If you are not sure how to add a rooster to your hen house or if you are on the fence as to whether or not you need one, that is what I am going to be talking about in this article. Why I love roosters, and how to keep them safe in a coop full of hens.
Raising Chickens is easier when you have a rooster watching over them.
There is nothing I love more than eating a meal of freshly scrambled eggs that came right out of our henhouse. Having chickens was always something I planned on doing because I love to eat eggs so much.
From a very young age, I longed to have a homestead—one with a garden, chickens, ducks, and even goats. Since I already had a vegetable garden in my backyard, 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 too late, and that may explain why chickens go missing from coops every day.
After a neighbor lost a few chickens to a hawk, I decided to get protection for my chickens, and that meant adding a rooster to my established flock of chickens.
Many times, roosters get a bad rap. People see them as an aggressive unnecessary part of the chicken coop, and for the longest time, I agreed with them. 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 with a warning.
“I just want to warn you, we have a rooster who is MEEEEEE-AN.” Dragging the word mean out like it had 27 “e’s” in it.
It made me nervous but not scared until I met him. She did not exaggerate at all! As I got out of my car and made my way to the barn, he took one look at me and charged with wings out and squawking the entire way.
At that moment, I decided never to own a rooster.
Later, after I had a flock of my own and learned the advantages of having a rooster, such as protection 24/7, I changed my mind. I did not realize back then that my friend’s charging rooster was his way of protection. Roosters act as a warning system when there is any chance of danger that they feel is threatening 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. This includes squawking, flapping their feathers, and even attacking with their clawed feet.
Another bonus to having a rooster is that they will call the chickens into the coop at night. This can be quite helpful, especially if you free-range your hens.
After a few seasons of raising our own chickens, we decided to get a rooster. Lucky for us our first rooster was a sweetheart and I never once had a problem with him with any aggression towards me.
The same did 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. Since I had a fondness for Bubba and I did not want to get rid of him, we instead just told our teenage son to stay back. Now, had my son been younger I probably would have considered finding a new home for that first rooster because aggressive roosters can be dangerous. They attack with their sharp feet, “jumping” at you in a pretty vicious way. They also use their pointy beaks, which can also do some painful damage. For this reason, it is best 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, even 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 to. This is true with a small mouse all the way to a large dog. If you hear a rooster squawking it is best to quickly investigate to find out why.
How do roosters attack?
A rooster will attack with its feet first by “flying” at its 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 to 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 one-and-done kind of animal. They will announce morning has come FOR HOURS and, in some cases, the entire day. 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 have close neighbors.
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 does 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
Next are a few tips you can use to add a rooster to an existing flock of chickens.
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 within our coop. A holding cell of sorts where we could put our rooster so he could get used to the hens, and they, in turn, get used to 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 sleeping.) 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 small 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. If you are 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 and what was not. 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 havee 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, it will allow you to do just about anything. Pick them up, tag them, clip their wings, and move them around. The reason for this is the fact that chickens have horrible night vision. This little tip is useful if you ever need to treat or do maintenance on your hens. Chickens are fearful at night of predators and, for good reason, given their poor vision in the dark. Because of this, they prefer to be up high off the ground on a chicken roost 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 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. 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 because once a chicken tastes blood, it can be pretty ruthless. I would recommend watching and stepping in if you see a situation that is close to becoming 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.
What can I do to keep hen-pecking from happening?
- 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.
- Give distractions. Treats, scraps from your kitchen, and even meal worms will help to keep your flock from getting bored.
- 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.
Bonus Tip – Don’t just use your “Rooster Room” for your roosters.
If you can add a separate area in your coop to hold your rooster while everyone adjusts, you can use this area for other situations that you may find helpful as well. We also like to use this area when we have an injured or bullied hen. This allows them to recuperate safely yet feel like they are part of the main flock. Again, slow and steady is the key to this system working because if you rush it, you may end up having a bigger problem. Take things slowly, and you will create a healthier and happier environment for your chickens which will, in turn, keep everyone safer.
More often than not, 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 has 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 that there is a problem before you see it.
Now that you know the safe way to add a rooster to your hen house, I hope you will get started and give your flock the additional protection they need to keep laying those amazing and delicious eggs.