If you are new to the idea of keeping chickens, then you may be wondering what purpose a rooster serves–other than waking you up at 5 am by crowing underneath your window in the mornings. *ahem*
The question I most often hear from those who are yet to be initiated into the chicken-keeping lifestyle is, “Do I need a rooster in order to get eggs?”
The short answer?
Nope, you don’t have to have a rooster to enjoy those lovely homegrown eggs.
But there are a couple of other reasons you might consider keeping a rooster around–if you can handle the early morning wake-up calls, that is…
5 Reasons to Have a Rooster
1. A Rooster Completes the Natural Order of a Flock
I strive to manage my flock as naturally as possible, and for me, that includes keeping a rooster. Although a group of hens can still totally manage without a rooster, I like the dynamics that a roo brings to our barnyard. Keeping a rooster isn’t the only way to raise a more natural flock. You can find more ways to raise a more natural flock in my Natural Homestead Ebook.
2. Roosters Help Protect the Hens
A rooster acts as an alarm system for the rest of the flock, it is his job to alert the hens when there are signs of danger. He will stand watching the sky and yard for predators while the hens roam the yard. Our girls seemed to become much bolder once we introduced our rooster into the flock. They are more apt to explore the barnyard when they are with the rooster, which in turn allows them a greater chance to eat up all those bugs.
Roosters can also help ward off predators, and ours does a good job reminding our dogs to keep their distance. However, don’t depend solely on a rooster to protect your birds from larger predators, as fierce as an angry rooster can be, they are still no match for a raccoon or coyote. In fact, I watched our big ol’ proud rooster get beat up by our goose the other day. (He was SO embarrassed)
3. They Fertilize the Eggs.
While you don’t need a rooster to get EGGS, you do need a rooster if you want to hatch your own CHICKS. Just like humans, female chickens produce eggs on their own, but they require a male to fertilize the egg in order to make a baby chick.
Raising home-hatched chicks is another step to becoming more sustainable, you won’t have to rely on an outside source to provide them. If you have dual-purpose chickens you can grow home-hatched chickens for meat. Of course, then you will need to prepare for baby chicks and have either a broody hen or a brooder (like these DIY Brooders).
And remember–just because you see brown spots in your cracked-open eggs doesn’t mean they are fertilized.
4. Rooster Scout Out Snacks for The Flock
Another role a rooster has in the flock is scouting, he will wander while keeping watch and alert the flock when good snacks are found. If you have ever watched a flock roam the yard you will notice that the rooster finds a worm or grasshopper and a hen will come rushing over to relieve him of it.
5. They look classic and just…cool.
The roosters we have had have been drop-dead gorgeous. Brilliant colors, long silky feathers, and elegant combs. I love how they look strutting around the barnyard. And yeah, the crowing is kinda cool too… Although I reserve the right to grumble about it when it’s 5 am.
4 Reasons NOT to Have a Rooster
1. They can be mean.
This is my #1 concern when it comes to roosters. A mean rooster can be very dangerous, especially to small children. I personally will not tolerate an aggressive bird on our homestead. Some folks claim that certain breeds tend to be less aggressive, while others state that aggressive birds can be found in all breeds. I think it just depends.
We’ve only ever had one issue with a roo getting ornery, and it was when we had two roosters–which I now know was too many for our number of hens. Once we gave away one of the boys, the other settled down and has been an angel ever since.
2. Having a Rooster Might be Illegal
Even though you are able to have hens where you are located you may not be allowed to have a rooster in your flock. Before bringing home a rooster you will want to check with your township or homeowner’s association about ordinances, covenants, and different rules. So, you may not be allowed to keep roosters anyway.
3. Roosters Can be Noisey
Many people picture that beautiful rooster rising with the sun and waking the farm with that classic rooster crow. That is not actually the reality of owning a rooster, roosters crow for many reasons and it can be at any time of the day or night. This can cause a problem if you are a light sleeper or have neighbors that would most likely not enjoy the noise.
