Are your hens being harassed and attacked by your rooster(s)? There are a number of reasons why this might be happening; it might be mating rituals, environmental conditions, boredom, or just a problematic rooster.
Why Do Roosters Attack Hens?
You’re going to have to do some investigating to find out why your rooster is being aggressive. Don’t worry though, it’s usually not that difficult to figure out.
Here are the most common reasons for inter-flock aggression from a rooster:
If your rooster is pecking at your hens without doing much harm, this might just be “courting” behavior.
Pecking is perfectly normal. Even balding patches is pretty normal - this tells you that hen is one of the rooster’s favorites.
I’m sure you’ve witnessed the mating process. A rooster will stand on the hen’s back and hold on to the feathers on the back of her neck. It’s a little on the rough side!
You can minimize the damage your hens are suffering by clipping the rooster’s spurs and nails. There are also saddles you can strap onto your hens if it’s an extreme problem.
Also, a time out for a rooster sometimes helps them realize they’re being too aggressive. When you reintroduce them after a few days they find their place in the pecking order again and are often not as aggressive.
Believe it or not, chickens do get bored. Which isn’t that hard to understand, especially if you have a fairly small enclosure.
Chickens are a lot cleverer than people give them credit for. They require some mental stimulation to keep them happy.
I’ve known of situations with friends where a bored rooster was terrorizing their flock, just because they were bored. So I know it happens.
After the owner increased the amount of room they had to roam, hung some things to peck at, and moved some scenery around - the pecking stopped.
Overcrowding and cramped conditions is an all too common problem and one that can be easily avoided.
I know how addictive it is raising backyard chickens. It’s so much fun adding a new one to the flock, and I know most of you reading this will agree with me when I say you can never have too many chickens.
Well, OK, there is such a thing as too many!
Anyway, cramped conditions lead to stressed chickens and aggressive behavior. If you don’t already have at least 5-8 sq ft of space per bird inside the coop, I recommend doing so and seeing if this helps.
Related - Here's how many chickens you should have in a 4x8 coop for example.
I’ve read studies that seem to show a correlation between a lack of quality nutrition and aggressive behavior in roosters.
It’s suggested that adding more high-fiber foods, such as whole oats, alfalfa hay, and other grains can help reduce aggression.
I certainly recommend trying this. Plus, if you scatter oats and grains, it gives them something to scratch and forage for, too. This will also help bust any boredom and give them something to do.
Try and encourage them to eat as many bugs and other foods they can find naturally as well. Chickens are pretty good at knowing what they should be eating when given the opportunity.
Why Is My Rooster Picking on One Hen?
First of all, you need to be able to tell the difference between bullying and harming a hen, and overactive mating rituals.
Roosters often pick favorites when it comes to mating, and those are the hens that will be harassed the most.
It’s a strange way for a rooster to show favoritism, but it’s how it works within the flock hierarchy.
Sometimes, however, a rooster will bully another hen. This is a more serious problem as it often escalates over time and obviously your hen is at risk of serious injury, or worse.
Either way, I will cover some of the ways you can stop roosters hurting your hens:
How To Stop Roosters From Hurting Hens
When it comes to stopping roosters from hurting hens, you have three main options depending on why they’re being aggressive:
Giving your hens a saddle - If your hens are getting mating-related injuries, you can protect their saddle feathers by strapping on a saddle.
I’ve also seen people using makeshift protective clothing made from a piece of fabric. As long as it covers the areas where they’re losing feathers, it’ll give them a chance to grow their feathers back and heal.
Here is an example of a chicken strap on saddle available on Amazon:
Using pine tar for chickens - Pine tar is something of a miracle product. It’s used as a wood preservative, to treat skin conditions... and to stop roosters pecking at hens.
The taste helps keep roosters away from the area where it’s applied. It also speeds up the healing process.
Here is an example of some pine tar that will do the job available on Amazon:
Separating the rooster - Sometimes the only solution is to remove the rooster from the flock. They don’t enjoy spending time alone, but sometimes this will solve the problem when they’re reintroduced.
If the bullying/attacking doesn’t stop when you reintroduce them, it may be time to find them a new home.
Will a Rooster Kill a Hen?
It’s very possible a rooster will kill a hen if you don’t do something about their aggressive behavior, yes.
It happens a lot more due to over-mating than pure aggression, but it happens. If you’ve spotted bald patches, damage to your hens’ combs, noticed they've been bleeding, or can see they’re visibly stressed, you have to take steps to do something about it.
I hope that giving you a more detailed look at the 4 most common reasons why roosters attack hens gives you some insight into any problems you’re experiencing right now.
Remember, a happy and stress-free flock is a healthy flock. And, a healthy flock means plenty of great-tasting eggs and loads of fun interacting with your hens.
If you’ve got a problem rooster on your hands, take the necessary steps to deal with them, and protect your girls!