5 rules for keeping multiple roosters October 26, 2012

Roosters can be a challenge sometimes. Don’t get me wrong–I love roosters! But they can be territorial and protective of what they regard as “their” hens. That’s part of their charm, of course, but when they compete with one another too much, they can hurt each other, or even hurt the hens! When you have multiple roosters in your flock, that protective instinct can get out of hand.

Multiple roosters can be kept together with care

Here is one of my roosters, a Favauacana named D’Artagnan

Still, I currently have three roosters in my flock of 30, and that’s my normal mode of operation. In addition to my Favauacana, I have a mixed breed named Francis, and a Black Copper Marans named Gerard.  I tend to keep two or three roosters in my flock at a time–peacefully. If you want multiple roosters in your small flock, here are 5 simple rules to follow that will help keep the peace.

1. Have plenty of hens for each rooster. If you only have a flock of five or seven birds, you don’t want two (or more!) of them to be roosters. Generally—and especially when you want to keep multiple roosters—there should be 10 or 12 hens for each male in your flock. That will enable the roosters to have plenty of hens each, without worrying too much about competition from their rivals, and it will also be enough so that the hens dont’ get too overbred. When there are too few hens for each rooster, a hen can be mated too often, resulting in broken feathers, bare backs/necks, or even injuries.

2. Have plenty of space in your run. When you have multiple roosters, there will be the occasional squabble, and for the most part that’s okay. Those squabbles can get dangerous if there’s not enough space, though. If your birds are too crowded together—even when there are plenty of hens—you may see serious problems. With multiple roosters you will need more than the bare minimum of space. You’ll want to double or even triple the minimum space per bird for your flock. If you get too many roosters competing together in a confined space, testosterone-fueled aggression  and territoriality can boil to a head. Remember, roosters don’t have impulse control like (most!) humans do; someone could get hurt! If there is plenty of space, when one rooster becomes tedious in his showmanship and flirtation, generally the others will just lead “their” hens to a respectable distance away, so they won’t feel threatened by the boor and serious fights won’t break out.

3. If you have neither plenty of hens nor plenty of space, you can keep multiple roosters together by having NO hens. This is an arrangement you might have, for example, if you keep a flock of roosters for exhibition (rather than having a flock of hens for the purpose of laying). With no hens to compete for,  multiple roosters often live together in relative peace.

4. Raise them together in your flock. Roosters who are raised together establish a pecking order between them as they are growing up. Because they have already established that order, there is less incentive to fight when they are older and more likely to hurt one another by sparring. Alternatively, you can add new roosters to your flock relatively painlessly if they are raised by a hen in your flock, or if they are introduced to your flock when they are young, before reaching sexual maturity. It will be difficult to maintain the peace if you add an adult rooster to your flock that already has roosters, because that new rooster will be regarded as an invader—not just by the other rooster(s), but also by your hens!

5. Some roosters are too aggressive to get along with other roosters, no matter how ideal the conditions are. There are some breeds that tend to produce very aggressive roosters that are prone to fighting amongst one another, and other breeds with more genteel reputations. For example, game breeds often have aggressive roosters. Rhode Island Reds have notoriously aggressive roosters, too. We’ve also found that Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas don’t always get along well with multiple roosters in the flock, either. That said, most backyard chicken breeds do fine in flocks with multiple roosters. Favorite breeds for roosters (and multiple roosters) include Salmon Faverolles, Plymouth Rocks, Marans, Orpingtons, Australorps, Silkies and Brahmas.

Me at work

Gautier was my Salmon Faverolles rooster, and the top cock for many years

Do you have any tips for keeping multiple roosters–or any favorite breeds for roosters for the home flock? Please let us know your opinion in the comments below!


George Castonguay October 26th, 2012

I bought a dozen pullets last April, two of which turned out to be cockerals instead and to make it worse they were two out of the three so called ‘Ameracaunas’. I had hoped that they would co-exist peacefully and they did with each other but not with me. One of the roosters is a sweetie who will perch on my knee and eat out of my hand while the other would be as happy to eat of my hand when in the mood. When the second rooster started to ambush me I knew he had to go.

I first tried to put him into a mixed aviary but he is being picked on by several banties a quarter his size so now he is being moved to a farm with just six Golden Comet ladies. I hope he will work out over there for the next stop is the stew pot, not that I would eat him but others would.

