So, exciting news- we’ve decided to get a rooster! Lots of people are concerned about this rooster acquisition, mainly because of misconceptions about roosters, so now that we’ve done some research, I thought I’d share the details with you all. 🙂
Details: A rooster protects his flock. You can watch him in the yard, always alert, always on guard. He is constantly scanning the sky and ground for both aerial and land predators. If he senses danger, he alerts the hens, and gets them to safety. There are lots of stories out there about roosters protecting flocks.
One person on my favourite chicken group told us a story about how some neighbourhood dogs came running into her yard one afternoon while her flock was outside free ranging in the garden. She ran to try and save her chickens from the dogs, but obviously couldn’t run as fast as the dogs. When she ran around the house to the back, the dogs were gone, and her ENTIRE flock was safe, because her rooster had heard the dogs, and got all the hens quickly back inside the coop. When she went in, he had the girls all huddled together in a corner of the coop, low and perfectly silent, while he stood in front of them, ready to protect them.
Possible Downside: Some roosters are more aggressive than others, though even the most docile rooster will protect his flock from danger. Some roosters perceive danger too often, where there is none, like when you go in to feed or collect eggs. In these cases, some roosters attack people and try to drive them away from the flock.
How to Handle this Downside: If the roosters is young, you can try and socialize him. Spend quiet time in the chicken yard so they get used to your presence. Sit cross legged with a bowl of food in your lap and let all the chickens treat your lap as a feeder. If you have friendly hens, handle them and let him see you don’t hurt them. Feed them treats. Don’t take treats everytime though, or apparently some nasty roosters will come to expect treats and attack or drive you off if you have none or when they’re gone. Some aggressive roosters may need to be rehomed (or culled). Roosters are “a dime a dozen”, as they say, so they can be difficult to rehome. Be prepared to cull a rooster who is aggressive.
2. Crowing and Warnings
Details: A rooster will warn you of a lot of things. A rooster will most certainly crow to alert the whole neighbourhood that the sun has arisen and a new day begun. Roosters have all different variations of crows, volume, pitch, frequency, etc.
Possible Downside: Some roosters crow in the dead of night- not ideal. Depending on where your coop is situated, in comparison to, say, your bedroom window, you may not get along with a 2am crower. But hearing that rooster crow as the suns coming up and you’re just stretching out of bed is the quintessential “farm sound” and if your rooster is not obnoxiously loud, it’s a very nice sound.
How to Handle this Downside: Our flock spend the nights locked up in the coop, to keep them safe from nighttime predators, and since the sun rises long before I do, they will still be inside when he starts to crow, and the noise won’t be too loud.
Another fun story from my Chicken Facebook group: A lady told us that she went out one evening when she heard a rooster and found one of her two roosters sitting on her porch, making a terrible racket. He was squawking at her and flapping his wings. She followed him and he led her back to the coop, where they found that their second rooster had a raccoon trapped in the corner of the fenced run. All the hens were safely hiding inside, and the two roosters held the coon in that corner while she was able to run back to the house and get her shotgun and take care of him. Way to go protective roosters! They worked as a team, and one held off the predator while the other went for help. I think this is amazing! I see no downside here! 😉
Details: As far as rooster maintenance goes, there’s not much to it that’s more work than a hen. Roosters have spurs, these are almost like claws just above the feet, that need to be trimmed periodically. Roosters also have, well, shall we say, “needs”? You need to have enough hens per rooster so he doesn’t over-breed them and end up hurting them.
Possible Downside: Spurs need to be trimmed, otherwise your rooster could hurt the hens when he mounts them. Roosters need to have enough hens in their harem to keep them… occupied.
How to Handle this Downside: As far as I’ve read, this is a pretty simple procedure, similar to trimming your dog’s nails. When I do it, I’ll be sure to post the details for you all so you know how it goes! It is recommended to have 8-10 hens per rooster.
4. Stress and Fighting
Details: If you have more than one rooster, they will likely fight. Only one can be the dominant rooster, leader of the flock. Sometimes, a second rooster will accept the position as lower rooster, and everyone will get along dandy, but more often, the two roosters will fight it out.
As far as the hens go though, having a rooster present creates a much more relaxed environment for them. Hens that fight often, peck at each other, or otherwise just don’t get along, get straightened out by the rooster. Roosters stop any “girl drama”, as I call it, and make the hens get along. The hens are also more relaxed when a rooster is in the flock, because they know that he is on guard for danger. With the rooster on the look out, the hens stop being alert and wary, and are much more relaxed. Relaxed hens lay better (more often and nicer eggs).
Possible Downside: Like anytime you add a new bird to the flock, pecking order can be in turmoil initially when the rooster arrives. He changes the established order. A hen that was low in the pecking order when there were just hens, can move up in the order if she’s a preferred hen of the rooster. Likewise, often in a flock of just hens, one hen sort of takes on the role of rooster, being the dominant hen, and will stop laying eggs, be on alert, and sometimes even “crow”. This hen may have some issues with the new rooster.
How to Handle this Downside: Like any addition to the flock, add a new rooster at night when everyone is sleeping. Keep an eye on things and remove any injured birds, but try not to interfere. They will figure it out and get themselves sorted out in no time.
And now everyone’s favourite question…
What about fertilized eggs????
Fertilized eggs are just as safe and healthy to eat as unfertilized eggs. You do not need to candle every single egg you bring in to check for a half grown baby chick inside. As long as you collect your eggs every day, so no hen is able to sit on them and incubate, a chick will never develop. If you don’t collect eggs everyday, then you will have to candle them to be sure. We collect every single day.
If we want a hen to hatch out some chicks, all we would do is take a permanent marker and mark with an X the eggs we were not collecting and letting her sit on. Then we could continue collecting the new (unmarked) eggs everyday to eat, and let her sit on the marked eggs until they hatched.
For those interested, we are not planning to hatch out chicks immediately. While I love the idea of letting a hen hatch them out and raise them up herself, like they would naturally, we have currently maxed out the number of chickens we can have in our current coop, size wise. We would have to add another coop or an addition to our current coop in order to house more birds.
Have I covered everything? I think I have. Let me know if I’ve missed any of your burning rooster related questions! I can’t wait to find the right rooster for us!