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WHAT’S THE PURPOSE IN HAVING A ROOSTER?
Have you ever experienced both the good and bad side of a rooster, you know, where one day he’ll attack you and the next day he does something amazing for his flock? When you get attacked by an 18 inch tall feathered bird, you may start to ask yourselves why you even have him there.
In one of my posts here I brought up how our rooster would attack every member of my household any moment we walked outside. If you’ve experienced this you understand it gets tiring real quick.
Many people may wonder why we didn’t just get rid of the rooster either by giving him away or by slaughtering him, and the answer to that is twofold; no one would take him, and he served a purpose.
TO HAVE MORE CHICKS
I get asked all the time if you have to have a rooster in order to get eggs, and the answer is a resounding no. Hens will produce eggs whether or not there’s a rooster, but if you want chicks from your own flock, without purchasing them from a breeder or the feed store, then yes, you need a rooster, however that’s not the only reason to have one.
HE CALLS TO HIS HAREM
Now what does that mean? Roosters have particular sounds they make which can mean different things, from warnings about danger to letting his girls know about goodies he’s discovered.
A rooster will make a clucking sound of his very own that signals to the girls that he’s found something especially nice, or if I brought out treats when I had this rooster, he would pick up a leaf or a piece of trash, and make his, “Look, look, look,” noise, all just so he could pretend to be doing something else before he bowed up at me.
A good roo will often sacrifice eating so he can give the treats to his girls but often with ulterior motives. Many times you will notice roosters mate with a hen after making his “Look, look, look” sound, enticing her with treats before enjoying the fruit of his labor.
TEACHING HIS HAREM OF HENS
When the above hens were starting to lay we had them in a much smaller coop, which was a temporary situation, until we got the big one built and moved them. Well, one day following said move, we found Casanova in a nesting box during the day, and we were thoroughly confused.
Sometimes, not always, a rooster will get in a nesting box, because he’s showing the hens what to do. Casanova took his job very seriously, and he was the only roo we had that did that.
The older hens are usually the ones to teach the younger generations how to look for food and where to lay eggs, however roosters have also been known to do this as well.
SOLVING INTERNAL SQUABBLES
The other thing I observed about my roo one afternoon, as I was watching my birds, was that he was good with relationships. At least with his own kind.
A couple of the older gals were dust bathing, and they have certain favorite spots for doing that. Well, Chopper, one of our Ameraucanas, saw a Black Sex-Link in the bathing hole, and she got an attitude as she grabbed the hen by her comb with her own beak and commenced dragging her out of the dust. Less than 2 seconds later Chopper realized her mistake, because whereas she erroneously thought she was forcibly moving one of the younger Sex-Links, she actually did that to Loki, our oldest Sex-Link, and probably higher on the totem pole than Chop.
Loki was ready to clobber Chopper when she was on her feet, and Chop was right to be afraid, because Loki was a lot heavier than she was. Chopper made a huge mistake, but Casanova stopped the girls from getting into anything; he was right there, this midget, smaller than Loki with the exception of his tail feathers, and it was like he was talking to both of them, only I had no idea the exact words he was saying.
He would look from one to the other, bob his head up and down, make some noises, and I know he was talking to them, calming them both down, and it worked.
What are the other things roosters do? They make noise, and if you live in the country, you are very familiar with this. What do all these different sounds mean? Well, I already listed one that indicated he found food. It sounds to me like he’s saying, “Look, look, look,” but that call isn’t limited to roosters only. There have been times when a hen will make that noise, but that’s more often when she’s gone broody and she’s trying to feed her chicks. In fact, when we have chicks my girls and I will say that when we have food for them.
What does the all too familiar cock-a-doodle-do mean? He could be announcing that he’s the boss, or he could be talking to distant roosters. We live in a neighborhood of 1 to 5 acre lots, and there are a lot of chickens and farm animals around us, so we hear a lot of roosters. When one roo will crow, give it a minute, because someone will answer. Maybe they’re challenging each other or trying to establish the boundaries of their own kingdoms. Who knows? I just know that when one roo in the distance crows, my roo will cock his head and listen before replying.
A good roo will make an ‘oo oo’ sound which indicates danger. Unfortunately Casanova wasn’t skilled at looking for actual danger; he was too busy thinking his humans were the sole source of peril, so that task fell to Fives, our lead hen.
Both roosters and hens will squawk when they are alarmed.
THE EGG SONG
Another familiar sound the birds make is the egg song, and both hens and roosters participate. It’s when a hen lays an egg and she’s very proud of her work, so she sings a song about it, and the rooster joins in the melody. Of course not everyone thinks like that. Some people think they may be trying to lead predators away from the eggs by drawing attention to themselves. I suppose, simply on an instinctual level, anything is possible, but I know my birds. I know that if a predator, like a dog, were to suddenly appear and start running after her, she would run back to the coop, not away from it. Not out of a desire to get the dog to eat the eggs and spare her. I don’t think my birds think that deeply. No, I know they would be extremely scared, and they run to the coop when there’s danger.
Another possible explanation is that she’s signaling that she’s done laying the egg and trying to find out where everyone is, and thus the rooster answering back. A lot of times the rooster will run to the coop to get her.
Both roosters and hens will make grumbling noises, meaning that they are displeased and about to attack someone.
THE ROOSTER DANCE
Another thing a rooster will do is dance: There is the big showy dance where he’s putting himself on display for a mate, in hopes of luring one in. And then there’s the smaller two-step one where he just makes a couple of steps around the hen.
The second type of dance is for keeping his girls in line, and that’s more typically the kind of dancing I see from my roosters, current and past. She might have disagreed with him, rejected his offer of love, gone off on her own, or started to get in a fight with another hen, but whatever it is, he will go get her and do his two-step little dance. Rarely does he have to bow up and show her who’s boss in such an aggressive display.
Speaking of hens going off on their own, good roosters will bring back a wayward hen. My Cream Legbar never did; he was too afraid to fly. You might be thinking that chickens can’t fly, and that may be technically true, although they can ‘fly’ very short distances. When they’re chicks they can go further.
Megatron, my Ameraucana, is a very good roo as he shepherds his hens well, reminding me of the parable in the bible about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to retrieve the one lost lamb. He does that for his girls.
I have many more stories I can share about roosters and hens, but I’ll stop here for now. I would love to hear your comments.