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unexpected young cockerel competing with sweet elderly rooster--what should I do?

 
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My kids have a delightful, gentle pet rooster named Goldie. He was their neighbor's pet chicken for many years, and then they moved and gave us him and his hen. He's now something like 7 or 8 years old. He's getting slow, and resting a lot. He still crows, but doesn't excitedly scratch at the ground or peck like he used to. He spends a lot of his time just sitting down. I'm thinking he's just getting old and tired?

My kids also just raised two "hens"---only to find out one (named "Runner") cock-a-doodle-doing this morning. And being feisty with it's sibling. (He's a lakenvelder chicken, if that info is useful).

I really, really, really want to make sure our old rooster Goldie does not get picked on by Runner. I want to make sure Goldie has fantastic golden days at the end of his life. Should I separate the young Runner (will that make it hard for him to be nice later on to our two hens). Should we just get rid of Runner? Should we just keep Goldie separated?

I'm pretty new to chickens, and I've never worked with a cockerel before. Any and all suggestions are welcome and appreciated!

Thank you!!!
IMG_20190529_125605.jpg
My son LOVES Goldie ♥
My son LOVES Goldie ♥
 
Nicole Alderman
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This really worries me (http://www.chickenrunrescue.org/Rooster-Behavior):

When an Alpha Male ages, he'll eventually be replaced. This can happen through battle or just by tiring of his duties. When the Alpha is replaced by a younger male, the heirarchy will be reconfigured. Once the Alpha yields, he will be challenged by every other flock member and can end up low man in the coop. This does not necessarily mean physical confrontations. When the Alpha decides to submit, he's been beaten psychologically and seems so devastated that he's unwilling to contest any of the birds for anything and will avoid confrontation at all costs. If the Alpha is replaced because he's injured or sick, when recovered, he will reclaim his Alpha position.



Perhaps this is why Goldie was staying away from the flock today, and acting all depressed? We spent the not-raining time today walking around with him away from the other chickens, and giving him earthworms, which he ate handfuls of from my kids. Maybe the cockrel--Runner--is exerting dominance and Goldie is depressed about it? He never really perked up entirely after his favorite hen died this summer.

I'm even more worried that Runner might kill Goldie. I don't think my kids--or me--are ready for that.

From Backyard Chicken Keepers:

My 10 year old rooster died last May 1st, exactly 10 years to the day he was born. He always defended himself throughout his life to be the top dog that he deserved. When he was 9 he took on another rooster that had grown into manhood. I didn't know they were sparring out in the cold rain until hours later. My poor old rooster got beat by the younger boy. After that he just kind of gave up and let the younger roosters step ahead of him in ranking. He started to become slower and depressed, but still had his pride knowing he was the king at one time. The last days he sat mostly, ate a little, and stopped the proud crow I had heard for a decade. I held him in my arms and told him it was ok to go. I left him in a peaceful spot where he wouldn't be disturbed and he died within an hour. He made my life a joy. He's buried in a special spot under our prettiest tree.



On the one hand, it'd probably be good to have a rooster if Goldie is just naturally dying of old age. But, Runner is kind of a jerk, and never really became handtame like the rest of the chickens. I don't need a rooster that would attack my kids.

Should I separate Runner from the rest of the flock? Would this make him even meaner when/if reintroduced? My kids don't particularly like Runner--he's gorgeous, but he's never really let them hold him and would scratch them when they'd try (granted, they were not always the most gentle when chasing down and trying to pick him up, because they really wanted to hold him, even if HE did not want to be held). He's also too small for eating, and I don't think any of us are up for eating him. I'm super depressed he turned into a rooster. We got two sexed "hens" to be friends for Goldie, and instead we ended up with a potential bully.

I'm feeling really lost about this whole thing.
 
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If you don't need Goldie for reproduction, I'd get rid of Runner and see if Goldie bounces back.  Runner isn't doing anything for you except look pretty.  If Goldie regains his old form, you're set and, if he doesn't, he'll at least not get picked on.  

It might be time to start looking for another tame roo or see about raising one up.  Good luck!
 
