Before you start keeping chicken, it is important to determine the perfect ratio of hens to roosters. The fact that hens can create and lay eggs without the help of their main counterpart is quite unfathomable. However, to grow a chick, the eggs have to be fertilized by a rooster.
Roosters, being the gallant gentlemen that they are, play a handy role in the flock from fertilizing the eggs to securing the hens from possible dangers and establishing superiority to maintain peace. The assumption that the number of roosters needed in a flock directly equates to the same number of hens is questionable.
If your goal is to obtain fertile eggs for hatching, the ’50 percent females and 50 percent males’ ratio will most likely result in males fighting excessively with each other and mating excessively with females. The result will be injuries for both parties. To avoid this, there should be a perfect ratio of hens and roosters within a flock.
The ideal number of roosters needed in a flock varies from breed to breed and depends significantly on chicken size and breed’s degree of activity.
- For lightweight and extremely active Leghorns, 1 rooster should be maintained for every 12 hens.
- For laidback Silkies, 1 rooster should be maintained for every 6 hens.
- For Rhode Island Reds, 1 rooster should be maintained for every 4 hens.
- For other chicken breeds, the absolute minimum number of hens for one rooster should be three or four.
For all of the chicken breeds, the number of roosters needed in a flock is directly proportional to the number of hens available for mating. As the number of hens increases, the demand for male counterparts also increases.
Common sense should tell you that not following the established ratio mentioned above will result in low fertility rates. If there are 10 male Leghorns to cater to only 50 female Leghorns, these male Leghorns will spend so much time fighting with each other instead of mating. In other words, they will view each other as a potential threat to their ability to continue their bloodline. If not, they will be mating hens too much and cause them to lose physical condition. For sure, the last thing you want for you hens to happen is to experience unnecessary stress and yield uneven fertility outcomes.
In this article, you will be guided with the number of roosters you need, along with the primary benefits and essential guidelines of having them in a flock.
The Ideal Ratio per Breed
As mentioned above, the ideal number of roosters needed in a flock varies from one breed to another. This article covers three breeds of chicken that are common in industrialized poultry.
Leghorns (1 rooster: 12 hens)
Leghorn originated from Italy. The name itself is a counterpart of the Italian word Livorno which refers to a port city in Italy that first exported Leghorns to the USA in 1828. After some breed refinement, the US produced a white Leghorn which won the New York show in 1868 and eventually exported to the UK in 1870. The English were not satisfied with the body of the white Leghorn that they crossed it with the Minorca to produce a breed with a more robust frame. To their dismay, the resulting breed remains a thin Leghorn. Crosses were repeated until a larger size of Leghorn was achieved. The results eventually made their way back to the USA and were used in the 1910 poultry industry. Not long after, Leghorns were divided into two types- the original ones preserved by few breeders and the industrial ones that are raised by the majority of the present poultry industry.
Leghorns are multi-colored. They also have a single rose comb that helps them deal with the cold. This rose comb gives them a slightly comical look for some people. Their eyes also come in different colors- a mixture of orange, yellow, and red. With yellow skin and legs, their overall appearance can be described as long and sleek.
The Italian Association listed 6 standard varieties of Leghorn. These are: (1) black, brown, and white single comb in 1874, (2) light and dark brown rose comb in 1883, (3) white rose comb in 1886, (4) red and black-tailed red Colombian single comb in 1889, (5) buff and silver single comb in 1894, and (6) buff, silver, gold duckwing, and black rose comb.
Although there are some slight discrepancies in weights between these varieties, the standard weight is 7 ½ pounds for Leghorn roosters and 5-6 pounds for Leghorn hens.
As the number one favorite of the poultry industry, Leghorn hens lay 280-320 eggs per year around 55 g each. As the hens’ age, the eggs will also get larger. From large, the eggs will become extra-large by the end of the laying cycle.
Silkies (1 rooster: 6 hens)
The origin of Silkies dates back to 1298 when a traveler named Marco Polo saw them on his travel to China. He took some of the Silkies and introduced them to the western world. Before it became one of the most popular chicken breeds at present, Silkies were exploited in the early 1900s as props in circuses and sideshows.
Silkies are often popular for their black face, bones, skin, and cat-like hair. Some would even describe them as chickens with furs instead of feathers. Their wattles and combs are black or mulberry shade.
A standard Silkie comes with a beard and muffs. It also weighs 3-4 pounds. But for crossed-bred silkies like the Bantam in the USA, the standard weight is at least 18 ounces.
Contrary to the myth that Silkies lay blue colored eggs, they lay standard creamy-brown colored eggs, ranging from 100-120 eggs per year.
