As the year of the rooster winds down, let’s take a look at 12 fascinating facts about roosters that may just have you considering adding these beauties to your backyard flock.
1. Roosters Lead to Self-Sufficiency
Most backyard flock owners are looking for some level of control over the quality of their food whether it be eggs, meat, or both. A rooster gives you control over the destiny of your flock and ultimately your food. No longer are you dependent on ordering day-old chicks or hatching eggs. If you’ve got an incubator, or even better, a broody hen, then you can expand your flock as it suits your needs. Remember that about half of the eggs you hatch will be roosters, so each hatch can bring some new layers along with meat for the freezer.
2. Rooster Combs, Wattles, and Feathers are Pretty with a Purpose
When we humans look for a mate, there are qualities we tend to look for. It’s different for every person; arms, abs, you name it. But at the root of this, is our base instinct to find a mate that will provide strong offspring. Looks help to guide us and it’s the same with chickens. Hens tend to favor roosters with a large red comb with tall points. Evenly formed wattles and long spurs are also must-haves. Long, shiny, and colorful hackle and saddle feathers are used as a rooster puffs up and displays for a hen. These are all outward signs that a rooster is healthy and will provide healthy offspring. It’s all about genetic destiny for both hens and roosters. Outward appearance provides that glimpse into the future.
3. Roosters are Protectors
If you have a flock that free ranges, a rooster can be the ticket to safety for your hens. Remember genetic destiny. That comes into play here too. A rooster wants to live on through his offspring. You don’t have offspring if you don’t have a group of hens that are safe. A good rooster will take this duty seriously and keep an eye out at all times for trouble. It’s not unusual to observe a rooster busily pecking while tilting an eye up to the sky or scanning the perimeter. If he spots something, a rooster warns the flock with a series of low noises. This tells the rest to stay close to him and remain vigilant. If the danger doesn’t pass, he will quickly sound the alarm by squawking loudly and gathering his flock in a safe area to hold them there until the danger passes. If needed, a rooster will attack a predator to keep it away. This is appropriate aggressive rooster behavior. But sadly, there are stories of roosters being injured and even losing their lives as they’ve defended their flocks.
4. You Can Have More Than One Rooster
Yes, roosters can live with other roosters. In fact, some people set up bachelor pad coops devoted entirely to their roosters. It is easier to keep more than one rooster if they are all raised together from a young age or you introduce new roosters while you introduce new hens. Some folks also have success introducing adult roosters. Just remember, roosters will establish a pecking order as they learn how to get along and be prepared because some may never get along.
5. Roosters Have Hardy Sperm
The normal body temperature of a chicken is between 105 degrees and 107 degrees. Roosters do not have a penis. A rooster’s sperm is produced and carried inside his body and stays viable at body temperature. Once a rooster has mated, his sperm can stay viable inside a hen’s body for up to two weeks.
6. Rooster Reproduction is Driven by the Sun
We all know that light influences a hen’s laying cycle, but did you know that it also influences a rooster’s fertility? A rooster’s sperm and testosterone are produced in his testes. These testes shrink and grow seasonally.
7. Roosters Will Help Find Food for the Flock
Of course, we chicken keepers are ultimately in charge of what our roosters eat. Part of that feeding routine should include free ranging. Roosters can often be seen taking advantage of foraging during this time, but they won’t always be seen eating the food they find. Instead, they will inspect the food and then let the hens know it’s there by tidbitting. This is a behavior where the rooster clucks softly and moves his head up and down while picking up bits of food and dropping them. A rooster’s long wattles are said to be helpful gaining a hen’s attention while he’s tidbitting. The hens will then eat first and the rooster will eat anything that’s left over. This ensures the hens stay healthy to raise a rooster’s offspring.
8. Roosters Will Keep Order Among the Hens
A rooster is fully aware of the pecking order established in his flock and he will help to keep hen squabbling to a minimum. If there is no rooster in a flock, a dominant hen will usually take this role.
9. Roosters Aren’t Always in Charge
Roosters and hens don’t live in exclusive pairs. A rooster will mate with all the hens in a flock. If you have more than one rooster, then a hen may mate with different males. But this is where the hen takes a lead role. If she doesn’t want offspring from a particular rooster, usually the less-dominant rooster, then she can “dump” his sperm.
10. Rooster Spurs Continuously Grow
A rooster’s spurs grow throughout his life. Some roosters are good at keeping their spurs maintained at a reasonable length; others are not. If that’s the case, human intervention may be needed. Spurs that are too long can cause damage when mating with hens. They can also interfere with a rooster’s gait as his spurs hit the opposite legs.
11. Rooster is a Relatively Recent Term
The term rooster refers to an adult male chicken. This term didn’t appear until 1772. Before that, an adult male chicken was called a cock. When that term became considered rude, it generally fell out of favor, however in some countries and in poultry shows today, that term is still used. A young male chicken under a year old is called a cockerel.
12. Roosters Have Zodiac Rock Star Status
It’s only fair to point out that the rooster is the only bird in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar. The Year of the Rooster (2017) will rack up 384 days and actually 13 lunar months.
Bonus 13th Fact! This may seem trivial to chicken keepers, but it’s actually the most asked question people have about chickens. You do not need a rooster to have chicken eggs. Hens will lay eggs regardless of whether a rooster is around or not. A rooster’s job is the fertilization of those eggs.
Do you keep a rooster, or two, in your flock? What are your experiences? We’d love to hear in the comments below.