We often get asked how many roosters should be kept with a flock of hens. What’s the ratio of hens to roosters.
Although this question is a moot point for folks who cannot keep roosters because of the city or byelaws, it is a valid question for those who want to keep a few roosters for breeding or ‘just because.
Roosters can be incredibly beneficial for your flock if integrated properly.
Today we will explore the ‘ideal’ ratio of how many hens per rooster.
We will also cover how the pecking order is affected along with the pros and cons of the whole thing.
Hopefully, we will give you enough information to make a wise decision for you, your flock, and the neighbors!
How Many Roosters Should I Keep?
To successfully keep more than a couple of roosters requires a good number of hens and lots of space. A small backyard area would not be suitable for more than a couple of roosters unless you are going to keep them confined.
If that is your plan, you should make sure either you have no neighbors or they are ‘on board with your plan…did I mention roosters can be a bit noisy?
As an example, when the alpha rooster crows in the morning, each rooster will follow along in order of superiority. You might like it, but will your neighbors? Crowing can begin as early as 2 a.m.!
Now for the numbers.
A rooster in his prime can ‘cover’ 1-16 hens. As he ages, he can successfully cover fewer hens, at age 3 years he is considered ‘beyond prime’.
A rooster’s job is to ensure the success of his kind so mating with the hens looms large in his mind for many of his waking hours.
Therefore the size of your flock will determine how many roosters you can comfortably keep without worrying about fighting or wear and tear on the hens.
Most people say the optimum number for a rooster is 10, but this can vary with breed.
As an example:
- Leghorns- 12 hens : 1 rooster
- Bantam Silkies- 6 hens: 1 rooster
- Turkeys- 4 hens: 1 rooster
The absolute minimum number of hens for one rooster should be three or four and even this can be problematic depending on your breed of rooster.
Several people have noted that Rhode Island Reds, Easter Eggers, and Ameraucana roosters can be more aggressive with other roosters and a bit rough with the hens.
In order to minimize the damage to the hens, you need to have sufficient hens to spread the load.
Often a rooster will have a favorite hen so watch her carefully to make sure she doesn’t get too badly worn from repeatedly mating.
The usual culprit of violent mating is a young, immature rooster. He should get better with practice, but until then keep a very close eye on the ladies for possible injuries.
When mating, a rooster can be hard on the hen, causing broken feathers, bald spots, and even skin tears when he is ‘treading the hen’.
Hens can also become fatigued and may hide to avoid the roosters’ attention. If you notice these signs and the hen is looking a bit ragged, it’s time for the rooster to have a ‘time out in separate quarters.
If you can only have one or two hens, you may have to pen your roosters for a few days a week to give the hens a rest from his attentions.
This method does work well for many folks, especially if you are space restricted or number restricted.
How Much Space Do Roosters Need?
In an average small backyard, you will likely have room for two roosters at the most – even if they are ‘free-range’.
Roosters guard their flock space jealously; they are conserving resources for their own flock. Fighting will ensue if you have too many boys and not enough space.
If you have too many roosters but don’t want to part with them, you can build them a ‘bachelor pad’. In the wild, flocks of males exist and get along well as long as there aren’t any hens around!
Consider building a coop and run for boys only. This way you can keep them from fighting over the ladies, resources, and territory. It also allows you to change out roosters in the flock if you need to.
If you have several ‘mini flocks’ of different breeds, you should have one rooster for each of them.
Each of these roosters and flocks should have their own little ‘kingdoms’ so they are effectively kept separate. The area doesn’t have to be huge, just make sure it is well delineated with fencing or a barrier of some sort.
Make sure to read how much room do chickens need, for more information.
Why You Should Keep Roosters
A great many people see no use to a rooster whatsoever – they are viewed as unnecessary and a nuisance to deal with.
I have heard them described as ‘aggressive, useless ornaments’ – sadly, a not uncommon attitude.
Although some roosters can be a nuisance and be aggressive, not all are the same. It is very much an individual thing, much as you get mean or kind people.
A rooster in the flock adds a degree of security and equilibrium to a flock.
In general, he will intervene if there is a problem, he will warn the flock of impending danger, watch over chicks (this is definitely a huge variable), and find tasty morsels for his ladies.
While a flock of hens will do just fine without a rooster, I really think it is a benefit to have a rooster for the ladies.
I should explain that I used to think roosters were not needed in my flock and resisted getting one for several years.