Gust Front Farm October 26th, 2012

The only roo I have at the moment is a 7 month old Buff Orpington. Unfortunately, he is one nasty guy! He has 15 hens to himself and yet 10+ of them have to wear saddles because he has torn up their backs. He fought endlessly with my tom turkeys until they were butchered. He will not tolerate my children going into the chicken run, so sadly he will too will be turned into soup once I get some new cockerels to take his place.

It just goes to show that even in supposedly docile breeds, you can get a bad roo every once and a while and you need to be prepared to deal with it.

Heather Puzig October 26th, 2012

We have, hmmm…7 roos – 3 have their own flock with their own runs, the largest flock of whom the roo is a wheaten Americauna, Rufus, usually get the run of the yard all day and our other roo “free roaming” roo, although he’s definitly mature, he is the son of Rufus and when he tries to get near Rufus’ ladies, he is run off, no fighting – yet. I have two yound silkie roos, they “play” spar, but they are no where near mature yet. Then I have a bantam cochin roo who lives with his father, Poppy. My other roo, who is half Rufus and Half banty RIR has two ladies of his own, in his own pen, he used to be the love of my life and I the love of his life, now it’s only a one way street and he attacks me anytime I go into his pen… We live in Lithia Springs, Georgia. Anyone have any ideas of a place where I could take some of these gorgeous guys for sale that they won’t end up for dinner? I’ve listed them on craigslist, but I’ve only had 2 offers, both recinded later because they couldn’t have roos. Thanks!

Sharon October 26th, 2012

Learned about #3 completely by accident. The boys were being to ruff on the ladies & we separated them into a different run we dubbed “The Cockpit”. They quickly became big buds!

Lissa October 26th, 2012

Heather, you might try your local 4H Club. 4Hers are often raise roosters for the learning experience. We have more advice on how to rehome a rooster here on our website.

Ellen Green October 26th, 2012

I always enjoy your articles Lissa! And that roo is one handsome boy! We acquired two new chicks this summer and the White Crested Black Polish turned out to be a roo… 4 hens and our other boy Vern, who is as sweet as pie. I raised both from chicks and Vern has never been the least bit aggressive to us…The chicks were in the coop, separated, from day one and I physically introduced them at about 12 weeks. they do seem to be integrating into the flock well, they all free range together….I do let them out early in the morning so less confined time. The Queen Mother does like to take pot shots at both of them but all in all, it seems to be working. We will be getting more hens in the spring. I appreciate some more info on the subject!

Beth October 26th, 2012

We have always had at least two Polish Roosters together with Polish hens. Even without a large number of hens, they seem to get along okay if they are raised together. In general, they are my most peace loving chickens. Right now, there is a mixed breed in there who is much larger and heavier. He was slow to mature, but is now laying down the law and getting a little too aggressive with everyone in the pen. He is either getting re-homed or will be visiting my freezer in the near future.

Ronali October 27th, 2012

I have a Golden Laced Wyandotte roo, who while is not overly people friendly he is respectful and does not act aggressively. I also have 2 EE roos & a bantam roo. They were all raised together and have their pecking order. The GLW will chase off the other roos if they get too interested in his ladies, but the other roos have their girls too, all in all they seem happy. I did not choose to have so many roos, but that is the problem with buying straight run chicks!

sara November 3rd, 2012

I have a question about a rooster..We now have only 1 rooster, our other was eaten by something in our woods, but anyway. My question is how do you stop a rooster from attacking your kids..Ours goes after my 4.5 yr. old son…any help would be nice..thanks. Sara.

Lissa November 4th, 2012

Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear you’re having trouble! We have advice for dealing with human-aggressive roosters on our website (click on the link). You may also want to think back and see if you can determine what it is that may be making your rooster afraid. For instance, it could be something as innocent as your son taking off his jacket and throwing it onto a porch or a lawn chair. That might trigger the protective instincts your rooster has to defend against flying predators. It could also be nothing your son has done. If your other rooster was killed by a predator, it could simply be that your remaining rooster feels he needs to be especially vigilant, and is using your son to relieve those instincts–misdirecting his fear at your son. Until you’re sure you’ve got the problem taken care of, of course be sure to keep your rooster away from your son. Even once things have settled back to normal, you will probably want to supervise any possible encounters.

