Six Reasons to Keep a Rooster in Your Yard
When we first moved to the country we wanted to plant a garden. The second step in "ruralizing” our life was to get a few chickens. Eggs go so well with vegetables, after all.
When you buy baby chicks, the local feed store people may tell you that the chickens are a "straight run." This means that there is likely to be 50% male and 50% female. Or they will tell you that the little birds have been “sexed,” or tested and sorted to assure that you will get all (or mostly all) females. There is still a chance that an impersonator or two will get through. Our first flock of five baby chicks turned out to include one rooster, who was promptly named Comet, by our grandchildren.
The hens were of different breeds including Rhode Island Red, Arucana, and two others. We got brown, tan, white, and blue eggs.
Comet was a handsome bird. His shiny black feathers had an iridescent green glow in the sunlight, which complemented the blood red comb.
There are about five good reasons to have a roosters in your flock, as well as a few reasons not to.
Reason One: Fertile Eggs
Maybe you want to raise more chickens. If you want your hens to nest and set on eggs to hatch, or if you want to use an incubator, you will need rooster to fertilize the eggs. In that case, you will want a rooster.
If you have a small backyard flock without a rooster your hens will still produce eggs.
If you don’t have a father bird, the eggs won’t be fertile, and that is fine. The eggs are perfectly good for all you cooking needs with all the qualities you would want.
Some people also think that fertilized eggs are more nutritious, but others are freaked out by the idea of eating unborn chicken. In any case the eggs look and taste the same.
If you are concerned, refrigeration halts any potential growth inside the shell. Almost all store-bought eggs are produced by hens that have not mated..
We have had small flocks of three to five hens and they seem perfectly happy without a rooster. In fact hens tend to be better “pets” and more people-friendly when they are not constantly being chased by a large feathered and spurred suitor.
Reason Two - Protection
Hearing a commotion in the garden yard one day, I went out to discover that two stray dogs had gotten into the fenced enclosure and they had met Comet in mortal combat.
The rooster was fearlessly taking them both on and the feathers were flying. When the dogs saw me they ran for the fence and exited by the hole they had dug under the wires. Comet was a bit disheveled with random feathers sticking out in odd directions but otherwise fine.
The four hens were cowering in a far corner. The dogs didn’t come back and I suspect their adventure left them with several painful scratches on their noses.
If you have several hens, and especially if you free range them part of the time, your rooster tends to be the shepherd or “manager,” keeping them together for protection.
Reason Three - Aesthetics
Roosters are proud, elegant, and attractive birds. They are more colorful and more charismatic than the hens. As the iconic farmyard symbol and rural alarm clock, they can be quite appealing.
Comet knew he was a "looker" and was always ready to puff up his feathers and show his confidence.
According to breed, roosters can have different colors and showy plumage but all usually have a bright red comb, eye ring, ear lobes, and wattles. They strut around proudly as if they own the place. They do.
Reason Four - Pest and Garbage Management
Though you will want to feed your chickens a commercial feed or pellet to make sure they get the necessary calcium and nutrients, they can also help dispose of kitchen scraps and peelings.
They love tomato worms and other garden pests, as well as an occasional low-hanging tomato. Some people are surprised to find that they are not total vegetarians. Chickens will eat small frogs and even mice if they get the chance. They love meat scraps though their usual feed is more grain and vegetable based.
They can contribute to your compost management and help produce better garden fertilizer. On this point I have to say that hens do as good a job as the males, though the roosters are usually larger and thus eat more.
Reason Five - Entertainment
Chickens are fun to watch and even though roosters tend to be less people-friendly than hens, some of them can be docile and friendly. This is especially true if they have been handled and picked up, starting when they are young chicks. This applies mostly to hens. Roosters may object to you picking up their hens, so be careful.
They can be expressive and silly. I was shocked when I realized that the tune of the Chicken Dance song is actually based on a hen’s clucking pattern. This means, of course, that the composer of this song basically stole the tune from real chickens and they have no way of filing a copyright infringement suit. They also know the dance.
Kids and Chickens Are Better at This Than Adults
Reason Six - to Annoy Neighbors
I tried to think of a sixth positive reason but could not. Despite their procreative talent, their protective nature and their attractive looks they also have a few negative traits.
They are loud and annoying. They don’t just crow at sunrise as you may have been led to believe. They crow at any time of day, just because they can. I think my hens are deaf.
They can also be aggressive and dangerous especially toward small pets and children. Take care to protect chickens, pets and people with a sturdy enclosure.
Roosters develop sharp spurs on the back of their ankles, and they know how to use them. Rudy once attacked me and left big bruises above my knees. Luckily, I had heavy Levis on at the time. He has since been taught to reluctantly respect a person holding a five foot length of small diameter PVC pipe.
Your local ordinances may prohibit noisy roosters as a general nuisance. If there is no law against them where you live, you may still have nearby neighbors who are highly displeased at having their peace disturbed.
I have heard of people who have friendly, approachable roosters which still look after the flock and perform other rooster duties. I had high hopes for Rudy, but have not had a real friendly one yet.
Rudy, our current rooster is rather “feisty,” but we have many predators here. Over the years we have lost several hens, so we take precautions and tolerate his pugnaciousness.
Do you really want a rooster?
Finally, a reason to NOT keep a rooster.
As far as I know there is no good reason at all to keep a rooster if you don’t have hens.
Cockfighting is illegal here as well as being cruel and unusual.
I am fairly convinced that the eating of chicken meat started with the realization that no one needs more than one or two roosters unless you are running a commercial chicken-raising ranch.