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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 bird, you may ask yourself why you even have him there. So, what’s the point of having a rooster anyway?
In one of my posts here I brought up how our first rooster would attack every member of my house 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, and the answer to that is twofold; no one would take him, and he served a purpose. And that’s the focus of this post: What the purpose of a rooster is.
ONE PURPOSE OF HAVING A ROOSTER IS TO HAVE MORE CHICKENS
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 feed store, then yes, you need a rooster.
Incubating your own chicks can be an amazing experience, especially if you have children. Even if you don’t incubate, you might have a broody hen at some point. And you know all about your chickens, any illnesses they’ve had, their whole history. Whereas with store bought chicks or adult birds, you know really nothing about them. However, that’s not the only reason to have one.
ANOTHER REASON TO HAVE A ROOSTER IS BECAUSE HE COMMUNICATES TO HIS HAREM
Another key point in keeping the rooster around is the different sounds and calls he has. 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, his calls are distinct.
For example, a rooster will make his very own clucking sound that signals to the hens that he’s found something especially nice. A good roo will often sacrifice eating so he can give treats to his girls but often with ulterior motives. Many times you can notice roosters mate with a hen after making his “Look, look, look” sound. The rooster entices the hen with treats before enjoying the fruit of his labor.
A good roo will make an ‘oo oo’ sound which indicates danger. Unfortunately our first rooster wasn’t skilled at looking for actual danger; he was too busy thinking his humans were the sole source of peril.
Both roosters and hens will squawk when they are alarmed.
In Response to the Hen’s Egg Song
Another familiar sound roosters make is the egg song. However, it isn’t limited only to roosters; both hens and roosters participate. The egg song is when a hen lays an egg and then she sings a song about it. Or cackles and squawks for a long time. And in the middle of her singing, the rooster joins in the melody. Some claim that the hen is proud of her work, but not all agree.
Likewise, others think the birds 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 dog started running after my hen, 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 the hen is signaling that she’s done laying her egg; and trying to find out where everyone is, and thus the rooster answering back. A lot of times our rooster will run to the coop to get her.
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. Maybe the roosters challenging each other or trying to establish the boundaries of their own kingdoms.
A THIRD POINT IN KEEPING A ROOSTER IS THAT HE TEACHES THE HENS
Sometimes, not always, a rooster will get in a nesting box, because he’s showing the hens what to do. He’s teaching the hens where to lay eggs. Casanova, our first rooster, took his job very seriously, and he was the only roo we had that did that.
The older hens usually teach the younger ones how to look for food and where to lay eggs. However, roosters have also been known to do this as well.
ANOTHER PURPOSE IN HAVING A ROOSTER IS THEY MAINTAIN ORDER IN THE FLOCK
The rooster is at the top of the pecking order. No one, except you, outranks him. Most roosters will keep and maintain peace in their flock. If there are difficulties in flock members, he will settle it. So, having that order makes it worth it to have a rooster.
I observed this about my roo one afternoon, as I was watching my birds. 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. So, 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. She erroneously thought she was forcibly moving one of the younger Sex-Links. But, 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, except for his tail feathers. 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. I know he was talking to them, calming them both down, and it worked.
He Maintains Order With His Dance Moves
Another thing you want to consider when keeping a rooster is they 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. The hen 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.
He Maintains Order by Getting a Wayward Hen
Speaking of hens going off on their own, good roosters will bring back a wayward hen. Or at least join her to make sure she’s protected.
Megatron, my Ameraucana, is a very good roo as he shepherds his hens well. He reminds 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.