Eleanore November 16th, 2012

I know a man named al watts and he has kept chickens all if the eighty years of his life and he says if your roosters fight let them fight for an hour (unless it gets too ugly) and. If they don’t let up they’ll never work it out but if they give up and make peace it will work out just fine. -Nell

Amanda November 16th, 2012

Last fall we got a dozen chicks. Now that they’re full grown we have 3 roosters and 9 Hens. The roosters are fighting, among each other AND with the Hens. I feel really bad for the Hens. I have emailed every Farm around my area and cant seem to find a home for my roosters. I wouldnt mind keeping 1 of the Roosters, but obv 3 is not going to work out. I refuse to put them on Craigslist for fear some creep will do something bad to them. Any ideas ? I’d really appreciate it, were kind of at a loss.

Lissa November 16th, 2012

We also have suggestions for how to rehome extra roosters on our website.

debschickens February 14th, 2013

I have a small backyard flock of golden laced wyandotte hens. Unfortunately, I found my rooster dead from a broken neck. I am searching for another roo.

Lissa February 25th, 2013

So sorry to hear about the loss of your rooster! We sell Golden Laced Wyandottes on our website; you can choose to buy females or males.

Becky Johnson April 20th, 2013

I have 2 roosters – a 2 year old Brown Leghorn (Cogburn) and a 9 month old Lavender Orpington (Skye). Cogburn became aggressive at about 6 months old. He went from a lap-chicken to a feathered tiger in the pen. One day my husband caught him and pinned him to the ground for several minutes. He never bothered my husband again. As for myself, I started carrying a Super Soaker water gun every time I went in the pen. It has kept Cogburn at bay, but occasionally he needs a reminder. Skye flogged me once, about a week ago. I chased him until I cornered him, held him down, and he hasn’t bothered me since. He’s never bothered my husband. Establishing the human-chicken pecking order is critical, but even then, some birds just never give up. They both take really good care of their girls, though!

Hepps April 25th, 2013

Hi, I have 4 older hens and 2 roos. They are really taking a toll on my girls so I would like to seperate them for a while. I was wondering if keeping the roos away during the day only would be enough. I don’t have two chicken coops so I am not sure how to keep them apart at night. I just got more chicks so I would like to keep both roos, but need to keep them away from my older girls!

Lissa April 26th, 2013

You might have some tension in the evenings before they settle down, but try it out and let us know how it goes!

Victoria May 7th, 2013

I have a bantam cochin frizzle Roo, and a French black copper marans Roo confirmed. But know a suspect frizzle bantam Roo growing. I have 12 hens. Will this be ok? I hate to choose who to get rid of!

Lissa May 8th, 2013

As the post explains, usually you’ll want to keep a ratio of about 10 or so hens for every rooster. That means two roosters is too many for only 12 hens, much less three. Keep your fingers crossed that your suspect is a hen so you’ll only have one rooster to rehome! Alternatively, if they start fighting and injuring the girls–it is an “if,” but it’s pretty likely to happen under the circumstances you’re describing–you can try housing your extra roosters separately.

Tucker May 15th, 2013

I’m new to this and have raised 27, day old chicks, to their current age of 14 weeks. I ordered 25 hens and one rooster. I ended up with 24 hens and 3 roosters. They free range all day, with not many episodes of rivalry. Mostly just bumping chests then having a stare down until one blinks :-) They are all friendly to me and come running when they see me, but they all run if I try to catch one. A few will come close to check out what I’m doing when I’m working in the yard. They are very inquisitive. I love to watch their antics. Will they become more trusting as they mature? Anyway, within the 3 rooster pecking order, there is definitely a top dog, a Buff Orpington, who watches over the entire flock. He will come and check me out but runs if I move at all! I’m concerned he’ll become aggressive when he’s older if I can’t get him to trust me at this age. Also, what are your thoughts on the humaneness of removing spurs. Thanks!

Lissa May 16th, 2013

Hens seem to calm down and get more friendly once they reach maturity. Roosters tend to be more friendly as young birds, and stand-offish when they’re older and their primary job is to protect the flock. Some will disagree with me on this, but honestly, you don’t necessarily want to be snuggle buddies with your rooster. When that’s the case, it’s more likely that your rooster will be comfortable being aggressive with you later, in my experience, if they have learned they can be dominant with no repercussion around you. (By “act dominant,” I mean dancing and mating in front of you.)

If they are friends with you when they are young, they can come to see you as a rival as they get older. It’s not that your roosters should never be able to dance or mate in front of you, but you normally want it to be at a “respectful” distance, several yard away, and you do NOT want it to be motivated by your rooster’s desire to demonstrate his dominance in front of you, if you get what I’m saying. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the difference.

