I've read articles on keeping a home flock of chickens that recommend not having a rooster. After all, he just eats valuable feed. The hens will lay eggs with or without him. If he isn't there, those eggs won't be fertile but if you aren't breeding, who cares. They taste the same and have the same nutritional value. Well we bred our own birds and I'd like to advocate for the big fella.
If you want to breed chickens like we did, you have to have a rooster somewhere in the equation. You either have your own or you have to borrow one at the appropriate time. I recommend against borrowing because introducing a socially dominant bird to your flock and then taking him away again will upset your birds. Might put them off laying for a few days depending on the breed.
Managing a flock with a rooster means you should have some basic understanding of the social structure within your flock. You should also have a basic understanding of their behaviour. I observed a local charity trying to manage a chicken flock with the help of a farmer. Just because someone is a farmer, it doesn't mean they know anything about chickens. This guy didn't have a clue. They got rid of their rooster because he was being too rough with the hens. They proceeded to describe completely normal chicken behaviour to me. Were they expecting him to woo the hens with flowers and box of chocolates?
I've never timed it, but the act for chickens lasts maybe three seconds or so. He might accidentally yank a feather or two out of the back of her neck and his claws might do the same to her back in the process. This is completely normal. His favourite hens can start to look a little ratty after a period of time. If you want your ladies to be pretty, you can actually buy or make a fitted pad for her back that will greatly reduce the “problem”, that won't interfere with her normal movement. Either way don't worry about it. She doesn't care.
One breeding tidbit that will prove useful. Your early in the season hatches will be mostly hens, while your late season hatches will be mostly roosters. I believe temperature is a factor in that, especially with us living in Canada.
Benefits To Your Flock
A good rooster will do a number of good things for your flock.
- He will lead the hens to food and water before partaking himself.
- He will watch over the flock while they eat, looking out for danger.
- If there is danger, he will either try to lead them to safety or he will fight.
- He will round up stragglers who have wandered too far from the safety of the flock and will scold them for it.
- He will bring the whole flock in for the night.
None of this might sound like a big deal but if you free range your birds like we did, he'll make things easier. I appreciated seeing him round up everybody every evening so that all I had to do was close and secure the door.
We managed our bloodlines to optimize the behaviour of our roosters. It has more to do with genetic make up than environment. Genetics makes a good bird or a bad bird. Environment only helped maintain the good traits. Bad environment could however screw up an otherwise good bird.
Our favoured breed was Barred Plymouth Rock, possibly because we started off with an almost perfect rooster. Took great care of the hens, brave to the point of suicidal, yet our young children could pick him up and pet him without risk. Never attacked anyone, yet would face off a big dog if asked to.
We favoured his lineage as much as was practical. His offspring proved a long legacy.
To optimize your roosters. Give them a flock of their own. We managed two small flocks with two roosters. They were kept separate most of the time. This way they didn't have to fight for their hens with each other.
Keeping a flock of roosters for meat was a mistake. They fought all the time and didn't grow like we'd hoped. Compared to our breeder flock birds, these roosters all developed dysfunctional personalities. I won't make that mistake again.
This isn't meant to be a complete guide on taking care of a home flock of chickens. If you want to do this, at least read a good book or guide on the subject. I hope anyone reading this finds it helpful. We really enjoyed our flock of birds. When circumstances permit, we won't hesitate to do it all again.