While hens are the lifeline of any egg-laying poultry farm, roosters have a great role to play on the farm as well. However, they can get a bad rap for being noisy and territorial. But there are tons of incredible benefits to having males in your flock, like protecting the hens and fertilizing eggs.
But when you buy male chickens for your coop, you may ask, how many roosters per hen is ideal? Is one hen enough? Can they get along with a huge flock of hens or just a small quantity?
The male-to-female ratio of your flock has a dramatic effect on things like fertility and harmony in the coops. Today, we’ll give you the lowdown on how many roosters should be put in a flock of hens for optimal productivity and peace, and the reasoning behind it.
The Benefits of Keeping Roosters in the Flock
1. They help produce fertile eggs
So, if you want your farm to grow, you need to have at least one rooster to fertilize your hen’s eggs from time to time. You can have multiple roosters and keep them in a bachelor pad as well, just so you can diversify the genetics of your new chicks.
2. They manage the flock
Many people don’t know this, but roosters are excellent leaders that can help manage a flock of hens. They can stop the girls from getting into fights and will even free-range and forage to look for food for them.
A good rooster isn’t just territorial over his hens—he loves them and feels responsible to manage peace and care for their health as well.
3. They serve as protectors against predators
Roosters are loud and will call on the hens to find shelter if he spots a predator lurking near the coop. They make for a great defense strategy so you don’t lose any of your hens to hungry rats, cats, dogs, and raccoons.
Need more convincing about why you should have a rooster in your flock? Watch this video to learn about the pros and cons of having a strong, healthy rooster on your farm:
The Golden Rooster to Hen Ratio
But to reap all the benefits we mentioned above, it’s important to get the right ratio of males to females in your chicken flock.
If you have too many hens in one flock, your rooster might not be able to service all of them. And if you have too many roosters, it can cause conflict as it disrupts the pecking order (but more on that later!). Having the proper hen-to-rooster ratio boosts fertility and maintains peace within the group.
Ideally, you should assign one rooster per 10 hens. However, this can be tweaked a bit depending on the breed of your chickens.
For example, active and aggressive rooster breeds like Rhode Island Reds can have a higher number of hens in the flock—around 10-12 hens will do. This is because roosters of this breed are high-energy and eager to service more hens if they can.
Meanwhile, mellow, easygoing chicken breeds like Orpingtons and Silkies should have fewer hens per rooster. A flock of six or seven females instead of 10 will be enough hens for them. That way, your roosters can give more attention to each hen.
Whatever the breed of your chickens, it’s important to note that older roosters beyond their prime can’t cover the same number of hens as they did in their youth. After about three years of age, allow roosters to tend to a smaller backyard flock.
Learn more about how many hens a rooster can handle according to their breed by watching this video:
What Happens If You Assign Too Many Roosters to a Flock
Two’s a crowd when it comes to roosters in a flock of hens. It’s pertinent that you only assign one rooster to any flock, as having more than two males can cause issues in the pecking order, also known as the hierarchy of chickens in a flock.
The pecking order of roosters is determined by—you guessed it—pecking. Roosters that can peck and bully other males easily climb their way to the top of the order. Weaker, older, more submissive roosters fall to the bottom. This order is determined early in their lives, especially in hatch mates.
Hens have their own pecking order too, but it generally doesn’t cause any problems in the flock. Males, on the other hand, are more possessive and territorial. So, when they see another rooster that is lower on the pecking order mating with their hens, they can be violent and attack them.
Having two roosters in one flock will only cause problems. If the dominant rooster sees that his subordinate is mating with his favorite hen, he can square off and fight the other male. And the more roosters are injured on your farm, the lower fertility drops.
If you have multiple roosters, you might want to put them in a separate coop called a bachelor pad. Here, the pecking order is observed and respected, and no fights will ensue about a subordinate rooster mating with a dominant rooster’s hen.
How a Rooster Mates with His Hens
Aside from determining the right rooster-to-hen ratio, it’s important to be aware of how a rooster operates when mating with his hens.
Chicken mating is far from romantic. It only takes a minute or less for a rooster and a hen to mate.
A rooster will simply climb on a hen’s back while holding her wings back. The hen will be submissive and bend down to give the rooster access to her cloaca. The rooster will then press his own cloaca (a rooster doesn’t have a penis) onto hers in what is called the “cloacal kiss” and deposit sperm.
After that, the rooster will let go of the hen, shake his feathers, and quickly move on. Sometimes, a rooster will immediately target another hen to mate with. This is a way for them to assert their superiority over the flock.
Roosters can mate up to 30 times a day, depending on their mood. If you take the risk of having more than one rooster in the flock, this number could rise, as they will want to assert dominance over the flock by mating more often than the other male.
How to Deal with an Overzealous Rooster
Although roosters are very beneficial for flocks of hens, they can also get too aggressive with the girls. Young roosters, known as cockerels, that haven’t reached sexual maturity are likely to be violent during the mating process. You must protect your hens.
Aggressive roosters might be physically rough with a hen during mating. This can manifest in grasping a female’s head with his beak or treading on her so badly that her feathers fall off. If your hens are looking fatigued and try to hide from the roosters, it’s a sign that they need a break.
If your rooster is showing aggressive behavior during mating and it’s harming your hens, think about separating him from the flock. Not only will your hens get a chance to rest, but it also re-energizes the rooster. Three days a week is more than enough isolation for a rooster.
If that doesn’t work, you might want to get your rooster professionally trained. You could enroll your roosters in behavior modification training to be gentler with the hens. Contact your trusted veterinarian or poultry expert to see your options.
Another option would be to replace the rooster you assign to the hens. Hopefully, you have another male chicken on the farm that will be more compatible with your girls. As for the former head rooster, it’s back to the bachelor pad he goes!
Roosters are important in any farm that aims to grow its flock. Not only are they indispensable in fertilizing eggs, but they show great value in protecting and managing a flock of hens.
But the key to getting the most benefits from having a rooster in your flock is by nailing that perfect ratio of hens to roosters. It’s important that you keep just one rooster in your flock, regardless of the number of hens, to avoid causing conflict in the pecking order.
Ideally, you assign one rooster to a group of 10 hens. However, mellow roosters may work better with smaller flocks, and active, aggressive breeds can work with one or two more hens.
Try to stick with these ratios for your chickens so that you can avoid issues like roosters fighting or hens getting uncomfortable with how often their rooster mates with them. Hopefully, your hens will work well with the rooster you assign them so that your flock can be a happy and productive one.