I have the chance to save a cockerel from the big coop in the sky. Obviously I want to do this however I am worried about the effects on my flock, eggs and how safe my 3 year old will be.
How old is the cockerel? How old are your hens? Do you know why this cockerel is available? Is he available because he has a behavioral problem?
Small farmers have been raising kids and flocks of free ranging chickens with roosters for thousands of years. Often the kids are the ones gathering the eggs and taking care of the chickens from a fairly young age. Not at three years old but I grew up on one of those farms and started gathering eggs on my own when I was 5. I was never attacked by a rooster. It does happen though. You are dealing with living animals and no one can accurately predict what a living animal will do. How safe will your 3 year old be? I don’t know. If the rooster is fenced in and can’t get to that child, very safe. If the kid goes into the chicken enclosure and tortures the hens, the rooster might defend his flock. Some roosters become human aggressive for causes unknown. You are asking an impossible question to answer. I don’t know how you will manage the situation or what kinds of personalities the child and the rooster have. Personally I would not leave a 3 year old alone with the rooster and flock.
I currently have 5 hens who live in a very large enclosed area, larger that 10 square metres with a large shed attached for sleeping quaters, Are 5 hens enough to stop over mating? Is the area if enough to sustain a cockerel?
10 square meters is something like a 2 meter x 5 meter area, roughly 6 feet x 16 feet or 8 x12 feet just to help me put it into perspective. This over-mating thing, people really freak out about it and think that some magic number of hens per rooster can solve all the problems. Life does not work that way. Some breeders keep one rooster with one or two hens in a small breeding pen throughout the breeding season without problems. Some people with one rooster free ranging with over 20 hens have these problems. My worst problems have been when I have had the best ratios. There are a lot of different factors. A lot depends on the personality of the hens as well as the rooster. They all have a part to play. Some hens have brittle feathers, they break a lot easier than the feathers of other hens. Even if the rooster does nothing wrong those hens become barebacked.
Another huge factor is the age of the cockerel and hens. There is a world of difference in a mature rooster and an adolescent hormone-driven boy. The behavior of the females plays a part too. People like to blame everything on the male but I’m sorry, it takes two. This can become a long complicated discussion and of course since you are dealing with behaviors of living animals no one can accurately tell you what will actually happen, but your odds of success are much higher if the cockerel is actually a mature male, say a year old or more.
That area is enough for five hens and a rooster. It may be a bit small for five immature pullets and an immature cockerel. It’s hard to say.
What ceffects will it have on the eggs? Can you eat fertilised eggs? Will numbers decrease? I Currently get between 3 and 5 a day.
People have been eating fertilized eggs since they started eating eggs without harm. Some health food stores market fertilized eggs as something special, but that is just a marketing scam. There is no real difference between fertilized eggs and non-fertilized eggs nutritionally or any other way unless you incubate them. If you gather them daily and don’t incubate them you won’t know the difference.
Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. A rooster with the flock generally makes no difference in the long term. When you stress the hens egg production can drop. Introducing a new chicken, male or female, can upset the pecking order and flock dominance enough to temporarily decrease egg production. Introducing an immature hormone-driven adolescent cockerel is much more likely to add stress. But this is normally a temporary disruption. With mature chickens it should not take long for them to sort this stuff out. If they are young it may take them some time to mature out of this phase. But normally it’s not a problem.
What is the best way to introduce a cock? Will he follow the hens at first or try and assert dominance from the start?
How old are the cock and hens? I know I keep repeating myself but there is a huge difference in adolescent’s and mature chickens. And of course the unknowns of them being living animals with their own individual personalities come into play. If you introduce a mature rooster to a flock of laying hens, even laying pullets, the mature rooster normally immediately mates a hen or two to establish dominance and integration is complete. They are now his flock. Occasionally a hen will resist, especially the one that was the dominance chicken in the flock, so he may apply force to bring her over, but normally even if that happens they become best buddies once she accepts his dominance.
If the male is immature different things might happen. Sometimes the mature hens beat the crap out of him, sometimes he beats them up. Sometimes it goes extremely smoothly even if he is fairly young. Since your hens are laying, they are likely to act as mature hens even if they are fairly young but I’ve had some still act more like pullets than mature hens even after they have been laying a while.
We have not discussed the quarantine issue. When you bring in new chickens you run the risk if introducing diseases. Some people don’t worry about this while some people really obsess over it. I’ve typed enough this morning, I’ll let others discuss quarantine or let you do some research.
I’ll end by saying I always recommend people keep as few roosters as they can with the flock and still reach their goals. It’s not that you are guaranteed problems with roosters, you are not, but the more roosters you have the more likely you are to have problems. In my opinion you are a perfect candidate for zero roosters to be the right number for you, but that is your personal decision.