When you go to buy baby chicks you may be tempted to buy little chicken families with one happy chicken mom and one happy chicken dad. You are imagining them starting a nice family in your backyard, establishing a coop, and eventually building on and having happy little chick families. However, it’s important to remember that chicken relationships don’t operate the same as humans and that too many roosters can be devastating to your coop. How many are too many? It depends.
If all you want is your own little egg factory in your backyard, you don’t really need roosters.
Chickens will lay eggs without roosters but the eggs won’t be fertilized. This means they won’t hatch into little baby chicks no matter how long you wait and pray (although miracles can happen). Roosters can add an element of predator protection to the flock since a good rooster will watch the skies for hawks, eagles, owls, etc and alert the hens in his flock when danger is nearby. Sometimes he will even try to fend predators off and sometimes he thinks you are a predator, which leads to cursing, flapping wings, and a delicious Sunday stew.
If you want to hatch your own baby chicks, you will definitely need a rooster to fertilize the eggs.
So, if you just want eggs, you don’t need a rooster. If you want to hatch baby chicks or have the romance of a crowing rooster waking you up at 5 a.m. (the romance quickly wears off), read on.
Chickens were designed to be eaten. They are prey to just about everything that flaps, crawls, or creeps around your homestead. Because God (in my opinion) knew this, he custom built the chicken to reproduce quickly, thereby allowing the species to survive even though they are nature’s buffet. This means that chickens have a very open relationship and are not in any way ethically opposed to polygamy.
An average sized rooster can handle 10 – 12 average sized hens and so the ideal rooster:hen ration is 12:1 to 10:1.
It depends on the age of the rooster. As the rooster ages, so does his ability to reproduce (and they don’t make Cialis for chickens). If you have Bantam size chickens – like Silkies (The term bantam refers to a small sized chicken), you may have more roosters per hen, somewhere around a 8:1 ratio.
While that boils it down pretty simply, sometimes you end up with more roosters than you thought you were going to. We have a 90% accuracy rate when we sex our chicks so it’s possible that even though you ordered all hens, one will turn out to be a rooster (we sex thousands of chicks on hatching day and some just slip through). Or if you order just one rooster, you may still end up with two. It’s not a bad thing to start out with several roosters but if you only end up with 13 hens and 2 roosters (our minimum order is 15), you may need to “whack” one (mafia lingo) or “cull” one (farmer lingo). There are benefits to having two or more roosters grow up together. See which one has better leadership and is more predator savvy. See which one doesn’t try to kill you every time you venture into the coop. Put them through a testing phase then cull the one that doesn’t meet your standards. Or buy more hens and let the roosters find their favorite hens which will lead to two different flocks (called harems – seriously, I’m not joking). If you are raising offspring to start your chicken bloodline, it’s especially important to cull the roosters with undesirable traits. You don’t want those traits being passed on to your chicks.
What happens if I keep all my roosters?
If you have too many roosters, the hens will suffer.
Remember, chickens are good at reproducing. To mate, roosters grab the feathers on the head of the hen, pull themselves up on top of her, and lift the tail feathers with their feet, exposing the parts that need to be fitted together to make everything happen correctly. If you have the correct rooster:hen ratio, the hens won’t get mated enough to cause damage. If you have too many roosters, however, the hens will be mated too often which will result in loss of feathers on the head and saddle area. This could result in blood which would result in pecking from other chickens, which can easily lead to death. Not to mention, extremely unhappy, unhealthy, stressed hens which don’t lay eggs well.
Interestingly enough, having three roosters is better than having two.
If you have two, they will pick fights with each other as they strive for dominance. If you have three, two can’t pick on each other two long before the third gets involved and breaks things up.
Rooster personalities can differ greatly so this is not a cut and dried recipe for the number of roosters you need, but it is a good general guideline to go by when deciding how many roosters you need.
Hope that helps! Yours in poultry,
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