A ‘pullet’ that turned out to be a rooster changed my mind – he gave up his life for the girls, so I have had a rooster or two ever since.
Yes, there have been a couple that went to the soup pot because of their attitude, but on the whole, those I have raised myself have been good boys. I think part of the secret to success is how you treat them and raise them.
Of course, genetics plays a huge part too. Cockerels will generally turn out much like their father, so if you have a good rooster you will most likely have good offspring.
Let’s take a look at the two main benefits of keeping roosters:
Benefit 1: The Pecking Order
Having a rooster in your flock does initially affect the pecking order. As we know, the pecking order is a complex social stratification of the flock.
In the pecking order, each hen or rooster knows his or her place in relation to all other flock members and recognizes flock members and their place in the hierarchy.
The pecking order has three distinct levels of relationships:
- rooster to rooster
- hen to hen
- rooster to hens
The older and smarter hens will be at the top of the ladder along with the ‘alpha’ rooster. His favorite ladies will not be too far behind in the social order.
The alpha male has the responsibility of caring for the flock and providing security and food, he also gets the benefits too – the best food, best perches, and the pick of the girls.
Any secondary roosters will be much lower in the order. They don’t get the perks and privileges of being at the top of the ladder.
A young rooster may try to ‘dethrone’ the alpha male periodically and may eventually succeed if the alpha male is old, sick, or injured – this will alter the pecking order.
If you need to learn more read, what the pecking order is and how to avoid problems in your flock.
Benefit 2: Flock Behavior
A flock with a rooster seems to be more cohesive, peaceful, and focused. A good rooster actually works quite hard if you stop and watch him for a while.
He will escort a hen or hens to a good feeding spot and stand guard while they feed. He is also watching those independent ladies to make sure they don’t get into trouble!
He guards them against all sorts of predations and dangers, including other roosters!
I sometimes watch my rooster flying across the yard at top speed to investigate a strange noise or a hen’s distress call – he must put in a good few miles each day!
A rooster does not cut any slack to his offspring either. The males will be chased away from the flock repeatedly and they will linger at the edges of the flocks’ area hoping to entice a hen or two.
If you plan to keep more than one rooster in either confinement or free-range, it’s best to raise them together. It is much easier to keep more than one roo if they’ve been in each other’s company since a wee chick.
Adding a rooster to an existing flock is never a good idea.
Benefit 3: More Chickens
Another obvious benefit of keeping a rooster with your hens is the option to incubate. If you love your flock and the attitudes of your birds, you may want to breed them and keep the lineage intact.
With a rooster on hand, he will surely make your chick-rearing dreams come true.
Note: Fertilized eggs can still be consumed without harming yourself or the fertilized egg.
In most cases, you won’t even notice that an egg is fertilized aside from a small white bullseye hanging out amongst the yolk.
In a standard backyard flock, a rooster should have no less than four hens.
If you have fewer hens, you might want to keep the rooster penned for a couple of days a week so that the girls get a break, especially in springtime which is really the beginning of the mating season.
Having a rooster in your flock adds another level of security for the flock. You cannot watch them every minute of the day, but he can and will raise the alarm if there is a problem.
I must admit, I do enjoy having a rooster with the girls. If he sounds the alarm I go out to investigate – without him I may have missed something that was dangerous to the flock.
Keeping a rooster with the flock is not for everyone, it is very much a personal choice. You may feel that the cost of feeding and housing him outweighs the benefits of having him – and that’s fine.
There really is no right or wrong side to the question.
We hope we have given you some good information on keeping your flock healthy and happy and that you enjoy keeping your rooster.
Let us know in the comments section below, would you get a rooster? Or, do you already have a rooster?
Read Next: Ameraucana Chicken: Care Guide, Color Varieties and More
32 thoughts on “What’s the Perfect Ratio of Hens to Roosters?”
Thanks again! Best chicken site on the web!!!!!
I live on an orchard and the owner has 4 old chickens, 9 young ones, and 3 newer chicks, as well as a gorgeous rooster that I have taken on some of the responsibilities for. I don’t know that much about them but am learning more all the time thanks to your newsletters. I love watching and treating them. The rooster is a true gentleman with his hens.