As to spurs, all my own roosters have their full spurs. But blunting spurs is not a terrible idea in some situations. Done properly, it’s not painful; it’s akin to clipping your dog’s nails. However, it’s a lot easier to clip dog nails at home than it is to deal with spurs at home. Generally you would want the advice or supervision of a vet the first time around, to make sure you don’t trim too much, accidentally hurt the rooster–or accidentally get hurt yourself!

Susan wilson November 16th, 2013

I have 2 Easter egger roosters I need to find a home for. I really hate to get rid of them but I’ve got three with six hens. They were hatched together and have been raised together but I’m afraid they will fight as they get older and kill each other.
Anyone interested ?

Lissa November 16th, 2013

Susan, you might also contact your local 4H club. :)

lisa glidewell January 2nd, 2014

HELP I have 6 hens about year old. I decided last may I wanted more chickens so I bought 2 silkies and 2 frizzles and I thought I would get all ladies but wound up with both frizzles are roosters and 1silkie is a rooster. My 2frizzles do good together with all the girls but my silkie rooster seems to fight with both of the other boys. Really don’t want to get rid of him due to I want to breed him. Any suggestions??? Any suggestions will be very helpful.

Lissa January 2nd, 2014

Can you tell me which of the “5 rules” above you have tried so far?

Andrew May 19th, 2014

I was wondering how the roosters behave with these techniques on a breed I’ve decided on raising. I want to raise and maintain a flock of Chanteclers. They are great for my region. I’m also wondering how many roosters and how big the flock would need to be to maintain genetic diversity. I’m guessing maximum would be 30 to 50 chickens that I would be willing to take care of. I’m trying to do things completely natural without heated coops,incubators or anything. I grow all my own food and I’m trying to get to the point where I’m growing all supplemental feed as well. Anyone who is thinking is this direction I’d appreciate any insight you may have. Thanks

Lissa May 21st, 2014

Please let us know how it works out for you! Line breeding is common with chickens, so you probably don’t need to maintain a huge flock so long as you add a new rooster every so often. My own flock hovers closer to 20.

Garnent June 16th, 2014

Thanks for your article, it answered several questions I had. Specifically, the fact that I have 6 or 8 roosters to a total flock of about 60 chickens. 19 of those are from last year and are currently laying quite well. The rest including the cockerels are just over a month old and are growing nicely. If I am reading your article correctly, I should keep 5 or 6 of the roosters for a flock that size, and get rid of the others. Also, you satisfied my concerns that my roosters are growing up with the flock is a good thing. BTW my hens are all Rhode Island Reds and the roosters are New Hampshire Reds (quite frankly, because I thought the NHR roosters were prettier, at least from the pictures I have seen).
This is only my second year raising chickens, and so far, I love it.

Becka-TN June 21st, 2014

Great article!! I am expecting an order of 33 chicks in 22 diff breeds from mcmurray the end of the month (i like a mix of breeds for variety). I ordered all hens, except for 3 which are roos. I found this page buy googling if my 3 roos would fight if raised together with around 30 hens. My reason for purchase – My husband and I met in elementry school, married in highschool and have been married 18 years this December. We have 5 children ages 7-16. So as you could imagine, it takes A LOT of eggs to make breakfast! After to many mornings of emptying out 2 – 2 1/2 dozen store bought eggs from the frig, (yes that many for one meal, that also included meat and pancakes!) we decided to get some chickens. Thankfully we dont have eggs every morning so I thought 30 hens would be good. Since my first question was answered, I have another….. many ppl state they ordered hens but recieved roos. How likely is that to happen ordering from mcmurray? As u know, hens cost more. and i did not buy straight run. Am I going to get roos instead of the hens i specifically bought and if so, will they correct it or am I just stuck with them? Thank you.

Becka-TN June 21st, 2014

Just went ahead and explored your site and now wishing I found you b4 i made this years chick order. :/ Plan to make and order with you my next time around…. maybe a few more hens next month :) Really love your site. very helpful. thank you.

Lissa June 24th, 2014

Most hatcheries guarantee sexing accuracy at around 90%. (You’ll want to check McMurray’s specific policies to see what their exact guarantee is.) A 90% accuracy guarantee means that if you get more than 10% errors, you will get a refund for the cost of the chick (or whatever remedy their specific policy offers). Our hatchery is unusual in that we have a 100% sexing accuracy guarantee. That doesn’t mean you would never get errors; it just means that all errors are covered by the guarantee. Actual vent sexing accuracy by most hatcheries (including ours) is expected to be around 90%, overall, on a hatch day.

