8 Reasons Roosters Rule
Should you have a rooster in your small flock or backyard farm? The question comes up a lot on forums. Roosters are noisy, are not necessary for hens to produce eggs, and many ordinances in residential neighborhoods forbid them. So unless you’re wanting to hatch your own eggs, which obviously requires them to be fertilized by a rooster, why would you want one or two (or ten) roosters?
- Roosters are the front-line of your flock. They not only will aggressively attack any predator that threatens your hens, they will also announce oncoming threats to their flock providing ample warning for hens to take cover. This role is essential whether or not you free range. When we had a weasel during the winter entering our coop every night, we lost nearly all of our roosters first, as they were the ones defending the hens. If not for the roosters, we would have lost another dozen or so hens in addition to the forty we lost.
- Roosters teach hens where to find food. If you watch a flock free-range, you’ll see group of hens commandeered by a rooster who will sound the dinner bell when particularly tasty treat is found. Interestingly, scientists who have studied this phenomena have noticed that hens will ignore a rooster’s call for food that they are used to finding on their own. They will only respond to calls for novel finds.
- The social structure of a flock is often correctly described as the “pecking order.” While plenty of drama is ascribed to the hens in a henhouse, it’s actually the rooster who creates and maintains the social order of a flock. Rooster-less flocks will have a lot more in-fighting among hens for social dominance to fill the vacuum created by the lack of a rooster. Hens in flocks without a rooster have been known to peck another hen to death. I suspect I’ve never had a hen-pecked hen in my flock because we’ve always had roosters to maintain a healthy order.
4. We’ve all read the storybooks: roosters announce the morning so that the farmer knows when dawn has arrived and it’s time to get up. It turns out that roosters anticipate the dawn, crowing in the dark. Only recently did scientists learn that the famous crow was not light driven, but rather based on an internal, circadian clock. By crowing just before dawn, roosters are thought to be announcing their territory and dominance just as other birds are about to become active. I learned during our most recent weasel-geddon that our roosters start crowing as early as 3:00 a.m.
5. If you want to maintain fertilized eggs for hatching, you’ll need 1 rooster per 12 hens to ensure each hen has been mated with sufficiently. This means for a flock of any size, you’ll have multiple roosters. It turns out that the most dominate rooster of the flock is the first to crow each morning, with the next in line and so on following. A group of hens becomes the favorite of each rooster. This daily roll-call, if you will, helps to maintain the flock dynamics and pecking order, ensuring a well-run flock where all members are accounted for and protected. Researchers also speculate that this helps females sort out dominance in potential mates.
6. Multiple roosters breeds increased intelligence and fitness into a flock. Researchers have discovered that submissive roosters in a flock will use clever behavioral tactics to divert attention away from the more dominant males. The more clever the tactic, the more successful the rooster at breeding. If you hatch your own chicks from a flock with several roosters competing, over time it stands to reason you will be increasing the intelligence and fitness of your flock.
7. Seeing the lowering sunlight hit the cerulean and magenta hues of a rooster on a spring pasture is a siren call to the imagination suggesting afternoons lingering on a Mexican patio or dining under a grape arbor in Tuscany. Or perhaps, our roos help us to appreciate and know deeper shades of simply being sure footed about our own slice of here and now.
8. And last, but not least: there is always the quiet thrill of collecting fertilized, warm eggs for an incubator or allowing a broody hen to hatch her chicks as mother nature intended. Watch this beautiful video. You might just want a roo or two (or ten), afterall!