The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Two roosters in one flock

Chickens grazing winter oats

The theory behind our flock merger was pretty simple --- Harvey Ussery wrote that you can sometimes get multiple roosters to play nicely together in one flock if a younger rooster is raised with an older rooster.  The youngster will grow up knowing he's the underdog and won't annoy the head rooster unduly.

Light Sussex pulletsI figured we had a limited time to give this hypothesis a try before our Light Sussex rooster was full grown and ready to take on the world (and I also wanted to get the Sussex out of the shade without putting in all of the effort of building a third chicken coop.)  So we moved our half-grown Light Sussex (three pullets and a cockerel) into the main coop and shut the pasture door so they wouldn't go running home.

At first, the experiment seemed to be headed for failure.  The Australorp rooster chased the younger birds away from the food and the Sussex were too scared to even go in the coop at night.  But every day, the chickens mellowed out a bit more.  Saturday, I felt comfortable enough to open the pasture door and let them all back out into the floodplain, where the two flocks foraged separately but in the same vicinity.  Mark tells me the Sussex are even roosting up on the perches in the coop now.  Maybe a second week will see the chickens actually hanging out together?

If you're thinking of merging one or more underdogs into an established flock, be sure to set up two separate chicken waterer stations.  That way the picked on birds will still have access to clean water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I've never bothered with roosters, but combined flocks have never actually hung out together. They seem to tolerate each other, but each group has it's own pecking order, and the two groups don't seem to have much to do with each other at all. But as long as no one is getting too beat up, right? Sounds like you'll have a success.
Comment by Bethany James Tue Dec 20 09:44:55 2011
I think the rooster is the key component. I've done several flock mergers with a rooster, and he seems to root for the underdog and push them into the flock. That's one of the reasons I've changed my mind and decided roosters aren't freeloaders on the farm. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Dec 20 15:19:57 2011

Just my pennies worth:

I happen to be completely against multiple roosters. 1 Rooster and his girls, And That's what I advocate to anyone who buys my birds..... There is always going to be tension and squabbles as soon as your not there to impose your dominance. The stress it puts on the flock just isn't worth it.

With hens its very different, It may take a few weeks, maybe be a bit sad to see how mean they can be to each other, but they will eventually settle in to a new pecking order, and be just fine......... Though its best to keep an eye on the two that where at the very bottom of the order in each separate flock, because they tend to have a much rougher time. Ive noticed that those are the ones the rooster in the flock, if you have one, will pick on the longest too.

Why do you have the two roosters anyway, Anna?

Comment by T Wed Dec 21 01:14:05 2011
I won't keep two roosters if they fight, but Harvey Ussery seems to get away with keeping quite a few roosters in an amicable fashion, so I thought I'd give it a try. The reason I want to try to keep two right now is because I've been experimenting with varieties this year and haven't really made up my mind which is my favorite. Since I want to reproduce the flock naturally next year, that means I need to keep a rooster of each variety I want to keep in the flock.
Comment by anna Wed Dec 21 08:13:48 2011

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