Keeping a Rooster

Neighbors of a family keeping a few backyard hens may not even be aware there are chickens nearby. Hens cackle occasionally but the sound doesn’t carry. Roosters, however, are a different story. They announce the dawn with repeated crows that can permeate a large neighborhood, advertising the presence of a chicken flock. Because so many people don’t appreciate an early morning racket, most towns that allow people to keep hens forbid roosters.

However, keeping a rooster is an interesting part of the poultry raising experience and those who can legally keep one enjoy the interesting dynamics he brings to the flock. Fertile eggs and gorgeous colored feathers are bonuses added by a male bird, even though he lays no eggs and eats costly feed.

Roosters grow larger than hens of the same breed and have an instinct to protect the girls. While some roosters are non-aggressive and never threaten humans, others work overtime to intimidate an approaching human.

If a rooster is to be part of the flock a few tips may help in keeping him a more pleasant experience:

  • Acquire a rooster that’s not overly aggressive.  This is easier said than done, as the personality of the bird may not be known until he’s well established.   If buying a rooster from someone who has several ask for the one that’s least aggressive.
  • Never let the rooster intimidate you or any other human. An aggressive rooster will try to make a person number two on the pecking order. He will puff up his feathers, cluck or crow loudly, and aggressively approach a person. The bird must be convinced that humans are number one and he’s number two on the pecking order. Once he recognizes that he is number two, you should get along peacefully.
  • Keep children safe. Young kids are not much taller than a big rooster, and the bird could attempt to intimidate them resulting in a traumatic experience for children.

12 Replies to “Keeping a Rooster”

  1. Ok so we ended up with a surprise rooster:( so how do we make sure we stay top dog with him? I really do not like him but he does protect the girls.

    1. Surprise! Yes, roosters can be an unexpected “bonus” among your pullets. They can be a nice addition to your flock. Like you said, Ruth, protecting and herding the hens is a benefit.

      I ended up with a “bonus” rooster in my first group of pullets. He was handled with the hens and knows humans are in charge. He always brings all the hens back in at night. I have never had trouble with him.

      You can help keep your rooster tame and from acting like “top dog” by handling your rooster regularly. Be sure to stay safe; handling is much easier if you start when they are young but you can work at it. Another suggestion, when you are near the rooster, regularly make him move where you want him to go. If you feel more comfortable, you can use a broom to gently “scoot” him in a direction. Making your presence important to your rooster will reinforce that you are top of your flock. Being consistent and never letting your rooster be aggressive around you or any other person is very important. Hopefully this helps you keep your rooster a beneficial and positive member of your flock!

      1. You sound like an animal lover. I have only a rooster. Never had hens…he just showed up one day. He is a really big rooster. We named him Roody. Roody is part of our dog pack of five. But I feel he is lonely. Any place to find out what he may want. We don’t really want chickens…but if that is what it takes…Roody is a cool bird.

        1. Roody sounds very cool! I have always had at least one rooster. The rooster that I wrote about in this post, Bob, lived to be 5. He passed away of old age last year. He was a great guardian and a gentle guy.

          I now have 2 Ameraucana roosters, brothers who came together because they “both went in the crate”. I think my neighbor had this happen conveniently, but they get along and are a beautiful addition to my flock.

          Chickens are flock animals and they prefer to live in a group. So, it is up to you, but if Roody seems sad it’s probably because he wants friends of his own kind. My two Roos get along, but often if not raised together and when they mature, Roos get territorial and won’t get along. It can be pretty violent when they fight. I would suggest getting a few hens. Check on your state and local laws as far as how many you must get. Some states have no restrictions, some require 3, some 6. This is because these animals prefer to live in flocks and so that people do not give one chick as an Easter gift. Chickens, like any animal, are a commitment.

          If you don’t want to raise the chicks, check with your local Nutrena farm store. Usually they will have postings from people wanting to swap or sell chickens. Follow good bio security if you do get more chickens, to keep Roody safe. Quarantine them in a separate area to prevent disease transmission.

          Good luck with your decision and have fun with Roody! Thanks for sharing his story.

  2. We have three roosters….and when they start ‘talking’ in the morning, it goes on for quite some time. We are out away from town so we have no issues.We do NOT sleep in as even with the mornings staying dark a little longer, they still start ‘talking’ around 5:30 am…. I did like that you mentioned to find a Rooster who is not aggressive…Ours are not but we have had one who was at one time. They can be hard to manage at times…. Ours wait for treats every morning and they all three get along fairly well. George is a very large bird-we think he is a Buckeye, LeRoy is our little Silkie and we have Fred who is a frizzle 🙂 They along with our flock of girls are such a joy to watch throughout the day.
    THANKS again for your post as we love our girls alot but the Roosters have brought in alot of color and fun as well!!

    1. Kellie, thanks for letting everyone know about your tri-rooster flock! George, LeRoy and Fred sound like they are very cool guys. We would love to see pictures!

  3. I have 5 roosters and some are friendlier than others – but to keep me as “top dog” – I make sure and go after them every day – chase them and pick them up and handle them as much as possible. It doesn’t always work, but those that I pick up and handle more seem to accept me as their “leader”.

  4. Karmyn, sounds like you have your roosters well trained! I have horses, too, and it is amazing how consistently acting as the leader sets the standard for safe and positive relationships with our animals! Thanks for your great post.

    1. It’s not fun living with a bird who believes he is the dominant one in the relationship. With an aggressive rooster, keep a few tips in mind:
      1. Don’t turn your back
      2. Keep eye contact
      3. Reestablish the pecking order – you have to position yourself as the “alpha” bird to earn his respect.
      It may be hard to change a bird set in his ways; your wife may have a point!

    1. Hi Judy, there are ways you can make an educated guess, such as looking at the comb to see if it seems bigger than the others or their feet to see if they have a more pronounced nub where spurs might grow. You could also look at the saddle feathers on the tail at about 3 months old a cockerel’s feathers will be pointy and a hen’s saddle feathers will be round. However it also can depend on the breed of bird (example would be Silkie’s might be harder to sex by feathers when they are that young). Bottom line is there aren’t very many sure-fire ways to know until they grow up. Even store bought chicks that have been “sexed” by commercial methods run the risk of being wrong so we suggest always having a plan for roosters if you end up with a few.

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