What to do with roosters

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This will be my first year with a small flock of chickens. I have ordered 30 straight run chickens, of 3 breeds. The plan, of course, is to eat the roosters and keep the hens for eggs. My confusion lies in the roosters. I have read that by about 6 to 8 weeks of age they get a bit feisty and can start fighting with each other. Never mind the problem of about 15 roosters to 15 hens!!! (In theory, anyway) So - do I have to kill all the roosters at the same time? I was hoping to enjoy their company for longer than 8 weeks!! Do I need to put the roosters in a separate pen? How many can I keep in with the hens? I do want to keep a couple of the nicest roosters for future chick production.

Thanks for your chicken wisdom!

-- J Flynn (flynn4@netzero.com), February 22, 2002


When they are all raised together like that, you do not immediately have the same kinds of problems you would have by putting grown roosters together. You will notice them at maybe a few weeks old start to have play fights. By the time they are big enough for real fights, the pecking order is fairly well established. About the time they start crowing and chasing the girls, though, you will want to either start thinning them out, or separate some out. I like to keep a few long enough to watch their personalities develop. Some will be mean as heck, while others will be gentle. No need to keep a rooster that will fly in your face if you've got a gentle one. (And no need, really, to keep one at all if you do not want fertile eggs. If you do, I'd keep one or two. Two is insurance, in case a predator gets one. Or in case one gets mean later.)

-- mary (marylgarcia@aol.com), February 22, 2002.

We had around 6 roosters over the winter and didn't have a problem with any of them fighting. One was 2 years old and the others were 8 months old.

-- Jay (candlebn@maxminn.com), February 22, 2002.

This may not be true of all roosters, but the older ours are when they are killed, the tougher they are. You might consider killing them a few at a time when they get of a size you like and freezing or canning them.

-- Mona in OK (modoc@ipa.net), February 22, 2002.

If you kill the roosters as they get big enough, you will be automatically selecting AGAINST large, fast-growing roosters; and giving the scrawny slow-growers the inside running. In fact, a good rule-of-thumb with eating-stock is to eat the ones you don't want to eat, and keep the ones whose great-grandchildren you'd like to eat.

If you get some large, fast-growing roosters, keep a few for a while until their personality develops, and keep the best (friendliest) three of those. Five wives a rooster is enough to keep the roosters busy, with even low cock on the totem pole getting a few opportunities. Also gives you a built-in spare or two - if pushed, one rooster can just about keep up with fifteen hens, although he'd be panting.

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), February 22, 2002.

We too ordered straight run chickens last year. We have had chickens before so knew from experience that they don't fight as much if the woemen are not around to fight over. We seperated out 10 of the 15 and put them to work under the fruit trees in the orchard, to help kill any lifecycles of bugs in dropped fruit. They didn't fight much at all. The last 5 fought every day. We figured out which was the nicest (didn't attack us or the child) and butchered the rest. Unfortunately, in their fighting over the hens, the hens came out the loosers. One would try to mate and then the rest would gang up and try too. Our hens all lost the feathers on their heads and backs and are still trying to recover 3 months later. Never again! I don't know if it is because they are Austrolorps as I don't remember having a problem before with a mixed batch of chickens. We too wanted to butcher 5 or 6 at a time, and of course had to wait for days off work and good weather, etc. Next time, I will separate the boys right away (as soon as I know they are boys) and keep them separate! Good luck! Darlene

-- Darlene in W WA (tomdarsavy@cs.com), February 23, 2002.

My four roosters got along fine up until the time that I moved three out into their own coop. (They were giving the three hens a rough time) Now the three outside get along fine except for the lowest in their pecking order, who runs whenever he sees the other two. They are around five months old now. If you plan on eating your roosters, then I wouldn't advise enjoying their company for any length of time. Think of them purely as meat animals, otherwise you may become too attached to them to do the deed.

-- Molly (nightdrgn@aol.com), March 21, 2002.

The only time I had any trouble with fighting was when I ended up with 30 roosters at once. The meanest ones got the ax first. We still have the most gentle one that was the last one left. He's a bit feistier now - he's 4 yrs old - but my daugter can still pick him up & carry him around like a baby.

-- Bonnie (stichart@plix.com), March 21, 2002.

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