House rooster: an ethical dilemma

Nov 5, 2018
788
1,483
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Birmingham UK
This is going to be a very long post so bear with me if interested. :)

I have a house rooster. Well technically a cockerel, since he is only eleven months old. I have always been unsure if keeping him indoors is the right thing for him and decided I need some advice and opinions. All thoughts on the issues welcome.

Background: selfish old me saw a wish list breed's eggs (Booted Bantams) for sale on ebay and had to buy them even though it was late autumn and none of my hens were broody. Got six eggs, four of them were no good on arrival, two developed, but one died mid incubation. This left me with a solo chick. And I could not find anyone selling baby chicks because of the season (I live in the UK where chicks are only available from private breeders or poultry farms).

Anyway he grew up in the house. First in a brooder in the lounge, and then I made him some nappies so he could have free roam of the house. Once I realised he was male I tried to rehome him but in the middle of winter no one was interested in a single male chick.

So I decided to keep him as a house chicken at least until he reached maturity. I would carry him around the garden where my outdoor flock of eight live but he was naturally scared of the other chickens. When he started crowing at five months I tried to let him spend some time outside in a pen among the freeranging chickens. Even though they could not get to him he was terrified and just frantically paced at the door of the pen for hours. I felt awful because he was bonded to me and trusted me to keep him safe.

Yes I probably could have persisted in the look but no touch integration method and yes after a few weeks he might have been able to mix up with the flock but to do that I would have had to abandon him out there again and again. I couldn't do it.

So back in the house he came. He sees and hears the other chickens all day and occasionally a hen will sneak in the back door. When this happens he used to run away. In the last few weeks he has been bolder. He approaches any hen who wanders in. He attempts to tidbit them but when one hen actually responded he attacked her (kicking and pecking, not attempting to mate). So he seems a bit confused but definitely not scared anymore.

So now that he is older and braver, is it still the right thing to keep him indoors?

The answer seems obvious at first. He's a chicken. He's a healthy young cockerel. He should be outside free ranging and mating the hens as per his instincts. The problem is I already have one too many roosters. I have two roosters and only six hens. Luckily they all get on great. No fighting between the roos and the hens do not seem over mated or stressed. They free range all day with plenty of space but the actual coop space is limited. I have the coop on concrete and the concreted area of my garden has no more space to extend the coop. Plus my other half just about tolerates the amount of chickens I have already so getting more hens and adding my house rooster to make a larger flock is not a possibility.

So practically speaking it is not really possible to integrate my house roo with the outdoor flock. This leaves me with the option of attempting to rehome him. There is never much call for a spare rooster and I fear he would end up in someone's pot. If not there is no guarantee someone else would provide a set up that is necessarily better than his current situation. Right now he is completely safe from predators, he is healthy and clean, he doesn't get lonely because I work from home, he has the freedom to wander as he likes around my modest sized house, he is pampered and he is loved. If I gave him away I worry he could end up in a tiny coop or a cage or left to the mercy of foxes.

I have considered all his needs and as far as I can see there are only two main things he is really missing: foraging and mating. His breed have enormous feet feathers that are completely impractical for foraging and I do take him out to my front garden from time to time to scratch around in the leaves etc, so I can live with him not being able to properly forage. This leaves the mating.

Do chickens feel pleasure when mating? (Straight faces please.) the hens seem to endure it and move on. The roosters seem to do it as an impulse, an instinct they can't refuse. They will go from one hen to the other with no obvious satisfaction after the deed is done. But who knows? Have there been studies on this? What I'm getting at is am I denying my house rooster a form of happiness? Or does his drive to mate diminish without being physically close to hens? In this case would it be better if he never had any interaction at all with my other chickens? Or should I consider getting my house rooster a female friend? Or arranging some regular 'conjugal visits' for him? :idunno

This is the little guy in question:
20181127_170157.jpg
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
17,686
138,523
1,582
Catalonia, Spain
My Coop
My Coop
This is going to be a very long post so bear with me if interested. :)

I have a house rooster. Well technically a cockerel, since he is only eleven months old. I have always been unsure if keeping him indoors is the right thing for him and decided I need some advice and opinions. All thoughts on the issues welcome.

