Male fowl such as roosters, drakes, and toms can be a great addition to your flock. They offer great protection from predators and lead to clutches of adorable chicks every spring. Many areas will not allow roosters or other males because of the noise, but there are plenty of other factors to consider before adding a few extra boys to your flock. Here are a few problems to expect when you have a lot of male poultry, and tips on dealing with these additional challenges:
A lot of people avoid having too many roosters or other male poultry for one reason: to avoid the fighting. And it’s true that male fowl are very territorial and protective of their hens, and if you have more than one male, there are going to be some scuffles now and then. Fortunately, the fights aren’t as frequent as you might think if everyone has enough space.
We’ve had a lot of roosters over the years, and the main culprits seem to be two things: new faces and competition for space and food. Out of our current population of males, the ones that fight the least are the pair that were raised together. If you raise your flock from chicks, chances are the fighting will be reduced to a minimum. Because our flock is completely free range, our boys have the space needed to avoid one another if necessary. If I do see a fight, it’s usually over food. If you plan on keeping multiple males in your flock, make sure you account for the extra room they’ll need to keep everyone’s feathers unruffled.
Picking on Hens & Chicks
We’ve all heard of the pecking order, and unfortunately you’re going to see the concept in action in almost any flock. Be aware that having more than one male in your flock may lead to some additional pecking, especially as the boys try to establish who’s boss. If you plan on hatching chicks, keep them separate from the flock until they’re large enough to defend themselves, or make sure the hen raising them is willing to stand up against roosters who don’t want competition.
A note on drakes (male ducks): At one point we had four drakes in our flock. I do not recommend having more than two drakes per hen. These boys regularly grouped together and picked fights with the roosters, and would attack and sometimes try to drown our female chickens. Ducks seem to be much more flock-orientated than chickens and will stick together. When we got our number down to two drakes, the attacks dropped down immensely because they focused more on protecting their female.
I haven’t seen this happen too often, but occasionally a rooster will decide to smash an egg or two. This is for dominance reasons, and probably to eliminate the chance of another rooster’s offspring being hatched. Be on the lookout especially if you have more than one type of fowl in your flock (e.g. ducks as well as chickens.)
Thankfully this is a pretty rare occurrence for us, and the hens seem to avoid the problem themselves by simply finding a more secure place to lay their eggs. If you continually find smashed eggs, however, you can try separating your roosters from the hens, or giving the hens a specific and secure area for their nests. Well-enclosed nesting boxes that contain a decoy egg will help your ladies lay their eggs where you want them to.
Protecting the Flock from You
We have a tiny bantam rooster. His name is Ninja. This bird has left multiple pinprick scars on my ankles, and I’ll admit that I watch out for him far more often than I do our much larger fellows. Why? Ninja is protective of eggs. Every morning it’s a battle of stealth and diversion as I look for filled nests while trying to avoid and later dodge those tiny spurs.
If you have other pets, especially dogs and cats, be aware that roosters may decide to challenge them now and then. I had my dog come running into the house with those telltale pinpricks on her legs on a couple of occasions before she learned to avoid them. Don’t worry too much, though, because it looks like most roosters are more interested in chasing away a threat rather than causing actual harm.
The important thing for anyone who wants to avoid being chased out of their own backyard is to establish themselves at the top of the pecking order. Put on a sturdy pair of jeans and show those boys you won’t back down, and stand your ground until they lose interest. Eventually they’ll get the message.
Chicks, and lots of them!
Our ladies tend to go broody (sit on a nest) once or twice a year, anytime between May and July the warmest months in my region. If you have more than one male and don’t separate genders, chances are the majority of your females will be laying fertilized eggs. Most fowl will consolidate nests for protection purposes, so be prepared for some adorable mixed breeds and multi-parent clutches. We’ve even had a couple of instances of ducklings being raised by chickens and turkeys!