If you keep chickens, you know that every day is an adventure. Much of the time, like many things, it is the boys at the center of the mischief.
Do you have a rooster in your flock that just can’t seem to get along with the others? Do you have multiple roosters that are causing chaos in your once-peaceful flock?
Are you constantly finding bloody feathers all over the yard? If so, chances are you are having trouble with roosters getting into it with each other.
Roosters are territorial by nature, and will often fight over mating rights, dominance, or food. Sometimes they just want to show the whole flock who is boss.
Whatever the reason, fighting roosters lead to a stressed flock and injuries, meaning fewer eggs and expensive vet treatment. You don’t want that for your birds or your wallet.
Luckily we are here to help. It is possible to keep roosters from brawling, or at least minimize their fights, with the right know-how.
By following these tips, you can help keep the peace in your backyard or barnyard.
Why Do Roosters Fight in the First Place?
There are a few reasons why your rooster might be getting into fights, and understanding them will help you eliminate the bad behavior by the most likely means.
The most common reason is that he is asserting his dominance over the flock. He wants to be the top dog, er, chicken, and will take on all comers to get there.
This includes fighting off any challengers and showing the other, lesser roosters their place.
Mating is another big reason for fighting among roosters. They want to mate with as many hens as possible and will fight other roosters to keep them away from their ladies.
This can become a real problem if you have more than one rooster in your flock and not enough hens because they are all vying for mating rights.
A shortage of hens means more conflict. These fights can be particularly nasty, sometimes to the death.
Finally, food can also lead to fighting among chickens. If there isn’t enough food or water to go around, or the roosters perceive that there isn’t enough, they will start fighting each other for what they need to survive.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to make sure your flock has plenty of food and water.
Lastly, some roosters are just plumb mean. This counts for species and individuals. Some heritage species that remain close to their “wild” roots are far more aggressive than more domesticated breeds.
These species include the Malay, Old English Game, and Shamo. And, even within a breed, there can be individual roosters that are more aggressive than others.
This is often due to how they were raised or socialized as chicks. If they weren’t properly socialized or introduced to other chickens early on, they can grow up to be loners or out-of-touch with society in a flock, so to speak.
But, generally speaking, there is always a way to eliminate or at least significantly reduce fighting among your roosters.
Keep reading and we will tell you about 7 methods that can help restore peace to your flock.
7 Ways to Keep Your Roosters from Fighting
1. Give your Roosters Plenty of Space
Rooster fights might be a simple byproduct of them not having enough space to get away from each other.
Wild roosters in the distant past used to spread out to help protect the flock’s perimeter, and so it makes sense that they don’t want to be too close to one another.
Accordingly, it is important to give them plenty of space in which to roam. This can remove fencing from your coop, or simply provide your birds with the freedom to free-range, strut and flap their wings without being penned up all the time.
A good rule of thumb is to provide at least ten square feet per bird in the coop, and a half-acre of pasture for every five birds.
This will give them enough room to establish a pecking order without coming to blows from personal space violations.
2. Give your Roosters Plenty of Food
Roosters are notoriously possessive, and they will often fight to establish dominance over their flockmates when it comes to resources. This includes food and water.
However, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize fighting over a perceived scarcity of food among your roosters.
First, make sure that you are actually providing enough food for all of your birds. If there is not enough food to go around, the roosters will compete for it and this will lead to fighting.
Second, provide multiple feeding points so that the birds do not have to jockey for position at a single feeder. More food in more places will always help to reduce the amount of competition and fighting.
Lastly, keep an eye on your birds, and separate any that seem to be excessively aggressive when it comes to controlling resources in the yard.
Sometimes you’ll have a rooster that is just half-crazed about dominating the water bowl and food. You might have to deal with him, more on that later.
3. Keep a Good Hen-to-Rooster Ratio
When it comes to raising flock chickens, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the ratio of hens to roosters.
A scarcity of hens- breeding rights- is another perennial cause of mutual aggression in roosters.
A good rule of thumb is to have eight to twelve hens for every rooster. This varies somewhat based on many factors, including species, individual temperament, space, and more but it is a good starting point.
This may seem like a lot of chickens, but it’s actually necessary in order to keep the flock healthy and productive. If you have too many roosters and not enough hens to keep them all happy, they will fight for dominance and the hens will be constantly stressed out by all the conflict.
This will lead to reduced egg production, chick mortality, and even injuries. “Battlefields” are no place for laying, and the hens know it!
