Rooster care is something many of us don’t think about often, but there are a few things we can do to keep our roosters in good shape. Even the best rooster breed may need a hand once in awhile, so let’s talk about some of the issues roosters encounter.
The Job Description
Roosters perform several jobs, and when you find a good one, you’ll want to keep them for as long as possible, because it can be hard to find the right one for your flock. Roosters watch over your hens, keep the flock together for safety, keep an eye to the sky for predators and if called for, may attack a threat to the flock. Roosters also help hens forage, calling them over to the food they’ve found, and breed your hens so you can hatch chicks.
It’s common for a rooster to be wounded while on the job. Protecting the flock from stray pets and wildlife, as well as duking it out with other roosters, is dangerous. Bleeding wounds can become infected easily when you live in a chicken coop, so we need to address the issue before it’s a critical problem.
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Stop The Bleed
Chickens don’t like band-aids, and they don’t tolerate dressings well. If you have an active bleed, use a blood-stop powder to help your bird clot after you clean the wound. If it’s a severe wound that has started to clot, don’t wash it unless you’re ready to stop the bleeding again.
Fend Off Infection
Once the bleeding has stopped, use an antiseptic spray such as Blu-Kote to keep infection out. Re-apply regularly until the wound successfully heals. Roosters can live well into their teens if we keep on top of their health. Wound management is an essential part of keeping them healthy.
Chickens are cannibalistic, so be sure to isolate any wounded bird so they can heal. Also, if the damage is a result of a pecking order conflict, be sure they are not in visual contact with the other rooster otherwise they may fight through your cage.
Ever wonder how do you tell the difference between a rooster and a hen? Well, spurs are a part of identifying hens from roosters. Hens can have spurs, but rooster spurs are much larger than their female counterparts, and maintaining them is part of good rooster care.
As roosters age, their spurs can become unruly. A little trim and filing go a long way, but it’s keeping the bird still that can be the challenge. Wrap them in an old towel to immobilize them as you work. Don’t take too much off though, just a bit of a trim and a nail file to take down the rough edges is enough.
One of the facts about roosters is that spurs split and snap as they age. There’s not much you can do to stop it, but when it happens, try to trim and file the rough parts, so they don’t snag themselves on anything else. If the spur was bleeding, clean it and spray it with an antiseptic wound spray.
Part of a good rooster care routine includes nail trimming. Since roosters are usually preoccupied with watching over their hens, they don’t spend as much time scratching and foraging. Because they don’t scratch as much as a hen, they are prone to having overgrown nails.
If your rooster is prone to overgrown nails, be sure to trim them once in a while. Again, wrap them in a towel to make it easier to work on them, and have some blood stop powder handy in case you trim too much. Be sure to file sharp edges and rough spots, so they don’t make a place to crack.
Mites and Lice
Just like your hens, roosters are prone to becoming infested with bugs and lice. The more significant issue is that an infested rooster can share with the hens he’s breeding. Be sure to check your rooster for mites and lice, and treat with Permethrin if you find them.
Where To Look
Look for mites under the feathers, near the skin. If you see small black dots that move, clusters of tiny hard eggs at the base of the feathers, or grains of rice wandering the fluffy parts of the feathers, treat them and the rest of your flock. You are most likely to find mites near the vent, which is why it’s so easy for a rooster to infest his hens inadvertently.
Treat For Mites
If you find mites, I suggest using a dilution of permethrin in a sprayer. You can purchase permethrin in a 10 percent solution, but you’ll want to further dilute it down per instructions, or around .25 percent.
Remember that birds have a preen gland, which produces oil. They take that oil and cover their feathers with it to make them somewhat waterproof. Because they have this oil, I also add a drop or two of surfactant, such as dish detergent, to help the permethrin spray penetrate better and not bead off the feathers as easily.
Alternatively, you can treat for mites with poultry dust, which is a powder with Permethrin in it. I don’t use dust because of the inhalation hazard, but it’s still an option. In either case, be sure to treat your rooster, hens, and coop.
Older roosters, for whatever reason, tend to get leg mites. Thankfully, the fix is easy. Whenever you’ve decided to perform some rooster care, be it proactive or reactive, coat your rooster’s legs in petroleum jelly.
Using petroleum jelly, or an organic alternative, won’t hurt your birds if they don’t have leg mites, but it will suffocate the leg mites hiding under the scales. If you treat a bird without leg mites, you’ll just be conditioning their scales, which will help them lay flat.
Having a proportionately larger comb and wattles compared to a hen of the same breed leaves roosters prone to frostbite. Cold, drafty coops can easily cause your rooster to lose tips and points from his comb, and the rear blade of single-comb varieties are also prone to frostbite.
Make sure you give your rooster a draft-free coop for the winter and consider adding supplemental heat in the evening to avoid frostbite. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to fix frostbite, so avoiding the issue is very important.
Roosters are usually easy keepers, but sometimes they need a helping hand. Remember these rooster care tips to keep them in top form so that they can do their job. Wound care, mite treatments, and leg care are the three most significant things to be mindful of when caring for your flock’s stud, but don’t forget; they’re still a chicken. Remember that roosters need the same things your hens need, and then some.
What do you do to keep your rooster in top shape? Have you found a trick to keeping their spurs from breaking? How do you avoid frostbite? Let us know in the comments below and start the conversation!