By Lauren Cole.
Lauren is an Animal Care Technician at Marin Humane where she loves socializing with all the feathered friends who arrive at the shelter.
Bachelor flocks – flocks of only roosters – have increased in popularity as rooster overpopulation has risen. Because roosters are banned in many cities, shelters see great numbers surrendered as more people get backyard hens – the shelter I work at included. I integrate our roosters so we can house more in our small barn.
Many things help a rooster group remain pals. Overall, the goal is to make sure each rooster has enough of the essentials – food, water, shelter, enrichment – that he does not feel he needs to fight others for them. Click on the image below for more information. Because territoriality is common, and because of associations some have with roosters, like cock-fighting, many think they cannot get along. But with proper management, a variety of rooster personalities can happily coexist.
Before that, you need successful introductions! Doing this has its challenges, but is very possible. Roosters are all individuals, and differ in their tolerance of others. Early on, I knew only basics about introductions. I learned the most from my actual experiences at work observing rooster behavior and seeing how different individuals responded.
I vary my technique depending on who I’m dealing with, but always begin by minimizing territorial conflicts. Since the rooster whose territory is being “invaded” is often likely to initiate aggression, I put them in a small x-pen so the newbie can be there without the original bird immediately defending his territory. One experience comes to mind because I used the above tried-and-true technique, but had to switch things up due to the ever-present variable of big rooster personalities.
I wanted to introduce our leghorn boy, Napoleon, to two brothers, Blackberry and Pineapple. I corralled the brothers with an x-pen in a corner of their yard, then caught Napoleon and placed him in view of the other birds. The two boys watched Napoleon, but remained calm. Napoleon, however, began a long, low, warble – rather like an avian growl – and immediately approached the pen. He sidled up and pecked manically at the ground, eyeing the others the entire time. He fanned his wing down to appear larger, and danced before a nonplussed Blackberry and Pineapple. He repeatedly returned to the pen to posture until Blackberry, unable to flee, offered the same body language back. Since Napoleon hadn’t calmed when I needed to leave, I was uncomfortable leaving them alone unsupervised, so he went back to his old enclosure.
The next day, I tried again. Encouraged by Pineapple and Blackberry’s minimal response, I thought I might still succeed. Even though I was using Blackberry and Pineapple’s stall, Napoleon was more aggressive, so I put him in the x-pen instead. He began posturing when he saw the others, but they ignored him and chose to cross the yard. Even Blackberry, who was aggressive when trapped, preferred to stay far from the new bird.
This allowed Napoleon a chance to calm, scratch around, and eat. When Blackberry and Pineapple were in the x-pen, Napoleon was able to approach and be constantly near them. However, this new set up allowed him to be in their presence while they maintained a distance he was comfortable with. Once he stopped posturing, I felt it was safe enough to remove the pen. Blackberry and Pineapple continued ignoring him, so he didn’t feel challenged, and a group of two became three! Once they were united, I checked on them throughout the day to make sure all was well.
The most important thing when creating bachelor flocks is to keep in mind that every rooster is unique, and what works for one individual might not work for another. Being able to tailor your technique to suit the roosters in front of you will lead to many successful introductions! If you are zoned for roosters, consider embarking upon this fun, rewarding journey and welcoming home a bachelor flock!
Did you know?
Hackles are the feathers around the neck of a chicken. They look different based on the sex of the chicken. Hens have rounder hackles, whereas roosters have longer, thinner, and pointier ones.
When a chicken wants to intimidate another chicken, all their hackles will stand up in order to make herself look larger. This is particularly noticeable when they are establishing the pecking order or face off an opponent in a fight.