“Mean” Roosters – Why We Keep Them Anyway

Our experience with aggressive roosters started just two years into our great chicken adventure. We ordered all pullets from a hatchery for our first chickens, but we quickly got the chicken bug and increased our numbers the very next spring with the purchase of our own incubator & fertile eggs. Of course, there is no way to sway the outcome of the sexes that hatch, and we were blessed with multiple roosters. Our Buff Orpington was a sweetheart, and a few FBC Marans were just fine. But, our two splash Ameraucana were feisty boys (aka little feathered turdballs). splash rooster

We began researching how to deal with aggressive roosters. The most common two solutions? (1) show him who’s boss or (2) get rid of him (mostly commonly by eating but rehoming was mentioned). We needed these two boys to breed BBS Ameraucana as we had planned, meaning (2) was not an option. We tried the “show him who’s boss” method which only resulted in making things worse. The dominant rooster drew blood when he flogged Little Mo in the shin, and regularly attacked Papa Mo. He also began to fight with the other rooster, and we ended up having to separate them. At this point, both were misbehaving. Luckily, Mama Mo was usually spared the worst attack attempts – boiling down to mostly just a stand-off with a few block/punts. Finally, we returned to the research of how to handle an aggressive rooster.

After much researching, we found more solid opinions when we began studying rooster behaviors, particularly in relation to a rooster’s position in a flock. A rooster’s job is to steadfastly defend his flock of hens from anything HE perceives as a threat. This can be anything that he thinks will harm him or his flock, but it can also be anything that he feels will challenge his dominance. We also found a wonderful tip from an ole’ timer who pointed out: Act like a rooster (challenging him) and expect to be treated like another rooster. So we set out with a new method…

We began picking him up and carrying him around whenever he challenged us – talking to him gently but firmly and petting him on the back of head to show we meant no harm. This got us to a point where he at least didn’t attack as soon as we opened the gate. We also found that our big clunky rubber boots were a big “No. No.” Even dark-colored pants received a different reaction. Remember, it’s whatever he perceives as a threat. We changed those things, along with always moving slowly and vocally announcing, “It’s just me,” while offering scratch treats. If he seemed to be readying to challenge/flog, Mama Mo always faced him, pointed her finger on his level and said “Behave” in a low, firm voice. Waving things around in the air above them and being loud only serves to agitate and provoke a defense response. It did take a little bit of time, during which time they also matured, but we ended up having two well-behaved roosters in the end.

On the maturing subject, it should also be noted that roosters have hormones just like people, and during their “teen years” as we call it (6 months to 1 year +/-), they are particularly gung-ho to pick a fight. They are young and trying to cement their position in a flock. Keep in mind that, with proper handling, they typically mellow when they feel settled in with their flock and understand your role as caretaker. However, as should be expected, each year when spring gets close and laying & breeding ramps up, we notice even our senior roosters being slightly less laid back toward us. After all, LOVE is in the air. We anticipate this and just give them a little extra room to deal with their short-lived spring fever, but really you should never completely take your eye off a rooster. It is a rooster.

Of course, even though we have not personally had this problem, there are always some that will just never learn to be nice. Those are the ones that you should dispatch to the stock pot (or whatever you prefer). Please don’t sell those types to anyone – even with full disclosure – because they don’t need to be bred, which is sure to happen at least once, even if not planned.

Lastly, our personal opinion on feisty roosters is that, within reason, that is what you want. A rooster’s main job is to protect his flock, and an overly laid-back rooster is not as likely to defend a hen being attacked or even keep his hens in order amongst themselves. We appreciate the role of roosters in our flocks – not only for producing cute little fuzzballs, but also for maintaining a proper balance within the flock. A good rooster will both tidbit (what is “tidbitting”?) and step in to stop hen squabbles and bring harmony to his little flock.

We see posts regularly about what to do with aggressive or mean roosters. We hope sharing our experience will help you learn how to best deal with your roosters productively for a great outcome for all involved.


