Backyard Poultry

What Do Roosters Eat? Tips for Raising Roosters in a Backyard Flock

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

What do roosters eat? Flock raisers who have a mixed flock of males and females may wonder what to feed roosters. Purina® Flock Raiser® is recommended as rooster feed, as roosters require less calcium in chicken feed than laying hens.

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. 

Here are tips for maintaining peace in the backyard when you keep a rooster:

Follow your city ordinance on chickens and roosters

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. Roosters crow in response to noise, and to announce their presence. In the rooster’s mind, the loudest bird wins. 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 in the morning.

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.

Differences in rooster breeds

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. These include the Langshan, Silkies, Brahma, Orpington and Cochin. 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 hatching eggs at home is a goal.
Leghorns, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Minorcas are typically more active. Roosters 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.

What to feed roosters

Roosters require higher protein and less calcium than laying hens. We recommend a separate diet of Purina® Flock Raiser® as rooster feed to help keep them strong. 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 Purina® Oyster Shells to give hens the added calcium they need.

What to do if you have an aggressive rooster

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.
However, 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 to protect the hens. If a rooster is overbreeding hens, the hens could start to lose feathers and can even end up injured. Providing an alternative place to peck with a Purina® Flock Block® may help the rooster redirect his energy.
Roosters raised together since hatching are less likely to fight, and the risk is further reduced if they are completely separated from the hens. At night, it may help to keep roosters in a coop away from the hens. Crowing and aggression can sometimes be reduced this way.
To help 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. Multiple roosters in a flock typically results in fighting. One rooster per 10 hens is a good 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 handle 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.
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