Living with a Rooster: What to Expect

Like nearly every farming decision, deciding to add a rooster to your flock requires researched and informed consideration. If you’ve never had a rooster in your flock, you’ll find the dynamics change with a rooster in the mix.

Hens that looked up to you and squatted as you walked in the yard will no longer pay as much attention to you. They now have a rooster instead of a human leader. But it’s not all bad. People often make roosters out to be terrors, yet there are actually pros and cons. Pam Freeman, author of Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics helps readers take a look at both.

rooster

PROS FOR ADDING A ROOSTER TO YOUR FLOCK

Protection: When your flock is without a rooster, usually there’s a lead hen that will take over guard duty. However, there’s nothing like a good rooster. You’ll find that a rooster who takes protection seriously will always have an eye or ear on alert for predators. If something is near that a rooster doesn’t like, he will gather his hens in a safe, protected spot. If some of his hens have wandered and he’s not close to them, he will sound an alarm by calling loudly. Once you’ve heard this call, you’ll recognize it every time. If all else fails, he will fight even to the death to protect his hens.

Mediation: Occasionally chickens just don’t get along. Well, roosters are great to have around when hens squabble! They don’t like discord within the ranks, so they will mediate disagreements between the flock members and keep the peace in general.

Reproduction: If you don’t want to rely on hatcheries, you’ve got to have fertilized eggs to expand your flock. That means you’ve got to have a rooster if growing your flock size is a goal. Also, in flocks that have roosters, the pullets tend to mature and lay eggs faster than in flocks that don’t have roosters.

Foraging: Roosters are all about their genetic destiny and the only way to ensure that legacy is by having a group of hens healthy enough to lay eggs and raise the young. This means roosters will spend large amounts of time ferreting out the best treats in your coop or yard. They will then signal the hens that they’ve found something and let the hens eat first.

rooster and hens
A good rooster is always watching over his flock, protecting them from predators, finding food, and helping to mediate squabbles.

 

Tip: If you have more than one rooster, make sure the steadfast protector is allowed to lead the flock. Sometimes this means separating roosters, but in the end it’s better for your flock to have good protection. Just don’t always assume the biggest, prettiest rooster is going to be your best protector. That’s not always the case.

CONS FOR ADDING A ROOSTER TO YOUR FLOCK

Noise: Roosters are loud and they don’t just crow in the morning. They will crow to each other if you have more than one. They will crow if they feel threatened or hear other noises. They will crow all day! Noise is definitely a consideration.

Neighbors and Legal Issues: Many neighborhoods don’t allow roosters. Even if they do allow them, it’s always a good idea to consider your neighbors. While you may not find a rooster crowing offensive or disruptive, others might. So make sure everyone within earshot is on board before adding a rooster.

Fertilized Eggs: A fertilized egg has the ability to become a chicken, but a chicken is not formed until the egg is incubated. I can tell you fertilized eggs don’t taste different and they don’t have a chicken inside. Still, some people will not eat fertilized eggs.

Aggressive Behavior: Some roosters can become highly aggressive and can cause injury to pets and people. This behavior doesn’t normally present itself until roosters mature and their hormones are raging. You may be able to tame this aggressive behavior by showing your rooster who is boss. But if not, it’s good to have plans for your mean rooster. Many people will choose to re-home their roosters or eat them.

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A must-have for every backyard chicken keeper, Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics goes beyond introductory lessons and explores the realities of raising a flock for eggs — and entertainment, of course! From odd eggs and molting to feeding and preparing for the seasons, this book covers the subjects beginner books don’t adequately address and re-examines common knowledge that may not actually hold true. It’s a resource to turn to time and again for expert advice to make sure your birds are happy, healthy, and productive.

Author Pam Freeman, an editor and “Ask the Expert” columnist at Backyard Poultry magazine, draws on her years of experience fielding reader questions to identify and clearly explain many common – and some not-so-common – issues in chicken keeping. How do you add new chickens to your flock? What is the pecking order and how can you change or control it? Is it better to raise chicks by hand or with a broody hen? What do you do when you collect eggs and discover: lash eggs, calcium deposits, soft eggs, eggs within eggs, or wrinkled eggs? In Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics, readers will find not just answers, but a book full of “coop truth” that helps them continue on their journey. Because as every chicken owner knows: Chickens are individuals and real-life chicken keeping often takes you far from the beaten path.

Pam Freeman is the editor of Backyard Poultry magazine and Countryside magazine. After she received four Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks from the Easter Bunny, her flock quickly grew and Pam launched pamsbackyardchickens.com. In the years that followed, she hand-raised chicks, nursed chicks and chickens back to health, and experienced the entire lifecycle many times over. During that time, Pam also joined the Countryside Network, where she is now an editor managing a roster of her fellow chicken-keeping writers. Pam is a resident “Ask the Expert” columnist for Backyard Poultry magazine and continues to write regular posts about chicken keeping and homesteading for Backyard Poultry and other publications.