Keeping roosters with laying hens is beneficial but must be done carefully. Here are some tips for introducing a rooster to hens.
Keeping roosters with your laying hens is beneficial for several reasons. A rooster will act as caretaker, keeping the flock together and protecting it from predators when the hens roam outside the coop. With a rooster in charge, bossy hens will become more mellow. Keeping a rooster also means you’ll have fertile eggs from which you can raise chicks if you’d like (read Raise Your Best Flock Using Broody Hens).
Whether you’re introducing a rooster to hens, the process is essentially the same, says Harvey Ussery, author of The Small-Scale Poultry Flock. When introducing a rooster to hens, do it with the poultry flock at midday inside a large, enclosed space that provides plenty of room for the rooster to retreat if attacked. Then, monitor the rooster and hens’ behavior.
“Expect some sparring initially,” Ussery says. “In my experience, this is not much cause for concern. There will be a hazing period until the hens find their places in the new hierarchy. Within a short time, the hens will naturally accept him.”
If, however, the flock acts more aggressively toward the rooster — pulling tail feathers or drawing blood — take things more slowly. Keep the rooster separated but within view of the flock (you could let them roam in separate outdoor enclosures during the day, for instance) until the hens become more comfortable.
For more information on how to introduce a rooster to hens, keeping roosters with laying hens, and how to breed and raise chicks from eggs, check out Ussery’s book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.