Since last May, I read carrefully them post you send on my mail…I’m comparing your infos with what I observed in my flocs and other info sources. Let me tell you something that probably won’t suprise you: I came to conclusion that all that you’v sent me so far shall be read by all beginers and so-called ”pros” and retained as a usefull source of knowledge. It serve me almost every day and I can see the resuts on my floc of 43…! Tanks for putting that on line for us, It,s no bull and direct to the point , Keep up the good work y’r doing for us! Cheers!!
What a great read I just had reading your article on Google. Loved it.
Have a great day. Thanks for being kind and loving to your flocks. My sweet chicken Clyde, was killed by a bear recently. I cried for weeks. He brought me so much joy and love. I will miss him terribly and hope that I can see him again, in the next life, in Heaven. He did not deserve to die like that.
“I love you Baby. I will love you to the day I die.” Hope to see you again in Heaven, if the Lord would be so gracious and kind to me.
Love, Jane Hazard
You will see your chicken Clyde again, in Romans said that all nature waits for its redemption, God loves animals and created them with the capacity to love humans, and they respond to love, also, all desires of our heart will supply Him to us, and return to us our loved ones, since animals never rejected God, their redemption is sure. Now, put your life everyday in God’s hands so you may walk with Jesus every second of your lives.
I often think of a quote by Will Rogers “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where the dogs are”.
This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing it. (((Hugs)))
Thanks for this very educational info.
We are newbies and have recently added 10 chicks (9 weeks now) to our flock of two. One rooster and one small Japanese bantam hen. Little hen is the bully and we keep them separate. I have to supervise any contact. Your site is so helpful. Thanks. Much more to learn.
please I want to know if I have to a have a rooster in order to have my chickens to lay. The girls are 6 months old.they are of not produced eggs so what is the problem do I need a rooster.
No you don’t need a rooster for hens to lay eggs. This article will explain all:
I have had my rooster since he was a chick (7 months now) and he has suddenly become aggressive towards my 3 year old. He has been handled and played with the entire time by myself, my husband and the 3 kiddos, my husband has said he (the rooster ) has been aggressive for a while but I have only just started seeing it. What can we do?
I’ll be publishing an article on how to handle aggressive roosters next week, so check back then 🙂
I have 2 roosters, 34 hens. My alfa rooster takes his job seriously and does it well. I personally recommend having a rooster. They offer protection that I cannot.
We have 2 separate flocks but plan to integrate.
First flock (13 hens) are a year old, free range and no rooster.
Second flock (19 hens) not free range yet and one rooster (Buff Orpington).
I want them all to free range together. Will this overwhelm the rooster? Not sure how he’ll handle all his girls roaming about. We are deciding if we should keep him before integrating the 2 flocks. Thoughts? Thank you!
Should be fine, he may just not get to mating everyone, so not all eggs may be fertile.
Our flock consisted of what we were told were 5 hens, we’ve had them since May & they were about a month old when we got them. For the last 3 months we have had one egg a day. We recently found a much smaller hen on our land who was in a bit of a state, no feathers on her breast or backside. We kept her separate from the others and thought we would integrate her once she was was looking better. She has laid daily since we’ve had her, a month now.
Since the new chicken arrived we have discovered that 3 of the 5 original chickens are roosters. We’ve tried to introduce the new chicken and they all attack her. So we don’t know what to do. The roosters are really big & healthy and the noise they make is great but don’t want them to start fighting and don’t know what to do with the new one. Would it be best to get some more females? Or get rid of 2 of the roosters. Very attached to them all, we got them as pets not food.
The rule I go by is not what you’re going to want to hear if you want to keep them all. Like they said in the article, for a small flock, 1-2 roosters is ideal. At one point when I was younger we had 5 roosters. The chicken coop was just constantly full of blood spatters.
We picked the two that seemed to get along the best, and got rid of the rest. The neighbors wanted some, some went in the pot.
I’d suggest if one is clearly meaner than the other two, get rid of it and keep the other two. If there aren’t two that can get along, get rid of two.
Tough decision if you got them as pets but still the one I’d advise if you can bring yourself to do it.
I have 15 chickens. They are maturing and it seems I have a lot of males. My Rhode Island Red is a beautiful rooster and I have a Marin that is a gorgeous rooster too. Now that the leghorns are maturing it seems several of them are male also! What can I do with the males?
How do you mean? If you are wanting them to reproduce I would suggest getting a female. If the males seem fine and have acclimated with one another then I would leave them to their chicken duties.