4. They can beat up your hens.
The process of mating for a chicken can be a little, er, violent. If you have too many roosters for the number of hens in your flock, you might find your hens missing feathers on their back and heads, or suffering from spur injuries.
One way to prevent this is to make sure you have enough hens to keep your guy busy, so he’s not wearing out just two or three. It’s recommended to have 8-12 hens per rooster if you are wanting him to service all the hens, but if you aren’t worried about him keeping all the eggs fertilized, then you can have one rooster for several dozen females.
I found it fascinating how Harvey Ussery talks about “dancing roosters” in his awesome chicken-keeping book. He says that normally roosters will do a mating dance for a hen, which usually results in a much less violent experience since the hen seems to know what is coming. However, many of our modern strains of birds have had this characteristic bred out of them, which has resulted in “rapist roosters.” Fascinating, huh?
You can buy fancy hen saddles to help protect your chickens’ backs, but honestly, that’s just not really my style. I’d rather keep my eyes out for a dancing rooster, or at least make sure I have enough hens to keep him busy. 😉
Do You Need a Rooster?
You do NEED a rooster to have a flock of chickens, in fact, you may not even be able to own one depending on where you live. Before you add a rooster to your flock consider why you may or may not want one. Remember you don’t need to have one to get fresh eggs, but you do if your plan is to have home-hatched chicks.
Do you have a rooster on your homestead?
More About Raising Chickens:
- Save Time by Using Chicken Power on Your Homestead
- Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
- Should I Vaccinate My Chicks?
- Herbs for Chicken Nesting Boxes
I have 12 right now. Granted, 9 of them are bantams……we’ve only had a single fight with minor injuries to date. We’ll see how it goes.
Lisa Lynn (@lisalombardo5) says
I have one mixed Americauna rooster. He’s not the most beautiful bird around, but he tried to defend his girls from a fox and that really impressed me. 🙂 I love to hear him crow in the morning…even if it’s a little early.
I have arhode island red roos and a hen will they have chicks or jus eggs they have a nice well built environment heat etc.
I’ve had chickens and roosters for over 30 years and the question from friends that most amazes me is whether you need a rooster to have eggs. Many of these friends are women, and many are married. I guess they only got an adolescent lecture about the birds and the bees, but not about chickens and roosters.
Jill Winger says
I hear ya! I get that question a lot too!
Prairie Wife says
I have to admit I didn’t know the answer until our neighbor got chickens 🙂
I guess that’s because people take it that the EGGS are the hen’s BABIES, so…
Hahha…Love that last comment!
We just got a rooster about 6 weeks ago. He is only 6 months old, and doing quite well with all the adjustment. I sure do hope that he will continue to be mellow and not turn on us, I will not keep him if that be the case. But oi! Is he ever beautiful! A blue cochin 🙂
Have a great rest of the week!
I’ve kept chickens for seventeen years, and this is the first flock I’ve had with such terrible feather-loss. We have a beautiful White Rock rooster and sixteen hens, and the only excuse I have for such sad looking girls is the rooster (no mites or other unpleasantness). I think we’ll have to put him up for sale, or find another alternative…
I’ve found some breeds of chickens have feathers that are more brittle or easy to destroy than other breeds. We had mostly Red and they were very hardy but when we got some Buffs hens and they crossed with the game rooster it didn’t take long to figure out their feathers weren’t near as strong and able to handle barn yard crazies.
Early in 2012, we started our chicken adventure with three pullets and four cockerels, all barred rocks. That summer, before I knew that raccoons could easily defeat a barrel bolt, those four cockerels gave their lives protecting the pullets. At least the raccoons were satisfied with murdering only them, but I have to believe it wasn’t just a coincidence.
A year ago when our BR pullets were nearly hens, we introduced a one-year-old BR rooster, donated by our veterinarian who had an extra. The rooster had been roughed-up by an older rooster, so he now had a new life as “head rooster” with us. “Buster” quickly made himself at home with our girls, and he is all of the good things you mentioned. In addition, whenever he finds tasty morsels or bugs in the yard or nearby woods, he doesn’t eat them; rather, he calls the girls over with a special kind of clucking so they can enjoy them instead.
