Castrating A Rooster ?!?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HomemadeLife, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. HomemadeLife

    HomemadeLife Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2016
    We have 7 chickens, and one turned out to be a rooster. We don't want fertilized eggs, so does anyone know of a vet that castrates roosters in the DFW area? I only found one and they wanted $320 to do it.

    Please let me know!
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Generally speaking, vets won't caponize. Either they haven't found the market and so never found any reason to learn how to, or they want an arm and a leg to do it. Your best bet is finding a local poultryperson who has taught themselves. That's really the only sort of people who caponize these days. If I was close I'd even offer to do it myself, but I'm afraid you're quite far away. (Not to mention I've been having trouble with my technique producing slips).

    Edited to add: I missed the part about fertile eggs. Other folks below are right, fertile eggs are as edible as infertile ones.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  3. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Is there any particular reason why you don't want fertilized eggs? It's really not possible to tell the difference taste wise and you won't find a baby chick in an egg unless you don't collect them regularly and have a broody hen set them. It takes about 3 days of incubation before there is any notable development.
    If your rooster is a pet you may struggle with the idea of caponising by a lay person as it is done without anaesthetic I believe. The charge by the vet may be because using anaesthetic is risky as well as the surgery being less routine.
    Perhaps a cheaper option would be to build your guy separate quarters if you are intent on keeping him and have some specific reasons for not wanting fertilized eggs.
    4 people like this.
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Abdominal surgery without anesthetic is barbaric, IMO. It's also traditional, as a way to produce huge birds for the meat market, but not so much anymore. Castration is best done in young cockerels, before sexual maturity. The death rate from bleeding goes way up after sexual maturity, regardless of who does it. The veterinarian is charging for his time, hospital, staff, etc, which is the same if it's a chicken, dog, cat, or whatever. Let your guy be who he is! Mary
    7 people like this.
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    My recommendation is to either re-home him, or let him do his thing. If he's a good roo, all might go well. If you're not allowed to have roos where you are, then that's a different story, and caponizing him may be the way to go if you're determined to keep him. Only a practiced eye can tell the difference between a fertile egg and one that is not fertile. So, your egg quality won't change a bit. One thing to be on the look out with a roo in any size flock, but particularly in a smaller flock is excess feather wear on your hens. With your size flock, that might be a reason to re-home him. Wishing you the best with your decision.
  6. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop

    Welcome to BYC!

    Why don't you want fertilized eggs?

  7. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop
  8. Sydney Acres

    Sydney Acres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 24, 2012
    Western WA
    You didn't mention how old this cockerel is, and that makes all the difference when it comes to doing the procedure.

    Years ago I had a pet broiler hen. She had heart disease, and was cared for by the avian specialists at the vet school at the University of Georgia. She was a frequent patient, so all the staff knew me quite well. One day I received a phone call from her veterinarian out of the blue. A good samaritan had seen a broiler chicken get out of one of the transport cages while being driven to slaughter. It had then fallen from nearly the top of the transport truck and was hit by a car on its way down. The good samaritan picked up the nearly dead bird off the side of the road and brought it to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for care. It was very severely injured, and 3 of the 4 doctors in the department recommended that it be euthanized. The fourth doctor, however, decided that it was worth saving, and that her students would benefit from learning how to treat this level of trauma, so she used her "teaching funds" to finance its care. Things went better than expected, and after a month of hospitalization it was decided that this sweet and now very tame bird needed to go to a good home. The conversation went something like this: "Esmeralda is a special needs bird, and everyone loves her. So many people have volunteered to adopt her, that we had to take a vote. Even though your name wasn't on the list, more than half the staff wrote your name on the ballot. We knew everyone on the list would give her a good home, but you were the person we all knew would make her a member of the family. She looks just like Sydney. Do you think Sydney would like another friend?"

