January 9, 2012

Last Rooster Standing

It is with great relief that I can say we're finally down to only one rooster. This was the second batch of chicks we've raised, but I have to say that the two experiences were vastly different.

Our first chicks were of mixed breeds: Delawares, Ameraucanas, Welsummers, and Barred Hollands. Out of 24, we ended up with 13 roosters. Almost all of those were either scardy cats or greedy guts; they either ran away at the first loud noise, or else they pushed every other chicken out of the way and gobbled down all of the feed. There was only one that actually took up what I would call roostering, i.e. keeping an eye out for the hens and finding them things to eat. He was obviously the one to keep at the time.


Out of this year's batch of 18 chicks we had ended up with 14 survivors. Eight of these were roosters. They were different for several reasons: all but one was the same breed (Buff Orpington), were hen raised, and had an adult rooster already on the premises. A rooster that chased them all over the place, I might add. The biggest difference however, is that with our first batch, it was every rooster for himself. They all competed with one another for the food and the hens. These however, banded together as a pack. They would forage together with one keeping watch and giving warning if I walked around the corner. They would chase, corner, and jump the hens. One would pin her down while the others all pecked at her head.

All of this caused no little upset in my original flock, especially once Lord B was gone. Mama Welsummer had a place in the new pecking order, but the other Wellie and Barred Holland refused to leave the coop. The Ameraucana sisters vacated it altogether, taking up residence in the garden tool room of the coal barn.


I realized part of what was going on was because we already had a flock rooster. I assumed once he was gone however, things would settle down and another would naturally take his place. That wasn't the case. There were changes in the cockerels' social structure as we thinned their numbers, but none became any more attached to the pullets and hens than any other. They were their own team.

I watched them carefully over the days, trying to figure out which rooster would be the best one to keep. At first I looked for the characteristics that make a for a good flock roo. As we thinned them out however, I realized that the next guy in the pecking order simply moved up, and nothing else really changed. In the end, I chose this guy....


... not so much based on personality characteristics, but for some reason, he didn't hang out with the other Buff Orpingtons as much. In fact, he could often be found with with my older hens. They in turn, kept a wary eye on him, but didn't run in terror every time they saw him. I even saw him try to sweet talk one of the older gals one time, with some tidbit in his beak. I figured if I kept this guy, he would eventually be accepted by all the hens, and I might have a chance of restoring peace in my chicken yard. In addition, he was one of the largest cockerels, which is a quality to pass on to offspring.


With only one roo, the chicken yard was immediately quieter and calmer. Since there's less roosters now, there's less crowing in general, but even on his own, this one doesn't seem to crow as much as Lord B did. Nor is he constantly "talking." With no other roos around, the chosen one has no competition and no one else to hang out with (nor run away from), but the hens. Initially he spent more time with the older girls, but gradually migrated toward the Buffs.


Now that things have settled down, he tends to stick with the Buffs. All the chickens spend the night in the coop (the Ameraucanas consented to come back), but it's still as though we have two flocks. Lord Buff will chase the older gals back into the coop if they try to come out into the yard, though he doesn't harass them like the other cockerels did.


About the only original hen who is happy with the new set-up is Lady B, my original Barred Holland hen. She was at the absolute bottom of the original pecking order. She was picked on terribly to the point of having most of her feathers pulled out. Now, she's closer to the top, over most of the Buff pullets. She's a happy camper.

I'd like to think that things will eventually work out. Perhaps they will. At least things have settled down in the chicken yard.

28 comments:

Mandy said...

I'm glad things have calmed down and I sure hope this rooster turns out to be a good one for you.

Alla said...

He looks mighty handsome and enormous. Hopefully he will breed some big chicks.

Woolly Bits said...

I wouldn't have thought that this can be so difficult! on the other hand - try to put together 30 people into close confinement - and watch what they do to get to the top etc.:))
I hope you'll get the chicks to behave - though I have to say that your previous "boss" in the coop looked prettier (don't tell the new boss though:))

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

It's interesting how the chicken react to every situation.
The new Boss has a nice stride, seems he's quite confident...At least all if quiet now in the yard.

