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How Many Hens Can One Rooster Live With Safely?

A few years ago, after many failed attempts, one of our hens finally managed to hatch a clutch of six chicks. Soon afterward, my delight turned to despair – four of the six were roosters!

As our cute fluffy chicks matured into gangly juveniles, all hell broke loose! Our chickens stopped laying and lost most of their feathers, our ducks lived in permanent fear of being attacked by an overly amorous rooster, and with every dawn emerged a cacophony of crowing. 

Worst yet, the fights between the roosters quickly became vicious and bloody.

All of this because we had too many roosters!

That may lead you to ask – how many hens per rooster should you have? And, how many roosters should you have in your flock?

Let’s look closer at both rooster-raising questions.

Shall we?

How Many Hens Per Rooster? 

That depends upon the size of your flock! The recommended ratio is one rooster to every eight to twelve hens. We also advise against having more than one rooster in your community. Having more than one rooster can lead to testosterone-fueled fights between roosters and stressed chickens. Brawling roosters may lead to unhappy chickens, stress, and injuries. And likely, fewer eggs.

I’ve also noticed that my hens lose feathers when stressed with rooster disputes and aggression. For these reasons, and because I’ve witnessed the stress that an unruly coop brings unto your egg-layers – we say to limit your flock to one rooster per any amount of hens! (If possible.)

Otherwise – stick to one rooster per eight to twelve hens.

This so-called golden ratio of roosters to hens does vary to some extent. I’ve noticed some chicken breeds are less aggressive than others. But – your results may vary.

Some of the more active chicken breeds, like the Leghorns, cope perfectly well with a ratio of eight to twelve hens to every rooster, as do some larger chicken breeds such as Orpingtons. 

Smaller chicken breeds, including bantams, on the other hand, do better with a lower ratio of five to seven hens per rooster.

(The hen to rooster ratios above derive from our collective observational experience with various chicken breeds. We think less aggressive breeds have a higher chance of succeeding with more roosters. But – we always remind you that introducing more than one rooster into a flock will always invite problems – and potential rooster squabbles!)

We’ve also noticed that roosters might get along well until introduced to a harem of chickens. Once the roosters meet the hens – their cooperation and friendship subside. The roosters begin to establish a pecking order.

rooster walking in rural yard with white hen in coop
We’ve met many homesteaders who debate over the perfect rooster to hen ratio. We try to keep things simple. We think the fewer roosters, the better! A balanced ratio of one rooster for around ten to twelve hens seems to be the best way to reduce hen harassment and rooster-squabbling. Adding more roosters is inviting trouble.

Why Too Many Roosters Spoil the Flock

Every flock governs itself via a strict pecking order. At the top of that order is the most dominant hen or, more commonly, rooster. Being the top dog (or chook) comes with privilege and responsibility.

Whoever’s at the top gets the first choice of food and water, the best spot on the roost, and the first go in a dust bath. They are, however, also responsible for keeping the flock safe and hunting out the best food sources. 

Our rooster is clearly at the top of our flock’s pecking order. But – roosters work hard for the top spot! They take their job dead seriously. Roosters call hens over when they find a tasty grub. And – they chase their hens all back into the coop if they sense danger. 

When we had two roosters, they were so busy fighting and seeing who could mate with the most hens that the flock’s safety was in jeopardy.

Our hens mated so frequently that they started losing feathers and developing sores where the rooster claws dug into their exposed flesh.

With just 13 chickens between the two roosters, our ratio was an unfortunate burden on the poor hens. If we’d had 20 hens, things might well have been different. 

Read More – Do Chickens Need Lights to Lay Eggs at Night? What About Baby Chicks?!

Can Two Roosters Live Together With Hens?

Adding more than one rooster is usually trouble. All roosters can get mean! But – if you’ve got enough hens, space, food, and water to go around, two roosters may live happily both together and as part of the flock. That’s assuming they’ve got enough space (and resources) to go their separate ways. 

Some chicken breeds are less aggressive than others. That makes it easier if you do end up with multiple roosters. More mellow chicken breeds include the Orpington and Silkie. 

But – we find some roosters are more quarrelsome than others! Rhode Island Reds, Easter Eggers, and Ameraucanas are more bellicose. To say the least!

If you end up with a particularly aggressive rooster, you may need to separate him from the rest of the flock or turn him into a tasty meal. 

(Or – you can check to see if your neighbors need a vigorous rooster for their flock.)

rooster and hen sitting close together black background
Many new homesteaders erroneously believe that they need roosters for their coop to produce eggs! That’s not true. Your hens will lay ample eggs – even without a rooster. However, roosters help to fertilize the egg so your flock can grow. So – do you need a rooster at all? It depends if you want baby chicks!

How Much Space Do Roosters Need?

Provide as much room as possible – both in their enclosures and runs. We recommend giving roosters around 25-50 square feet of space per rooster in an outdoor run.

Give adequate room for your roosters to run, forage, and dust-bathe without flapping into one another and butting elbows – or wings! That way – they can explore and keep their distance from other roosters if necessary.

