by Crystal Sands
In my years of keeping chickens, I have read so many stories about roosters—the good and the bad. I have also had a lot of my own experiences—the good and the bad.
Roosters are not allowed in all areas because their crowing can certainly be a bother to the neighbors, but if you are allowed to have roosters and are unsure about the benefits, some discussion of roosters is helpful.
The Drawbacks of Roosters
First, roosters can be really loud, and they do not just crow in the morning; they will crow all day long. They will crow at 3:00 in the morning. They will crow at 3:00 in the afternoon. And, if you live out in the country where other people keep roosters, the roosters may hear each other and just decide every now and then to get into a crowing match. In that case, there’s crowing at 3:00, 3:01, 3:03, 3:07, and so on.
Roosters can also be aggressive to your hens during mating. You will need to have at least 10 to 12 hens per rooster as a general rule, and sometimes, even then, that’s not enough. Roosters can have their favorites, which leads to those hens losing feathers.
Roosters can also just be downright terrible roosters. There is even such a thing as “rapist roosters,” as described by animal scientist Temple Grandin. These are roosters who have been bred for so long for size and rapid growth that they have lost what Grandin refers to as “the mating gene.” A good rooster will dance around and show off for his hens.
The mating dance lets the hens know to get into the right position for mating. A bad rooster will not dance, and that’s a concern. I have found that young roosters may dance less, but a rooster who won’t dance at all can cause a lot of damage to hens.
Finally, there are some roosters who will be aggressive to you. I have seen people make jokes about roosters chasing people down, and it can be funny. Of course, it can also be dangerous. Roosters can injure people, and it’s very risky to have an aggressive rooster around children.
The Benefits of Roosters
After reading about the many ways in which roosters can be problematic, it may be difficult to imagine that there are any benefits to roosters; however, there are many important benefits to keeping a rooster in your flock.
First, finding a good rooster will help with a lot of the potential issues described earlier. When looking for a rooster, consider calmer, more laid-back breeds. If you are getting a barnyard mix rooster, ask questions about his parents. What are the breeds? Did his daddy do the mating dance? If you are buying a rooster from an online hatchery, I recommend a Welsummer.
Once we found a good rooster for our flock, we realized we would never again be without one. They provide amazing flock protection. They are watchful and will fight to protect their hens. One time, we received a phone call from our neighbor that a fox was in her yard near ours. Our chicken area is fenced, but the area is large. We were worried there might be a place for the fox to enter the chicken yard.
When we ran outside, we found that our rooster had the entire flock already in a line and headed straight into the chicken coop. Our rooster has done this many, many times in his years of service, and I am thankful.
Roosters also allow for self-sufficiency that is not possible without one. With a rooster and an incubator, you will be able to hatch your own chicks. This spring, it became difficult to order chicks through the mail. Our mail system was overwhelmed, and chicks were dying before they could reach their destinations. But our family did not have to worry.
Because we always keep at least one rooster, we were able to hatch the chicks we needed for ourselves and also hatch chicks for others who were not able to purchase chickens. Although we did not charge for these chicks, as we meant it as a service and a kindness, our friends insisted on paying us with valuable things like firewood and yeast for making bread.
If you are aiming to live a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, roosters really are a great addition to your flock—if you live in an area where they are allowed. If you decide to keep a rooster, look for a good breed, and know that, while there may be challenges, once you find a good rooster, chances are you will never want to go without one again.