Deciding on keeping a rooster or not— that is a big question!
When it comes to keeping a rooster, there are pros and cons to consider. Here is a great book for all of us who have backyard chickens Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Rooster
Keeping a rooster has several positive roles in a flock of chickens.
- A rooster provides fertilization services to the hens in the flock.
- He’ll serve as a guard and defender against perceived and actual danger.
- He’ll seek out food for the flock and alert the other backyard chickens that he’s found something tasty.
The facts of life for a backyard rooster
As far as fertilization goes, keeping a rooster is necessary only if you want to hatch chicks or you want fertile eggs for the kitchen. Hens will lay nutritious eggs without having a rooster around. A virile rooster will mate frequently with most or all the hens in his harem.
If there aren’t enough girls to divide his time among, he may wear them out. This can cause damage to the hens’ combs, necks, and backs from the rooster’s beak and spurs. Generally, a good minimum ratio is 8-10 hens per rooster.
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Guard roosters on premises
Always watching over his backyard chickens, a vigilant rooster may appear to never rest. He’ll scan the sky and landscape for potential predators, warning the hens when he senses danger. While protection is a positive trait, some (but not all) roosters take it too far. If they become aggressive, they can injure adults and children by jumping or pecking at them.
Keeping a Rooster will check over food he finds before calling his girls to come and dine. Usually he’ll stand back and let them get started before he begins to partake. On the other hand he may fight for his share or be aggressive with a person carrying anything that, in his mind, might contain food.
Good reasons to Keeping a Backyard Rooster
A good rooster will:
- Mate regularly with most or all of his hens, ensuring an ongoing supply of fertile eggs.
- Protect his hens by alerting them to aerial and ground predators.
- Call his hens when he’s found a food source.
Good things about having a rooster
- Roosters crow at the crack of dawn and all through the day. If you like this sound, it’s a good thing.
- A rooster just looks cool—and maybe colorful–strutting around the farm.
Good reasons to raise backyard chickens without a rooster
- You want eggs for your table but do not want to hatch backyard chickens or eat fertile eggs.
- You and/or your neighbors don’t like the sound of a rooster crowing all day long.
- Roosters are not allowed in your neighborhood by HOA covenants or municipal regulations.
- You have fewer than eight backyard chickens.
- You don’t want to remove the rooster’s spurs—a fairly simple procedure–from time to time.
Other advantages to not having a rooster
- Backyard chickens will not be injured by a rooster’s spurs or beak during mating.
- You won’t have to worry about an overprotective rooster becoming aggressive, jumping or pecking at people.
Among all breeds, there will be gentle roos and aggressive roos. But some breeds are known for more docile roosters than others. Our favorite source for checking out personalities—among many other characteristics—is Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart.
Generally, the more a cockerel is handled as a chick, the less likely he is to become an aggressive rooster. But even a docile roo will jump into action if he perceives a threat. Once cockerels reach maturity, it can be difficult to keep more than one male in the same small flock.
One will claim dominance and will see the others as threats and competition. Sometimes this hierarchy is respected and no one is injured. More likely, there will be fights and injuries. The simple solution is to have only one rooster per backyard flock.
At our farm we’re currently in between roosters. We’ve had three colored broiler roos, but they were all overprotective and so heavy they damaged the hens’ backs and necks while mating. Our grandchildren like to go in the chicken yard to cuddle young chicks and their favorite hens.
We like walking among the backyard chickens without danger of a rooster jumping at our legs. We also appreciate knowing that our hens won’t be injured so often. We’ll keep a colored broiler rooster for our broiler breeding program.
But for our general chicken population, a gentler roo is in order. Since we’ve decided to focus on Buff Orpington hens for our layer flock, we’re going to try a couple of Buff Orp roos. They are known to be fairly docile—a good fit for our family.
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