In Praise of the Roo

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8 Reasons Roosters Rule

by Laura Parker Roerdenheadshot

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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 hens were brought to these tomato skins, which were discarded after canning, by the white rooster in the foreground.


  3. 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.
This story-book moment accurately depicts a rooster’s attempt at dominance by finding higher purchase to crow from. But interestingly, I have never seen our most dominant roo do this.

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.

This medium sized Australorp is currently our most dominant rooster, commandeering a flock of 120.

6. Multiple roosters breed 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.

A very unique scene of a group of juvenile roosters together.

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.

A Marsh Diasy rooster, originally from Lancashire, England. © Zophia Dadlez

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!


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Published by Laura Parker Roerden

Laura Parker Roerden shares a love of what nature can teach us. Writer, public speaker and supportor of youth to boldly know and save the wilds. She is the founding director of Ocean Matters and a fourth generation farmer and thinks today’s young people are reason to be hopeful about the many environmental problems facing us. She lives on a family farm in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys, and an assortment of fruit trees and farm animals.

7 thoughts on “In Praise of the Roo

  1. Laura, I loved this post. It was informative and beautiful. We’re still contemplating raising chickens, and if we ever make the commitment we’ll be sure to have a rooster (and if I can sleep through coyotes under my window (a reason I’m hesitant to put my heart into chickens), I can certainly sleep through a cock’s crow…right?). I love your blog. So glad you’re doing it.

    1. Do you make henhouse calls? We will need a consultation. I seem to be the one holding back and will need advice on hen protection from coyotes, rattlesnakes, javelinas, Harris hawks, bobcats, oh – and Great Horned Owls. Your chickens (roosters included) are adorable.

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