Aleza August 5th, 2014

My chickens are free range. They are 5 month old jersey giants. I’ve got around 20 roosters and less than 10 hens that will be for egg production. Some of my roosters are starting to get little nubs where their spurs(?) will grow. Tonight 2 of them were fighting, usually they fluff their necks jump around a bit and the loser runs away, winner struts, the end. This time the winner chased the loser, who decided to hide in the coop, and cornered him and was attacking him when I arrived to save the loser. There was a small amount if blood. They are free ranged on a large rural farm and often go to the neighbors(she likes to watch them), so there is no lack of space. There were no hens nearby. Is this just an overly aggressive rooster or is there a way to fix this without butchering soon.

Lissa August 7th, 2014

Your roosters are going through “chicken puberty.” They will get more aggressive at 5 – 6 months old. If you don’t also keep hens nearby (where do you keep them?), there will be less for them to fight about certainly, but they will still need to establish their pecking order. That typically happens about this age, too. Or rather, there may be a tentative pecking order, but as the hormones come, some of your birds will want to test their place. It is not especially common to have serious injuries from fighting when there is plenty of space (and plenty of space at feeders, waterers, on roosts) and no hens around. However, it’s also possible to have a jerk of a rooster who doesn’t know when to quit. (Chickens can be jerks just like humans can be!). It’s not possible for me to know from here if this is just a normal pecking order thing, or if you have a bully, but confrontations should not usually end in serious injury in the situation you’ve described… unless there is another stressor. You might check them for external parasites like mites, or internal parasites like worms.

Faye October 18th, 2014

We got our first chickens in April of this year. They were about a week old when we purchased them. They are 3 beautiful bantams. Two of them turned out to be roosters. They are now about 6 months. We then hatched 8 other full-sized chickens (unsure of the breeds) in June. They are now about 4 months old. We discovered last week that 5 of our 4 month old chickens are in fact roosters. We knew they looked like roosters but I had tried my hand at feather sexing them when they were a few days old and thought they were all hens. I guess I need a bit more practice!! We knew for sure last week when they started crowing that I had made a mistake. Unfortunately, I don’t have any space to separate the roos (7 total) from the hens (4 total). They free range in my front yard during the day and all go into the coup together at night. The coup is an 8 X 8 building that my husband built. There’s really not enough space to add more hens (especially 10-12 per roo). They are getting along okay at the moment and I’m not seeing any pulled feathers or bare spots on any of them. I have seen a few scuffles, though. My biggest concern is that one of the big roosters is going to do some serious damage to my bantams if they start fighting. The bantams were raised in our house until they were 2 months old then moved outside to a large hutch (they free ranged during the day and went in the hutch overnight to protect them from predators) since they were still a bit small for the big coup. We raised the other chickens in our home for a month before moving them to the outside hutch. Once they started to outgrow the hutch, we moved the hutch into the coup so they’d still have the comfort of what they’d known but have the space of the coup if they wanted it. Of course, since they free range all day and only go in to perch at night, the coup is plenty big enough. We would love to keep all of our roosters but I’m really not sure that’s possible from everything that I’ve read. If anyone has any suggestions for solutions other than giving them away, please let me know. They have been raised together so maybe they’ll get along okay? However, I do feel bad that we only have 4 hens for 7 roosters and don’t want the hens to get overbred. I will greatly appreciate any help with this matter! Thank you and God bless!

Lissa October 21st, 2014

You will probably have some problems if you can’t come up with a solution to keep the extra roosters away from the hens. When they’re raised together, and depending on breed, they may not fight TOO mush between themselves, but remember that it’s not only a matter of direct damage from overbreeding. Your hens are going to be very stressed; stress can make them more vulnerable to illnesses, and can also reduce the number of eggs they lay. Low-pecking order roosters will sometimes hang out near the feeder to try to catch a hen unaware, so hens may eat less and lay less. They need MORE to make up for the damage to their feathers. Even when the roosters aren’t fighting that much, a hen can get in the way of the battle, when one is mating with her and another jumps him to try to claim that hen. It’s just not good flock mojo. You’ll have problems especially when it gets cold or snowy enough that everyone is trapped inside the coop… and then especially in the spring, too, when the drive to mate is at a high. Our recommendation would be to separate your extra roosters into a different enclosure, and locate that pen away from your main one.

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