Rooster Aggression (9/16/13)
Well, we have tried working with several roosters. They came by default since some of the ‘female’ chicks we’ve raised have turned out that way. We had to get rid of the first two because they would attack the grandkids when they visited. Sorry, we are not going to have any roosters doing that.
As we added chicks from year to year to replace others lost (we have about 12-15 at any one time), we gradually moved towards breeds that were noted to be more mild. We eventually ended up with a rooster that was really mild and friendly towards us and the kids – and really colorful to boot.
However, as time went along, we noticed that all the hens ran from him. At first, we thought it was the natural response we had seen with all the roosters. Then, we began to notice that many of the hens were missing feathers on the top of their back. At first, we thought it was molting season. Then, as we watched, we saw that the rooster was being especially rough in holding them and pulling the feathers out.
A rooster does lead the hens somewhat to food they find and send a warning if they see a hawk. They crow (to some, fun; to others and neighbors, a potential pain) and, of course, fertilize eggs.
However, there is no nutritional advantage to fertilized eggs that we have found. The hens seem to do quite well (often better) without a rooster. Unless someone wants to grow chicks, we saw no advantages – and some unacceptable disadvantages – to having a rooster. As for us, we’ll get our own chicks from the farm store.
Fortunately, we are in a place where we are able to have done both – and there are advantages, disadvantages and responsibilities to both!
- a coop (only one around with a stained glass window – a left over from antiquing days),
- a secured area of wire fence and top (hawks) of about 800 square feet,
- a larger area with wire fence only of about 5000 square feet,
- a garden and free range area of a few acres,
- and ok neighbors.
Free Ranging: We started out, once they were big enough, letting them free range. It was really enjoyable to see them make the rounds, occasionally talk to them and throw them something. Seeing them dig and eat bugs, slugs and snails (we are in wet winter Oregon was also fun.
Hawks were a problem and we lost 3 of them to hawks. Nothing we tried seemed to work in keeping the hawks away – until some crows showed up! They, obviously, made a nest somewhere nearby. We started seeing the crows dive-bombing the hawks every time they showed up until we could begin to see the hawks make a wide berth around our place as they cruised by. Best hawk defense around.
Unfortunately, as the winter progressed and spring approached, we began to notice some problems. We had already figured out that the garden was a no-go for the chickens. They would tear up (and eat) too many things that we did not want them to. That was an easy solution since we have an 8’ deer fence around it. We just closed the gate.
However, we also have a pretty large flower garden a couple hundred feet wrapping around our house. It was turning into a disaster! The cute hunting and pecking had turned into shredding and digging holes. Come springtime, we had to decide to not let them free range any more (though we had not needed to use slug bait in the flower garden all year).
Shut in: Of course, even shut in, they had more room than most chickens would – and we would take them left over table/veggie scraps and meat pickings when available. It took them to stop complaining about not getting out, but that settled down.
After a year of shut in, we began to notice a little bit of change in the eggs. They were the most firm and brilliant colored yolks around. Now, they were still much better than store eggs, but it occurred to us that they were not quite as firm and yellow as when completely free ranging.
Currently: We think there is a balance that we will be able to find. The garden is still out (we have asparagus beds and other root crops). But, we are going to try letting them free range over the rest of the property. We will alternate days on and off during the part of the year were we are not planting new flower. After a while, we think they will get used to the idea that they are not going out every day and be content with their allotted area.
We’ll keep you posted.