    Oh, I'm a sucker! So I had two questions. One, are you sure this is a hen? She answered that she looked just like Sydney, and she didn't look at all like a rooster (this is an avian specialist who treats complicated medical problems in all species of birds, not a poultry specialist). My second question was about any possible disease transmission. It was decided that she would have blood tests by one of the university poultry pathologist that I knew. I called the pathologist, and she agreed to go to the teaching hospital for me and draw the blood. But when the day came to do it, the pathologist was in a hurry, and she called the avian specialist and asked that the blood be drawn for her so she could just pick it up quickly. So the poultry specialist never got to see the bird. All the tests come out fine, and I drove to the university later in the week to pick up Esmeralda.

    "Special needs" was putting it mildly. This poor baby was a wreck. She had spent 6 weeks in a broiler grow out barn and 5 weeks in a hospital cage. She had never touched grass, had never walked more than 20 steps in one direction, and had more scars than I'd ever seen on one animal. But she was sweet and in need of lots of TLC and other special care, and I happily took her home. She only weighed 6 pounds at 11 weeks old, so she hadn't gained any weight during the time she was in the hospital, but at least she hadn't lost much. She had grown taller, and thinner, but wasn't emaciated. Over the next 2 weeks I called the poultry pathologist a few times with some questions, and at one point I casually mentioned that different lines of broiler chickens sure do look different as they mature. The new feathers that were starting to come in (poor Esmeralda was nearly naked to start) and the leg structure looked a little different than Sydney at that age. The pathologist asked if I was sure this was a pullet. Of course I was sure -- the doctor I trusted to know everything told me she was!! As my brain was panicking, I asked how I could tell the difference at this age (I was a new poultry keeper at that time, and had never owned a rooster). She went over specific details, and as soon as we hung up the phone I raced to the pen to examine Esmeralda.

    OMG, I had just adopted a cockerel!! I lived in the suburbs with lots of neighbors. I had no idea what the local laws were. No one cared about my 3 pet hens, but a crowing rooster was another story. I had a pet hen that I loved more than any animal I had ever snuggled with, a hen with heart disease, a hen that should never be subjected to the attentions of a young rooster. I called the poultry pathologist back in a panic. What was I going to do now? I was already so attached to her, uh, him. The pathologist suggested that I call the avian specialist to see if he could be caponized. That should stop the crowing and the unwanted mating behavior when he grew up. I left a message for the specialist to call me back when she got back from her medical conference.

    Two weeks later the specialist was back in town and called me. At this point, the recently renamed Emerald was 15 weeks old, and the sweetest boy imaginable. I explained that she was a he, and asked about caponizing. The specialist asked how I knew for sure, as the bird really didn't look like a rooster. I explained that because of the rapid growth rate of broilers, they seem to be adult sized even though they are still just little chicks, and that gender differences aren't obvious until they're older (I had learned a lot in those few weeks). I was in the process of going over the specific details when Emerald started making the strangest noises just outside the window. First an odd squeak, then a garbled shout, then a full force deep-throated barnyard crow! We both stopped talking for a moment, then she asked if that noise was from him. She then said that, yes, she could do the caponization, and she would do it at no charge, since she had gotten me into this, and she could use him as a teaching case for her students. I asked if she had ever done it before, and she said that she had caponized many 3 week old broilers as part of her surgical training, and that she had caponized numerous aggressive male cockatoos and macaws in her medical practice. She had never done the procedure on a bird this big (he was now 9 pounds, still lean, and rapidly growing), but the surgical procedure should be the same. I dropped him off at the hospital the next week, went home and waited for the phone call.