Nicole Alderman
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We spent over an hour with the chickens today, and learned some new facts:

  • Goldie is happier when the young Runner is away, and Goldie was happier and perkier today than yesterday
  • Goldie did not keep up with--or try to keep up with the ladies
  • The girls wanted to be with Runner more than they wanted to be with Goldie. They came more when he called than when Goldie called
  • Runner is FAST! He lives up to his name, and he didn't want to be caught. He never attacked us, though.
  • Once we caught Runner, he was really gentle. The kids pet and tapped his beak and rubbed their faces against his, and pet him all over, and he never once tried to peck. So, it could be that he might be tamable if we put in the effort.
  • Goldie is, indeed, 8 years old


  • My current thought: Maybe I put a fenced area just outside the chicken yard where Runner can live and still see his flock. We spend time with him every day, and befriend him--maybe even have socialization hours with the girls when we're out there? We let Goldie live out his golden days with his ladies in a relaxed fashion, and when he passes, we reintroduce Runner as the rooster? Would this work out? Are there downsides for Runner's development?
    20201017_111603.jpg
    Runner is still pretty small--about 1/3rd the size of Goldie, and smaller than our hen (Goldie isn't in this picture)
    Runner is still pretty small--about 1/3rd the size of Goldie, and smaller than our hen (Goldie isn't in this picture)
    20201017_111555.jpg
    Goldie was feeling better today, and walked around with the ladies, but they didn't stay with him
    Goldie was feeling better today, and walked around with the ladies, but they didn't stay with him
    20201017_120117.jpg
    Runner never bit, despite my kids petting his beak over and over and even tapping it
    Runner never bit, despite my kids petting his beak over and over and even tapping it
    20201017_120746.jpg
    We held him about 45 minutes between the two of us, and he was calm the whole time
    We held him about 45 minutes between the two of us, and he was calm the whole time
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I'm wondering what to do about nighttime. Would it be safe for the young rooster--Runner--to sleep in the coop with the elderly Goldie? Will they pick on each other up there? Or, would it be better to house Runner in a large kennel next to the chicken coop?
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    We put Runner in the dog kennel tonight--I'd love input if this was a good choice. It shouldn't be too cold tonight, but he seemed so lonely in there .
     
    pollinator
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    yeah, that’s the issue with separating out one of them, they’re a social creature and whoever’s alone will be suffering to some degree. he’ll be fine for the night, but i dunno how long-term a solution it is. how many hens, did you say? might it be possible to separate runner with a lady or two?
     
    pollinator
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    It is a tough choice to have to make.  If you end up rehousing Runner, it's not difficult to find a replacement roo.  Having a bond for 8 years is special since your kids have grown up with Goldie.

    We ended up with multiple roosters this year and I did have a young favorite.  At night we were putting him in a dog crate to avoid the early am fighting.  I kept the crate in the chicken run so he could be near the other birds because I found that a couple hens wanted to be near him and would sleep next to his crate. He was pretty calm about going in but seemed sad. During the day we let them free range and figured there were enough hiding spots if there was fighting during the day.  We did this for a few weeks before I came across someone whose roo was dying of old age.  I ended up giving him away even though I liked him.  

    If you keep Runner separately I don't think it would be a big problem to reintroduce him later. At least from what I've experienced anyway.  The main problem was the old rooster kept seeing the competition and it was stressing him.

    I hope whatever decision you make works out well.  
     
    pollinator
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    You decide which one you want to keep and then make it happen as eventually separation will fail.  Normal answer growing up was to eat the "non survivor".

     
    Nicole Alderman
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    greg mosser wrote:yeah, that’s the issue with separating out one of them, they’re a social creature and whoever’s alone will be suffering to some degree. he’ll be fine for the night, but i dunno how long-term a solution it is. how many hens, did you say? might it be possible to separate runner with a lady or two?



    We have a very small flock--only two hens. Our neighbors gave us the coop along with Goldie and his one hen. It's a tiny coop, and so I treat the whole coop+run as a coop, and have tried to keep it really low-stocked so that they can be safe and happy in there when I do have to keep them closed up because of weather or predators. Here's a picture of it when we moved it:



    Anyway, we have two hens--one older one (Shadow Chicken), and Jumper, who is the same age as Runner. Runner and Jumper were picked out by my kids as chicks to grow up to be extra ladies for Goldie...and then this happened.

    I don't think we can easily split two hens between the two roosters--they really like to hang out together. So, we're kind of in a pickle!
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Goldie isn't doing well. We've kept the other rooster away for the past few days, but Goldie hasn't perked up. He was spending most of his time up in his coop, yesterday only giving a very small cock-a-doodle-doo.