This past spring we added two Black Star pullets that have just begun to lay. The older hens were quite reluctant to accept the younger girls, especially on “their” roosts, and noisy bedtime squabbles in the coop began. Buster had to be diplomatic in this case, so after a week or so of bedtime bedlam, he figured out how to stop the fighting. He positioned himself between the older girls and the younger girls, which works perfectly. The process was not without resistance and resentment, but bedtime is quiet and orderly now, thanks to Buster.
Wow, that is just such a beautiful story, thanks for sharing!
I have 6 hens and currently 3 roosters! We have a barred rock roo that does a great job protecting the ladies, a gorgeous Americauna roo that has curled toes and other anomalies and just heard out last “hen” crow yesterday so I guess he’s really a rooster! Hubby and I are trying to decide what to do with him. I just think 3:6 is too much roo! Perhaps we’ll sell him or eat him who knows!
We got 12 sexed hens last spring. Well, wouldn’t you know it… One of them turned out to be a roo. It was very funny to me listening to him ‘try’ to crow the first few times. We actually named him Kazoo because that’s what he sounded like for a few weeks. About a month after he started crowing.. (all day… and I DO mean ALL day) he started beating up the girls. Being a newbie in the chicken world I just couldn’t stand that. He would even chase them around the coop just to jump on top of them. I finally had had enough when he drew blood near my dogs eye one evening. He ended up in our freezer. I will never have a roo again. They are mean! (sorry… just my humble opinion.)
erin @ blue yurt farms says
I loved that line about the “dancing rooster” as well, and it actually made us cull our rooster at the time. He was a big softie and did a good job protecting the hens…from everything but himself. He was a Buff Brahma and HUGE. I’m guessing 15 lbs at LEAST. So his favorite hens (we had plenty to go around, but he was slow so the submissive hens took the brunt of it) started to really show some wear and tear.
Our lowest totem pole hen, a Black Star, lost most of her back feathers and the feathers around her comb before we decided he wasn’t the right rooster for our flock. This year, we’ll be looked for a Barred Rock rooster since they are supposed to be one of the sweeter breeds in terms of roosters. Great breed to use if you have a mixed flock as well, since Barred Rock is a great breed to cross with!
The goal is to move away from hatchery chicks and create a self sustaining flock. 🙂
For those that keep roosters, how do you go about ensuring the eggs you collect and eat aren’t fertilized? From what I’ve read, there’s no good way to separate the fertilized from the unfertilized (at least until the embryo starts getting larger), but I guess if you harvest the eggs and put them in the fridge, it’ll probably shut down the embryo development pretty quickly. Even so, it still seems strange/wrong to consume a fertilized egg. How does everybody else deal with this, or is it a non-issue?
It’s really not an issue. We have 15 hens and 1 rooster, so all of our eggs are fertilized, but embryos don’t develop until a hen has sat on them constantly for 2 days. The constant temperature is what makes the embryo start to develop, so as long as you collect the eggs every day, it really doesn’t matter.
Erik, it’s really a non-issue. They all taste the same and as long as you collect and refrigerate them in a timely manner there is no problem with embryo development. I don’t think there’s anything strange or wrong with eating a fertilized egg 🙂 We started out with seven hens and two roosters, big beautiful Orpington roosters. Loved them both and then gradually one of them started to be mean. We ended up getting rid of the mean one, just got to be too much walking around my own yard with a broom or rake for protection! Now we’ve adopted a new hen – she lays blue eggs! and a tiny bantam silkie rooster. So far, so good with the introduction. They are in a separate area for now but I’m hoping to incorporate them before it gets too cold. I really love having a rooster for all of the reasons you stated above. It really is amazing watching them “call” their ladies over to see a morsel of food they’ve found or a bug (or even when they are faking finding a bug and end up doing their little dance, haha! The girls are on to that one though!).