Keep in mind each hen needs only around ten square feet in their chicken runs. So – we recommend a much larger coop, run, and forage area for flocks with roosters.

Consider doubling or even tripling the amount of space your poultry flock occupies if you add a rooster.

Roosters are usually larger than hens. They also require more space inside the coop. If you’ve got multiple roosters, you need a big enough chicken coop that the subordinate rooster can keep their distance from the dominant rooster and hens. 

That means providing around three to four square feet of coop space for each chicken. If you can provide more ample room – we suggest doing so.

To prevent fights from breaking out over resources, you should also provide multiple feeding and watering areas. (And – the more roosts, the better!)

How Many Roosters Can You Keep Together?

We recommend only one rooster per flock. Adding more than one rooster always introduces potential aggression – and fighting.

But – it’s theoretically possible to keep as many roosters as you like and have space for, as long you’re willing to give up any dreams of keeping hens or having fresh eggs for breakfast.

One of my favorite examples of many roosters living together is the Triangle Chicken Advocates (TCA). They specialize in rescuing abandoned or unwanted roosters – and I’ve read that some of their bachelor flocks contain dozens of roosters. They all live in relative harmony together.

TCA cares a lot about roosters! I believe they have established that the secret to keeping multiple roosters is to provide them with plenty of enrichment and an established routine.

Keeping them far away from any hens also seems to help keep the peace!

chicken and hen free range on farm
Roosters are gentlemanly and docile while they are young. But – when they age to around 12 months, they begin crowing and chasing after hens. They get louder and more aggressive if there are other roosters. If there are more than two roosters per ten hens – expect the harassment of hens to become even worse.

Read More – Can You Eat Rooster Meat? Are Male Chickens Edible? Or Not?

Rooster to Chicken Ratio FAQs

We know that raising chickens is confusing – and a lot of work!

It’s also tricky knowing how many roosters your chickens can tolerate. And vice versa!

That’s why we assembled these chicken and hen ratio FAQs.

We hope these answers help you raise a happy and healthy flock!

Best Supplies for Roosters and Rowdy Chickens

Roosters often have a terrible reputation as troublemakers – and they get a bad rap!

We want to help by sharing some of our best resources, toys, and snacks for male roosters.

Because we think all roosters deserve a chance! (At least one. Or two!)

So, if you think your rooster might benefit from having a little relaxation – we hope these rooster resources help!

  1. 5-Pound Bulk Non-GMO Dried Mealworms for Poultry | RANZ
  2. 5-Pound Bulk Non-GMO Dried Mealworms for Poultry | RANZ
    $35.99 ($0.45 / Ounce)

    If you have a handful of unruly roosters, toss them a handful of these delicious mealworms! These mealworms are 100% non-GMO and natural. They have oodles of fat, protein, fiber, and vitamins. Your roosters will love them - and thank you. Ducks, wild birds, turkeys, and hens love them, too!

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/07/2022 09:33 am GMT
  3. 2 Gallon Chicken Waterer | RentACoop
  4. 2 Gallon Chicken Waterer | RentACoop
    $31.95 ($31.95 / Count)

    Your roosters need plenty of fresh food and water. These waterers are BPA-free, food-grade, and satisfy your entire flock. It has a volume of two gallons. It feeds four hens for five days - and it's from the USA. (With global parts.)

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 02:13 am GMT
  5. Chicken Roosting Perch Stand Made in The USA!
  6. Chicken Roosting Perch Stand Made in The USA!
    $44.95 ($44.95 / Count)

    Your rowdy roosters are sick of using a flimsy perch. Get them this sturdy hardwood perch instead! Your roosters will love roosting on this! It's thick, heavy, robust, and comes hand-crafted (with love) from the USA.

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 02:00 am GMT

Conclusion

The golden rule for keeping roosters is to have no more than one for every twelve (or so) hens, although this does vary from breed to breed. 

Keeping multiple roosters is possible, assuming you have the space, hens, and infrastructure to accommodate them.

We also feel bad that male chicks get routinely slaughtered because people (and the commercial egg industries) say they are worthless.

We think they serve lots of good – and keep hens safe!

We hope that you can keep one around.

What about you? Do you have any tips or stories about male chickens and roosters?

Let us know your thoughts.

And thanks for reading.

Have a great day!

Read More – 115 Funny and Cute Chicken Names for Every Bird in Your Flock!

Author

  • Nicky

    A horse-mad redhead with a passion for the outdoors, Nicky lives on a 6ha small-holding on the Wild Coast of South Africa. She spends her time rearing goats, riding (rearing) horses, and meticulously growing her own chicken food. She has a witch’s knack with herbs and supplements everything, from her beloved Australian Cattle Dog to the occasional passing zebra with the fruits of her labor. Nothing is bought unless Nicky fails to MacGyver it out of scraps of broken bridles, baling twine, or wire. She loves baling twine (and boxes, oddly enough).

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