    Today, I watched him fly down from his coop to get some food...only to take one bite and slowly lower himself to the ground and stay there. We tried bringing him to some sunny parts of the yard full of bugs, and he'd just lower himself to the ground, usually with his butt in the air and his head on the ground, looking very uncomfortable. His wattle and comb were very desaturated--more of a greyish brown than red, and not warm at all. We decided we'd bring him inside so he'd be warm and loved for however many hours he has left. He's breathing heavy, and had one diarrhea poop, and we've spent most of the time holding him and petting him.

    We've managed to get him some water (by gently putting his beak in the water), and he's taken a few bites of tuna. His waddle has brightened up a bit, and he's not as cold, but his comb is till rather purple-ish. Right now, we have him in a big rubbermaid bin, with towels under him to support him...and my son camping out next to him.
     
    Tina Hillel
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    I'm very sorry Goldie isn't doing well.  That's the hard part of having a pet whether it's a dog, cat or chicken.

    For what it is worth, I have usually seen a chicken naturally die one of two ways. It's either peacefully going to sleep (kind of rare) or in a fit of seizures.  I don't know if that is something that would traumatize your son, so I just wanted to warn you. It is rare for one to die of old age here as most are freezer bound so maybe someone else would have better knowledge than me regarding an elderly chicken.

     
    Nicole Alderman
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    He'd seemed to be on the mend for a while, crowing happily and eating and drinking. Today, though, he took a sudden turn for the worst. He started breathing heavily. We gave him vitamin/probiotic water, which he barely drank. My son wanted to hold him, and he did while I read him our history book. Goldie's breathing got more and more labored, and his head kept bending back. I called my husband over, just in time for Goldie to start the death throws.

    Thank you, Tina, so much for the warning us about the seizures. I was able to tell my son that "someone on permies told me that this is how chickens die of old age--they have seizures or die in their sleep." The seizures were terrifying. Goldie bocked these horrid strangled bocks, and arched and lurched and flapped. Thankfully my husband was right there to take Goldie and swaddle him in the towel we'd put on my son's lap while he held Goldie.

    rooster who died of old age at age 8
    Goldie
    rest in peace


    My son wanted to bury Goldie under his fruit tree, by Brownie his hen...thankfully my son was inside when I found Brownie's body (I thought I'd dug far enough away--apparently not!). Having buried her just a little over a foot down, it was obvious that all the fungi and microorganisms were doing their job. We buried Goldie, playing him music from my snow glob, said a little prayer, and buried him. We then covered the spot with Goldie's bedding and left over food (it's Scratch and Peck whole grain feed, so chances are we'll have some duck food sprouting there come spring.)

    Our other rooster is doing well, hanging out with the two hens. I guess it's good that we kept him, and had Goldie in the house to stay warm.
    20201018_110850.jpg
    Goldie, just a few weeks ago ♥
    Goldie, just a few weeks ago ♥
     
    Tina Hillel
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    I'm not surprised but still am disappointed at this ending. Goldie was a beautiful roo.  Its good that your son could be prepared and have closure with a final ceremony for Goldie.  There is a quote by Dr. Seuss I like to remember for times likes this."Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Even though this friendship had a sad ending, he can have happy memories of Goldie and hopefully build the same with Runner especially since he has helped raise him.

    Since I let the cockerels get older when there are times I need to choose a new roo (like this year), I've noticed they do calm down around 9 months to a year old.  Since Runner has already been letting you hold him for long periods of time, you are doing great with socializing him.  It makes a huge difference with a roo who will be there long term.

    I'm so sorry about Goldie.  Hugs to your family!



    Edited for typos and to say thank you for pie!
     
    pollinator
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    I'm sorry for your loss, Nicole.

    I would be surprised if the arrival of a new roo would trigger a decline in an otherwise healthy bird, but I don't think it's a thing you could have done anything about. If it were so triggered, it would have happened before you even noticed that Runner was a cockerel, as I would submit that chickens know the sexes of their own before we do. You did everything you could to avoid problematic situations.

    It's sad, but I expect that knowing that there was an energetic young cockerel around to protect his flock allowed Goldie to go in relative peace.

    Thank you for sharing all of this, for those of us who will no doubt be in similar straits sooner or later.

    And Tina, thank you for reminding me of that Dr. Seuss quote. It is one of my favourites.

    -CK
     
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