Keep your roosters serviced with enough hens and you should see less fighting. If you are unwilling to get more hens, you will likely need to remove some roosters to bring balance back to the ratio.
4. Found a “Rooster Colony”
Roosters are naturally aggressive birds, and they can easily become overly stimulated and combative as part of a flock.
Whatever the reasons, whatever the factors, sometimes roosters just cannot play nice when kept with the hens, or else you don’t have time to get the flock integrated before disaster strikes.
One “global” solution to this problem is to house all of your roosters together, with each other, but separate from the hens.
This is sometimes known as a “rooster colony”. By doing so, you can help ensure that each rooster maintains a sense of hierarchy within their own group, and can facilitate the process by eliminating unwanted, troublesome stimuli.
In the bargain, the hens will, generally, be much happier without all the fighting happening literally on their doorstep.
However, you’ll need to do two things to see success with this method. First, you must ensure the roosters cannot see or hear the hens.
They want to be with them and will get stressed out if they sense them near but are unable to reach them.
Second, you’ll still have to provide all the food and space requirements discussed above, or they’ll be right back at each other’s throats.
5. Let Them Establish the Pecking Order
As distasteful as it sounds, sometimes the best thing you can do for roosters that are fighting is to let them fight it out.
Roosters will naturally squabble amongst each other to establish a dominant hierarchy within the flock and manage membership, so to speak.
The trick is understanding the severity of the fight and being ready to either intervene when it gets too bad or tend to injuries when it is over.
Most rooster fights are typically social fights, where the roosters will square off and face each other.
They may crow and flap their wings, flog each other, peck, claw, and kick but they will generally not truly try to injure each other.
These fights end when one rooster displays a submission posture and the other rooster gets to strut around.
Though these fights tend toward looking spectacular, but injuries are minor, usually: the victor is not trying to kill the loser, or banish him.
Asocial fights, on the other hand, can be much more dangerous. In these cases, one rooster will attack another, without ceasing, often from behind when the loser attempts to run or submit.
The victor will attempt to seriously injure or kill the loser. As the saying goes, it ain’t over until it’s over. If not stopped, you’ll have at best two badly maimed roosters, and likely a dead one.
While social fights are a normal part of chicken life and may be allowed in an effort to get a flock into equilibrium, asocial fights should be stopped at all costs, if possible.
If you do have roosters that are fighting to the death on the regular, you may need to separate them into different coops to prevent further injuries.
6. Splash Them to Break it Up
When two roosters start fighting, it can be difficult to break them up. Your natural instinct is likely to grab your beloved birds and pull them apart, but this is a bad play.
It can often result in one or both of the birds being badly injured since the opponent will have an opening and you will likely be flogged and slashed in the bargain
A better method is to splash them with water. From a hose or a handy bucket, either will work.
The shock and temperature change will startle them and break their focus, allowing you to safely separate them with minimal fuss.
It’s important to act quickly, as the longer the fight goes on, the more likely it is that serious injury will occur, particularly in instances of asocial violence.
Additionally, be sure to keep a close eye on the birds after the fight has been broken up, as they may try to resume fighting once they have had a chance to regain their bearings.
7. “Deport” the Troublemaker
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’ll have a rooster that is just hell-bent on causing problems.
If you have tried all of the above methods and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to “deport” the troublemaker from the flock.
This doesn’t mean getting rid of him permanently (though, depending on your level of frustration, that may be an option).
Rather, it means separating him permanently from the flock. One option is to remove the offending rooster to his own coop or a separate flock to see if his behavior improves, free from the other roosters he cohabitated with.
Another option is to sell or give away the bully rooster, removing him entirely from the flock and allowing someone else to take charge of his care.
This must be done with caution, as potential buyer needs to know they are dealing with a troublesome and mildly dangerous animal.
Finally, some people choose to eat the bully rooster, using his meat as a source of nourishment and allowing him to contribute to your family one last time.
This might not be the best way to go if you have a family and raise the chickens half as pets! No matter which approach you take, it is important to stay calm and make informed, rational decisions when dealing with bully roosters.
Peaceful Roosters Mean a Happy Flock
The constant fighting of roosters is no good for the health of your flock, and no good for your mood. Happily, there are many ways to stop roosters from fighting each other.
No matter what method you choose to keep your roosters from fighting, the important thing is that you take action to prevent their serious injury or death, and to reduce the stress on the hens and chicks.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that your flock remains happy and healthy for years to come.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.