Why I Don't Keep a Rooster in My Backyard Chicken Flock

While roosters historically have played an extremely critical role in every flock of chickens, they have become largely obsolete in today's modern backyard flock. Many areas don't allow roosters, and even those who can have roosters are often opting to raise a hens-only flock. I am one of those people and I'll tell you why.

First of all, let's start with some of the benefits of having a rooster in the flock. These include fertilizing eggs, acting as a guard against predators, refereeing hen squabbles, scouting out goodies in the lawn, alarm clock and the basic visual appeal of a male chicken.
So now let's go through them one by one and examine the potential role of a rooster in my current flock.

Egg Fertilization
While you don't need a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs, as you well know, those eggs will never hatch into chicks unless they have been fertilized by a rooster. So okay, a valid argument for keeping a rooster around  is to fertilize the eggs if you enjoy hatching chicks or plan on adding to your flock.

However, with the proliferation of online hatcheries like My Pet Chicken or breeders like Brinkhaven Acres, it's very easy to purchase fertilized hatching eggs - and that's if you can't find any from a local farm. I've had great luck hatching shipped eggs, so I don't feel that keeping a rooster just for the one week of the year I might want to gather some fertilized eggs would be justified. Plus, by buying eggs, you can hatch different breeds than the ones you already have.

Flock Guardian
A rooster will stand guard, with an eye to the sky and one towards the tree line, to watch for predators while the hens forage or take their dust baths and sound an alarm if he sees something amiss. 

Even the toughest rooster is no match for most predators including dogs, foxes, coyotes, hawks or weasels and likely will just end up being the first casualty. Although he may give the hens enough time to race for cover and safety while he's engaging the enemy, that's a horrible way for any animal to die, and I wouldn't wish it upon even the meanest of roosters. Instead, I opt instead for a secure enclosed pen for my flock unless I'm outside with them.  Besides, our two dogs are far better predator guardians than any rooster could ever be.

Another pitfall of roosters is that a "good" rooster is eventually likely going to view you and other family members, not to mention your friends and other visitors, as the enemy. I, for one, get tired of carrying a rake into the coop every time I go check for eggs! Being attacked by a rooster is no laughing matter. They can easily shred even denim jeans. A full-on kung fu karate kick with a rooster's spurs can do serious damage. And if you have little kids around your flock, think very carefully before you decide to keep a rooster.

Much like a mother hen will "tidbit" and point out worms, bugs, seeds and other goodies to her chicks, a rooster will do the same for his ladies. It is pretty amusing to watch a rooster find a yummy treat and get all excited, making a high-pitched chattering noise and hopping up and down on his toes before dropping the treat at his favorite hen's feet.

But honestly, I can watch a mother hen do just about the same thing. I'm content with that. My chickens are older now and have pretty much figured out where all the good treats are to be found in the yard and know how to look for bugs and worms.

Another role a rooster plays is referee for the hens. Chickens, even those who have been living together for years, will sometimes squabble or pick on those lower in the pecking order. Having a rooster around does seem to keep peace within the flock. Also, in the absence of a rooster, one hen will often assume the dominant role and become a bit of a bully.

I've been fortunate in that my chickens all get along very well. To some extent, our ducks play referee also and will actually break up any minor tiffs between two hens. I think that providing your chickens plenty of space and things to keep them busy (like piles of straw, leaves or weeds, outdoor perches, a dust bath area, etc.) also goes a long way towards avoiding any bullying issues. 

I personally find that having a rooster in my flock actually causes a lot more drama and upheaval among the hens, since he tends to chase them around constantly. My girls are older, and have spent much of their life without a rooster, so they're not used to all the amorous attention!

Alarm Clock
My cell phone has an alarm that I can set to the time I actually want to be woken up. And once I shut it off, it stays off. Enough said.

I will admit that there's nothing more beautiful than a majestic rooster, his feathers shining in the sunlight, with a large red comb and wattles, his tail feathers swaying in the wind. But...there are also some really gorgeous breeds of chickens. I'll stick to those thank you. 

All things considered, for me personally a rooster-less flock is the way to go. I am far happier not having hens that have their backs all torn up by a rooster's spurs when he mates with them. I'm okay with buying hatching eggs when I decide it's time to add to our flock, and enjoy not hearing a rooster crowing all day long. 

I admit there's nothing that says country more than a crowing rooster, and I do find myself enjoying our little guys attempting to crow when they first start to find their voices...but I'm also very relieved when they head off to their forever homes before they start to turn aggressive. Fortunately, by concentrating on fairly rare breeds, I've had no trouble placing any roosters I end up with in good homes.

If you do decide that a rooster is right for you. Here are some considerations:

Good Hen to Rooster Ratio
Having at least 10-12 hens per rooster can help to reduce the feather damage or injury to any one hen. 

Docile Breed
Choosing a docile breed of rooster can reduce aggression towards humans. Some more docile breeds include buff Orpingtons, Australorps, Faverolles or even a Silkie or bantam breed.

Be Hands On
Raising the rooster from a day old chick and handling him frequently seems to result in a less aggressive rooster.

Invest in Chicken Saddles
You'll need to anticipate that your hens' backs will get torn up by the rooster's claws while he's mounting them to mate with them. Putting chicken saddles on them is one solution. The saddle will protect their backs, prevent feather breakage and allow new feathers to grow in.

Be aware though, the saddles restrict the chickens from fluffing their feathers to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They also provide a nice dark, warm breeding ground for mites and lice...so think twice before you decide that saddles are a permanent solution.
As for the incessant crowing....you're on your own on that one! 
I enjoyed watching this video from  Brian, The Real Housewife of Snohomish County, and hearing his views on having a rooster in the flock (warning, there's a bit of PG rated language if you are watching with kids)

Further Reading
11 Ways to Sex your Chicks
The Secret to Hatching Hens not Roosters
Lessons I Have Learned about Roosters
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