We don’t keep a rooster exactly for reasons #1 and 3. We’ve noticed that we had lots of problems when there was more than one rooster (before they were fully grown) and hoped it would improve once we had “culled” the rest… but no such luck. Our girls were getting lots of feathers torn off their backs and when the rooster started posturing and threatening our daughter we said it was time for him to go.
Loved the information! You can learn new things all the time. I have 1 rooster 9 hens for now. I plan to cull the hens that are over two years and start fresh again. And hope to remodel the coop when the budget allows. Hope everyone is having a great day! Mare
I was glad to see you had Harvey Ussery’s book at the bottom of the post– as I was reading through the post I was trying to figure out how to describe the “dancing rooster” concept for you! We can’t have roosters in our current situation (well, we can legally, but for the neighbor’s sake, I have to go without my fix of crowing; I actually do like it at all times of the day!) but I’m really hoping to learn more about this dancing rooster business and track one down that does it right. Do you (or does anybody) have any idea if certain breeds still retain some of this?
This spring we decided to get chickens and it has been fun with so much to learn.
We started out with 24 chicks…some straight run, some pullets. One of the employees thought he knew what he was doing with the last 6 we bought (Australorps) and said 5 pullets, 1 cockerel. It turned out the other way around! so in all we had 7 cockerels. I had a beautiful RIR and thought he was going to be the Roo I would keep. As time went on we found he was so mean to the girls that he would just chase them around and around and grab the feathers on the back of there head and rip them out. Poor girls! So we dispatched him for their safety.
Now, which Roosters to keep of the other 6? We decided to keep one Australorp and 1 Silver Laced Wyandott.
These guys have had great dispositions and take treats so gently it amazes me.
Unfortunately, over the last month or so the SLW started bumping people and coming after them and then the AUS has taken to attacking my husband. My hubby was worried how I would take it when he threatened to get rid of him if he did this one more time.
I told him we don’t need roosters to have hens and I just read yesterday that there are too many nice roosters out there to keep a mean one.
Well, today I watched my husband go to walk by the group that was out feeding in the yard when the AUS just turned and attacked my hubby. The welts on his leg through the pants was pretty bad. Needless to say we are down to one rooster and what did that one do but charge hubby later today. He will get a couple more chances and I am hoping he straightens up. I enjoy the roosters as much as the hens.
If he doesn’t I will try to find a sweet rooster. If anyone has a rooster that is a keeper let me know what breed he is.
Paula, we raised Plymouth Rocks and had a rooster fertilze their eggs. He was a White leghorn (?) and the cross breed resulted in several plymouth rock-looking chicks. 2 turned out to be his sons who have beautiful-plymouth rock colorings. The one with long white feathers on his neck and tail is submissive just like his father (who we raised from an egg). The other who looks like pure plymouth rock is trying my patience by rushing me at the cage and trying his hand at the ladies much to his father’s chagrin. He will be going into the stock pot soon. I like our plymouth rocks. The Austrolorps we had were record egg-layers but the rocks come in a close second in our yard.
Janet Kiessling says
Hi there, Jill…:) We too have chickens. So far 9….:) We did have an adventure with roos….:( Our wonderful neighbor gave us 3 chicks – all black. They were a mixed breed. But he did promise me that if any of the little darlings ended up being roos & nasty ones – he would “take care of them”. So, we took them. But in the mean time, my hubby brought home 4 sexlinks chicks – so cute. Same age. But as soon as we put them all together – two of the black ones bristled up their neck feathers – right away! They were only a week old! I knew we had 2 roos! But he still insisted that they were not. Well, we kept them for awhile.( Now they were about 3 months old…:( ) Until, they started getting more nasty. They both came after me once with their feet. Feathers started disappearing from our hens…:(. Then, what you talked about – the rapist roosters! I just could not let the kids see that anymore. I did not care how beautiful they were – and they were! And I really enjoyed hearing them in the morning, too! But they had to go back to our neighbor to be taken care of. Our poor hens were so quiet the next two days…….:) Whew! Won’t make that mistake again! Research much more next time! Have a Blessed day!