Background: selfish old me saw a wish list breed's eggs (Booted Bantams) for sale on ebay and had to buy them even though it was late autumn and none of my hens were broody. Got six eggs, four of them were no good on arrival, two developed, but one died mid incubation. This left me with a solo chick. And I could not find anyone selling baby chicks because of the season (I live in the UK where chicks are only available from private breeders or poultry farms).

Anyway he grew up in the house. First in a brooder in the lounge, and then I made him some nappies so he could have free roam of the house. Once I realised he was male I tried to rehome him but in the middle of winter no one was interested in a single male chick.

So I decided to keep him as a house chicken at least until he reached maturity. I would carry him around the garden where my outdoor flock of eight live but he was naturally scared of the other chickens. When he started crowing at five months I tried to let him spend some time outside in a pen among the freeranging chickens. Even though they could not get to him he was terrified and just frantically paced at the door of the pen for hours. I felt awful because he was bonded to me and trusted me to keep him safe.

Yes I probably could have persisted in the look but no touch integration method and yes after a few weeks he might have been able to mix up with the flock but to do that I would have had to abandon him out there again and again. I couldn't do it.

So back in the house he came. He sees and hears the other chickens all day and occasionally a hen will sneak in the back door. When this happens he used to run away. In the last few weeks he has been bolder. He approaches any hen who wanders in. He attempts to tidbit them but when one hen actually responded he attacked her (kicking and pecking, not attempting to mate). So he seems a bit confused but definitely not scared anymore.

So now that he is older and braver, is it still the right thing to keep him indoors?

The answer seems obvious at first. He's a chicken. He's a healthy young cockerel. He should be outside free ranging and mating the hens as per his instincts. The problem is I already have one too many roosters. I have two roosters and only six hens. Luckily they all get on great. No fighting between the roos and the hens do not seem over mated or stressed. They free range all day with plenty of space but the actual coop space is limited. I have the coop on concrete and the concreted area of my garden has no more space to extend the coop. Plus my other half just about tolerates the amount of chickens I have already so getting more hens and adding my house rooster to make a larger flock is not a possibility.

So practically speaking it is not really possible to integrate my house roo with the outdoor flock. This leaves me with the option of attempting to rehome him. There is never much call for a spare rooster and I fear he would end up in someone's pot. If not there is no guarantee someone else would provide a set up that is necessarily better than his current situation. Right now he is completely safe from predators, he is healthy and clean, he doesn't get lonely because I work from home, he has the freedom to wander as he likes around my modest sized house, he is pampered and he is loved. If I gave him away I worry he could end up in a tiny coop or a cage or left to the mercy of foxes.

I have considered all his needs and as far as I can see there are only two main things he is really missing: foraging and mating. His breed have enormous feet feathers that are completely impractical for foraging and I do take him out to my front garden from time to time to scratch around in the leaves etc, so I can live with him not being able to properly forage. This leaves the mating.

Do chickens feel pleasure when mating? (Straight faces please.) the hens seem to endure it and move on. The roosters seem to do it as an impulse, an instinct they can't refuse. They will go from one hen to the other with no obvious satisfaction after the deed is done. But who knows? Have there been studies on this? What I'm getting at is am I denying my house rooster a form of happiness? Or does his drive to mate diminish without being physically close to hens? In this case would it be better if he never had any interaction at all with my other chickens? Or should I consider getting my house rooster a female friend? Or arranging some regular 'conjugal visits' for him? :idunno

This is the little guy in question: View attachment 1605031
I don’t really agree with keeping chickens in the house; a bit strange given I have lots of chickens come in and out of my house much of the day. I keep the door open pretty much all year round and they come and go as they please.

Some people do keep house chickens and a couple here keep house roosters. I think @Saaniya who keeps house roosters could be worth talking to.
Mating for pleasure (?) I would say they don’t and it’s instinctive for procreation only, but I’m not a rooster.

You could as you write, force the issue and integrate this rooster into your existing flock. From the tone of your post and the very fact you’ve kept him with you in the house for some time now I feel you may miss having him around.
What I do think is really important is they have access to natural ground for at least part of the day. Fence him an enclosure to start with. This might help build his confidence and the right way forward may become more apparent. I imagine the hens will come to check him out. Watch out for fence fights between your house rooster and the free range rooster.
He’s a lovely looking chap.
 

Melky

Spring has sprung!
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
4,157
20,260
962
Edgewood, KY
I’m with Shadrach on this one slow integration start with look no touch and see how it goes. In the meantime you could also post him to a rehoming section here on BYC or in your locations thread to see if anyone wants him as well as it sounds like you really do not need another.
 
