One of my favorite animals to keep on the farm is chickens, in particular, egg-laying hens. There are so many reasons I love my hens. They are friendly, have individual personalities, can mostly take care of themselves, and they lay delicious beautiful eggs. In order to have a self-sustaining flock, you must also keep a rooster or two. However, with roosters, come challenges. When you strive for a self-sustaining flock, it seems that you end up with roosters here, roosters there, roosters everywhere. I will give you three ideas for dealing with extra roosters.
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What is a self-sustaining flock?
A self-sustaining flock is a flock where you do not need to purchase replacement chicks. You raise your own chicks either by hatching them in the incubator or under a broody hen. A broody hen is a hen that has decided to sit on and hatch a clutch of eggs. The eggs must be fertilized by a rooster. The broody hen will sit on the eggs day and night, leaving only once daily to eat and drink. After 21 days the eggs will hatch and she will raise a batch of chicks.
Roosters are not necessary for hens to lay eggs. The eggs will be unfertilized. They look and taste exactly the same. Roosters are only necessary if you would like fertilized eggs that are able to hatch into chicks.
Since I have a self-sustaining flock, roosters are a necessity. However, there are challenges with keeping a self-sustaining flock. The biggest problem is that about half of the eggs that hatch end up being roosters. I have a long history of bad rooster experiences, dating back to my childhood.
When I was around four years old, I was helping my cousin collect the eggs from my uncle’s chickens. The coop was really far away from the house. As we approached the coop, three or four roosters came charging at us and attacked us. We started running and the roosters chased us. My cousin, who was only one year older than me, started throwing rocks at the chickens. We did not escape unscathed. Our legs were bloody from where the roosters cut us with their spurs. This experience started an irrational fear of chickens.
Spurs are self-defense tools on the legs of birds, but they can become dangerous to hens, other roosters, and people. The older the rooster the longer and sharper the spurs.
Finally, I faced my fears after I married my husband and his mother had a flock of chickens. I started to enjoy watching them from a distance. There is something relaxing about watching chickens scratch and peck around the farm. Slowly, I realized the hens did not want to attack me. I finally mustered up the courage to collect the eggs, only to be pecked viciously by hens who were sitting in the nest. I started wearing leather gloves to collect eggs. That was several years ago, and not I can take on the most protective hen with my bare hands.
Dealing with Extra Roosters
Sell Extra Roosters
My favorite way to deal with extra roosters is to sell them. It is quick and easy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge market for roosters. With the ever-growing popularity of backyard chickens, people are not allowed to keep roosters within city limits due to their early morning, loud, incessant cock-a-doodling. Many city dwellers are required to get rid of their roosters. Therefore, the supply side of the market is saturated. The second drawback is the possibility of selling them to someone who participates in cockfighting. That is the absolute last place I want my roosters to end up.
When purchasing chicks, it is important to know the terminology. If you are looking for backyard layers, make sure to purchase pullets, not straight run. Paying a little extra money upfront will prevent you from dealing with extra roosters later on.
- Straight run means “just as hatched”. The chicks have not been seen by our professional sexors to determine if males or females.
- A rooster, also known as a cockerel or cock, is a male chicken.
- A pullet and hen are names for a female chicken.
- A capon is a rooster that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food.
Eat Extra Roosters
My second option, which is the option that I usually end up doing is eating the roosters. You must be strategic about this option. You need to butcher them when they are as big as possible, yet not over a year old. When roosters are older than a year, the meat becomes tough. Most egg layer breeds do not produce large, meaty roosters, in fact, they can be scrawny. I have found the best way to prepare extra roosters is fried chicken.
Grandma’s Fried Chicken
- 1 Whole Chicken, cut into pieces
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 whole egg beaten
- 2+ tbsp olive oil
- Remove skin from chicken, if desired
- Combine flour and spices in a large plastic bag
- Combine milk and egg in a bowl
- Toss chicken in the flour mixture
- Dip chicken into egg mixture
- Return chicken to flour mixture
- Heat oil in a large skillet
- Fry chicken on high in a stove top skillet until golden brown on all sides.
- Return all chicken to pan, reduce heat to medium and cook until juices run clear. Approximately 30 minutes.
If you are looking for chickens to specifically raise for meat, read my article about raising meat chickens here.
Keep Extra Roosters
I like to keep two roosters with my flock, but that usually means the roosters must be raised together from chicks so they do not fight with each other. Sometimes, a pecking order can be established and they will leave each other alone. I usually have around 30 hens so two roosters is a reasonable ratio. If you have fewer than 12 hens, I do not recommend more than one rooster. It is too hard on the hens.
Roosters are beautiful creatures and sometimes either my compassion or my children’s compassion gets the better of me and I end up with three or four roosters. My children have convinced me that a particular rooster is too beautiful to butcher. Sometimes, I feel like we are running an animal sanctuary rather than a farm. Try not to let this happen to you. It is not cost-effective. Having one extra rooster is nice in case your rooster dies, but more roosters become freeloaders.
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If you are a city dweller or live in the suburbs and the rooster crowing is your problem, I have heard of limited success with anti-crowing collars. If you raised chicks and are attached to your rooster, but the crowing is annoying you or your neighbors, you could give this inexpensive collar a try.
Roosters are an inevitable part of farm life, especially if you desire a self-sustaining flock. There are three main ways for dealing with extra roosters: sell them, eat them, or keep them. I hope this article has helped you consider how to deal with extra roosters. If you have a flock, how are you dealing with extra roosters? Leave me a comment below.