The Pros & Cons of Having A Rooster

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Two days ago we put down our beautiful white Araucana rooster, Kurt. He is now in the freezer and will make a most delicious roast this autumn. If you want to read more about that side of country life, you can do so in this blogpost. But it is always a sad goodbye, despite the fact that it was primarily a self-defense based decision.

Many of you write to me asking whether it is a good idea to have a rooster. And since we have now had the pleasure and problems of 5 different roosters I feel qualified to give you a proper answer. Unfortunately, the answer is a that it simply comes down to personal preference and the specifics of your living conditions. As I find it there are important pros and cons to consider, and neither solution is ideal.

I sometimes dream myself into a world where having a rooster in our flock was beautiful and trouble free. But that is not reality and now that we have had a few different ones I doubt it will ever be.

Personally I am taking a rooster break now. Which means the rooster chickens from this summer are headed for the pot too, as soon as they are fully grown. And then we will acquire a new one of some sort for a limited time next spring to fend off love sick pheasant cockerels.

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But here goes the official pros and cons list (I hope it will make it easier for you to make a decision about what is right for you):

The crowing: 

Pros: I personally love it. It is a proper countryside sound that always makes me smile a little. Our property is big so the chicken yard is not close to our bedroom, and either way I am an early riser who gets up around the time he starts anyway. Also I think it is somewhat like with people who live very close to a train track, after a while you just don't really notice it anymore.

Cons: Even if you live in the countryside where you are legally allowed to keep roosters, it can cause serious trouble with neighbours and be the source of much aggrevation.

Mating:

Pros: The obvious one, chickens. You can keep adding new birds to your flock for free. Also watching the hens brood, the eggs hatch, and holding and taking care of the tiny fluffy chickens, watching them grow and develop has been a beautiful learning experience for my kids that they never get tired of (and frankly neither do I).

Cons: Personally I HATE the way roosters mate! It is more like a viscious rape or surprise attack than mating. And nomatter how much I tell myself that its just nature's way, it always makes me very uncomfortable. It is also quite an extra burden for the hens both physically and mentally to constantly be jumped. Even though we have always had ten or more hens for one rooster, they still lose all their neck feathers, and always look frazzled overall. They also don't have the peace and quiet they need to graze and peck and scratch for food all day.

Bedtime:

Pros: Our roosters have always made sure to gather the hens for an early bedtime and would escort them into the coop one by one. In summer when the sun sets as late as 10pm our hens will continue to graze unchaperoned on clear days up until it gets "dark" around midnight. Which means my bedtime is MUCH later than I prefer because I have to wait and close up after the last one has gone in. If you have a 100% fox proof yard you can get away with leaving the coop open, but here we can't.

Can't think if any Con here.

Protection:

Pros: Our roosters have been fierce protectors of their flock. Standing up against everything from our dog, Molly, to horny pheasant cockerels, and giving prompt warning cries as soon as a bird of prey (buzzards, sea gulls, crows) fly overhead. Often he will cry out even a few seconds before I can see anything, but sure enough there it comes. His cry brings the whole flock to attention and the smaller chickens instantly seek shelter under shrubs and trees. The rooster will also make sure that conflicts among the hens is kept at a minimum and will shut down most of the pecking order troubles and hazing that can sometimes get quite brutal.

Cons: The rooster's aggressiveness seems to only grow with age. And he will go from a shy young rooster, to standing up to direct competitors, to visciously attacking the kids, then next in line is my husband, and finally around the 1½ year mark they all eventually start attacking me too. It is always SUPER stressful for me to take care of the daily tasks - gathering eggs, bringing food and water, etc - when we reach this stage. And I have to carry a big stick to keep him off and remember to wear long pants to cover my legs. This also prevents us from doing one of the things I love most about keeping chickens: letting them roam freely in the garden. That simply isn't possible as the kids can't play safely in the garden.

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If you have any pros or cons you think I should add to the list or have experiences with more than one rooster of a certain breed that seems to be more gentle, I would love for you to leave a comment below :-)