We have never counted, but we must have upwards of 40+ cockerels which most of the time live in relative harmony. Yes, we do have fights. It’s how we manage them when they occur and also how we manage the birds generally that matters. All of our birds are large fowl and bantams that have free access to both their coop, run and the one acre garden at any time. This arrangement we are sure is one of the reasons we have harmony. With permanently penned birds the stresses and strains within a flock are allowed to build up, and that coupled with boredom, usually ends up with more frequent aggression between individual birds.
All our flocks (10 in all) intermingle all day long and in general get on just fine. Altercations are frequent but usually don’t escalate into a full head on fight. Another factor that makes all the difference is that both of us are usually around to stop any full scale aggression. It’s amazing how SHOUTING sometimes works, ‘Stop That’ or ‘Oi! you with the blood on your face’.
Spring is the season when aggression is at its worst, all those hormones racing around is the cause of the problem. Bantams seem to be the worst offenders. I remember, a few years back now, coming across little Donald staggering about with another slightly larger Silver Laced Wyandotte cockerel. They were so worked up and had been fighting for quite a while, they looked like a couple of drunks just clinging on to each other for fear of falling over. It wasn’t a pretty sight, I separated them and took Donald first to be cleaned up. He felt so hot it was a wonder he hadn’t passed out.
It takes a while to do a proper job of removing the blood. Most of the birds know we are trying to help and are quite relaxed about it. The last stage of the cleaning up process involves a hair dryer. Now you’d think a hair dryer would scare them to death, quite the contrary. By the time this stage is reached they are quite relaxed, it’s a bit like being in your own private massage parlour I guess. The parting of feathers and having hot air blown at you seems to be something close to bird heaven!
For those of us who keep roosters with their hens, aggression between males is a fact of life. It can be kept in check with vigilance and prompt intervention. We have a zero tolerance to rooster fights and most of the birds get to know this very quickly. It’s very important we think to stop fights from developing. The birds themselves can end up with some horrible injuries. One of our older bantam boys Fraser, lost an eye in the briefest of encounters with a much larger Maran called Troy. Troy was a dedicated rooster who took his job quite seriously. Fraser transgressed by entering Troy’s run and chasing his girls, it was all over in less than 5 seconds. Fraser was squawking his head off and left the run in some haste, minus the sight in one eye.
Keeping cockerels with your hens does complete the social fabric of the flock, and the hens by and large appreciate the protection a male offers. It should be said that there is often a down side too. Some of the girls are more desirable than others and often bear the brunt of the male’s mounting, with the result that they can end up looking a bit dishevelled. The backs and shoulders of the females can get painfully bare, to help counter this you can buy durable chicken saddles at fantastic prices from a United States seller on Ebay. The designs are very eye-catching and worth the wait for the delivery (2 to 3 weeks). Just make sure you order the correct size.
I for one would miss seeing cockerels about the place, they are so handsome with all their eye catching colours, patterns and sheer presence. I would also miss them for their leadership qualities, not only warning the flock about dangers, but also finding that tasty morsel or the best bit of grass to graze on. Bantam roosters in particular have an endearing habit of escorting their favourite girls into the coop when they want to lay an egg, and perching on the edge of the nestbox standing guard. Yes, they can be a nuisance, especially when they start to jump on anything that moves! But chicken dramas would be so drab without males to add that bit of testosterone.