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Yikes, one of my chicks is a cockerel! What do I do?

by Becky Flanagan



Remember when you bought your chicks from the feed store? They came with a 99% chance of being a hen. And, like most backyard chicken keepers, having hens was all that was in the plan. You imagined a small flock that provided your family with fresh, wholesome eggs each morning. What you probably did not imagine was that of the hundred chicks in the cage, you would go home with the one rooster.  If you do indeed win (or, rather, lose) the chicken lottery and end up with a cockerel (a male chicken under a year old) on your hands, what do you do?


99% chance of being a pullet




First, decide if keeping a rooster is even an option for you. Many suburban areas allow backyard chickens, but with certain conditions. These conditions often include a ban on roosters. If you can legally keep a rooster, there are some things to consider. Your rooster will be loud, and possibly aggressive, and the eggs your hens lay will be fertile. On the positive side, though, that rooster’s entire mission in life, other than populating your backyard with his offspring, will be to keep his flock safe (so that he can populate your backyard with his offspring). Also, one rooster per flock. If you already have a rooster, in order to keep peace, one has to go.


Ameraucana cockerel



If your local ordinances do not allow roosters, or if having a rooster just isn’t for you, you have some decisions to make. Some may say, what decision, as visions of fried chicken dance through their heads. Other, however, cannot imagine eating the chicken they have raised and will want to re-home the cockerel. Be realistic about what is happening to all of those unwanted roosters. Most end up on a dinner plate. Even if you are not comfortable eating your rooster, perhaps you’re okay if someone else does. If your chicks came from a feed store, call the store and see if they know someone who will take your rooster. My local feed store will take back your rooster and will give him to people who humanely kill the animals for food. Finding a home for a rooster becomes more challenging if you are determined that he lives out his life free-ranging on a farm.  Ask your friends in more rural settings if they have room for a rooster. The most important thing is to make sure your rooster will not be used for cock fighting. To avoid this, be careful about advertising a free rooster. Some people suggest charging a nominal fee for the rooster to discourage someone from taking the animal for fighting. Ask a lot of questions of before turning the cockerel over and insist on visiting the chicken’s new home. 


Getting rid of a rooster may leave a space in your flock that you’d like to fill with a new bird. Chickens are not solitary birds and are said to do best with at least one other chicken. If you started with two chicks and suddenly find yourself with one, you will need to get a new pullet. Introducing a new chick needs to be done carefully. Do not underestimate the power of chicken pecking order. Only introduce a new bird after carefully planning on how this will be done and after the cockerel has been removed. Your sweet little cockerel will surprise you with his aggressiveness if you throw a new pullet in the coop. Establishing pecking order with pullets isn’t pretty either, but it’s a heck of a lot more gentle than when a rooster is involved. BackYard Chickens has plenty of advice on introducing a new chicken to your flock. Study up before taking the plunge.


The good news is that there are some things you can do to avoid getting a rooster in the first place. Obviously, buy sexed chicks instead of straight run. Sexed chickens have been inspected and have a high chance of being a hen. With a straight run, you pay less but have a 50% chance of getting a rooster. If even the 99% chance in of getting a hen when buying a sexed chicken isn’t enough for you, buy a sex-linked chicken. Sex-linked chickens are a cross between two breeds. The hens are born one color and the roosters another. So, from the moment they hatch, you know with certainty what you’re getting. An additional bonus, sex-linked chickens are usually hardy, egg-laying machines. 


Black sex-linked pullet


Comments (107)

