There is nothing I love more on a warm Sunday morning than eating eggs and toast out on our back deck in the sunshine.
Having chickens was always something I planned on doing. I longed to have an actual homestead. One with a garden, chickens, ducks and even goats. Since I had the garden the next step for me was to begin adding on a few chickens.
I ordered my first batch of chicks and dove in head first.
I quickly learned that year that chickens are quite vulnerable and tend to be focused more on what they are doing rather than where they are. They usually do not notice the danger until it is upon them and may explain why chickens go missing from coops every day.
I decided to call in some help and went looking for a rooster to watch over my flock.
But roosters seem to get a bad rap.
So many people see them as an aggressive unnecessary part of the chicken coop and for the longest time, I agreed.
My first experience with a rooster was at a neighbor’s home. We were going down to visit her goats and she greeted me at the end of the driveway.
“I just want to warn you, we have a rooster and he is MEEEEEE-AN.” Dragging the word mean out like it had 27 “e’s” in it.
And boy was he! As I got out of my car he took one look at me and charged!
I decided not to ever own a rooster.
But once I got my own flock of hens and learned the advantages of having my own protection 24/7 for my gals I changed my mind. Roosters act as a warning system when there is any chance of danger to their flock. They have this instinct to warn and protect their hens and will do that very thing at the sign (any sign) of what they believe is a danger.
Not only that, but roosters call the chickens into the coop at night. Which can be quite helpful if free-range your hens.
After a few seasons raising our own chickens, we decided to get a rooster. Lucky for us our first rooster was a sweetheart and we never had a problem with him.
The same does not hold true with my youngest son. For some reason, our first rooster did not care for him at all and would come running just as soon as he saw him. There was just something he didn’t like and rather than remove the rooster we just told our teenaged son to stay back. Now, had my son been younger I probably would have considered finding a new home for that first rooster.
Aggressive roosters can be dangerous. They attack with their sharp feet and pointy beaks which can do some painful damage. For this reason, you want to establish a friendly relationship with your rooster from day one.
If you have an already established flock of hens and are thinking of adding a rooster there are a few things you can do to make that transition more comfortable.
Chickens do not take kindly to new birds being added to their flock. They will hen-peck a new member either a little or a lot depending on the atmosphere. This hen pecking is necessary to establish the hierarchy of the coop. After all, that is where the term “pecking order” came from.
If you are new to chickens this can be pretty brutal to witness. Acceptance does not just happen when changes are made to an established flock. This includes introducing new chickens and yes a new rooster. Chickens do not realize the rooster is there to protect them and I have seen roosters pecked, some severely, from hens in a flock.
Just because henpecking is normal behavior for chickens does not mean you need to allow it.
I have found a few tips that have worked for us when adding new chickens to an established flock. These tips work for new young hens, a rooster, even when you are re-introducing a recovered hen.
Why do you want a rooster?
Roosters are amazing animals. Their instinct to protect their flock is incredibly valuable. Roosters will yell if they sense a problem and attack if they feel they need too. This is true with a small mouse all the way to a large dog.
How do roosters attack?
A rooster will attack with their feet first by “flying” at their target with feet outstretched using them to push, grab, and stab. They will then jump flapping their wings using their beaks as well to inflict injury that will, hopefully, chase off the predator. The entire time this is happening a rooster squawks loudly to alert the rest of the flock to stay away. This, in turn, alerts you so you can quickly get out to intervene.
Are roosters loud?
In the morning roosters like to announce, what seems like the entire world, that morning has come. This might be a good reason to refrain from putting your chicken coop right below your bedroom window. Sure a morning call can be a nice thing, but roosters are not a once and done kind of animal. They will announce morning has come FOR HOURS. This is something you will need to keep in mind before adding a rooster to your flock especially if you live in a subdivision or the city.
At night a rooster will call in the hens, and our rooster will not go into the coop until all the hens have. This is not a common feature of roosters but for us, it tends to be and that again is a useful trait to have. If our rooster will not go into the coop at night we then know there is either a problem or a missing hen.
