On the cover
Roosters are the most beautiful of the poultry world, but they are the most trouble too.
The wild world of roosters & how to manage them,
Roosters can be a problem. If they’re not crowing at 4am, they can be aggressive, especially if you have several of them in your flock. Worse, they can turn their ire on you, and each other.
Strategies to manage rooster behaviour depend on the breed, their age, and the rooster-to-hen ratio of your flock.
Aggressive behaviour in roosters (and other livestock) is influenced by:
• learned behaviour
• their current environment A rooster’s role in life is to mate with as many females as possible, but mostly it’s a small group he keeps as his ‘harem’. He is their guardian, sounding warnings when predators like hawks or cats are around. He will also help ‘his’ hens find food.
A flock has a set ‘pecking order’ where birds fight to find who is higher and who is lower.
The lead rooster must show dominant behaviour to other roosters to maintain his top status. Fighting among male birds is usually intense, and roosters are more likely than females or young birds to keep fighting until one kills the other.
Unfortunately, they can also turn their aggression on their owners.
Aggressive behaviour is more prevalent in spring when hens are coming back into lay and younger roosters are seeking to build their own harem.
Several roosters can be run with a flock of hens. The key to successful management is to keep the ideal ratio of hens to each rooster. A heavy breed rooster (eg, Orpington, Barred Rock) can manage 8-10 hens. A light breed (eg, Leghorn, bantams) can cope with 10-15 hens.
If there are more roosters and fewer hens, the roosters will fight each other to gain more hens.
Alternatively, if there are too many hens for the resident roosters to cope with,
they may become ‘hen pecked’. They will continue mating until they are too tired, and lose weight and condition. This lowers their fertility.
If you want to keep multiple breeding males, and mate them with specific hens or place them in your flock at key times, keep them in individual runs and only bring them out when needed.
If you do have to keep groups of adult males, make sure they have a spacious run, to reduce the risk of fighting.