Some of the links on Mo’s Mini Farm pages are affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase a product through them we will receive a small commission. There is no extra cost to you! This helps us to keep the information on the website free of charge and to support our farm adventure. Because we value our integrity in recommending products, we only recommend products we have purchased and used. We may occasionally provide links to a product we are considering or planning to purchase, but we will always be sure to clearly state this fact. For more information about our affiliate relationships please see our Affiliates Disclosure Document.


Almost time for Spring Cleaning!

It’s proving slow to arrive, but spring is surely just around the corner. Here at Mo’s Mini Farm in north-central Alabama, we’ve already noticed buds on a few early bloomers. Wonderful thoughts considering it has either rained or been extremely overcast nearly every day for the whole month of February.

Chicken Coop & Brooder Bedding

20151006_172759On our last trip to the farm/feed store, we stocked up on large flake pine shavings in anticipation of cleaning winter out of all the coops. We have found that the large flake pine shavings are the most economical and functional for our needs. We have too many coops and pens to “scoop” often enough for other types of bedding to work well. Straw tends to get too wet here and not dry out fast enough to avoid a moldy mess. Likewise, it seems with our humidity that sand is also not a good option. We tried it several years ago, and it just stayed too wet inside the coop. It does work well for a sandy area in the run where the sun can shine on it, but not inside the coops. Because we have read various opinions and discussed this with other chicken owners in various areas of the country, we feel there are several important factors in choosing the best bedding for your coops:

    1. consider your climate/environment – humid, dry, extreme temperatures, excess rain – when selecting the bedding material that will work best in your area
    2. availability – choose something that you can both acquire and afford regularly
    3. evaluate time requirements – straw or sand may work well if you are able and willing to “scoop” and replace several times a week, but pine may be better if you are more interested in monthly cleanings or even the deep litter method
    4. health of your chickens – always evaluate how your chickens are doing with your bedding choice. Respiratory issues? Impacted crops? Bumble foot?

     

    While we used cedar shavings in our dogs’ houses in the past, we have never used cedar with our chickens since most sources strongly recommend against using it due to the oils that can irritate the skin and respiratory system. Some people say that it smells better, but that aromatic cedar odor can damage a chicken’s more sensitive respiratory system, especially younger birds.

    More recently, we tried aspen shavings in our dogs’ houses because they were having some mild skin irritation, and we had it on hand for using with our rabbits. It worked so much better that we only use it now, and we didn’t hesitate to use it in the brooder when we ran out of pine shavings. 20170517_073442_HDRSimilarly, we now only use aspen in our brooders for at least the first month. It’s much more expensive than pine, but it is the best brooder bedding we have found since it is much drier, has less dust, and absorbs much better than the pine shavings – maybe because the aspen is kiln dried which is nearly impossible to find around here in pine shavings. We feel it’s worth the extra money because we have much cleaner brooders and thus healthier chicks. You can find aspen at most pet stores since it is used with small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc., but we usually buy our aspen at Tractor Supply (better price there).

    Waterfowl Pen and House Bedding

    Since we are in a generally mild climate, our ducks and geese have little housing. We have a few sheds and houses for them to get in, but they typically prefer staying out in the weather – even when we get a little snow. They free range daily, but during winter, when the overnight pen gets more muddy and cold, we spread wheat straw around the principle sleeping areas to provide a little extra warmth. We have always used the same wheat straw in their shed/houses and nesting houses until this year when we couldn’t readily find it at a reasonable price. This year we opted to use mixed “cow” hay in the houses where it doesn’t get very wet. Hay tends to clump & mold much easier and faster than straw which is why wheat straw has always been our choice. We still used wheat straw in the open pen areas, and the hay worked fairly well in the houses, until the recent deluge of rainy weather…nothing has fared well in this current state of mud.20160606_234852

    For the record, we do not use any bedding material in our duckling or gosling brooders. We use the mesh non-slip liners that can be sprayed off and reused since those babies are so messy! But that’s a post for another day…



Some of the links on Mo’s Mini Farm pages are affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase a product through them we will receive a small commission. There is no extra cost to you! This helps us to keep the information on the website free of charge and to support our farm adventure. Because we value our integrity in recommending products, we only recommend products we have purchased and used. We may occasionally provide links to a product we are considering or planning to purchase, but we will always be sure to clearly state this fact. For more information about our affiliate relationships please see our Affiliates Disclosure Document.


