Roosters, an icon of the farmer. You see them immortalized on weather vanes, in art, cartoons, on dishes, brands of beer, and even on the bottle of Sriracha hot chili sauce. If you think about it, they’re everywhere. The question is, do you need them for your flock? The short answer is, not really. If you just want eggs for eating, and don’t care if they are fertilized, a rooster is unnecessary, heck, he may even be totally unwanted. If you live in a neighborhood with rules, roosters could even be outlawed. Have a close next door neighbor? They may not enjoy the racket. Roosters crow all the time, not just when the sun comes up. Everyone in my neighborhood knows who we are, and it’s not because we visit all the time. Another consideration is that some roosters are aggressive, and will attack anyone, and anything, that comes near their territory.
However, roosters aren’t all bad. If you want chicks, and have an incubator, or a hen who goes broody and will sit the eggs, then you need a rooster for fertilization services for the ladies. Another good thing about roosters is that they will lay down their lives in protection of the flock. I had a rooster we all liked, Centuria, who was friendly (he’d come eat out of our hand), and had a good personality. When a fox came hunting, he saved the hens, and was eaten in the process. And let’s face it, another reason people like roosters is they look cool. It’s why roosters are on just about everything. They are tall, colorful, and look good strutting around the chicken yard.
My rooster, Pops, is like a finely dressed gentleman with old world manners. He has a dignified strut in the yard, always keeping an eye on the ladies, making sure no one is getting picked on. When I toss corn out for them Pops will pick up little bits, and make a call for the hens. They come over, and he puts the tidbits in their beak. He’s always on the lookout for predators, and will raise the alarm at all hours if he senses any kind of danger. Pops is rarely aggressive with me or my kids. He allows us in the run to do what we need to, and doesn’t get upset when we pick up a hen.
However, for me, the major drawback of having a rooster is the physical state of my hens. Pops is very amorous, and loves his ladies a lot. When a rooster mates with a hen, they step onto the hens back, tread slightly (hence the term treading the hens), and grasps her wings with his feet. To stabilize his actions he uses his beak to grab the feathers on the back of the hen’s neck or head. While the rooster is doing his business (which doesn’t take long), some feathers get pulled out. This isn’t too big a deal, because they will grow back eventually. I stress the word, eventually. I don’t know about anyone else, but my hens constantly have bald heads (one hen looks like she has a mohawk), naked backs, and bare shoulders.
I’ve tried isolating the hens from Pops, but their feathers only last until they go back into the run. One solution to this problem would be to eat the rooster. No more rooster, no more treading. But my kids love Pops. I eat him, and then I’d have a mutiny. Not fun. The other solution is to make, or purchase, some chicken saddles, or chicken aprons if you want something frilly. I’m not very good at sewing, so I purchased mine. I found them on Etsy and mypetchicken.com. I like the ones on myPetChicken because they sell saddles and aprons that also protect the hen’s shoulders. At this point you may be thinking, “Wait, chicken saddles? Like what goes on a horse?”
Well, sort of. Like a horse, the saddle goes on their back. In the case of a chicken, it is used to protect the hen from the rooster’s spurs and toenails. They are made from fabric, and have elastic straps to go around the hen’s wings. There all different kind of styles you can buy, and patterns available if you want to make your own. Whatever you choose to do, make sure the saddle fits. If it is too small, the straps could be too tight, and their back won’t be covered very well. Too large, and the saddle will flop around and eventually come off on its own. Your hens aren’t going to be happy when you first put the saddles or aprons on them. After putting them on my ladies, they walked backwards, hid under the coop, tried to do back flips, and rolled around a bunch, trying to remove them. My son was pretty upset with all their antics, and wanted to take the protectors off, but I told him this was normal and to give it some time. After two days, the hens were all acting their normal selves, not caring about the fabric on their back.
Pops, and our other rooster Dandelion, don’t care if the hens have saddles on or not. To them, the ladies always look beautiful and desirable. I suppose this is our solution to the roosters and the hens. The only other thing I can do is trim their spurs and toenails, but I think the coverings will still be necessary.
Which brings me back to my question. I have roosters, now what? Since we aren’t going to eat them, they’re keepers. It’s not too shabby when my only issue is that they love the hens too much. Other than that, Pops is a true gentleman. He takes care of his ladies, watches out for predators, eats corn from our hand, and announces our small farm to all the neighbors.