How to Add a Rooster to Your Hen House
Step #1. Slow and Steady
I have found that patience is the key to just about anything when it comes to chickens or any animal for that matter. Rather than toss my new rooster in and hope for the best, we instead decided to build a pen withing a pen. A holding cell of sorts where we could put our rooster so he could get used the hens and they, in turn, get used t him.
My Hubby built a small room that extended into the hen house and opened up to the outdoors. It has a slanted solid roof to discourage the hens from roosting on it at night. (Chickens will do anything to get up off the ground while to sleep.) And chicken wire walls so they could easily see, smell and hear each other.
We have since named this extension, the chicken condo and we have used it successfully for years. If you do not have a way to add on a room such as this you can use a dog crate and simply set it inside the coop at night for your newer hens or rooster to sleep in.
This again, allows the rooster to feel part of the flock giving both sides time to adjust to the other.
Step #2. Let Them Explore
This is easier to do if you are free-ranging your chickens and if you do not just skip over this part and move on to step #3.
We allowed our rooster time to get the “lay of the land” so he could learn what was a safe place to scratch what was not. By giving him time to move around it helped him to feel a bit more confident in his surroundings.
Each night I would call our new rooster in and he knew right off where his safe place was. He would walk right into his little room and we would close him inside so he would be safe.
As time went on the hens became used to him being there and actually went up to greet him each evening.
Step #3. Take Your Time
The key to this working is to not rush it. Take your time and allow both sides to become accustomed to each other. We took a full week before we decided to add our rooster in. For me, a calm transition was incredibly important.
Few people know that chickens have a cannibalistic nature. Once they taste some blood they will peck and peck and peck to get more of it. Not only that, the red color of blood really calls to them, again, making them want to peck even more. For that reason preventing blood from the get-go is always my main objective.
Step #4. Make the Move at Night
I learned this tip years ago from an old farmer and it works like a charm. When a chicken is up on the roost at night they will allow you to do just about anything. Pick them up, tag them, clip their wings, move them around. This always amazes me but chickens are fearful at night of predators and for good reason. They prefer to be up high off of the ground where they feel safe. Couple that with their inability to see well in the dark and you have the perfect time to do any hen moving or maintenance.
Chickens also have very short memories. If you add a new hen at night they will simply wake up in the morning assuming she was there the entire time.
Make your move at night and see just how easy it is.
Step #5. Watch for Behavior Issues
This step is important simply because we cannot assume anything when it comes to animals. What we expect usually never happens so just watch the flock for signs of aggression so you can stop it before it gets out of hand. If you see feathers missing from your rooster then you may need to step in again.
Remember it is easier to stop henpecking before it gets dangerous for the rooster. I would recommend watching and stepping in if you see things are getting dangerous. More often than not a flock will work through hen pecking on their own but you can do a few things to stop it if necessary.
Allow for more than one access to food and water. Aggression tends to happen when food is involved. Give multiple locations to allow a place for your rooster to eat in peace.
Make sure you have plenty of room in your coop. A good rule of thumb is 2-3 square feet per chicken.
Put up obstacles like branches, rocks, or logs. This will not only give your rooster a place to get out of sight from an aggressive hen but will give your entire flock a place to scrounge for bugs.
Tip – Don’t just use your “Rooster Room” for your roosters.
We also like to use this little room when we have a sick or bullied hen. This allows them to recuperate safely and still feel like they are part of the flock. Again, slow and steady is the key to this system working. Rush it and you may have a problem. Take things slowly and you will create a normal flock environment for your chicken which will, in turn, keep them safer.
More often than not the bullying is a one-time occurrence but again you will want to watch closely for clues and signs of a problem. This way you can stop anything before it gets out of hand.
Having a rooster around to protect our flock as been a decision that has worked incredibly well. Our animals rely on us not only for daily food and fresh water but for safety as well. With a rooster you will give your chickens the protection they need by having a living alarm system around that will alert you there is a problem before you see it.