Renee Nefe said...

who knew that there would be so much work to chicken politics?
I sure hope that Lord Buff works out for you and that you have a new batch of chicks soon.
I should ask my local friends with chickens if they're having the same issues. I know the one has told us of her fox problems...they had a mother and her kits living nearby who had decided that her chicken yard would be perfect for feeding her brood. Animal control took care of them for her.

Ngo Family Farm said...

Oh, so much chicken drama! It sounds like you're helping them get it sorted out, though :) I think your observations were spot on, and hopefully now that work will pay off. And I bet you'll have a much easier time figuring out what to do in the future.
-Jaime

Leigh said...

Mandy, gosh I certainly hope so.

Alla, he's a big 'un. We still have to see how well we like the Buffs. Time will tell.

Bettina, you certainly wouldn't think so! I have to agree that Lord B was a handsomer rooster. Actually, he was an excellent rooster, except for his intolerance of new chickens. I just hope Lord Buff didn't "learn" that trait from him.

Ginny, who would have thought they'd all be so different? I reckon time will tell how everything works out.

Renee, agree, who knew! I'd be curious as to your friends' experiences. We're going into our 3rd year raising chickens, but haven't run out of things to learn yet.

Jaime, keeps things interesting! So many factors to influence the dynamics. Never a dull moment!

badgerpendous said...

I don't envy your chicken issues, but if anyone will make it work, that's you!

Here in the suburbs, roosters are illegal. So imagine my surprise when I heard a rooster yesterday! I was helping my neighbor relocate his coop to a different part of his yard and we both turned around said "did you hear that?"

Might have to take a walk around the block and see if I can meet our new chickeny neighbors...

Nina said...

Chicken politics are something to behold! I'd love to try to mix our two flocks - the old layers and the young ones. However until I get rid of the two or three old girls who are feather peckers, I don't want to risk it. They just aren't as nice as the others. It's funny though. We have 3 different breeds and they have very different breed personalities. Different enough that when I toss down several treats, they will often migrate into their own breed groups!
We don't have a rooster though. Our only roos get sent to the processor in the spring time. I find it amazing watching the girls out there as several of the hens keep an eye out for dangers, although it's generally each for themselves when it comes to tasty bits. They do cooperate to get the food from the bird feeder though. Several will take turns jumping up and bumping the feeder while the rest eat the sprinkled bird seed.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Wow, what a fiasco you've been living through! I'm sure happy for you to have the chicken yard under control and they all seem quite content now. I had no idea that buff roosters had a "stubby" tail, not a long lovely flowing one. He's a big guy though, and stands tall and seems quite proud of himself to be the last one standing!

Theresa said...

Good grief, it's like a soap opera,As the Coop Turns or maybe General Coop! :) Sorry, I just had to pullet... Good luck, better you than me
with all those chickens. They don't call it pecking order for nothing!

Leigh said...

Badgerpendous, I'm guessing the whole neighborhood heard it! I'm guessing they won't have a rooster for long.

Nina, it would make a fascinating study, wouldn't it? Pretty neat about your girls and the bird feeder. I wish we could have kept the two flocks, but I think there would have been crowing wars, even if they'd been separated.

Janice, he's young yet and so should grow out a regular rooster tail. The other Buff cockerels were just starting to grow theirs. From what I've seen of the breed, he should get a lot broader in the chest eventually too.

Theresa, ha, ha, gosh we might as well laugh! ;) It's true, the pecking order is so very real. Amazes me sometimes actually.

Anonymous said...

Love your rooster tail!! I parted ways with our last rooster--when he wouldn't stop chasing me all over the yard! It was funny when he chased everyone else--but he crossed the line when he took after me!
Stacey
www.downtoearthdigs.wordpress.com

Susan said...

