Should You Get a Rooster?
If you are a new chicken owner, you may have questions about what to do when you end up with a rooster. For most backyard chicken keepers, a rooster is less than ideal. Most cities and neighborhoods don't even allow the male half of the flock to stick around lest they crow to early in the morning! They are a highly debated topic and one that I will be testing on my own with my new flock of chickens. I specifically ordered two roosters, an Ameraucana and a Black Australorp. I will soon be finding out in the coming months if that was a poor decision. It's a risk that I am willing to take, knowing some of you will highly disagree with my decision, support me, or not really understand what the big deal is. Here's the big deal in short form: roosters can be mean. They can peck you children, over mate with your hens, kill other roosters, kill your ducks, and even attack you. The lever in that statement is can. They can be mean, but that doesn't mean that all of them are. Kind of like people!
Today I am sharing with you a pro/con list of why you should or should not keep a rooster in your flock of chickens, Rory Gilmore style. Are you ready? I also want to mention that you can learn even more about this topic in my online chicken keeping course called, Finding Your Flock! It's chock-full of information about keeping backyard chickens for the first time and even beyond!
Pros of Keeping Roosters
Roosters Provide Fertilized Eggs
It's no surprise that when you have a rooster, you have eggs. A common misconception with first time chicken keepers, or even just an average human who does not keep chickens, is that you need a rooster to get eggs from a hen. This is completely false. Hens will lay eggs whether there is a man around or not. The difference is that when you have a rooster, you have fertile eggs. These are eggs that can be hatched into new chicks. This is something not everyone wants, as there are both pros and cons about fertile eggs as well. With fertile eggs, you always have the option to increase your flock numbers. You could place them in an incubator or simply place freshly laid eggs underneath a broody hen. The con of having fertile eggs is that if you forget to collect them as soon as they are laid in hot weather (anything 80°F and over) then you'll have to toss them. High temperatures cause the embryo to develop. Fertile eggs can also be a fun option as a selling point for your homestead! If you have pure bred or rare breed chickens, then you can sell pure bred hatching eggs or chicks in the spring!
Roosters Act As A Guard
Roosters are protective! It is both a strength and a weakness, I am afraid to say. The rooster's natural job is to protect and lead the flock. He will literally put his own life on the line for his hens; many a rooster has perished at the hands of a predator such as a fox, badger, or coyote. While this sounds heroic, it really only gives the hens a matter of minutes to try and run for cover before the larger predator can get to them. A rooster has spurs on the backs of their legs, which he uses as a defense weapon. He may even use these on you or your children! Young children are often in the line of fire when it comes to roosters as they are small enough to be taken as a threat. We will be practicing the 3-strike rule around here for our roosters, but I am assuming that Tad will soon realize he cannot hug these hens as much!
They Know Where the Good Food Is
Roosters will support their ladies! They even stand up for the weaker and smaller hens when there are squabbles in the scratch yard. They like to find the best treats and snacks while out foraging and will often share them with his favorite hens. Have you ever heard of tid-bitting? It happens when a rooster is trying to attract a hen to mate with him. He'll pick up pieces of favorable food and kind of dance towards her, dropping the treats at her feet. It's very romantic! Ha! If you don't have a rooster, then another hen will usually take over the role of food scout and figure out where to find the best places for foraging.
They Don't Eat As Much Food
Really! Hens need lots of extra protein and calcium to lay an egg. You may already know that as a chicken keeper, it's best to provide your hens with oyster shells or other calcium supplements when they are laying age. Roosters will not eat this; they know that they do not need extra calcium or protein. As feisty as they are, they won't be breaking your bank as much as a hen does!
They Provide A Natural Order
Did you know that roosters don't necessarily land at the top of the pecking order? That still sometimes falls to a hen if she is bold enough. Though this doesn't always happen! Roosters are usually at the top of the pecking order and create a balance among the flock. They act as referee to the ladies. Having a rooster can provide a lot of calm to the flock and also allow the forces of nature to take control. This is the part that I am really interested to observe this year!
Cons of Keeping Roosters
They Can Be Mean
But hens can be mean, too! This is often the biggest reason most people decided not to keep a rooster. They are known to attack their keeper, family members, children, friends, and visitors. This is normal behavior, and it is not done out of spite. They are trying to protect their hens. That might put you in the cross fire, especially if all you want to do is clean out the coop. There are many ideas and techniques out there for taking command over a bold rooster, though I am not sure how well they actually work! My understanding is that the more you handle a rooster, especially from hatch and throughout their chick days, the more docile they will become. If you want to raise a friendly rooster, make sure that you hold him every day and talk to him gently so that he becomes used to your presence and the presence of your children!
You Can Purchase Hatching Eggs Online
While having a rooster to provide you with fertile eggs is nice, you can find hatching eggs on the internet pretty easily now. The downside to that is that you can't sell hatching eggs. I would like to look into that side of it! I would also just like to see the natural balance happen; a hen and rooster mate, she lays eggs, she hatches them, and she raises them. It sounds like something pretty amazing to experience.
Roosters Can Cause Drama
While they sound like gentle protectors of their flock, roosters can also be demanding and rude to their hens. A hen and rooster couple is not the same as a human couple; there is no consent from a chicken! Roosters will over mate with hens; it's a common known fact. They have their favorites. This can lead to stress on a hen (obviously) including the removal of back feathers from over-mounting, injured hips, and injured vents. In some cases, it can even kill your hens. This issue, however, can easily be solved by creating an ideal hen to rooster ratio. For most flocks, this looks like around 10-12 hens for every rooster. This creates a balance for mating and gives favorite hens a break when they need it. We will have two roosters among 24 hens - works out great!
They Act As An Alarm Clock
Okay, this one (I don't think) will bother me very much, but it may bother you. Or your neighbors. Crowing is the main reason that most neighborhoods do not allow roosters! They will crow in the morning but also all day long. The famous morning crow is not a one-and-done. They are noisy and boastful. I am pretty excited for this, honestly, and don't mind it one bit! When we stayed in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, when stayed on a small farm. Every morning that we woke up, you could hear the roosters crowing from the neighboring farms. It was peaceful and magical, like a dream. I don't know - I absolutely adore everything about country life. If you don't like the loudness, a rooster probably isn't your cup of tea. Hens can be just as loud, though, when they are laying their eggs!
A Few Things to Keep In Mind
If you are curious or planning to get a rooster, don't forget that you have to have a good hen-to-rooster ratio. 10-12 hens per every rooster! This way you can prevent over-mating. It's also good to note that most flocks over 25, if you are simply trying to keep a backyard flock, don't do well unless there is a rooster. If you have more than 25 hens, you may want to consider adding a male or two into the mix so that they can resolve their pecking order issues.
It's also important to remember that even if you absolutely despise roosters, hens can be just as spiteful and mean. Children that are under the age of 3 are always at risk when it comes to a territorial chicken. The best way to create docile and gentle birds is by handling them, talking to them, and getting them used to your scent and presence. We make sure that Tad has a chance to handle our chickens, even the roosters, when they are young so that can be comfortable with being chased or picked up when they are adults. As much as we like to talk about "chicken cuddles" around here, chickens are still farm animals. They don't love being held, but will tolerate it if you work on this with them from a young age.
Will you be adding a rooster to your flock?