Conversations with Animal Farmers
By Daniel - 31 Jul 2012
Dear Frank & Mary,
Roughly half of the hatched chicks end up being roosters. And we've discovered the hard way that if there are too many roosters, that once they mature, they end up killing each other, and when they do this, it is not a quick death.
When I put down a rooster, it is over in a minute or less. When the roosters do each other in, it is a long, gory, bloody affair that can go on for days until the weaker one runs off or is injured so badly he has to be put down.
Plus, we've found that having too many roosters is very hard on the hens. There are gentle roosters and there are difficult ones.
For example, the last rooster we put down killed a six year old hen. Once he did that, I had to do something. So we watch each year's roosters and when they are six months old or so, to keep the flock peaceful and the hens from being pursued too aggressively and harmed, we cull the extra roosters before trouble erupts.
Chicken society is rather complex. At about four months or so, the young roosters form juvenile gangs and hang out together, and as they age, they start harassing the hens. Then when they get to be 9 months to a year, the young roosters start picking on each other to determine who is the boss.
If you want your hens to have a peaceful existence, you need to closely monitor the upcoming roosters and cull the trouble makers.
Right now, we have two very nice roosters. They leave each other alone and they are good to the hens.
It's a delicate balancing act. The hens I have seem to really enjoy hatching a clutch and raising their young. And the little ones sure love their mothers. To enable hens to do that, I need to keep a few roosters around. And to keep the flock at peace, I need to remove the extra roosters.