When illness hits the entire house at the same time…

…the animals still need care. Here are a few tips on how we manage large numbers of poultry with minimal care. Plus, we provide some information about our experiences with using natural methods to treat illness in chickens…we weren’t the only ones sick this week.

This past week, the entire farm-house was down…food poisoning that hit us all within a few hours. Even when we are all attached to the bathroom &/or a trash can for 24+ hours and then moving at half pace for several more days, our 95 chickens, 23 ducks, 6 geese, and 6 guineas still need to be fed, watered, and turned-out/locked-up. Luckily, we had already implemented several ways to help ease the time commitments required to keep up with 10 different coops.20gal

Probably the best poultry accessories that we have to date are our custom-made 20 gallon watering buckets (right). What a lifesaver they were this week!

We have tried a few different kinds of waterers, but none have been as successful in keeping the water clean and the surrounding area dry. We highly recommend using these watering cups for your chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and other similar poultry. [We do not recommend as the only water source for waterfowl.]

We have also installed several different kinds of feeders in our coops with 10 or more birds. We have installed wall-mounted feeders (below) in two coops with the least floor space which have worked well. They are a little pricey, but worth it for us because they do hold a large amount. 20160903_162155

In our largest coop, we created a custom-built feeder (below) that fit the space and holds a full 50lb bag or more of layer pellet feed. To make sure the feed stays pest and moisture free, we converted a clear Ziploc Weather Shield storage tote into a feeder with a large pvc pipe feed dispenser. We do have to occasionally rake the pellets to the center to fall down the pipe, but it works great overall – sure beats having to haul a heavy feeder to the other side of the lot every 5-6 days! The foam seal around the tote keeps feed fresh and dry long enough for it to be consumed, and it’s easy to tell how much feed is left since it’s clear. We plan to make another similar feeder for another large coop in the coming weeks.

Unfortunately, last Saturday – the day before the house fell to illness – we had just started treating one of our hens in the coop with our oldest birds. Our 5-year-old white Marans, Snowball, was showing some respiratory congestion – very raspy, heavy breathing but no sneezing/coughing or mucus discharge, and quickly we pulled out all the stops in hopes making this a short and isolated problem. Saturday afternoon, Mama Mo applied VetRx to Snowball’s comb & wattles and under both wings. 20160903_162251

We also mixed up a special gallon of “medicated” water. We have had great success with Durvet’s DuraStat (right), a water-soluble combination of natural herbs like oregano. We normally don’t keep water inside the coop, but when we treat with the DuraStat, we leave it in the coop overnight – a good dose first thing in the morning seems to work quite well.

Additionally, late Saturday night, Mama Mo dosed Snowball with our own custom natural oils blend (below), and it’s a really good thing because this was the only treatments she received before we were all down for the count! We are happy to report that by the time we were able to get back out there to do more than open/close a coop door, she was fine.

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How do you handle being down and not able to take care of your livestock? We’d love to hear ways that help you get through the rough times.

Also, do you use natural methods to treat your chickens when they are ill? Tell us about your experiences!



Some of the links on Mo’s Mini Farm pages are affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase a product through them we will receive a small commission. There is no extra cost to you! This helps us to keep the information on the website free of charge and to support our farm adventure. Because we value our integrity in recommending products, we only recommend products we have purchased and used. We may occasionally provide links to a product we are considering or planning to purchase, but we will always be sure to clearly state this fact. For more information about our affiliate relationships please see our Affiliates Disclosure Document.


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