A year ago I started my chicken venture. My Dear Husband, in all his doubting, was happy to finance my insanity. Me, armed with my Green Horn Book of Knowledge, felt that every flock should have a rooster. After all, everyone knows a hen wont lay eggs without a rooster....right? (Thats a bit of sarcasm there, hehe)
The first thing I did was put out an add in the local free website. "Hens and a Rooster wanted!" Well, I have no shortage of replies....for roosters. Not one offer of a hen! Just roosters! Short ones, fat ones, tall ones, colorful ones, even striped ones! And this got me thinking. Why dont people want roosters?
Well, my first experience with a rooster was a charming 10 month old boy in the Brown leghorn breed. I picked him up and brought him home and introduced him to my two Ex-battery ladies. He promptly fell in love with them, especially mt favorite hen, Frightful. And for the first time I witnessed him asserting his manly duties. Of course, never having seen this before, I thought he was trying to kill her. In alarm, I separated him and went straight to the internet for answers. And answers were plentiful! How embarrassing to find out he was just being a lover, not a meanie! Thanks to BYC, that cleared up that crisis.
The weeks went on and I got used to being woke up in the morning by my new flock guardian. 1am.....4am...6am....ugh!! But soon I learned to ignore the constant alarm clock that was the feather bag out in the coop. I guess he was just keeping it manly, after all, he was the only man living with two women.
Then came the attack. Not from a raccoon, not from a hawk or even a bear! It came from him.
One morning, I strolled out, scratch bucket in hand, and opened the coop in all my innocence. Suddenly, it was a blitzkrieg!! Screaming, feathers flying, chicken feet everywhere. The scratch went one direction and I went the other! I was so startled I slammed the coop door shut thinking I had stepped on a land mine armed with chickens. Then came the growl, that classic rooster growl. I cant begin to describe it, but it was something between the growl of a dog and a bear being wok up from his nap. Peering in, I saw my 2 ladies calmly eating the spilled scratch, and there was the rooster, not a feather out of place, eyeing me with all the hatred something with that small of a head can muster.
So back to the internet I went! BYC saves the day! Once more!
After reading several articles, I realized that my roo felt I was just another chicken. And not just any chicken, but a weak, whimpy, low on the totem pole, wussy chicken. Well, that wont do. So, after taking some advice, I found him a new home with someone not far away. They needed a rooster....because we all know hens wont lay eggs unless they have a rooster.
But the coop felt empty without that stud strutting his stuff around the coop. I missed his crow and how pretty he looked, and how well he took care of his girls. He would always climb into the nest boxes and stomp down the shavings for the girls and purr at them to pick the best box. When scratch came, he would pick the best bits and cluck at them to eat them before he would partake. Outside, he would hunt up bugs, but keep an ever vigilant eye on the sky and on the fields for predators. He was a fantastic roo, but a lousy pet.
Then it dawned on me. Roosters just cant be pets. Sure, there might be one special boy once in a big blue moon, but I had not won the lottery here. It was very unlikely I would find a rooster I could co-exist with on a friendly basis. But I wanted chicks, so I started looking for another rooster. The answer came later when I got a young boy of the Blue Australorp variety.
He was a big beautiful boy.....who would not shut up. Every hour, on the hour he would declare his manliness. I figured he would grow out of it, but nope. He got worse. He would crow in the morning, when he ate, when he scratched for bugs, when he found a worm, when he drank water...even gargled. He would crow when he went to bed, crow in his sleep, crow when one of the hens jostled on the perch, crow when......well you get the idea. I could not take it any more! So the broken record had to go!
At this point I did not feel a roo was working, so i decided, no more roos! Even my tolerant and wonderful husband was agreeing, after the broken record incident, he pleaded with me, no. more. roos.
Then someone gifted me a RIR roo that was about 6 months old. Resigned, and doubtful, I took in the roo with full intentions of using the stew pot. However, things got in the way and axe day was delayed due to outside influences. He got along well with my girls, but soon I began to see signs of aggression toward me and to my two older sons. Pretty soon, I felt an attack was imminent and banned my sons from visiting the coop.
To the BYC Cave, Chickenlady!!
Once again, I took to reading to avoid a confrontation with Stinky. (We called him that because he had the worst smelling cecal poos I have ever whiffed) What I found were several articles on how to cook a rooster. Of course, I didnt have the set up or the time to go dipping chicken carcasses in hot water. Well actually, I just didnt have a big enough bucket. And when i thought the only solution was to stuff and stew, I found an obscure article about behavioral training.
In the article, the poster mention how to stop a rooster from seeing you as a complete ninny. Intrigued, I read on. Apparently, roosters see the world as one big vortex that sucks up their ladies at random. And its the roosters duty to stop the vortex from snatching their fluffy feathered bodies into thin air. To that end, the roosters brain is on constant defense mode. Some roosters on the other hand, take it a step further, because fortune favors the prepared, they attack anything and everything that could be a threat.
Now roosters feel that being the one and only protector of his harem, he needs to announce his dominance to the world...or at least as much of the world as he can see, which isnt much, but to him its everything. this is the first sign of authority. When a rooster crows, he is letting all the other roosters in the world know, that he is boss, healthy and strong. To that end, if the rooster crows with you in the coop, he is telling you that he owns the girls, not you.
So, every time my rooster crowed with me in the coop, I would take a step toward him. Of course, some roosters are cowards at heart and despite the manly overtures, will run away if you reach toward them. So, instead of a very studly crow, the poor roo would let out a cocka...gurrgle...aaahhhh!! And run away.
