2 which puts them on my cull list. They don't need to peck a girl into her place after she already submitted to his whims. Just reminds me of abuse. I might consider using some of the No Pick feather stuff on their heads and see if that deters him from mounting a bit. :confused:

Maybe plan for a rooster when you move onto your next situation where it isn't illegal and let your hens rest and recover for now. If you aren't aiming for chicks no point in your hens paying the consequences of you keeping a cockerel. I'm not anti rooster. Just we all have to do what we think is right to protect our flocks. And you do seem frustrated. Chicken keeping is supposed to be more of a joy and the injuries are stealing your joy...

Otherwise I would use a dog kennel or something to separate him. Whatever is within your means. ;)
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,787
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No need at all to house your roo separately. I've solved this very problem by throwing up a bit of chicken wire in a corner of the run and each morning herding the roo into it. Or I have simply let the rooster patrol the outside of the run during the day, while allowing him to roost at night with the hens. In a surprisingly short time, a rooster learns this routine and marches himself in at night to join the girls.

Roosters do not need constant access to hens to be content. As long as they can interact through a mesh barrier and communicate with the girls, they seem to suffer no hardship.

For bald backs exposed to solar radiation, I've simply used a spray-on sunscreen SPF 15 or 30 by Coppertone. Easy to apply to even the most uncooperative hen.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,503
20,780
907
Southeast Louisiana
The head grab is not just a rooster holding on. It's the signal for the hen to raise her tail up out of the way so he can hit the target. There will be no fertile eggs without a head grab. Some cockerels and roosters have a bad technique for this too. They can pull feathers when they should not.
 

Phoenixsw

Chirping
Mar 1, 2015
110
12
81
Colorado Springs, CO
Thanks everyone for your replies! I don't think it's a nutritional issue, as the missing feathers are all in the same spot on every chicken, with varying degrees of loss. I did also want fertilized eggs for broody hens instead of buying fertilized eggs/babies, but not at the expense of my girls. He's a beautiful, non-aggressive guy. When he catches worms or I give them to him, he calls the girls over for treats. I keep the 5th toe of my SF hen as well as any other too long toenails trimmed with cat claw trimmers. I do have a Great Pyrenees out back with the them for all but air predators, and my neighbor actually likes the crowing.
But it's not worth the suffering the girls will do all summer covered with saddles. I guess it might be time to find him a new home.
 

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