Rhode Island Red (1 rooster: 4 hens)
The Rhode Island Red was first encountered by a sea captain named William Tripp in 1854 during one of his visits to Malaysia. He took that bird and mated it with his chickens at home. The offspring were said to lay more eggs. With the help of his friend John Macomber, he began cross-breeding, and the results were named after their names- “Tripp’s Fowl” or “Macomber.”
The name Rhode Island Red was coined by Isaac Wilbour years later. The said bird was then further developed by poultry farmers in New England. In honor of the final breed, two statues have been built in Rhode Island- one in Adamsville and another in Little Compton.
The overall body appearance is rectangular and solid. The feathers are hard, and the color ranges from rich mahogany to dark rust color. The wattles, comb, and ear lobes are red while the eyes are either orange or red in color. Most of this breed have combs that are usually single upright, and some are rose combed.
A standard Rhode Island Red weighs 8.5 pounds for roosters while a Rhode Island Red weighs 6.5 pounds for hens. But for crossed-bred Rhode Island Reds like the Bantam in the USA, the standard weight is at least 2.1 pounds for the rooster and 1.9 pounds for the hen.
The hen can lay 5-6 eggs a week, and the total eggs each year ranges from 200-300. These eggs are light brown in color and are either medium or large in size.
The standard ratio for Leghorns is 1:12, meaning 1 rooster per 12 hens. The standard ratio for Silkies is 1:6 meaning, 1 rooster per 6 hens. The standard ratio for Rhode Island Reds is 1:4 meaning, 1 rooster per 4 hens. For the remaining chicken breeds that are not mentioned, their standard ratio is 1:4, meaning 1 rooster per 4 hens. For some, it is also effective to diminish the hens to 3.
Now that the ideal number of roosters needed in a flock is identified above, the reason why roosters are required in the first place remains vague. The following are the primary benefits of having them around:
Roosters are beneficial for the pecking order.
The pecking order is viewed as a complex social stratification of the flock. Each member of the flock knows one’s place in the hierarchy. The roosters, as strong members of the flock, are ranked at the top of the pecking order as the flock leaders. They work as a lookout for the weaker ones in case predators come in, and they serve them treats as well.
Roosters are beneficial for the flock’s behavior.
The roosters will maintain a flock that is peaceful and cohesive by escorting hens to a suitable feeding spot and standing as a guard while they feed themselves. In some flocks, the roosters check over the food they find before calling the hens to come and dine. They will also let the hens partake before them. For those males in the flock that shows mischief, the flock leaders will keep them from doing so, and they will be chased away repeatedly until they behave.
Along with the said benefits are the challenges in keeping roosters in a flock. For one, they can be territorial and protective of their assigned hens to mate with. When they regard each other as rivals, they can possibly hurt each other and even the hens. Simple guidelines should be followed to avoid it:
- Follow the Standard Ratio of Hens to Roosters
Following the ideal number of roosters needed in a flock and the corresponding number of hens per chicken breed promises a flock where there is no competition and no overbred hens. When there are more roosters than hens, one hen can be violently mated too often, and this will result in a condition called treading. This happens when a rooster gets too hard on the hen and causes broken feathers, bald backs and necks, skin damages, and other forms of injury.
- Provide a Plenty of Space for your Flock
As with other animals, a bare minimum of space will most likely result in overcrowding, which can in turn lead to pecking and easy spread of diseases. For a flock of 20, a 120-160 square feet portable coop will be adequate. A portable coop is better to have than a stationary coop. Using a portable coop, you can move your flock to fresh pasture as long as you like. Your flock is healthiest and happiest when they have frequent access to fresh ground where they can forage for natural food.
- Choose Roosters that were raised in the Same Flock
Roosters that grow up together from chicks usually work out their differences early in life and get along pretty well. They establish a pecking order early on, thereby reducing the chances of hurting each other. If you are going to purchase roosters, choose the ones that were raised from the same flock. If you are going to raise male chicks yourself, raise them all together in one flock.
- Understand that Some Roosters are Aggressive than the Rest
No matter how ideal the conditions are, some roosters are just too aggressive. They will fly, spur and peck at each other to mark and protect territory. All of these depend on the breed you are raising with, Silkies being less aggressive than the Rhode Island Reds. If you choose an aggressive breed, it is best then that you achieve the perfect ratio of hens to roosters in that coop. If you find yourself with aggressive birds,don’t fret because such roosters can be tamed with proper training.
What is the life expectancy of roosters?
Like most other chickens, roosters have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years. But with excellent care and proper nutrients, the lifespan may be prolonged, and the roosters may live for as long as 15 years. Compared to hens, old roosters are less active as they age.
How many times can roosters mate in a day?
According to the University of Georgia, roosters can each mate between 10-30 times per day as it is part of their DNA to want to reproduce and mate as often as they can.