    An hour later than expected, she finally called. He was still under anesthesia and doing well. They had a full surgical team present as only a teaching hospital can, and all the specialized equipment out, including their vascular microsurgery equipment. They had called in the small animal cardiologist (who specialized in vascular surgery, and knew Sydney and myself quite well) to take a look. It was going to be an impossible procedure. At 16 weeks old, his testicles were in full blown hormonal overload, and were almost the size of her fist!! She explained that some birds, such as parakeets, normally enlarge their testicles temporarily to enormous size at the beginning of breeding season, then they shrink down to normal size as breeding season progresses. She didn't think that chickens did this, but apparently he did. She said that the anatomy of the testicle is such that it has a very short artery coming off the aorta (the main artery that runs from the heart to the the back of the bird). Normally, there is just enough distance between the aorta and the testicle to put a clamp on the testicular artery and tie a single ligature to prevent the bird from bleeding to death when the testicle is removed. In his case, his testicles had enlarged so much that they had essentially enveloped the testicular artery, and it was impossible to access it safely. She said that I had 3 options. I could ask them to proceed with the surgery, with a 95% chance that he would bleed to death, even with an experienced vascular surgeon helping (the cardiologist found the whole situation fascinating, and volunteered to help). Or they could close him back up and I could keep him as an intact rooster. Or I could surrender him back to the university, and they would find him a good home as an intact rooster. I chose to keep him as an intact rooster, and divided the yard so that he wouldn't harass the hens. My neighbors loved him, so no one complained, and we moved to a farm a year later.

    Bottom line, castrating a cockerel entering breeding age is not the same as caponizing a 2-3 week old bird. Obviously, not all cockerels will have huge testicles, as my slaughtered cockerels typically have testicles that are about 3/4" wide and 1 - 1.5 inches long. But even if the boy has normal sized testicles, this is a much more complex procedure than spaying a dog, since the testicles are intimately connected to the aorta, with almost no room to work in that small space and no stretch that can be applied to the artery. I'm really surprised that you found a vet willing to do if for only $320. Has the vet done it on a cockerel that age before? What is their success rate?
  9. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    @Sydney Acres thank you for that very well-written post. I learned something I did not know about the connection between the testicles and aorta. A good cautionary tale for folks. Generally, I personally am against caponization for the reason most folks want to do it. You're very lucky to have had the ear (and hands) of those professionals at your disposal. Everyone should read this post.

    ETA: What's up with the smilies not working right? Okay a BIG THUMBS UP, then, haha!
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  10. Sydney Acres

    Sydney Acres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 24, 2012
    Western WA
    Oh my goodness -- thank you everyone for all the ovations. I guess I should finish the story with the funniest part.

    Emerald came home the next day with a two inch incision held together with lots of stitches. He was SOOOO happy to be home, and was feeling his hormones in a big way. The backyard had been bisected down the middle, and I was working to enrich his side of the yard by putting in new shrubs around some of the trees near the house. The yard had a slope to it, downhill from the house to a 20 acre community pond below. All the houses in the neighborhood had a similar design, two stories, with an outdoor balcony or deck coming off the second story looking out over the backyards and the pond.

    A few days after him coming home, I was outside working in the yard, and had a few of those white 5-gallon buckets outside with me containing various supplies. Emerald was strutting around, acting studly, an awkward 4 month old trying to court the mature hens on the other side of the yard, coming back to mom for sympathy when they didn't take him seriously. At one point I had laid a white 5 gallon bucket on its side for some reason. It was white like Sydney, it was big and round like Sydney, he was on hormonal overload, and it started looking distinctly feminine to a frantically horny young cockerel. All of a sudden he jumped on top of the bucket, and it started rolling downhill. I jumped up as quickly as I could, but not in time to stop the whole event. I can still picture it in my mind: the bucket rolling downhill towards the pond, Emerald riding it with feet running backwards -- like a lumberjack in a logrolling contest, awkwardly pelvic thrusting as much as possible while still running backwards as the bucket rolled all the way down to the fence at the shoreline, me running after him loudly screaming, "Emerald, stop trying to breed with the bucket. You'll break open your stitches!!"

    Now that's a scene that brings neighbors out onto their balconies! Yeah, all of them, laughing hysterically. With entertainment like that, no one ever complained about Emereld's crowing.
    3 people like this.

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