Do You Need a Rooster in Your Flock?
Many new chicken keepers wonder if they need a rooster in their flock. There are both pros and cons to keeping a rooster with your hens. Let’s look at these reasons to help you make the best decision about whether you need a rooster with YOUR flock.
Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs?
Do you need a rooster to have eggs? This is a very common question people ask when they decide they want a backyard flock.
The simple answer is, NO, you don’t. If you want a few backyard chickens, you do not need a rooster to have fresh eggs.
Your chickens will lay eggs just fine without a rooster, and in fact, they may even be happier with no rooster chasing them around. And having a rooster won’t increase egg production.
(Just to be clear, hens are female chickens that lay eggs. Roosters are male chickens and they do not lay eggs. Learn more about the different words to describe chickens in this post. )
However, there may be other reasons you would like to have a rooster in your flock.
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Reasons to Have a Rooster in Your Flock
You Want Hatching Eggs
One of the main reasons to have a rooster among your flock of hens is if you want fertile eggs to hatch. No rooster means you will have unfertilized eggs and you won’t be able to hatch baby chicks from your own eggs.
Roosters Provide Protection for Your Flock
Another reason to have a rooster is if you are planning on allowing your flock to free range. Roosters act as protectors and guardians for the hens.
A good rooster will alert the flock to any dangerous predators nearby. Many a rooster has given his life to save “his girls.”
We have a problem with hawks in our area and our rooster, Red, is quick to alert his “ladies” to get in the chicken coop. He will stand guard at the door watching to make sure the hawk doesn’t get any closer. Sometimes the presence of a rooster is all that is needed to deter some birds from attacking.
They Scout for Bugs and Food for the Hens
Roosters will also scout out bugs and other bits of food and share them with the hens, similar to the way a mother hen will find food for her babies.
An interesting tidbit of information is that a rooster will tend to share his found items with his favorite ladies first.
They Keep Order in the Flock
Roosters will also help keep order in the flock. All flocks have a social hierarchy. When you only have hens, one of the older hens will usually end up being the head of the flock. The pecking order is real y’all.
However, adding a rooster means that he will usually be in charge. There will still be a head hen, but the rooster will oftentimes protect the hens on the lower end of the pecking order from being bullied.
Once we added a rooster to our flock, the squabbling among the hens went down drastically. And if they do start to fuss, our rooster will break it up.
Their Beautiful Feathers
The final reason you may want to have a rooster is that they are just plain pretty. There is no doubt about it. Roosters have the prettiest feathers.
They tend to be much more colorful feathers and their tail feathers are much longer than female chickens. And watching a rooster strut around the yard to impress his ladies is really fun.
Reasons Not to Have a Rooster in Your Flock
There are also many reasons you may not want to have a rooster in your flock.
Your City or Homeowners Association may forbid it.
First, if you live in a city that forbids roosters, don’t get one. Roosters are loud and it would be very unlikely that your rooster will go unnoticed for long.
You Don’t Like Waking Up At or Before the Crack of Dawn
Don’t keep a rooster if you don’t like waking up early, well before the crack of dawn. It is a myth that roosters only crow at dawn or in the early morning hours.
Most roosters crow All. Day. Long. And many will start well before the sun is up.
We had one that would start crowing at 4:30 every morning. While I’m an early bird, even that was a bit earlier than I wanted to be up. I’ve heard Red crowing at 3:50 AM, long before daylight hours.
And if you live in the city limits or have close neighbors, you can bet that they won’t be too happy about waking up that early either! Refer to my point above about roosters not going unnoticed for long.
A Rooster Means One More Mouth to Feed
Another reason not to have a rooster is that you will save money on chicken feed by not having one. A rooster has to eat, so you will still have to buy feed for him. (He can still eat the same chicken layer feed your hens eat.) But unless you are planning to butcher him later, he won’t provide any return on that food you provide for him.
Roosters Can Be Aggressive
Many roosters can be aggressive. And unfortunately, there is no way to tell when they are young. Despite handling our first rooster from a very young age, he still attacked my youngest son.
And even friendly chicken breeds can have mean and aggressive roosters. If you decide to keep a rooster in your flock, I do recommend having a backup plan should you get a really mean one, especially if you have small children.
Roosters can Harm Your Hens
Many times, a rooster will choose a favorite hen or two. And if he tries to mate with these hens often enough, they can start to lose feathers on their backs from the constant mating. This is especially common if you have a small flock.
While you can purchase chicken saddles for the favorite hens, it may still take a while for the feathers to regrow.
One of our roosters had a favorite lady and wore her feathers down rather quickly. We eventually removed him but by the time we did, her back had no feathers on it. It was almost a year before she regrew them.
Tips for Choosing a Rooster
If you decide to keep a rooster in your flock, there are a few things you can do to help mitigate some of the pitfalls of having one.
First, if you get him as a young chick, pick him up often so he gets to know you. This can help him grow up friendlier, but it isn’t a guarantee. (See our story above.)
Secondly, choose a rooster from a breed of chickens that are known to be friendlier. While you can certainly get a mean rooster from any breed, you stand a better chance of getting a nicer rooster from a more docile breed.
Finally, make sure your rooster has plenty of female flock mates. It is advised to only keep one rooster per 10-12 hens. Additional roosters can cause problems.
And while most roosters will have a couple of favorite hens, having many ladies to choose from will keep both him and the other hens happier.
Too many roosters will wear your hens down and the roosters will usually fight a lot, sometimes to the death of one of them.
So Should You Keep a Rooster With Your Backyard Chickens?
So while there are many reasons having a rooster can be a great addition to your chicken flock, there are other reasons they aren’t for everyone.
I recommend that new chicken owners purchase pullets only and don’t plan on having a rooster the first year or so, especially if you just have a small backyard flock of chickens.
Hopefully, this list has helped you decide whether adding a rooster to your flock is a good idea for you and your family.
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