Generally, people butcher the extra males before they fully mature (they taste better when they are young).
I have a small flock, free range on about 100 acres but they come in each night along with the 3 younger guineas. My flock is about 23 total birds. All pets. None younger than 4 years. My oldest hen is 10 years. My rooster just turned 14 years. I make them fermented food each night for morning feeding. I get generally 12 eggs a day, sometimes 18. I sell my free range organic eggs to a local restaurant. He buys roughly 40 doz a month.
My chickens will never be butchered. They lay great! They are a happy flock?
Fermented food? How?
I just have 4 chickens. They are 6 weeks old. I am thinking that one is probably a rooster. Can I do 1 rooster to 3 hens?
We have 24 hens and 3 roosters supposedly (they are all just 4 weeks old so can’t tell their sex yet). We just want the fresh eggs and have no plans to have them reproduce. Will 3 Roosters be an issue? They won’t be free range but have a 20 x20 run and a large coop.
I do have a question! Someone wants me to take their three bantam hens and a Bantam rooster! My pen is just big enough for four regular Sized laying hens! So it’s not that big!
Do I have to have three more hens for this rooster? I do not think I have the space for that!
Excellent article. I have Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpington hens. Have had a Rhode Island Red rooster (aggressive and a jerk at times). I currently have a Buff Orpington rooster ( also a jerk at times). But I will say he protects the flock, let’s me know when there’s trouble, and keeps the peace. Roosters can be noisy at times but sometimes the pros outweigh the cons. Also when he gets a little too aggressive with the hens I separate him for a few days and the hens seem to appreciate that as well.
Hi, thank you for this post, I have 4 Roosters and 8 hens.I raised them sense they hatched, they are now 37weeks old, but now the rooster in charge,( the smallest one of the bunch😜, has started fighting with his brothers and pulling their feathers out and chasing them and not wanting to let them eat, how do I get him to leave them alone? They have never acted this way before this week. Also only 3 are the hens are laying and I can’t find out why. The 3 youngest hens are the ones laying. Any idea would help. Thanks, Doris
I have had a rooster with each of my flocks and they are charming and useful , colorful and helpful in keeping the hawks at bay . I hand raise the chicks and teach them their names so I can call them out of the flock , if I need them to go somewhere .
We already have 26 hens with no roosters, but we are planning to get 20 +- more hens and 10ish roosters as chicks and raise them. when they are old enough we want to put the older hens and the younger hens and roosters together. is that going to cause any problems?
Good sunny fall morning! We have 4 Buff Orington Hens-19 weeks old. Is it possible and ok to introduce an older rooster, or would a younger rooster be better. He would be “borrowed” from a friend for a “clutch of chicks” period of time.
How do I introduce them ? I am presuming saying : “Ms Hens, this is your guy-Mr Rooster. Mr Rooster, meet your lovely Ladies” is a bit formal.
Thanks for your info- last time we had chickens was 18 yrs ago and they all came as mixed gender/breed chicks so this is a new experience.
Very good article and to the point. I have poultry for the past 15 years and had many different breeds and fowl. I have at the moment 32 hens and 6 roosters on 1/4 of an acre free ranging. During breeding season they are in separates pens to keep them pure bred. My breeds are Appenzeller Silver and Gold Spangled, ( Exchequer Leghorn, Partridge Brahma and Cream Legbars, I plan to breeding next year). As I mainly breed Appenzeller, I have presently 6 roosters (couldn’t sell the youngster yet) the oldest is now 5 years old the others 6 month to 2 years. I would normally have 6 hens / rooster and always one spare one the side. All the other breeds are 6 to 8 month and will have 3-5 hens per breed. The main Silver Spangled Appenzeller is the boss and has trained all the other roosters. I had never any fights in the past 5 years. I have over the years noted if you have a good rooster, and I had bad ones too, he will control the complete flock including the younger roosters. Should a fight start, he is immediately between them and splits them up. As they free range the have enough room but even in the house ( during winter I have them all together to keep them warm) I had no fights as the main fellow rules the flock and not one of youngster’s doubts him. I had roosters attacking everybody in the family, but would sit on my arms and do nothing. I have taken aggressive roosters and some actually calmed and tolerated me. In my opinion, roosters are like dogs, they need to know who is alpha. If this is once established you want have any problem anymore. I am lucky to have good neighbours, who tolerate the noise in exchange for eggs.