Nov 5, 2018
788
1,483
237
Birmingham UK
Thanks for the replies. I appreciate your thoughts. As I said I don't think it will be possible to integrate him into my existing flock because I already have two roosters. I also have strong reservations about rehoming him since I know there are so many spare roosters. I tried to sell my second outdoor rooster at one point because I didn't really need two and no one was interested. Even when I advertised him as free there were few responses and I got the feeling they wanted him for free meat. So it would be very difficult for me to find a good home for him which is very important to me since I am so attached to him.

The option is there to try again to rehome my second outdoor rooster and integrate the house rooster in his place, but then am I trading one life for another simply because I personally prefer the indoor rooster? I willingly hatched these roosters so I am responsible for giving or finding them good homes. Although I am not entirely against people processing chickens, I would struggle with handing over a rooster of mine directly to be slaughtered unless I absolutely could not keep him for the sake of too much noise and neighbour complaints for example or if the hens were being injured by him etc. So I think realistically I will have to keep all three roosters which will mean keeping the house rooster where he is, unless one of the outside roosters starts causing problems or dies young (they are a couple of years older than the indoor roo).

However I do still wonder if the indoor rooster would benefit from some regular time alone with the hens/a single hen?
 

Biddybot

Chirping
Aug 4, 2018
151
304
94
HRM, Nova Scotia, Canada
Your best solution may be if you could integrate your little guy to the point of being a satellite rooster during the day whenever your outdoor birds are out foraging and let him sleep indoors and continue being a house rooster whenever the weather's bad or you can't supervise his outdoor time and are worried about how the other birds treat him. Whether this'll work will entirely depend on how well the other roosters tolerate the younger guy being around and whether your cockerel respects their authority in turn and keeps his place...also on how much room there is for everyone to run around and get away from each other if they want when they free-range, but it sounds like you've got plenty of outdoor space. IF you can successfully introduce him as a satellite rooster, which means exactly what it sounds like--a rooster who's not really a member of any flock, just one who kind of hangs around the outskirts of one and who's not dominant enough to incur the wrath of the rooster or roosters who are in charge--he'll get all the benefits of being outdoors at least sometimes and some low-key chicken socializing even if at a distance removed for the most part, but still enjoy the protection and comforts of living indoors with humans plus which you get to enjoy his company and vice versa.

As for the mating, don't worry about that. The vast number of males born into any species that uses a harem system to procreate will never get to mate and that's just how it is and part of nature too, plus which I've yet to hear of any rooster dying because he couldn't mate. (If he's really THAT driven and desperate, he'll look after his own needs anyway, if you catch my drift.) Anyhoo, I do think this might be worth trying. You'll have to supervise a lot at first and watch the behaviour, of course, and should provide a safe place for your young guy to retreat to if he should feel harassed where he's got food and water, but yeah, it can work. One of my olive-egger bachelor cockerals is living as a satellite rooster right now, the only real difference really being that he's got his own private little pen in the chicken house where he lives and I turn him out with three flocks when its his and their turn to free-range. I give him access to my mud room when he's outside too, which is his safe place aside from his pen and where he can get away from the other chickens and chow down and drink whenever he likes. I'm VERY glad that this is working out for this particular little bachelor because the only other options I have to give him outdoor time is to turn him out by himself, which he dislikes, or with the three other olive-egger bachelors plus the older spare rooster, all of whom for some reason absolutely loathe him and will gang up to chase him unmercifully until he flies up on a roof or over the fence. The males who are leading the flocks are proving much more tolerate, though...maybe the hens and pullets they're looking after keep them in a happier frame of mind or something. So, a satellite rooster my own little wannabe house guy remains.

Hopefully, things'll work out as well for your own fellow whatever solution you come up with and good luck! I couldn't rehome him myself...he's way too cute!
 