Who is the Ninny now?!
The second sign of a roosters dominance is mounting his ladies in my presence. Thats his way of saying "See this? its mine...thats mine...those are mine too!" Some believe it to be true and some dont. I think it depends on the roo , of course. So, to solve this, I once again would walk toward him when the jumped onto one of my ladies. Of course this would mess him up and he would topple off in his mad cowardly scramble to get away from me.
Who is the Wuss now?!
The third sign and most important in my opinion is the wing drop. This is a possible sign of impending attack and should be dealt with immediately! When the rooster drops his wing to his ladies, he is showing he is boss and sometimes it can lead to a challenge between birds. This is often called a "Dance" but it is also used as a dominance display. Usually it comes to nothing with the girls because they usually submit and squat down for him. However, if he does it to you, grab that feather bag and hold him.
Thats right. Hold him.
Pick him up and tuck him under your arm and carry him around for a while. The works if you can actually nab him, but some roosters are as fast as greased pigs on a butter slide. If he gets away, chase him for no more than a few seconds. Roos have a very short attention span, after about thirty seconds, they forget what they were doing before and are running away from the big pink faced finger monster. So dont worry if he gets away. Chasing him is enough to say: "Hey dude! Im not one of your ladies, show some respect!"
Now, if you do get your hands on him, tuck him under one arm and hold him there for about ten minutes. Longer if he struggles. For me, I found that keeping his head down to the level of his shoulders made him submissive to me. If he brings his head up, I push it back down, or tap him behind the comb until he drops his head.
At this point, I believe I should mention that in order to tame a rooster, you have to think like one. What would a dominant rooster do to another one? Well, for one, as stated above, he would chase the subordinate rooster. Secondly, they often peck or bite, or kick the lesser rooster, forcing its head down or forcing it to crouch or cower. Now Im not saying you have to chaw into your rooster like a chicken vampire. Thats just gross. Or even drop kick them like a football. However, fingers make great imitation beaks.
If you would rather not hold your rooster under your arm like a feathery clucking purse, another method I use is to push the rooster down to the floor. I hold his body down, hands over his wings until he stops struggling. I then push his head down to the floor and every time he tries to bring his head up, I "peck" him with my fingernail until he puts his head down. If he does not put his head down, I gently push it down and tap his skull firmly. After a while., the rooster feels embarrassed because the ladies come over to check out what is going on. I give him about two minutes like this, then let him up. But I am the one that gives him permission. I had Stinky trained to the point that he would stay squatting down, head to the floor until I nudged him.
Its important to say, never harm your birds. Causing pain could possibly aggravate the bird further and could cause them to see you as a monster and not as a fellow rooster. This will make you seem a bigger threat to the safety of the flock. Gentle assertive action is usually all that is needed.
On the other hand, if the rooster just will not learn, or is too far gone to teach, a simple method will solve that right quick. Its a great recipe for crispy fried chicken. Stinky made a great soup! (not because he was unfriendly to people, it was because he kept plucking the tail feathers out of my ladies bustles)
Remember, roosters are not pets. Having a good tame rooster is a rare and wonderful thing, but most roosters have no desire to be friends. Roosters are livestock, they can be mean and do serious damage with the spurs they have on their legs. If you choose to own a rooster, get them when they are young. Be patient through the teenage months, and show them you are boss at all times. Never show fear to your rooster. Always show strength and dominance. You are the superior being, bigger and have the axe. Never forget it, and make sure he does not either.
Now dont fret. Roosters can be extremely valuable. Although you and he might not be best of buddies, a rooster can be a wonderful addition to the flock. Just like my rooster Dagger. He was a good boy, never challenged a soul. Always showed respect to his girls, always gave them the best morsels and always made sure there were no vortex monsters to steal them away. He sounded the alarm when predators were close and was very watchful when he let his girls eat in peace. He fathered 8 chicks, 6 of which were roosters too.
Sadly, Dagger passed away from unknown causes. Fortunately, his son is still with us and will be carrying on the duties of his father. In addition, I have another young roo who has shown very people friendly traits. He will be kept in the flock and we will see how he does as well.
Dont let one bad experience deter you from enjoying a full and happy flock accompanied by a rooster. You never know, one day you could find your golden boy who is just like a lap dog. Or you could be very content in just letting your boy wander the yard and watch over your girls. Roosters can be very heroic and have shown many times their worth in protecting their hens! There are dozens of stories here on BYC that describe such acts of sacrifice and courage that make your heart melt.
So many roos get sent to slaughter because no one wants to deal with them at the first sign of trouble. But give them a chance, and you might be surprised! Armed with patience and knowledge and a backbone, rooster ownership can be very exciting and rewarding!
A Note From Nifty-Chicken: A couple of days ago I was talking to one of my next door neighbor’s. They were upset that the neighbor behind them has chickens. This made things awkward for me (as the owner of the site and another neighbor with chickens). It turns out the reason they are upset is because the other neighbor has roosters, which are not allowed in our city. I explained to them that it’s frustrating when people have roosters in areas where they are either illegal or inappropriate, and that this often ruins people's wiliness to support raising BackYard Chickens for the rest of us that want to keep chickens. So, before adding roosters to your flock, make 100% sure it's legal and appropriate to do so.
What are your thoughts and experiences with having roosters in your flock? Comment below!