Do Backyard Chickens Need a Rooster

One of the most understood chickens are roosters. They are seen as a nuisance by some people while others view them as an integral part of any flock. 

A visiting friend once told me that I was doing zero work since I did not have a rooster. She went further and explained how I was wasting time and feeding on hens. Her reasoning was that hens cannot lay eggs without a rooster. It took time to convince her that laying a natural process for hens is not dependent on roosters.

In commercial layer farming, rooster chicks are killed by gassing or shredding. They are viewed as not having any commercial value, since they do not lay eggs. 

What is a Rooster?

Roosters are males chickens. The word “rooster” has an American origin. It is derived from the fact that male chickens like standing on roosts.

This enables them to be on the lookout for any danger. In the UK and other parts of the world, male chickens are referred to as cockerels. Some definitions refer to cockerels as immature male chickens and roosters as mature make chickens.

The work of the rooster is to provide leadership to the flock, protect the flock from predators and find suitable nesting areas and mate.  Roosters crow at set times. 

Crowing is known as communication to other flocks that all is well and safe. This is why when one rooster crows, others in the neighborhood will join in the crowing chorus. 

What is the Purpose of Roosters?

Roosters play a very pivotal role in any flock. These roles include:

  1. Defending the flock.
  2. Maintaining order in the flock.
  3. Mating.
  4. Providing leadership in the flock.
  5. Finding suitable nesting areas.

Defending the flock.

The chief task for the rooster is defending the flock. Roosters have an inclination to fight predators that want to devour the flock. They fight with their sharper large claws and their strong beaks. 

Roosters also make noise when they detect danger. This alerts the other chickens in the flock to be alert and take cover. 

Roosters acting as defenders of the flock is the reason chickens have lived over the ages. The aggressiveness of roosters is what has given them a bad name among backyard poultry keepers. They have been known to attack people, especially young children. 

Maintaining Order in the Flock. 

Chickens have a strict hierarchy known as the pecking order. This is order of authority in the flock. The pecking order is a strict hierarchy that is fought over. Each chicken fights for it’s position and defends it when new chickens are introduced in the flock. 

Roosters are instrumental in setting the pecking order and maintaining it. The head of the the flock is usually the strongest rooster.  In absence of a rooster, the strongest hen takes the lead. 

When a new chicken is introduced to the flock the head rooster fights it first. If it wins, the chicken is pushed down the flock, with other members of the flock fighting it out. In the event the head rooster loses the pecking order fight, it is relegated to second in command. 

Mating.

For hens to hatch chicks., they need to brood over eggs. These eggs have to be fertilized in order to be viable candidates of hatching. This is where the roosters come in. 

Roosters and hens have a cloaca, which is an opening at the back. During mating, the cloaca come together in what is known as the cloacal kiss. The sperm of the rooster is deposited into the chicken’s systems. In turn the sperm fertilizes the eggs. Hens can store the sperm in their system for several weeks. When the hens get broody, they incubate the eggs, hatching them into chicks. 

This makes roosters major players in the continual of the chicken kingdom. 

Roosters Provide Leadership to the Flock.

Any group of animals required leadership and direction. In a flock of chickens, this job is done by the alpha rooster. The dominant rooster will guide the other chickens on where to roost and also when foraging, hens normally follow the rooster. 

Whenever I forget to open the coop for my chickens, the rooster will guide the flock to a place it deems safe for the whole flock to spend the night. 

Dominant Rooster

Roosters help in getting Nesting Place for Hens. 

Whenever the rooster hears a hen singing the laying song, It takes the responsibility of guiding the hen to a nesting place. Once in a while the rooster will go into the laying nests and start scratching around. The rooster then gets out and if it gives an okay, the hen will get into the nest. 

Do Hens like Roosters? 

The behaviour of roosters and hens makes one think the hens are usually forced to mate. The rooster will chase the hens around, until she catches up with them. Then, of what appears to be forceful, climbs on them and does their thinking.  This makes people think that hens hate roosters.

The jury is out there on whether hens like roosters or not. Some people experience calm roosters who do not forcely mate while others have roosters that are so forceful that they remove some feathers from the hens back while mating, This has made some people think that hens hate roosters. Others have concluded that roosters are a necessary inconvenience in order to get fertilized eggs and offer protection to the flocks. 

Do you Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs? 

Laying of eggs in chickens is a natural production process that happens without the need for roosters. When a hen reaches sexual maturity, it’s body starts producing eggs. The hen will then lay an egg every 24 to 27 hours. Without a rooster, this egg will never hatch. Roosters come in handy when there is a need for fertilized eggs for hatching into new chicks to grow your flock. 

How does a Rooster Fertilizes Eggs

A rooster mates with a hen in order to fertilize eggs. Once the sperms are deposited into the hens cloaca, they move to the oviduct, which is located close to the ovary. Once an egg is released from the ovary, it enters the oviduct and is fertilized by the sperms. The sperms can be stored on the walls of the oviduct for 9 days to 27 days depending on the vitality of the hen. A chicken can mate once and fertilize eggs for upto 4 weeks. 

Pros and Cons of Having a Rooster

Having a rooster has it’s disadvantages and advantages. This depends on the location where you are keeping the chickens and also the goals of the poultry keepers. 

ProsCons
Roosters protect the flock.Roosters can be noisy.
Roosters fertilizes eggs.Roosters can be aggressive.
Roosters helps the flock forage for food. Roosters can be mean at times.
Roosters provides leadership for the flock.
Roosters assist hens in getting a suitable laying nest.
Pros and cons of having a rooster

Do you Need a Rooster when Raising Chickens

You can raise chickens and enjoy their eggs and meat without  having a rooster. Roosters will enable you to have fertilized eggs for hatching or for selling to people who want to hatch. They will also offer protection to the flock. If the benefits of having a rooster do not meet your goals for keeping chickens, you can still raise happy hens without a rooster. 

Can I Have a Rooster in My Backyard?

You can definitely keep a rooster in your backyard. However this depends on the neighbours because roosters can be noisy. Chick the county laws and homeowners association(HOA)  regulations as they have strict regulations on keeping roosters in the backyard. The main reason keeping roosters are regulated in some areas is because of crowing loudly after every few hours.  

How many hens per rooster? 

It is important to keep the right ratio of hens to roosters if you are keeping chickens in the backyard. This is because the dominant rooster does not like to be challenged by other roosters who might want to take their position. Roosters can be very aggressive.

Keeping many roosters in a flock will definitely lead to injured hens as they compete to mate with the few hens. I have had situations where 3 roosters try to make with one hen at the same time. The hens eventually will lose the feathers on the head and back and develop wounds. 

The ratio of roosters to hens depends on the size and temperament of the chicken breed. Lightweight and active chickens will need 1 rooster for every 12 chickens. Less aggressive chickens such as Silkies and Brahmas will need a lover ratio of 1 rooster for every 6 chickens. This is attributed to their docile nature. Giving them a higher ratio might give them time to mate with all hens. The recommended ratio for standard chicken breeds is 1 rooster for 10 chickens. This ratio of 1:10 is also used when you are not of the specific ratio or when keeping a mixed flock. 

You could decide to have a higher ratio of roosters to chickens, for example 1:20. However with such a ratio not all eggs will be fertilized. 

Final Thoughts

Keeping a rooster in your backyard is dependent on your need for fertilized eggs and leadership for your chickens. It also depends on the local regulations. My take is that having a rooster is important for the well being and balance of any flock. 

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About James

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard

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