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.

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5 Comments

  1. Mom
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    Another pro for having a rooster is that fertile eggs stay fresh longer. This is because the hen waits until she has a clutch before she sets on them so they will all hatch about the same time.

    Unfortunately, you need a broody hen to perpetuate your flock naturally, but that trait has been vigorously bred out of most varieties of chickens so it is more rare to find a hen that has that mothering instinct.

    No one who “manufactures” chickens wants agressive hens defending their eggs and chicks from predators, in this case, man. In today’s market, chicks are hatched in incubators and never see their mommies, so they never learn how to be a family, er, flock.

    Our mean rooster was actually a bantam rooster. He was small and agressive. This breed is often used in cock fights. He was blind in one eye, so he was even more defensive than he might have been. He was beautiful, multi-colored with iridescent tail feathers…I would post a picture if I could. (Don’t you hate having your mother correct you on your blog? Don’t worry, I will probably be senile after a few more years and you can say whatever you like without repercussion…at least, until I die, then I will just haunt you!)

    We got Rhode Island Red chickens because we not only wanted eggs, they make a good meat chicken as well. We butchered all the young cocks that fall. We bought 25 the first year and it was such a successful venture and they were so delicious that the next year we bought 100 chicks. That was when we learned some hard lessons.

    The Pecking Order
    Never house so many chickens together that the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order gets pecked by so many chickens that she gets cannibalized. If a chicken gets pecked often enough, it may get a blood spot. As soon as this happens, the other chickens peck at that blood spot until that chicken is dead.

    Predators
    There are several predators of chickens. One morning we went out to the coop and found at least a dozen of our chickens dead. We went right out and got wire and a charger and put up an electric fence. We installed the wire around the top of the fence but the next morning we were horrified to come out to survey an equally gruesome scene of chicken mayhem. On closer inspection, we found that some creature had dug under the fence, so we put another wire at the bottom of the fence and this proved to be an effective remedy for the problem and we never had a repeat scenario.

    This type of predator is usually a ferret or weasle. These animals kill for the thrill, and not necessarily for survival.

    Skunks, dogs,owls and hawks are other predators that chickens need protection from.

    Skunks love eggs, and once a family of skunks set up residence under our coop. As you might imagine, these animals are not easily shooed. Sometimes I would see the skunk walking across the driveway, so I got prepared for a confrontation.

    One evening after coming home from shopping, I saw the skunk walking across my driveway and parked the car with my headlights beaming at the creature and got out and with great trepidition took aim with our shotgun. I was never sure that I had hit that stinker because it sauntered off, but I never saw him again.

    Owls aren’t likely to get chickens because they are nocturnal and chickens roost early, but there is a slight chance of something happening if an owl is in residence near your chickenyard. Hawks are a more likely threat, and I had a hawk attack one of my chickens once. I scared it off and chased after it (unsuccessfully) with a shotgun, but you can’t do that anymore because they are a protected species. But you will be surprised at how protective you become of your little flock of chickens if you have one.

    Another time, I found a dog killing one of my chickens, and out came the 22! I was so mad! Turned out, that dog belonged to our Bishop, and I was mortified. But he assured me that he bore me no ill feelings.

  2. Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks mom! I know this article was very quick and basic. Thanks for filling in the details for me! Maybe I should have just had you write a guest blog for me. I always thought he was a bantam, but Denise and Michelle both insisted that it was a big red rooster, so I thought I was wrong. It was the bantam rooster in the short story I wrote about it . . . Thank you for adding. I remember the skunks. Do you remember that Michelle and I almost tried to pet one thinking it was a cat? Thank goodness we realized our mistake before it was too late!

    P.S. I always said you were a regular Annie Oakley! Alex is a good aim too . . . so it’s not just a birthday that you share with her. I knew you used the shotgun a few times, but I never knew it was you who shot the bishop’s dog!

  3. Posted March 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow, talk about your wealth of poultry information. I know where to go if I have chicken questions.
    I know eggs from another angle. If you want to know anything about Ukrainian Easter eggs, I’m at learnpysanky.com.

  4. ?
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    is there any particular reason why rhode island red cockerels/roosters get angry or agresive? Maybe a colour?

  5. Posted August 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    There are just some breeds that are naturally more aggressive than others. You can find a chart that lays out the traits of different breeds, from docile to aggressive, origins of the breed, broodiness, hardiness, and what color, frequency, and size of eggs they lay etc. http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html