It happens all the time: those cute little chicks suddenly become little monsters, crowing all day (and night!) and picking fights with each other, the hens, and your feet. Keeping more than one rooster in your flock while maintaining the peace is possible, but it is not always the best idea for all flocks. Like some newbie chicken owners, I experienced this the hard way.
I once introduced a sweet silkie cockerel to my flock, which comprised of fifteen mixed hens and one Dutch rooster. Everyone seemed to get along fine for a while, but post-adolescence, that silkie became more and more dominant, almost pushy, with the hens and the Dutch rooster. I should have noticed the warning signs and separated them immediately, but I got a serious wakeup call one morning when a fight broke out! Luckily, no one was seriously injured (besides the Dutch’s wounded pride). In the end, I realized my mistake and chose to rehome the silkie, keeping only one rooster with my flock.
The ability to safely house more than one rooster is dependent on the size of your flock and the size of available space, and as I learned, my situation was just not ideal. In general, it’s best to keep one rooster for every seven to ten hens.
Rooster Traits To Keep In Mind
Before bringing in more than one rooster to your flock, it’s important to keep in mind some rooster traits that make them very different from hens.
It should go without saying, but I was still surprised when I witnessed my first “crow-off” with several roosters at once: these guys are loud! And what’s more, multiple roosters set each other off, so they crow more often. Mine like to crow whenever I come home, no matter what time of the day or night that is. Even in areas where you may keep roosters, a noise complaint can mean giving up your chickens.
Roosters have a temperament that is very different from hens. They tend to be more active, more aloof, and most famously, more aggressive. This aggressive streak stems from their instinct to protect their harem of hens, and they are quite good at it. Roosters are courageous enough to attack animals much bigger than themselves without hesitation, including us. While this behavior may seem funny at first when they’re still young, do not underestimate them! They may be birds, but even bantam roosters can cause painful damage. Their beaks can hurt, and their sharp, bony spurs can break skin and are wielded with skill. Small children are especially at risk of getting hurt by an over-protective rooster.
A rooster’s aggressive nature does have a good side, however. A protective male or two can be a formidable force when defending the flock against predators. My Dutch certainly didn’t have a problem attacking a sizeable garter snake that once got too close to the hens.
Because of their nature, not every farm is the right place to house more than one male with hens. Below are some places that may not be appropriate for keeping multiple roosters:
- Urban areas
- Homes with small children
- Small, enclosed coops
- Flocks kept for egg production
Some flocks, however, can have more than one rooster safely. In order to keep more than one rooster, certain conditions should be met to prevent any problems from getting out of hand. In short, enough hens, space, and food must be provided. Here are some places that are suitable to keeping multiple roosters:
- Free-range flocks with large, open spaces (flocks with roosters require much more than the minimum space)
- Flocks of at least twenty hens
- Owners who wish to breed with more than one rooster
- Farms with multiple coops
- All-male flocks with no hens
While all roosters have the potential to become overly-aggressive and loud, some breeds tend to have a feistier disposition than others. If you choose to keep multiple roosters in your flock, here are some breeds with a bad reputation that you may want to avoid, keep separate, or just be more careful with:
- Game breeds
- Jungle fowl
- Rhode Island Reds
- Aracaunas and other Easter-Eggers
Below are some of the more docile roosters that have a better reputation for flocking together with hens:
- Buff Orpington
- Silkie (though not in my limited experience)
- Plymouth Rock
Several common pitfalls can happen when keeping multiple roosters together. Overcrowding certainly influences and aggravates these problems. Keep in mind, these problems can appear suddenly, even with roosters that are related or were raised together.
Excessive Crowing: All roosters crow, it is a part of healthy territorial behavior. When multiple roosters are kept together, however, this natural noisy behavior can get out of control.
Fighting: There’s no way around it. Roosters can and will fight in the presence of hens. Sometimes it’s just a small scuffle; other times it’s a vicious and deadly battle. Vigilance is important, because these tough guys are unpredictable, and two roosters who seem to get along fine one day can duel it out the next.
Overbreeding: Overbred, harassed hens do not make good layers, and the stress may make them cease laying eggs completely. This problem usually stems from either too many roosters or not enough hens. If your hens are showing signs of stress such as plucked feathers, a decline in egg production, and roosting away from the males, consider decreasing the number of roosters or just separating them from the females to give the hens a break. The hens usually recover very quickly, and without hens, the roosters should get along fine.
If your farm is not the best choice for keeping more than one rooster, or any roosters at all, it’s a good idea to order sexed-female chicks, pullets, or adult hens rather than straight-run chicks or eggs, which have a mix of males and females. Avoiding the chance of roosters can save you a headache, as it can be difficult to find cockerels and roosters new homes.
Even the ideal setting, some individual roosters may just be too aggressive, or two males may just not get along for some reason. More patience and vigilance is certainly required when keeping more than one rooster together. If the peace can be maintained, however, multiple roosters can help keep predators at bay and introduce more diversity to your flock.