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Keeping multiple roosters

For a many years we thought it was impossible to keep two roosters together, and then, completely by accident, we ended up with two roosters who did not attempt to fight to the death at every opportunity. As this has only ever happened once, I can only guess at the reasons, and I’m hoping that others can share their own rooster experiences to try to figure out the best way to keep them. 

eight acres: keeping more than one rooster


Previously when we’ve had more than one rooster, we haven’t been able to let them all free-range at once because inevitably, as if drawn together by a magnet, the roosters would end up fighting. This was very frustrating, as we like to keep several tractors of hens with a rooster in each one, and we really like to let them all out to free-range. We could just keep one rooster, but this means that not all hens have regular access to a rooster (so the eggs may not all by fertilized) and it makes it impossible to succession plan. We like to replace the rooster every 2-3 years, and we can’t grow up a new rooster if we can only keep one at a time.

A couple of years ago we hatched a clutch of chicks and raised the hens and roosters. When they were old enough, we let them all out to free-range, we kept the roosters in the house yard, and the pullets and adult chickens were in another yard with a large Rhode Island Red rooster. One day the rooster figured out how to get into the house yard. I thought he would attack the young roosters, but instead he spent the day walking around with them. Later when we let all the chickens free-range together, the older rooster still didn’t attack the young roosters. I think it might help that the roosters get used to each other from a young age. The younger ones didn’t challenge the old one and the old one didn’t feel threatened by the young ones, and possibly didn’t want to take on a whole mob of them.

When it came time to kill the young rooster to eat them, we kept the two nicest Rhode Island Red roosters from the bunch, one for us and one for a friend. They great thing about being able to select roosters from a group of them is you can choose the roosters that get on well with the hens. As Harvey Ussery writes in my favourite chicken book of all time, an often overlooked factor in egg fertility is whether the rooster can “dance” for the hen. If the rooster has an ability to look after the hens and attract them, rather than chasing after them, he’s more like to be accepted by the hens. Anyway, we chose to keep a couple of roosters who were real ladies-roosters and they grew up together.

When it came time to dispatch the older rooster, we were left with the two younger roosters who had grown up together. We just kept letting them out to free-range and they learnt to stay away from each other. They each had their own end of the paddock and their own flock of 8-10 hens. For over a year they lived in harmony and we had no rooster fights at all, it was quite amazing! We never got around to given one of them away.

Then gradually the stronger rooster started to pick on the weaker one, and the hens started to hang around the stronger rooster more often. We were breaking up rooster fights quite regularly and the weaker rooster had ended up blind in one eye, which wasn’t helping him win any fights. In the end we decided it was time to kill the weaker rooster before the stronger rooster did the job for us. It was quite disappointing that our rooster harmony didn’t last for more than a couple of years.

And now we have the big rooster and a younger one that we kept from a previous hatch. They seem to be getting on OK at the moment….

As I said, I really don’t understand why roosters get on at times and fight at other times. I think that it helps if they are evenly matched and have plenty of hens. We never make them live together in the same tractor, they always have their own space with their own hens. It probably also helps that they grow up together, so they know each other from a young age, but even then, they can turn on each other. My advice is don’t assume that roosters won’t get on, but don’t assume that they will! And even if they do at first, it may not last forever. It is worth a try if you can get two young roosters of similar size and have plenty of hens for them to share, but be prepared to remove one rooster from the situation, one way or another.

What is your experience with keeping more than one rooster?




By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.


Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


Comments

  1. I think this is all about pecking order. In hens there always must be a top hen or top rooster. If things are going nicely , it is probably because the smaller rooster hasn't challenged yet and accepts he is further down the rung .
    Have you ever had trouble with a rooster attacking people? We had one farm stay rooster we had to lose because it decided all children were a threat to his hens

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    1. yes, we did have one large rooster who got into that habit. Harvey Ussery has some interesting thoughts about this, the rooster is just protecting his hens and if you "fight back" it only reinforces his behaviour, you have to work out what triggers him, and try not to do that, but some roosters are just difficult and you can't keep them if they attack people (they can even hurt adults, I ended up with a big gash on my leg).

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  2. right now we have 5 roos and two need to head for the pot. however one of them is a really "good" - he has a harem of hens and does a great job of finding food and warning of overhead birds and such. however, we need to choose the best of the best before the fighting starts. if we have too many roos we usually end up with one fight to the death. :-(

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    Replies
    1. I know what you mean, its those good roosters that you want to keep, the ones that the hens like :)

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  3. We often have multiple roosters (14 last year) as juveniles. We find that we need to thin them out to about three when they start to fight. We select for natural peacefulness (and have done for 20 years) so our chooks are getting more and more pacifistic (is that even a word?). However we still lose the occasional old rooster to his younger competition, it's just the way nature works.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a good way of doing things, we do have some ability to select the personalities that we want in our animals...

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  4. I found roosters will fight more, the more frequent the hens were laying, or if they were just starting to come into laying. Its nature's engineering to ensure only the strongest males get to pass their genes on, and is specifically in sequence to the female ovulation period.

    When the hens are moulting or otherwise shirking any male attention, the roosters become more placid towards one another.

    The only suggestion I could make, apart from what you're already adopting, is to select a breed of chicken known for their roosters domesticity. I have found Australorp, Wyandotte and Orpington roosters to be very communal in their duties. Any challenges to position, often get settled more by posturing (bluff) than physical contact.

    You may not wish to change breeds though, so seasonal aggression may just be something you have to keep an eye on, and alternate your free-range times to keep the roosters apart.

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    Replies
    1. That's a good point Chris, I hadn't noticed the timing, I will look out for that this year. I think the Rhode Island Reds aren't too bad for agression, its all a balance between meat production, egg production and personaility!

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  5. We successfully kept two roosters and I think the key was that one was an enormous Ameracauna and the other a little banty. The Ameracauna was clearly dominant. There was simply no contest as he probably weighed 10 pounds more than the banty!

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    Replies
    1. that sounds rigth too, if the subordinate rooster doesn't challenge the dominant rooster you have peace!

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  6. We have never been successful at this, although I know some folks have. Personally, I think it boils down to the individual personalities of those roosters. Of course that's entirely unscientific on my part!

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    Replies
    1. yes there is probably a lot of variability between individual roosters, so you can only try different strategies and try to figure out what works for the roosters you have at the time...

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  7. Some of our roosters get along, some don't. We keep only one rooster per coop, though. Most of the time they are busy with their own ladies to care about what the other guys are doing. We have had a few fights break out - sometimes even through the chicken wire. Ornery critters around here don't make it very long.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a sensible policy!

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  8. I've had the same experience with roosters that grew up together...but they usually end up fighting at some point. Sigh. I'd like to have more than one rooster too. But I've given up on that idea until we have a larger homestead.

    Thanks so much for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! I hope to see you back again today. :)

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  9. We currently have three roosters in our flock, two are young (17 weeks) and one big fella. Im thinking of giving them the chop as we don't need more than one rooster but yet I am willing to see how it would go having more than one. They all free range together at this point but I am just waiting for someone to crack or the two young ones to realise they have testosterone.

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