- Is a rooster beneficial to the flock?
Yes, a rooster certainly adds balance and entertainment value. While a young cockerel can be extremely annoying due to wild hormones out of his control, over time, he can grow into his role. Besides fertilizing eggs, he can act as flock leader, keeping order in the flock as well as keeping watch and alerting to danger. How well he fulfills this role depends on breed and temperament. But hens really do not need a rooster to be content and lay eggs.
- How big should the flock be if you consider keeping one? (I.e. how many hens minimum)
This is pretty important. Having a rooster in a flock of less than ten hens may result in over-mating, depending on temperament and age. It will be an individual judgement as to whether a rooster will be a problem when he has only a hand-full of hens. Many times, it won't be a problem. But if the hens start looking worn out, back feathers becoming worn and frayed, you know he needs more hens so he can spread the joy around a bit more evenly.
- What should a flock keeper look for when adding, or keeping a rooster? (For example, when choosing which rooster to keep from a hatch, if not for breeding purposes, but as a pet)
Recently, I was faced with this issue. I had two cockerels emerge out of a couple batches of mail order chicks that were supposed to be all pullets. One was a Cuckoo Marans and the other was a Cream Legbar. They were as different in temperament and behavior as night and day.
When the hormones began to flow around age six months, the Marans was a little jet engine. He was a crazed machine when it came to trying to mate the hens. He would select his "target" and launch. Like a torpedo he flung himself at the hen, landing on her back like a falling pallet of bricks. There was a lot of screeching involved, and some of it was from the chickens. He was also very touchy when I was doing anything in his immediate vicinity. He lunged and snapped at my hand if I moved it near him.
The Legbar was the opposite. He began to anticipate my movements and he removed himself from my path. When he felt the urge to mate, he would slide himself smoothly onto the hen, and then smoothly slide back off. He was so unobtrusive, I was barely aware he was doing anything.
I chose the Legbar to keep and re-homed the Marans. It was a good choice. He has become a wonderful flock protector and leader and never once has he been aggressive towards me.
- Beside noise, what are the possible cons of keeping a rooster and what should be kept in mind. (For new chicken owners)
I've already touched on a few of the issues a flock owner faces if they choose to keep a rooster. Over-mating can be a serious problem. Noise is another con. If there are small children around, there's a risk a rooster might feel threatened by them since they are small, and he can hurt them seriously if he attacks. Aggressive roosters can send an adult to the ER, and can be a real, if not impossible, challenge to discipline out of this bad behavior, requiring a lot of time and commitment.
On the other hand, a rooster is one of the most entertaining facets of chicken keeping. After a cockerel grows into his role after a couple of years, the girls will look up to him and respond to his attempts to keep the peace and to alert for danger. A rooster's antics are almost always a source of a lot of mirth, always making you smile, even if you're down. And they are terrific alarm clocks.