Are you trying to decide what roosters are good for? If you’re a backyard chicken farmer, you’re probably having lots of fun getting to know your girls. Did you know that roosters can bring some pretty special benefits to your flock?
It might surprise you to find out that having a rooster will help keep your flock safe, happy and well fed. Of course, if you’re keen to try raising chicks, a rooster is essential. Take a look at the reasons why I think roosters are a fantastic addition to your feathered family.
No rooster, no chicks
It’s basic biology… if you don’t have a healthy rooster to mate with your hens, you won’t get chicks. I get asked about how roosters ‘impregnate’ chickens often. Chickens reproduction system is quite unique, chickens do not mate in the same way mammals do.
When the rooster is ready to mate, he will make a display to a hen. The hen will lower herself with the cloaca (also known as the vent) tilted upward. The rooster will mount the hen, often using his beak and spurs (fearsome sharp claws that are on the back of the feet) to hold on and maintain balance.
He will tilt his cloaca downward and the two vents will meet, sometimes only for seconds. Sperm will be transferred to the hen from the rooster. Rooster sperm will stay in the oviduct for up to three weeks and potentially fertilize the egg yolks. The albumen (egg white) and shell form around the yolk after the fertilization process is complete.
It’s good to be aware that roosters will mate with reluctant hens and may mate with them too often if there are not enough hens in the flock. Be sure to keep around 8-10 hens per rooster to ensure a safe breeding rotation. Also – hens aren’t monogamous – they may have multiple suitors at the same time.
This is common knowledge to some, but I will add – chickens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs. Hens will happily and naturally lay eggs in accordance with their hormonal cycles and times of the year. You only need a rooster if you want to hatch chicks.
Fertilized eggs can be profitable
It can be very profitable for backyard farmers to sell fertilized eggs. People who are interested in raising their own flocks may purchase fertilized eggs to incubate and hatch. This is often the cheapest way to start a home flock. Purchasing chicks or pullets (young chickens ready to start laying) is usually more expensive.
Some people believe there are additional health benefits to eating fertilized eggs and will happily pay a premium for them. I’m not going to tell you if the health claims are true or not – that’s up to you! But if you find people willing to pay extra, that rooster in your flock can help you turn a tidy profit.
Roosters are very protective
Like in much of the animal kingdom, roosters will act to protect both hens and chicks from predators. If you have a problem with possums, rats or other rodents, a rooster could be very beneficial. Roosters will fight aggressively against threats, sometimes to death.
If a rooster detects a threat approaching, he will issue a particular call that will send the flock running for the protection of the coop. He’ll be left alone to bravely face the intruder – what a guy!
This trait is usually a helpful one, but there is one thing to watch out for. Roosters may sometimes mistake adults and curious children as threats. This may lead to him attacking visitors or members of the family. If this is the case, be sure to create access to the nesting boxes that don’t require entering the ranging area.
Roosters can help keep your hens well fed
What are roosters good for? Diversifying the diet of your hens, that’s what. If you allow your flock to free range around your yard, you may be lucky to watch a rooster deliver tasty treats to a hen. If a rooster finds a bug, rodent or other notable hen-candy, he will drop it in front of a chicken and cluck.
When the hen is paying attention, he’ll pick it up and drop it again, until the hen is convinced, and she’ll gobble it up. Roosters rarely take these morsels for themselves. They will happily go without to make sure the flock is well fed.
In the wild, a flock of hens will have one rooster with them at all times. The rooster provides protection as I mentioned above, but he also does important work within the flock. He can help protect weaker females from stronger ones.
Sometimes stronger hens can harass younger or less healthy hens (where the term ‘hen-pecked’ comes from). This is because every flock is genetically biased toward having a dominant leader. A rooster helps keep this aggression to a minimum by providing the balance of power.
Roosters look great
Roosters are good for adding some visual excitement to your backyard flock. Let’s face it – a full comb and brilliant tail display are both very eye catching! Having a rooster will add color and a sense of completeness to your ideal flock.
Like hens, roosters have their own personality. You can get to know your rooster while admiring his beautiful plumage. He will act very differently from the hens, so spend time watching his individual quirks unfold. At least he’ll be easy to spot!
It’s well known that roosters can be noisy. You might be questioning if this is a good thing or not. Truthfully there’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes from hearing your very own rooster crowing heartily. He won’t just crow at dawn, but at other times of day, too.
Remember I said that roosters will crow to alert hens to threats? If you hear your rooster singing out during the day, you may have an intruder or a rodent threatening the flock. Pay attention to his calls and you can help protect your girls, too.
Roosters will also crow if they are unhappy with their living conditions. I consider this to be a benefit! It’s a great motivator for you to keep the coop clean and remember to provide fresh food and water to the flock. If you do this regularly there might be a bit less crowing during the day.
One thing to be mindful of is your local county or state ordinances. Some locations prohibit backyard farmers from keeping roosters due to their crowing. If this is the case for you, there may be no way to keep a rooster, unfortunately. It’s worth checking in with your local authorities.
Roosters make tasty dinners
In reality, most backyard flocks will only need one rooster. Having more of them can create nasty power struggles, which leads to injuries and illness between roosters.
If you allow your chickens to breed, it will take a short time to determine which chicks are hens, and which are roosters. It’s often very difficult to sell or give away roosters because they are in very low demand compared to hens.
Because of this, some backyard farmers raise their extra roosters until they are of a good size and then process them, dress them and prepare them for dinner. You can pay someone to do this for you if you are squeamish.
Rooster meat is no different from chicken meat. They can provide a good amount of meat from around 16 weeks old. Younger meat is more tender. If you wait until your rooster is much older, the meat may be better suited to slow cooking methods.
So what do you think? Have I convinced you that roosters make a valuable addition to your coop? I love hearing the hearty call of the rooster in the morning, even if it is a little earlier than I’d like. Here are my top reasons why keeping a rooster is a good idea:
- They look and sound fantastic – it’s not hard to imagine that you’re on an idyllic country farm
- Roosters can help diversify the diet of your hens
- Roosters provide order and protection to the flock
- Watching roosters and hens interact provides hours of entertainment
- You’ll need a rooster if you want to raise chicks or sell fertilized eggs for profit
- Roosters make good eating if you’re willing to do the difficult job of processing them at home
Now it’s over to you! Tell me all about why you love your rooster. What breeds do you like best, and why? Have you found benefits from keeping a rooster with your flock? Have you had some exciting hatching experiences? Watching little day-old chicks fluffball around is one of my favorite things. Please leave your comments below, I can’t wait to read them!