Tag Archives: Pets

The Rooster Delima

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Backyard Chickens

So, you want backyard chickens, but you don’t know about the rooster bit. . . so, here’s the deal with roosters:

The pros of having a rooster:

Some of the pros for having a rooster in your flock are:

  • You need one if you want to get new chicks every year.

If you want a truly sustainable flock, you have to have at least one.  A good rule of thumb for the rooster to hen ratio is that for fertile eggs, you need at least one rooster for every 20 hens.  Most backyard flocks are small, since city regulations often limit the number to as little as 6 chickens.

  • Roosters will protect your flock from predators.

This may be true out in the country where your chickens have more room to roam, however in the city where your chickens are probably more confined to a small area in your yard, this isn’t so much the case, especially if they are in an enclosed coop at night.

  • Fertile eggs are more nutritious and Fertile eggs taste better than infertile eggs.

This is highly debatable, and I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that either of these claims are true.

  • Hens lay more eggs when there is a rooster around.

My dad always said that having roosters helped the hens lay more frequently, but I haven’t really noticed a difference without. My hens still lay nearly 1 egg per day in the laying season.

The cons of having a rooster:

  • They are aggressive

The degree of aggressiveness depends on the breed, so if you have small children, you would want to consider not having a rooster, or at least having a more docile breed of rooster, but even the more ‘docile’ breeds are more aggressive in the spring and summer because it is breeding season, and even ‘docile’ breeds like the Rhode Island Reds can be very aggressive. The rooster that inspired the  name of my blog was a Rhode Island Red.

For a list of chicken breeds and characteristics, click here to see Henderson’s Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart

  • They crow

supposedly larger breeds crow less often than the smaller bantam breeds, with a lower pitched crow, but they are also louder. This is a problem if your city has a noise ordinance. You could silence them by having their voice box cut, but to me, that is animal cruelty.

  • They eat as much as hens, but don’t lay eggs.

I think that it is ideal to have a rooster, but in the city where your neighbors are apt to complain about the noise, the best use for a rooster is mean rooster soup.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Chickens

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Backyard Chickens

Chickens are probably one of the easiest pets to take care of. As long as you supply them with food, shelter, and water, they will stay around and mostly take care of themselves. They do not do well with just one. They are flock animals and get lonely, so you should have at least two. If you have a garden, you need to create some type of barrier to prevent them from eating it, or you need to keep them in a pen. They are happiest if they have a large fenced in area (to keep them out of neighbors yards or out of the street) where they can run free, and they do need a small shelter with something that they can perch on. This keeps them safe from preditors like hawks, skunks, and the neighbor’s dog and also allows them a safe, dry place to rest that resembles the old habitat of their ancestors –tree branches–to satisfy their need to perch on a limb. Perching in trees is not really something that domestic chickens do, but they do need to perch on something!

You can buy chicken feed at the store, or you can just buy a mixture of grains and mix your own feed. When I was growing up my dad would just take wheat and dig out a shallow space in a small section of dirt, about four feet square, and he would pour in a layer of wheat. Then he would cover it up and water it really good. After a few days the grain sprouts and we would just dig up a couple of shovelfuls and toss it in to the chicken yard. Chickens love wheat or barley grass, so if you actually let it grow right in the place where they will be, they will graze on it for several days. If you want to do this, you have to keep them out of it until it is grown enough for them to eat, or they will dig it up before it has a chance to grow.

That and plenty of bugs got us enough eggs for our whole family (there were 9 kids at that time) Another thing that I have considered, since chickens require plenty of protein to keep up egg production, is to raise earthworms or maybe composting worms like red wrigglers, which are very prolific. You could also use traps to catch snails or grasshoppers, which are really abundant here in Utah. If you don’t provide them with access to plenty of bugs or other protein, you should buy laying pellets or chicken mask that has a high protein content, or they  will not lay as well.

The problem with pellets or mash (for me, anyway) is that I don’t know exactly what is in them, and I don’t like the idea of feeding my hens food that is not naturally grown. I am really sensitive to eggs, and certain brands of eggs when I eat them give me food poisoning symptoms. I think if we are what we eat, then chickens are what they eat, and if they are eating the equivalent of Twinkies day in and day out, then they will be more prone to disease and their eggs are not going to be as healthy for us.

Another thing to think about while feeding your chickens, is that chickens actually also need plenty of fresh greens. They can decimate an entire garden in less than two days (trust me :( I have seen it.) Spinach or beet greens are both really good, because they are great sources of iron and calcium, and they are really easy to grow. You can grow them in batches all summer long, starting them a few weeks apart so you will have fresh ones all year round. In the hot part of the summer you will want them to be partly shaded so they don’t bolt as quickly. Also, if you grow them yourself, you will know for sure that they are truly organic.

Another good source of greens for chickens would be lambs quarters, which grow wild everywhere here. You probably have them growing in your yard even. (You can read about them here at the Veggie Gardening Tips blog)

Another thing that you can do is save bits of produce like the outer leaves on lettuce that you don’t use, strawberry tops (they LOVE those) cantaloupe rinds, and other greens to feed them. The kids love to take these little treats out so much that once they took my entire green salad that I had just made for dinner. I was putting the food on the table when I discovered that the salad had just vanished! It is not hard to make sure that chickens get all the nutrition that they need, and you shouldn’t have to rely on a store bought pellet or grain mix to have great results with very healthy chickens and plenty of eggs!