Boy, roosters are tough (pardon the pun). I have been lucky with my last two - both are mild-mannered and very wary of me. Only had a blood-thirsty rooster once and that was one time too many! I have a beautiful Barnevelder rooster now (Kees) who is everything I would want in a rooster. I hope he lives forever.

Stephanie said...

Wow, didn't realize there could be so much to go into figuring it all out. Thanks for the lesson and I am glad things are settling down:)

Allison said...

Wow - 8 roosters! I feel like they may have been making quite the racket! I just found your blog, and it's so sweet. We have 6 acres, so I feel some camaraderie. We have 6 hens, but no roosters. Our neighbors are too close. I'll be reading your blog from now on:)

Allison homesprout.typad.com

Leigh said...

Stacey, thank you for your visit and comment! I agree about that rooster crossing the line. They can be ornery!

Susan, what a blessing to have a good rooster! I'm hoping our new guy turns out to be a keeper.

Stephanie, it's the kind of thing you learn based on your experience!

Allison, welcome and thank you for your comment. We have close neighbors too, which is why I needed to calm down the crowing! Fortunately our neighbors say they don't mind. :)

Jody said...

Did you ever think you'd know so much and be so concerned about a bunch of chickens? How satisfying!

amigo2be said...

Chickens are definately the funniest animals on their totem pole climbing!
I am glad your chickens have found some sort of peace for the time being. My Dad used to say too many cocks belong in a stew pot!

I am a new follower Liegh! I look forward to more of your blogs, LOVE your garden journal!

Neal and Laura said...

Maybe we aren't around our chickens as much as you are yours, but I haven't noticed our roosters being too feisty. At the moment we have 2 roosters - one being a cute little feather-footed bantam who thinks he's something big. I laugh sometimes when he crows.

Aren't chickens so interesting!?

We probably wouldn't have any roosters around right now, except that we hope to have eggs in the spring hatched on the farm!

Tina T-P said...

Ah, the politics of the chickens - they can be sooo mean to each other - pecking order is one of the most descriptive terms - it really does mean pecking! Good job with keeping Mr. Buff - he's a handsome one! T.

Akannie said...

I have Buff Orps too...and Australorps. No roosters though...We bought our chicks and made sure we got all females. Last time we had one of those ornery bloodthirsty roos...it was hard to handle. I (I want them all to love me--waahhhh)

I do miss the crowing, but I hated watching the hen abuse. They are absolutely brutal...at least it looks brutal to me. A loot could be learned from the hens...shake it off and get back to work. lol

Leigh said...

Jody, isn't amazing the roads life leads us down!

Amigo2be, thank you! And your dad was right about those roosters!

Neal & Laura, it is amazing that there is such a wide variety of personality amongst chickens. I've heard from some people that roosters can get along, and indeed, I think I could have easily kept 2 of the Buffs with no problem. Besides the extra crowing which would be inevitable, I think 2 would have been too many for the number of hens we have. 1 rooster per 10 hens or so seems to be about right, giving the ladies a break because of their numbers. :) And! You will love hatching your own chicks!

Tina, that is so true. We want them all to get along because I think we want to think that nature is naturally peaceful. Not!

Akannie, well, if this guy turns out that way, there's a stew pot waiting for him too. I have to say that this guy is less romantic in his approach to the ladies, than our 1st roo. And hopefully we have enough hens to give them a slower pace in the action!

Nina

Adesazz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leigh said...

Adesazz, I confess, your comment puzzles me. Are you saying this the last post you find when you visit my blog? I'm publishing a new blog post about every 2 days, so there's been 9 posts since this one. Maybe clear your cache, or am I misunderstanding????

Adesazz said...

Doh! Please ignore that! Gosh I can be dense...

Leigh said...

No problem, LOL

Facebook Application said...

I do miss the crowing, but I hated watching the hen abuse. They are absolutely brutal...at least it looks brutal to me.