Liz Smart says
I have one “keeper” rooster right now, the others will be made into dinner when they start crowing. We are not allowed to have roosters where I live, but we are very careful to put him in the garage at night, and bring him out with the girls at 8:30 or 9:00 AM. Melvin is the best rooster ever. He is very kind to the ladies, and so funny. He does the “rooster dance” and I find it hilarious (after I found out that it is normal, not some kind of neurological problem). I’ve had a couple of other roosters (not for long) that weren’t nice to the hens, so we figured, Melvin is a keeper.
We aren’t raising chickens for eggs but we plan to start in the spring. We do currently have bantams which are not caged. We had been left with one hen and one rooster after our lab puppy got ahold of them. She’s since been trained to leave them be. Anyhow our hen hatched of 6 babies this past spring, 4 of which were roosters. She’s currently setting again so we have 5 roosters and 2 hens free ranging at the moment and once in a while they will bow up at one another but no serious scuffles. We had a rooster once who would attack anyone or anything which approaches him but he was a Rhoda island red. On the same note we had a male goat once who wouldn’t stay penned up so since we live 1/4 mile off the road with woods around us we just let him and the ladies free range. He would attack any vehicle that came or left while it was moving and there was no such thing as sitting in a lawn chair. He would run full speed from behind you and knock you clean across the yard. My parents and my family live on this property and my dads a taxidermist. The goat once attacked a mounted wolf my dad had. We finally had to get rid of him. It has to be the testosterone that does it. We have a whitetail buck and 3 does in a pen (rescued and we have permits) and he’s a big baby until the does come in estrus. Then you can’t go in th pen! Although he’s much calmer when a woman approaches the pen. If a man comes near and he is in rut he immediately begins bowing up and rubbing the cedar posts!
Farmlife Chick says
We have 2 roosters at the moment. Both have fantastic dispositions! We have a silky who is the BEST and a brahma who is great as well but not as useful. We had a buff rooster once who would attack me every day. He made a mean chicken noodle soup!:)
Chef William says
I really enjoy having two roosters wandering around the yard. You are lucky that you are allowed to sleep until 5 a.m. Ours start their wakeup calls about 3 a.m. Actually they are only quiet between about 11 pm and 3 am because they seem to be answering other roosters within about a half mile area.
Thank you for the great information! I am currently planning for some chickens in the future, but I have a lot to learn until then! This has been very helpful in my decision on whether to get a rooster or not. I think I will at least give it a try…or even a couple of tries 😉
Karen B says
I lost 2 amazing roosters to, I believe, a coyote on the same day. They did take great care of the hens, kept everyone together, and even nurtured the baby chicks. I can’t imagine not having roosters. The two we have now (hatched from eggs fertilized by the 2 that were killed) are still young but maturing day by day and getting better. I handle them a ton when they’re young and haven’t had trouble with them being too men.
I love this post. I would love to read more about your animals in the future. 🙂
Wow, great info. I read the article and through all the comments so learned a lot. I am a city person and not anywhere close to having something to have chickens. When I was younger though I had a rooster that I called Kitty…don’t know why lol. He use to ride on my Doberman Pintcher’s back. I was so young I don’t remember how we got him or why we gave him away…later found out he didn’t go to a farm. Then when I was in Junior High School I had wanted a chick for easter so my family went to the pet store and we were told that we needed to buy 6 so we did. It was a learning experience and we really were not ready. Two of the chicks died and then eventually we had tossed them over the fence of a community lot that had chickens there already.
