Backyard Poultry

Considerations for Keeping a Rooster

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Mikelle Roeder

Ph.D. - Multi-Species Nutritionist

Have you ever thought of adding a rooster to your flock?

A rooster can wake you with spirit each day and help your flock grow through fertilized eggs. But, before you add a male bird to your backyard flock, weigh the pros and cons and be prepared to manage him differently than your hens.

Consider the following questions to find out if a rooster is a fit in your flock. 


Is keeping roosters legal?
First things first: Check your local town ordinances to determine if it is legal to have a rooster before adding him to the flock.
 
Roosters tend to crow during overnight and early morning hours, and some towns have noise ordinances that prohibit the keeping of roosters. Interestingly, a rooster’s crow is typically no louder than a dog’s bark, but that may be of little consolation to the neighbors being awakened at 5 AM. Roosters crow in response to noise, and to announce their presence. In the rooster’s mind, the loudest bird wins. De-crowing a rooster is not an option, as the surgery is very dangerous and would generally be considered inhumane.
 
Are roosters aggressive?
Roosters have earned a reputation for being aggressive towards humans, other roosters, and even sometimes to hens. A rooster’s instinct is to protect the flock, and help ensure that the hens are well taken care of.
 
Many take this job very seriously. There are numerous stories of roosters placing themselves in harm’s way to save the hens from predators, as well as sounding an alarm that danger was near. Unfortunately, a rooster’s methodologies are not always friendly. He may view you, your children or your other pets as a threat to the flock and act hostilely to protect the hens. Behavioral training can help, but sometimes you just need to find a mellow rooster.
 
At night, it may help to keep roosters in a separate coop away from the hens. Crowing and aggression can sometimes be reduced this way.
 
Are there rooster breed differences?
In general, some breeds have a reputation for producing more docile roosters than others. These include the Langshan, Silkies, Brahma, Orpington and Cochin.
 
Leghorns, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Minorcas are typically more active. Roosters that are raised from the time they hatch are sometimes more docile. Aggressive behaviors are also lessened when hens are not present; however, there are no guarantees on how a bird will behave with maturity.
 
So why keep a rooster?
There are many benefits to adding a rooster to the flock.
 
Roosters are good protectors and can earn their keep when you have a large area in which your hens free-range. Roosters will also seek out and alert hens of the best food finds and tasty treats. If you wish to breed your hens and hatch baby chicks from your flock, a rooster is required to fertilize the eggs. Aesthetically, roosters are quite stunning, with their long, colorful feathers and stately presence.
 
On the down side, if you end up with an aggressive rooster, he may view you as a threat to his hens. If a rooster is overbreeding hens, the hens will start to lose feathers and can even end up injured.
 
Multiple roosters in a flock will result in fighting, which can go to the death. Roosters that have been raised together since hatching are less likely to fight, and the risk is further reduced if they are completely separated from the hens.
 
To prevent fighting, consider owning just one rooster. Keeping multiple roosters is usually not recommended, unless you have a large flock of hens or no hens at all. One rooster per 10 hens is a rule of thumb. This will help to prevent overbreeding and fear of the rooster by the hens. If you have a rooster and fewer than 10 hens, consider housing the rooster separately. 
 
Always have a game plan for how to dispose of a rooster that does not fit in with your flock or family.  Re-homing an aggressive rooster can be challenging, so have a plan in place before you get the rooster.
 

What to feed roosters
Roosters require higher protein and less calcium than laying hens. We recommend feeding roosters a separate diet of Purina® Flock Raiser®. To do this, you can either feed roosters in a separate pen or raise one of the feeders so only the roosters can reach it.

If you'd like to feed one feed to all adult birds, you can also feed Flock Raiser to both hens and roosters and then supplement with oyster shells to give hens the added calcium they need.

Overall, there are benefits and challenges to owning a rooster. Some breeds are more aggressive than others, so seek out breeds that tend to be on the docile side. Many anecdotal reports note that a rooster that is home-raised is the most likely to be agreeable, but there is no guarantee. Remember that a rooster need not be present for hens to lay eggs, but you will need a rooster if breeding for live chicks is a goal.
 
Do you have a rooster? Share your story on our Facebook page.
 
Bishop, S. 2013. The rowdy rooster. In: Backhome Magazine, July/August 2013. Accessed online December 19, 2014.
eXtension.org. 2012. Avian reproductive system – male. Accessed online December 22, 2014 at: http://www.extension.org/pages/65373/avian-reproductive-systemmale

eXtension.org. 2012. Is there a way to de-crow a rooster? Accessed online December 19, 2014 at: http://www.extension.org/pages/65589/is-there-a-way-to-de-crow-a-rooster 

Mormino, K.S. 2014. Flock focus Friday. Accessed online December 19, 2014 at: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/search?q=rooster 

Schneider, A.G. 2009. Keeping urban roosters quietly and responsibly. Accessed online December 22, 2014 at: http://www.grit.com/animals/keeping-urban-roosters-quietly-and-responsibly.aspx#axzz3MdBesJ62