Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Around this time of year, many of us find some of our spring chicks are starting to crow. Chickens hatch out 50-percent male and 50-percent female, so if you hatched your own chicks or ordered straight run, chances are good you have some roosters in the flock.
At first it is tempting to keep your roosters. Young roosters that have been brought up together usually do not start fighting right away, nor are their amateur attempts at crowing too loud or annoying. But come spring, the scene on the farm will often change.
Most farmers recommend 6-8 hens per rooster. This ratio is flexible depending on your rooster's libido and size. Why do you need to worry about too many roosters? The first answer is fighting in the flock. A rooster's mission in life is to protect and procreate, and they will see any other males as a threat to their ability to continue their bloodline. Roosters will fight each other to the death if necessary, and they will sacrifice themselves fighting off potential threats to their hens.
You may think that roosters only crow to greet the morning, but that is false. Roosters crow sun up to sun down, and if one guy is calling the rest are certain to answer. For this reason, many towns and cities specifically outlaw roosters on the homestead.
Too few hens to roosters also brings up the problem of over-mating. Roosters are not sympathetic to their ladies and will continue to attempt to mate even after they have scratched up a long-suffering hen's back. Even with only one rooster, if he doesn't have enough hens to spread his affections to, he may cause damage to his harem.
It is not impossible to keep multiple roosters. With enough space and hens, two or three roosters can be very happy. Many farmers who keep multiple roosters have them in completely separate flocks, with their own runs and shelters. This is ideal if you are planning to breed your chickens, keeping each breed separate to ensure a purebred result. If you free range your chickens, they will establish their own territories and be able to escape a bullying rooster more easily.
If you've got a flock of roosters and not enough ladies, you will have to consider saying goodbye to a few of the boys. Often you can find a suitable home for a wayward rooster by posting them on CraigsList or local poultry forums. Neighboring farmers may be willing to take one in, and there is always the stew pot option.
Keeping your rooster to hen ratio in balance will help to ensure that your flock is happy and harmonious, and avoids unnecessary drama on the farm.
Kirsten Lie-Nielsen farms about 2 acres of a suburban homestead using geese for weeding and guarding purposes, raising chickens for eggs, bees for honey, and maintaining vegetable gardens for personal use. Recently she has begun work restoring an old farm in hopes of farming full time in the future. Find her online at Days Ferry Organics Blog.
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