I meant we tossed the 4 survivng maturing chicks over the fence because the people were not there at the time we had arrived. Figured it was best for them to be outside rather than a cage in an apartment. I will never do that again. My youngest child wants chickens and so do I but I’ve made it very clear on what we need to have for them so they can be healthy and happy. One day we will have chickens…and a rooster too 🙂
I think it is a terrible waste and loss of life when I heard the way the commercial industry throws the male chicks in the garbage. When reading the comments I kept looking for what do people do with their males. Do/could they eat them? I found my answer in the comments. Even though it would be obvious as a yes I still like to know and my guess is that it would taste slightly different. Thanks everyone for all the info to get me started and what to do more research on.
Jill Winger says
Yes, most folks eat the males– which I think is a much better option than throwing them away. A young male bird is plenty tasty. 🙂
OMG! Jill! You make me laugh! We have had several aggressive roosters. My husband used to arm himself with a shovel every time he went near the chicken coop. Finally we have found a really nice guy, and he’s here to stay. We’ve had him for about 3 years now. And he does the “dance” allllll the time! Thanks for your comic, and true take on owning a rooster. Personally, I think every one should have one if allowed! (with hens, of course!)
Jill Winger says
So cool that you have a dancing one! Maybe I’ll get lucky and end up with a dancing roo someday. 😉
We are starting our coop soon, after researching raising chickens for ages. Hope to get the chicks this coming spring. I want to let the chickens rest in the winter, so I’ve been researching long term storage of the eggs. I read where you can rub them with oil, and they stay good for 6months or more. So my plan is to do this in fall, maybe before the time change, I don’t know. We’ll experiment! What do you think?
Also, I’ve read where some owners who are trying to make a little money at this only use the chickens for egg laying for a year, since they lay so heavily at first. They then replace them, and butcher the older chickens. We live on a 30 acre farm, and this is what I’d like to do, as we are working towards being self sustainable. What are your thoughts on this? Love reading you, and continue to learn. Thanks!
Hi Jill, I love the post and the comments. We have more roosters than we need right now due to some of our pullets we bought not being pullets. They will go in the freezer. All of our roosters dance, protect, and call the hens to food. I enjoy watching them but also our Tom turkey. He has a wonderful dance and the most beautiful noises while trying to catch a certain girl’s attention. So far we have been lucky. No mean roosters for the last 20 years.
I read every post and have really enjoyed my self. Last Summer I was complaining to my brother about the bugs eating all my veggies in the garden. Jim told me not to worry as he was coming on Saturday and would fix my problem. He did not tell me that he was bringing two little bantam pullets. I was hoping that he was not bringing me a pest control poison.
Two Little Grand darlins were so excited and wanted to name them right away. I told them that they did not need names as they were here to do a job and that was eat bugs. The older Grand Darlin said, Deare, then they must be indentured servants.” We laughed and I relented and called them RED and GRAY, since that was their color.
In September I talked my brother into giving me another little Pullet that was about 3 months old. He went outside to get me one and had it boxed when he came in and told me it was brown. We were watching Tigers on the television and when we arrived home I discovered that it was the same colors as the Tigers on Television so she is name Tiger.
The week before Thanksgiving we were letting them out and My hubby said that Gray looked sick. We put her in the garage in a large tub and rushed off to the store. When we returned to finish loading the car, Gray was stiff, We were glad that she did not die the next day as my neighbor would have been so upset.
In November, my soninlove told me that Red was a rooster. Now he is crowing and sounds like he has a sore throat. He started crowing in the middle of the day and I got a spray bottle of water and every time he leaned his head back to crow, I sprayed up above him. After the third time, he stopped. I live in the city and am afraid that the code people might come by. Red is now doing the dance and both come by my feet when I sit at the back door.
The chickens are fascinating to Sophie my little Papillon dog. At first she ran at them and I began a training exercise to teach her the command, LEAVE IT”. Now Sophie watches for cats and sounds the alarm when one climbs the fence. Well enough for tonight. I just love the chicks. Thank you for letting me share.
thuoc ga da says
I have difficulty choosing chickens to breed, because all breeds are the same. I can distinguish a certain number of chickens but not enough knowledge to distinguish them. Your article is very helpful for me, I will always support you.