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.
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.
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!