To Roo or Not to Roo?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cdampier, Aug 18, 2018.

  1. cdampier

    cdampier Hatching

    Jul 28, 2018
    So ... I've got a question for all you veteran chicken folks out there ... The long and short of it is this: Do I need to keep a rooster if I want to free range hens who were not raised free range (for the first year of their life)?

    More details:
    I picked up 6 chicks in April and all of them turned out to be roosters. They are big boys ~ probably 5 to 8 pounds each. Unfortunately, they are aggressive ~ especially two alpha males, who are terrorizing the others and myself, when the mood strikes ~ and I cannot have that, so they all will be departing to the soup pot in the sky on Tuesday. (So sad for me! Just sucks that you get attached before you know if they are a pullet or cockerel!)

    I want eggs, so I picked up two, 1-year old ISA Brown Pullets on Thursday. The girls are little; maybe 1 to 3 pounds each. They are adjusting to life here ~ I have kept them separated from the roos (although, watching them, they do not back down from the big boys who come calling at the side of the coop and have even nabbed a few tail feathers when they could). They were not free ranged at their original home, so confinement is not an issue for them.

    I had always planned on free-ranging my chickens, which is why I started with chicks, so they could be raised that way. Since that didn't quite work out, I'm wondering what you guys would do. Would you keep one of the less aggressive roosters (I have my eye on one that has never crowed and never squared up with me, so I think he could end up being not too much of a jerk) and let the hens loose? Or, would you get rid of all of the roosters and just keep the hens as is?

    Any advice, sharing of experience, gut-reactions will be much appreciated!
  2. SueT

    SueT Free Ranging

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    Why not give the nicest rooster a chance?
  3. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Songster

    Jul 18, 2013
    Kalispell MT
    I made the mistake of keeping the cockerel that seemed to be more quiet and lower in the pecking order. Without the other cockerels he became a monster. Attacked me. Attacked my neighbors. He had to go to freezer camp.

    No, you do not need a rooster if you want to free range. Your new chickens will get used to going out during the day and coming home in the evening. If you want to keep them safer against 4 legged predators while they are out you should check into electric poultry netting. The netting would give the girls an area to roam and yet keep stray dogs and foxes away from the girls.
  4. SueT

    SueT Free Ranging

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    It's a bumpy road integrating a cockerel w older hens. But they will help teach him manners. As for you, keep a long stick in hand and do not allow him into your space. Ever. Walk toward him and make him move.
    Free ranging can be done without a rooster, of course. But w only 2 chickens, I would worry about predators decimating my flock. Having a 3rd, and it being a rooster, might be just the answer. He'd be the one to test the waters for danger, as he would be likely to defend the girls. I lost a rooster and a hen together to coyotes. But I had 9 chickens, and have since raised replacements. They are limited in their free range time now. And there's a new young rooster. I like having him on watch. He really does keep an eye out, while the hens are always eating.
    Anyway, good luck, let us know how it goes....
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    You could give it a try, but have an exit plan for him if it doesn't work out well. Sometimes a lower in the pecking order cockerel will change once the others are gone. You don't need a rooster to free range. Often, he's just a speed bump for whatever is going to eat them anyway.
  6. Hyper_Chicken05

    Hyper_Chicken05 Songster

    Nov 29, 2017
    Hamilton, New Zealand
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Back to the OP's question! It's not a bad idea to try keeping the mildest cockerel, and see how things develop. Your new hens may teach him some manners, which is a good thing, although having more hens will be better for everyone.
    Read beekissed's article about managing roosters, it's very helpful! Some of us have had a lot more experience with cockerels and cock birds, over many years. I love having roosters in my flock, and they are all polite boys. The only kind to keep!
  8. Salamander1914

    Salamander1914 Chirping

    Aug 20, 2018
    My rooster Pumpkin eats in front of me all the time. And he pecks me all the time, just not hard at all. I think he's more interested in if my jumper tastes nice than actually hurting me.
  9. chuckachucka

    chuckachucka Crowing

    Mar 22, 2016
    To the OP I think it is worth giving the young rooster a chance, as long as you have no problem with the noise of course. Apart from eating, there is nothing my hens like more than following their man around. Yes roosters are good as a security guard for your girls but you will be surprised how much your girls will like having him around, once they have accepted him fully.
  10. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

    Jul 31, 2018
    Catalonia, Spain
    My Coop
    No you don't need a rooster to free range hens.
    Someone in this thread described them as a speed bump, while that's a bit unkind there is an element of truth in it.
    The roosters I've had here (I've had quite a few) do save some of the hens from some of the predators. The downside is they die doing it.
    What people don't often take into account is the deterrent effect of a rooster.
    Most of the hens that get killed here get killed going to and from egg laying, not when they are in the group. A good rooster does reduce the risk in this case.
    If you decide you do want to keep one rooster, don't pick the sweet cuddly one, pick the bad mother and let him do his job.

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