Nov 5, 2018
788
1,483
237
Birmingham UK
Your best solution may be if you could integrate your little guy to the point of being a satellite rooster during the day whenever your outdoor birds are out foraging and let him sleep indoors and continue being a house rooster whenever the weather's bad or you can't supervise his outdoor time and are worried about how the other birds treat him. Whether this'll work will entirely depend on how well the other roosters tolerate the younger guy being around and whether your cockerel respects their authority in turn and keeps his place...also on how much room there is for everyone to run around and get away from each other if they want when they free-range, but it sounds like you've got plenty of outdoor space. IF you can successfully introduce him as a satellite rooster, which means exactly what it sounds like--a rooster who's not really a member of any flock, just one who kind of hangs around the outskirts of one and who's not dominant enough to incur the wrath of the rooster or roosters who are in charge--he'll get all the benefits of being outdoors at least sometimes and some low-key chicken socializing even if at a distance removed for the most part, but still enjoy the protection and comforts of living indoors with humans plus which you get to enjoy his company and vice versa.

As for the mating, don't worry about that. The vast number of males born into any species that uses a harem system to procreate will never get to mate and that's just how it is and part of nature too, plus which I've yet to hear of any rooster dying because he couldn't mate. (If he's really THAT driven and desperate, he'll look after his own needs anyway, if you catch my drift.) Anyhoo, I do think this might be worth trying. You'll have to supervise a lot at first and watch the behaviour, of course, and should provide a safe place for your young guy to retreat to if he should feel harassed where he's got food and water, but yeah, it can work. One of my olive-egger bachelor cockerals is living as a satellite rooster right now, the only real difference really being that he's got his own private little pen in the chicken house where he lives and I turn him out with three flocks when its his and their turn to free-range. I give him access to my mud room when he's outside too, which is his safe place aside from his pen and where he can get away from the other chickens and chow down and drink whenever he likes. I'm VERY glad that this is working out for this particular little bachelor because the only other options I have to give him outdoor time is to turn him out by himself, which he dislikes, or with the three other olive-egger bachelors plus the older spare rooster, all of whom for some reason absolutely loathe him and will gang up to chase him unmercifully until he flies up on a roof or over the fence. The males who are leading the flocks are proving much more tolerate, though...maybe the hens and pullets they're looking after keep them in a happier frame of mind or something. So, a satellite rooster my own little wannabe house guy remains.

Hopefully, things'll work out as well for your own fellow whatever solution you come up with and good luck! I couldn't rehome him myself...he's way too cute!

Thank you for this idea! I had never heard of a satellite rooster and could see this possibly working given that I do have quite a large outside space.
It's good to know that it is common for some cockerels to not get to mate and that this shouldn't be harmful for him.
I am reluctant to consider rehoming because he is the sweetest but i am willing to do whatever is best for his welfare.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,387
17,763
856
Holts Summit, Missouri
I am just going to watch this. I have had roosters well into the range of pets where they were roosting in garage rather than house proper. Property was large enough for them to go outside and not mingle with outdoor flocks, for a time. Then nature would take its course if I did not intervene. A couple roosters had a hen move in with them resulting in issue.
 

VyeFye

Songster
Nov 7, 2018
81
112
106
Lancaster, CA
Just from very VERY basic knowlege, I would imagine they don't get much "pleasure" from it from the lack of an actual organ that is touched. Wow, it is very hard to keep a straight face with this conversation.
I think that the only pleasure he would get would come just from natures need for him to procreate. Everyone feels good after their deed has been done and rightly so.
If he doesn't know what he's missing, is he really missing much?
 
Nov 5, 2018
788
1,483
237
Birmingham UK
Just from very VERY basic knowlege, I would imagine they don't get much "pleasure" from it from the lack of an actual organ that is touched. Wow, it is very hard to keep a straight face with this conversation.
I think that the only pleasure he would get would come just from natures need for him to procreate. Everyone feels good after their deed has been done and rightly so.
If he doesn't know what he's missing, is he really missing much?

I agree but then I see the enthusiasm with which the outdoor roosters literally 'chase tail' and think that the drive to mate must be very strong. Therefore logically they must feel some kind of relief or fulfilment after the deed. The question is whether the drive to mate is there regardless of the presence of hens or not. I. E. If my house roo never sees a hen does he still dream of the ladies?
 

Sricher91

Chirping
Mar 22, 2018
111
88
91
You sound just like me! I would keep him indoors. We had two “house chickens” a silky and a booted bantam. They were so messy though we decided to put them outside and our booted bantam got killed by a hawk yesterday. Now our lone silky is a house chicken for the time being. I think the same as you, and unfortunately I already a situation happen. I gave our ducks to a loving home and now they live in a super small cage (where as they free ranger here and we’re very spoiled). It makes me sad and made me wished I made it work with keeping them.
 

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