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Since this blog’s inception, I’ve brought up ratios of hens to roosters many times. But depending on which website you visit, and whether you’re wanting chicks, there are conflicting proportions. So today, I’ll officially answer how many hens should you have per rooster. Further, we’ll also explore chicken mating, and possible problems associated with it.
I’ve seen ratios anywhere from 6 hens per rooster to double digits. Plus, the literature indicates some breeds mate more aggressively than others. However, when I tried to find out which breeds exactly, only aggressive chicken breeds showed up; not aggressive mating chicken breeds.
How Many Hens Should You have per Rooster
The smallest proportion I read of implied that you could safely have one rooster with 2 to 3 hens, if you so choose. Although the quotation specifically highlighted that the birds were adults, not juveniles.
Though I disagree with this quota for a few reasons:
- First, chickens are considered adolescents until they reach ~ 17 weeks.
It’s at this point that backyard birds become sexually mature, which means they can breed, start to lay eggs if hens, or fertilize them if roosters.
I have had 5 real roosters, since the first 9 didn’t count. And all of them, including the adult males, tread hard on the gals until the boys are around 3 or 4 years old.
For instance, Casanova, our first real roo, just started to be gentle before he died at ~ 3 years old. I imagine he was gentle because he was older and lighter; not because he was an adult. (He was the smallest rooster, and probably chicken, we had.)
And now my current senior rooster, Megatron, has slowed down considerably since I first got him. He is now over 5 years old, and in the past couple of years, he has become a more gentle lover to his girls.
But it’s at this specific age that a rooster’s chances of fertility decreases.
- And lastly, I have over 30 adult hens, ~ 8 juvenile hens, and 2 adult roosters, one whom I informed you has slowed down.
So Megatron’s son, Tiny Nuts, who is around 1 – 2 years old is the main roo servicing the gals. And he has currently torn up maybe 10 hens’ backs; all in different conditions. Some with a few feathers out, some with a lot of feathers out. And some hens with back and head feathers out. All by himself, while he has mostly 30 hens to himself. And we’re supposed to believe that this adult is considered gentle? Yeah, I’m not buying it either.
Before I answer the main question, I’m going to dissect the courtship of chicken romance. It’s certainly different than human romance.
Cockerels first ready to mate are all over the place, running hither and yon from one hen to the next, all because they’re trying to sneak some nookie in behind the boss’s back. And they’re uncoordinated, rough, and generally look like they don’t know what they’re doing. Plus, the girls are all taken by surprise. And some of the hens are older than those boys and don’t want to be ridden by another roo.
However, as the cockerels mature into adults, they pick up some tricks to wooing the hens. They include
This is where the rooster will find a treat and make the look, look, look noise to attract a hen, all in the hopes of garnering her favor.
- and dancing
Most people are familiar with the rooster dance. And it’s where the rooster drops one wing to the ground as he shuffles around the hen whom he’s interested in. Typically at the end of the dance he’ll try to mate with her.
Although some roosters aren’t interested in performing any tricks to woo the hens. They’re all business and just take charge. Casanova was really good about wooing the hens; I like to think it was because he was so small, and so needed to make a good impression. And Tiny Nuts is good about wooing. But that could be due to him being the bottom roo. On the other hand, Megatron could care less about that kind of stuff. He’s the boss.
Consider this a biology lesson in chicken procreation. But I’m sure it’s nothing you’ve never seen before. And generally chicken sex is fast, lasting no longer than a few seconds.
Typically, in a willing partner, the rooster will go up to the hen, and she will squat for him. Then he will grasp her neck feathers with his beak as he climbs onto her back, balancing himself with his feet. This act is referred to as treading. Roosters have no outward appendages; everything is internal. So both of their cloacas must touch in order for him to transfer his sperm, in what is known as the cloacal kiss. And once they are finished, both shake themselves. Plus, he doesn’t thank her for her time, give her a kiss, or even a backward glance before he’s on toward the next possible hen.
In addition, rooster’s sperm can last about 2 weeks inside of one hen. And if she’s a healthy hen that lays daily, that should equal about 14 fertilized eggs. But it takes about 25 hours for the sperm to fertilize the next egg in the hen’s body. Also, interestingly enough, hens can store sperm from more than one rooster at a time. And a single rooster can mate up to 30x a day, producing as much as 35,000 sperm every second of his life, which is 40x more sperm than a human male.
Potential Problems with Chicken Mating
I already explained what it looks like with sexually mature cockerels. But if you have several, it will look like chicken gang rape, I kid you not. And the boss rooster won’t be able to control it. He may even join in to show his dominance, however the gals are the ones to suffer. That’s what Casanova did with every one of his 7 sons the first time we incubated eggs. I guess, he decided, if he couldn’t beat them, he’d join them.
Other signs of mating issues include
- missing back feathers on hens’ backs
- missing neck feathers from hens’ necks
- skin lacerations where feathers are missing
- and fights consistently breaking out between roosters
If you see any of the above, then it’s time to do something about your chicken mating situation.
Ok, So, How Many Hens Should You have per Rooster
All right, so having only 2 to 3 hens per rooster is not feasible, because we learned that even though roosters are considered adults after their first molt (~ 1 year old), they don’t settle down until they’re around 2 or 3 years old. That’s when they mellow with the ladies and start treating them right. At least that’s been my observation with all of my roosters: a small Cream Legbar and all of my Ameraucana and Easter Egger roosters, all of whom are considered docile.
Therefore, if you’re seeing any issues with your hens then
- put a limit on the number of roosters
Roosters are highly virulent until they reach ~ 3 to 5 years of age, which means they may mate aggressively until they start to slow down. They don’t even have to be an aggressive breed: case in point, my roosters. None of mine are considered aggressive breeds. Yet they still tear up my hens, no matter how many I have available for them.
So what’s the magical number? I personally think 6 is too small. Your hens will get damaged with 1 rooster per 6 hens apiece. Therefore, the more the merrier, if you can spare them. However, if you’re wanting to specifically breed your birds, then it’s recommended to have 10 hens per rooster, in order to maintain fertility.
- separate the injured hens
Any hens with lacerations should be kept out of the breeding pool until they have healed. And apply Vetericyn or Gentian Violet Spray .5% daily. Plus, once they’re better, and feathers have started to grow, place a chicken saddle on their backs to prevent any more issues.
Many sites recommend putting the saddles on before the hens have healed. Though I noticed the feathers on our hens never grew back unless and until the saddles were off. Thus, the separation of the rooster(s) and injured hen(s).
- isolate the roosters until needed for breeding
If you’re wanting fertilized eggs, or to breed your flock, keep your roosters separate from your hens in a distinct enclosure. In this way your hens won’t be misused.
We learned that roosters are highly virulent, and therefore, mate aggressively until they’re about 3 years old. And because of that, it’s best to have at least 10 hens per rooster if you’re breeding them. Less than that, the roosters will definitely injure your hens with feathers torn out and back lacerations. Furthermore, we learned all about chicken romance and mating. And also that if there aren’t enough hens per rooster, not only will the hens be at risk for injury, but the roosters will constantly fight.
How many hens do you have for your roosters? And how do they get along? Your comments are appreciated.
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