get a big pot & ready the vegtables , problem solved
Becky, thanks for you informative article!! My family and I are 'veggies,' so we would never dream of cooking a pet... it's nice to know there are alternatives! (P.S. I grew up on a large farm--over 100 acres in Kentucky--and I've had MORE than my share of slaughtering animals... ANY alternative sounds better to me! ;-)
i don't keep livestock as pest , my wife wants a kitten, that would never be eaten
but things that live in a barn or henhouse ........well
Everyone is different in how they view their backyard flock. Until one of our chicks turned out to be a cockerel, I hadn't really given any thought to what happened to half of the baby chicks that were born. Whatever our personal feelings are about eating chickens, we have to be realistic about what is happening to all of those roosters. We did grow attached to our little guy, so our own dinner plate wasn't an option for us. Having said that, though, I'd rather have him live a great, short life and have him be used as food than have him used for cock fighting. Unexpectedly ending up with a cockerel is no fun, and getting rid of one no easy task.
A suggestion is to place an ad on Craigslist in your area. I've seen ads in my area for roosters to homes not for consumption. Doubtful someone would go to the trouble to pick up or buy your rooster to then eat it when chicken meat is so cheap. I may be naive. I hope not. Depends on the area you live in I guess. It's been a few days, what did you do??
I have given away a few roosters over the years and I always found them a good home where they would be the only rooster in a flock of hens. I questioned and talked with the prospective home quite a bit, and made sure of their intentions for the rooster before I turned them over. I have had great luck doing this, and have gotten follow up emails telling me their rooster's new name, and sending a picture of him with his new ladies. But I am very picky about my gutt feeling. I have simply deleted and not responded to emails from craigslist that say something like "Hi, I want your rooster but I won't pay you money because roosters should be free. When can I pick him up?" That is automatically deleted. But an email that says "Hi, I am looking for a rooster because currently I have a little flock of hens and would like to raise a few chicks. Also I would like to have a rooster helping to guard my hens. Can you send me some pictures of your guy?" That email will get a response and a serious consideration as a home. You have to reall weed through the potential homes and ignore anybody who sounds like they will use your pet as fighting, or food.
I'd love to have a rooster where I currently reside. Unfortunately it's not allowed.
Good article!
just got talked into taking a "pet" rooster from a professional egg farmer who is retiring and selling all his "ladies". (he started out with 400 8 mo. and 1 1/2 yr old layers 2 weeks ago and only has 14 left!) I was kind of " guilt-tripped" because he was holding six hens for me, oh well.
I keep chickens as pets and my Japanese Bantams are ornamental, rather than for egg eating. I love the roosters for their colour and beauty. I often keep more roosters than hens and they all get along well providing they have plenty of room to free range. Often a group of them will hang out together, while only the top 3 or 4 are with the hens. When its time for the coop at night many of the roosters will roost together with the hens. I know the trouble makers and they each have a small cage in the coop to sleep separately. Maybe Japanese bantams are have less aggressive roosters? Even when I buy new pullets and roosters, there in never any serious fighting, and after a few days all is calm again. I would not want to keep my chickens if I could not have the beautiful differently coloured roosters!
fire up the grill and get sweet baby rays barbaque sause and a dr pepper problem sloved
I have 3 beautiful white bearded silkie cockerels that are 5 months old. They are fully feathered, 5 toes and perfect specimens of a silkie cockerel. All three are crowing and even though I love them dearly and they are spoiled to the point they won't leave you alone when you are outside with them. I also have had problems trying to re-home them. I have listed on Craigslist, facebook, and local paper adds. I cannot find 1 person to take them and cannot kill them...I am really finding out how important it is to make sure you buy silkies that the breeder knows 100% are pullets. It costs a bit more but worth it.
I have two that are fighting ferouciously. Gracie (who was supposed to be a hen) actually raised Norman (who was one of three baby chicks I boought at an auction) who is kicking the poop out of Gracie. I don't know what to do, I don't want to put either in a pot. I have a dozen hens, am getting 12 more pullet chicks. any suggestions?
blooming silkie...........I think that as they are so cute you should put a photo of them in the newspaper and also in local shop windows. If they get on with each other that is better as you can re home them as pairs. I am sure someone from the general public would love to have them as pets. Perhaps only more serious chicken people are looking on Craigslist, etc.
jak2002003 Thank you for that idea! I never thought about flyers and living in a farming community, I bet it works!
I accidentally ended up with two beautiful game roosters. Not wanting either of them to end up on the diner table or in a cockfight - I ended up sending one to his ideal paridise - 32 hens! The other one is my personal favorite bird, he's a real gentleman. He is technically an illegal roo, but I have neighbors who come over to VISIT HIM almost every week, and nobody has complained. (My property is les than 200 feet from the unincorporated area that allows roosters.)
I decided to breed my silkies and ended up with more roosters than hens, and as I am veggie I can't bear to kill them. Thankfully they all live quite happily together apart from the occasional scuffle and seem to respect the pecking order.
Nice presentation of options that are available. I hope to see more of your work.
Out of the 15 chicks I bought at tsc, I have 5 maybe 6 roos. 3 speckled sussex and 2/3 silkies. the silkies will stay. There is an auction that sells small animals, I'll take the Sussex there. So far their not a problem, but I don't need all of these roos
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I ended up with a rooster but he is so friendly, I've decided to try and keep him. If not I will be very careful about who gets him. I don't want my sweet little guy to end up on someones dinner plate. ^_^
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