Unless you buy sexed day-old chicks, chances are you’ve got extra roosters this spring! Finding a rooster rescue can be difficult, especially during the spring when extra, unwanted roosters start to appear as for sale or free. Many end up in soups or stews and some actually find their way to rooster rescue organizations or good homes. Some end up in horrible situations in cockfighting rings or as bait birds for other sports. What do you do when your rooster population explodes but you’re not ready to start looking up recipes or placing ads for free roosters?
The Problem of Extra Roosters
Many people don’t want to get rid of their extra roosters and assume they can just put them in with the flock. The optimal ratio for roosters to hens is one rooster to every 10 hens. In an environment where one rooster rules the roost, the flock is content, happy and free from stress. Insert just one or two extra roosters and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Normal rooster behavior is to defend the flock from all comers. Other roosters who attempt to join the flock will be fought and destroyed because the head rooster must protect the flock. In this heightened sense of anxiety that the fighting causes, hens may stress to the point to where they stop laying eggs. Too many roosters can be hard on your hens’ feathers as well, as during multiple matings from multiple roosters, often their head and back feathers will be pulled out. Keeping extra roosters with the flock can also cause aggressive behavior toward humans as they do their job of protecting their hens. It’s often after aggressive rooster behavior that chicken keepers begin to think about eating or rehoming or finding a rooster rescue. Other chicken keepers are tired of their rooster causing damage to their hens’ feathers and rescue the girls by moving the rooster or extra rooster out of the flock.
Creating a Rooster Rescue Refuge
There are those who feel adamantly that excess roosters should be culled. On the other side of the fence, are those that appreciate their roosters, but can’t keep them with the flock because they already have a head rooster or don’t have enough hens to keep multiple roosters busy. Rehoming or finding a rooster rescue has failed and eating them is not an option for many people, as the roosters have become pets by this point. So, what can be done with a bunch of rowdy roosters to rescue them from the stew pot? They can live peacefully in a rooster bachelor colony.
Creating a bachelor colony is as easy as finding free chicken coop plans that will support the number of roosters in your bachelor flock. The roosters will need an adequately sized chicken run and pen so that they don’t feel crowded. Even as a bachelor colony, although there are no hens to fight over, roosters can still become territorial about their home. It’s important to have multiple feeders and waterers so that the roosters at the top of the pecking order allow the lower pecking order roosters to have access to food and water. It’s also a good idea to trim or remove all roosters’ spurs to minimize the amount of damage that they can do to a coop mate. After the initial pecking order is set within your bachelor colony, the roosters should be able to live together peacefully.
It’s important for the chicken keeper to understand something about rooster behavior so that accessing the bachelor colony is possible. I have a bachelor colony of three roosters and they know when I come into the run, that I am the head rooster. I’m able to access their feed and water without threats or attacks. I also know the signs of when they’re agitated (picking up bits of straw and twigs and breaking it on the ground signals anxiety) and if I pick up signs that they’re wound up, I might wait until they calm down before entering the run. They are, after all, still roosters and still have all that instinctual male behavior. Some say that keeping them in a bachelor flock isn’t natural for a rooster and will rotate their roosters through their flock of hens just so all the roosters get a chance to be a rooster. However, there have been studies that show that in the wild, roosters will willingly spend time together in a flock away from hens, so being sequestered in a bachelor flock is not completely unnatural for them.
Roosters as Companions
If you’ve got too many spurred fellows at your house, consider putting them in a bachelor colony. Roosters, when trained and treated well, can become excellent companions. You can train them to jump for a treat held just above their head and soon they’ll recognize you and your treat container as a pleasant way to interact with you. Be sure that you maintain your head rooster status with the flock by picking them up frequently and carrying them around or stroking their chest and wattles. If the rooster is excited, hold him until his heart rate slows to normal before putting him back down. Handling your roosters frequently and gaining their trust will make them happy, calm members of your rooster flock.
Spurs, the long sharp growth on the side of the rooster’s leg, can be extremely sharp and dangerous. Always use care and safety when working with your roosters to prevent injury from their spurs. Have you ever wondered do hens have spurs like roosters?
If sending your birds to a rooster rescue isn’t an option, what have you done with your extra roosters? Let us know in the comments below.