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…
4 Reasons to Have a Rooster
1. It completes the social order of a flock. I strive to manage my flock as naturally as possible, and for me, that include 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.
2. They help to protect the hens. Our girls seemed to become much more bold 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 to 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. Of course, then you will need either a broody hen, or a brooder… And that’s a topic for another day.
And remember–just because you see brown spots in your cracked-open eggs doesn’t mean they are fertilized.
4. 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.
3 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 boys, the other settled down and has been an angel ever since.
2. They might be illegal. Depending on your ordinances, covenants, or homeowner’s association, you may not be allowed to keep roosters anyway. Be sure to check your rules and regulations.
3. 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 feather 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 (affiliate link). 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 (affiliate link) 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 keep a rooster on your homestead?