Due to the increasing number of unwanted roosters across the United States, more and more backyard chicken owners have started keeping ‘bachelor flocks’. A bachelor flock consists of a flock of entirely all roosters, who live together peacefully. There are no hens allowed.
Do not Overcrowd
The number of roosters kept in a bachelor flock should be based on the amount of space they have available. Roosters are generally more rowdy and active then hens. Each rooster should have a minimum of 24 square feet of outside area per bird, regardless of their breed or size.
Include Plenty of Escape Routes
Add visual barriers, hide spots, and extra perches. Ensure there are no places where birds can potentially get trapped, if chased.
Provide multiple water and feed sources
They should be set at different areas of the enclosure. This will minimize the risk of resource guarding behavior and help ensure all flock members are able to eat and drink.
Prevent Boredom: Enrichment Items
To help prevent boredom, which is known to increase the risk of aggression in chickens, provide rooster enrichment items. Also, change it up frequently. Remove one item for awhile and reintroduce it again at a later point. Some suggested items include:
Each bachelor flock will have their own hierarchy or ‘pecking order’, just like with mixed flocks, except that with roosters, it is more likely to change over time, especially in cases involving young roosters. Whomever is the head ‘alpha’ or dominant rooster is the boss of all the other (subdominant) roosters. This comes with several advantages:
First rights to the ‘best’ perching spot (often the highest spot with the best view).
First access to resources (feed and water).
First to crow in the mornings and will crow more overall then the other roosters.
When given treats, an alpha rooster is more likely to make tidbit calls to his subordinate roosters before eating it themselves.
Minimize risk of increased aggression
The dominant, alpha rooster is more likely to be the most aggressive of the birds---they have to in order to defend their status in the pecking order. Usually this aggression manifests as threats (aka reminders) to the other roosters that they are in charge. The aggression is a ritualized form of communication with the purpose of establishing and maintaining the hierarchy within a small group.
An important factor to keep in mind is that any type of external or internal stressor has been linked to an increase in aggressive behavior in chickens. Minimize stress!
Introducing New Roosters to the Flock
Gradually introduce or reintroduce roosters into the flock. Closely monitor and intervene if necessary. Keep in mind that any roosters who were kept in isolation for extended amounts of time are more likely to show more aggression towards other roosters initially.
There are two types of fights which may occur in bachelor flocks---duels amongst individuals, and multiple bird gang attacks.
Multi-gang attacks. Multiple bird gang attacks result in the most serious, often fatal injuries. If this type of attack is witnessed, you must intervene!
Duels. Duels are one on one rooster conflicts which last between 2 to 153 seconds. These usually result in no to minor injuries involving occasional bleeding from the comb. However, this depends on how long the duel lasts and whether or not a bird submits to the other. Most of the time when it is duels amongst individuals, the birds will work it out fairly quickly as long as one bird backs down. If neither bird backs down, then you will need to intervene.
Birds which initiate the first attack or have a more aggressive posture more often also win the fight. The male that started out being more aggressive at the beginning of the duel almost always won the fight.
Different breeds of roosters differ in the intensity and duration of competitions for a dominance position within the pecking order. Roosters who were previously used for cockfighting purposes are more likely to fight to the death if housed with other roosters. These birds typically do not ever show submission. It is not advised to keep trained cockfighting roosters with other roosters.
Consideration for spurs
Older roosters who have longer spurs are at risk of getting them caught in certain fencing materials and wire dog kennels. They can also damage their beaks if certain types of fencing materials are used as barriers between roosters who don’t get along. Some strategies to help reduce the risk of injury include the following:
Trim and dremmel an older rooster’s spurs.
If chainlink fencing is used for internal walls, install corrugated roofing panels or window screen along the first 2 feet of the perimeter.
If barriers are needed, use window screen or aviary netting to separate birds from one another.