Roosters are loud, beautiful, mean, good guardians… in other words, contradictory critters. Michele Cook walks us through some of their pros and cons.
Chicken keepers everywhere wrestle with the question “Should I keep a rooster?” Many times, balancing the pros and cons of keeping a rooster come up simply because a rooster snuck into a batch of pullets. You weren’t looking to keep a rooster, but now there is a little cock-a-doodle noise come from your coop. In other cases, you might consider keeping a rooster for protection for your hens or so you can hatch out your own chicks. In this post, I am going to give you the low down on the good and bad about roosters.
Local Livestock Laws
Before we get into the pros and cons of keeping a rooster, I need to mention local livestock laws. Some towns have limits on the number of roosters you can have, if you can have any at all. Before you go out and buy a rooster, check your local laws to be sure you can keep one on your property. Now that I have put up my disclaimer, lets get into all things rooster.
The Cons of Keeping a Rooster
We are going to start with the bad news because I like to get that part out of the way first. As you read through the list of cons, please remember, people have kept roosters for centuries. Yes, there are some challenges that come with keeping a rooster, but most are manageable. With each con will come some management solutions to help you understand what it takes to mitigate the problems and keep everyone happy.
Roosters are loud
Roosters crow. A lot. It’s not just a morning thing either, all those cartoons you watched as a kid lied to you. Roosters crow as a warning to the hens and some do it just for fun. My roosters crow when I talk on the phone, when someone pulls in the driveway, when the dogs bark, when they want to get the hens attention, when, when, when. To save bandwidth I will stop the list there. Just understand, keeping a rooster can break the tranquil quiet you are used to.
I started with this con because there isn’t a lot you can do to mitigate it. There is an anti-crow collar that is supposed to tamp down the crowing some, but reviews are mixed. Depending on your set up, you can also keep your chickens a bit farther from the house and the neighbor’s, so the noise isn’t quite as loud.
Roosters can be Aggressive
Have you seen one of those videos where people are laughing as someone gets chased by an aggressive rooster? Did you notice it’s always the person not being chased who thinks it’s funny? There is a pretty simple reason behind that. Roosters can hurt! Take a cruise around any chicken site and you will always see people with aggressive roo problems. I even read one story where a woman was afraid to get out of her car because her rooster was trying to attack her through the window!
The truth is, some roosters will become aggressive. Not all, but some. The best defense in this case, is a good offense. Handling them when they are young will go a long way in keeping from them from becoming aggressive towards you. If your rooster does become aggressive, you can remove or trim the spurs to minimize the damage. Another tip is to get a breed that tends to be a little more on the calmer side to start with. Australorps and Orpingtons are known to be a little calmer than other breeds and would be a good choice. The calmer they are the less likely they are to become aggressive.
If you are worried about aggressive roosters, stay away from the smaller breeds. Call it Napoleon syndrome if you want, but on average, small roosters tend to be a bit more aggressive than their larger brothers.
Roosters can damage your hens
If you have never seen a rooster breed a hen, it goes something like this: Rooster does his little dance for the hen, hen squats down, rooster jumps on hens back often grabbing her neck for balance, he dips his butt down so all the important body parts meet and he hops off. The whole process takes less than two minutes.
The problem comes when the roosters mount the hens to often or are overly aggressive. They can pull feathers and cause injuries when they are just a little too happy about doing their jobs. The good news is there is a good product that can mitigate this problem. It is called a chicken saddle. This protects the hens back while still allowing the rooster to breed the hen. If you aren’t ready to saddle your hens, you can separate the roosters during the spring when they tend to be most aggressive. This is by far, the easiest con of keeping a rooster to deal with.
The Pros of Keeping a Rooster
Now that we have talked about all the bad stuff, let’s get into some of the good reasons to keep a rooster. Yes, there are good things about keeping a rooster. Besides the fact roosters have beautiful colors and plumage, there are a few good reasons you might want to keep a rooster on your property.
Roosters will protect the flock
All that aggression I was talking about earlier, guess what, roosters will use it to protect their flock from predators. This is one of the best reasons to keep a rooster with your flock. Many a good rooster have scared off a predator trying to get a free meal. Sure, a rooster has its limits, but they are going to alarm, warn the hens, and get in the face of any critter who tries to come into his yard. Hens also seem to be calmer and more comfortable with a protector around.
Roosters can make babies
If you would like to hatch out your own chicks, having a rooster makes things much easier. You could try and find some fertilized eggs for sale but letting nature take its course is much easier. Just leave your hens and roosters together and wait for one of your hens to go broody. In about 23 days, you will have your very own little peepers cheeping away.
Roosters will warn you about visitors
In the same way roosters alarm when they see predators, they will alarm when another human shows up as well. This means no door to door salesman will sneak up on your house. No robbers will either. It may seem strange to use a rooster as a house alarm, but they will let you know when something is going on and it is a big pro to keeping a rooster.
Should you keep a rooster?
If you have read through these pros and cons of keeping a rooster and still aren’t sure if it’s right for you, it might be time to do some boots on the ground research. Talk to local people who have roosters and see if you can spend a little bit of time with them. Just like humans, each rooster will be different, but this will give you a true sense of what it’s like to keep a roo.
Michele Cook is a farmer, author, and communications specialist for the National Federation of Press Women. She raises chickens, goats, and vegetables on her small farm in the beautiful Allegheny mountains of Virginia. If she is not outside caring for her farm you can find her curled up in a chair with her nose stuck in a good book.