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Do Roosters Have a Favourite Hen?

The pecking order of a flock can sometimes seem like you can’t tell who’s in charge of who, but when you have a rooster he usually takes charge of the top spot.

It’s then normal for the hens below the rooster to have their own hierarchy, so you might notice a particular hen who bosses around the hens lower down in the flock, especially when it comes to food.

As a rooster owner, I’ve spent time watching his behaviour towards the hens and although he’s not nice all of the time, he can at times be the perfect gentleman towards his girls providing they stick to his rules.

Roosters often have a favorite hen they spend more time with, showing preference by offering her food, protecting her, or mating with her frequently. This favoritism can be due to the hen’s health, fertility, or temperament. Observing flock dynamics and rooster behavior can typically identify a favored hen.

Read on to find out more about a roosters behaviour towards its favourite hen/s, find out about how roosters are not always nice to the hens within their flock and what to do if the attention becomes overwhelming.

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Why Does a Rooster Have a Favourite Hen?

For the rooster, one of its roles in life is keeping charge of the hens in the flock, but this can be a tricky job especially if they’re free-range.

When we let our hens out in the morning to free-range, they have the option to wander off to various areas and they tend to do this in small groups, much to the dismay of the rooster who will get very agitated and vocal when they separate.

Although most are only interested in going off to find the best food, there’re always one hen or two hens who are loyal and will stay by his side throughout most of the day.

These hens are not high up in the pecking order, so while the others are more unruly, these are hens who can be easily influenced and controlled. In return, he will keep them safe and find them morsels of food as they graze providing they allow him to mate with them on a regular basis.

Although the rooster does have his favourites, he will still mate with the other hens too when he gets a chance and it’s usual to see that most of the eggs within a small flock are fertilized – for more information on how to check this see the post below:

Do you need a rooster for hens to lay eggs?

If you spend time watching the roosters behaviour around a hen when it’s being attentive, it’s interesting to see how they behave with each other. Here are just some of the things which you might notice if you keep a rooster with hens:

  • The rooster will constantly make gentle clucking sounds to communicate with the hen/s.
  • While hens graze, the rooster will be on high alert for any potential threat or competitors.
  • The rooster will point the hens towards morsels of food.
  • The hen will sometimes groom and remove any debris from the roosters’ feathers.

Each rooster will have his own quirks and personality which will affect the way he behaves towards his hens, for example, our rooster is always last to leave the coop and the run because he lets the hens go first.

These quirks are just some of the reasons why keeping a rooster can be fun, although they can be hard work too!

Can a Rooster Become too Much for a Hen?

We’ve found that in some cases a rooster can become too attentive towards a hen and it can also harass a hen in an aggressive manner if he feels the hen is stepping out of line.

In many cases, a rooster is much larger than a hen (depending on the breed), so this harassment whether attentive or aggressive can sometimes become overwhelming for the hen.

Regular mating can also become overwhelming because the rooster stands on the hens back which can appear like it’s being squashed into the ground. The roosters’ sharp claws can dig into the hens back and this can often lead to feathers being torn out during this process.

The rooster may also pin the hen down to the ground just as an act of control and to remind them that he’s in charge. He will often grab hold of the feathers on the hens back when he does this, which can lead to feather loss over time.

This might all sound really brutal and disturbing, but its also normal rooster behaviour which happens all the time in a chicken flock. In most cases, the hen will go back to what it was doing before as if nothing has ever happened.

If the hen is becoming overwhelmed to the point where attentiveness and aggression are going too far, you might need to intervene (which I’ll cover next). Here are some signs to show that a rooster might be overwhelming a hen:

  • The hen looks frightened and/or is not wanting to be around the rooster.
  • There are noticeable bald patches and even injuries caused by the rooster.
  • The hen is agitated when it’s near the rooster.
  • It’s unable to eat properly because the rooster is preventing it from getting near the feed.

How to Deal With a Rooster Who Won’t Leave a Hen Alone

If you’re recognising some signs that the rooster’s attention towards a hen is getting to the point where the hen is distressed or getting injured, then they’re some things you can do which can help to calm the situation and take the pressure away from the hen/s.

Here are some tips which we’ve found work when things get out of hand:

  • If possible separate the rooster and the hen or hens for a few days during the day to take some pressure off.
  • Remind an aggressive rooster that he’s not always in charge by gently holding him down for a few minutes.
  • Feed the rooster separately to the hen or hens so they can get a chance to eat in peace.
  • If the spurs on the back of a rooster’s legs are injuring hens the tips can be carefully trimmed to blunt them off.

Keeping the hen safe from injury and distress is the most important thing in this situation. It might seem a bit extreme to hold a rooster down, but they recognise this as a sign of control and its part of their normal behaviour (providing it’s done gently and you also protect yourself).

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I this post has helped you to find out more about roosters having favourites within the flock, you might also find the following articles useful too:

Should you get a rooster? The complete guide

Can roosters hurt humans

Ex-battery hens laying soft eggs – why & what you can do

Can roosters eat layer feed?

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on January 26, 2021.

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