The Perils of Being a Rooster

Poultry is enjoying a revival.  There are folks all over the country who are taking on two or three hens, many of them in cities.   This is good in many ways, as our society becomes less agricultural people become more distanced from their food.   It is also bad in a different way, as we aren’t always prepared to deal with roosters. 

Look at the comb at 4 weeks! It looks like a rooster to me.


This year we bought 6 chicks that were suppose to all become hens.   As they grow I watch them carefully for signs of a rooster, after all sexing day old chicks is only at best 90% accurate.  Half are 9 weeks and the other half are 6 weeks. It appears that we have 3 hens, one rooster and the jury is out on the last 2. 

Hands down roosters are handsome birds, they are what our minds conjure up when we think of chickens.  Think the old Corn Flakes box.  The colors so bright and beautiful.  Feathers shining and reflecting different colors depending on how the sunlight catches them.  A good rooster can also serve to keep an eye on the hens and warn them of predators.   On the other side of the rooster debate is the evil rooster.  Everyone who has known chickens for any amount of time can tell a story about being chased, pecked and worse at the hands of a wicked rooster.  Then there are the roosters who are on testosterone overdrive and spend all their waking hours chasing the hens….some go so far as to scratch out all the hen’s feathers in the act.  Many city folks can not have roosters because of their crowing. 

This is where the perils of being a rooster start.   What to do with that rooster you don’t want. In grandma’s time he would become dinner. 

Many who take on chickens today have not thought seriously about their livestock endeavor. Today our animal shelters and rescue organizations are becoming overrun with unwanted roosters.   Many of them no-kill groups are forced to keep these boys the rest of their lives in cages as a flock of roosters is not a happy family. These groups are questioning the wisdom of backyard flocks because of this unwillingness to deal with another unwanted critter.   Like many of you I don’t really want a rooster, but if I end up with one or three I am prepared for decisions I will need to make.   I wish I could send them off to be butcher, pay some money and they come home ready to eat in plastic bag.   My reality is I live in cattle country and there is not a chicken processor to be found.   If I am lucky I will find a family who wants some cheap eating and take my birds for their table.  If not I will be butchering a rooster or two soon.  Not my idea of a good time, but I think saying thanks to my birds for their substance they will provide is indeed a good way to honor their lives.


5 comments on “The Perils of Being a Rooster

  1. Interesting to see your Post! We too pondered the peril of roosterhood. We researched for about 2 years before adventuring into backyard chickens. (Knowing full well we still have lots to learn as we are just really starting out, now that our chicks have arrived) One big question before we jumped in was…What if a chick turns out to be a rooster? We are very close with the CSA farm that we belong to, and also come from a “tight chicken community,” should we have a rooster (or several), he already has a home ready and waiting. I think it’s so important to determine this choice before the chicks arrive for the exact reasons your post points out. It wouldn’t be fair to be caged for life…just for being so beautiful…and well…cock-a-doodle-do-doing!

  2. Interesting that it’s so difficult to determine gender. I had read this before but not a personal account. In my suburban area of California chickens are allowed but roosters are in theory not. Guess it will be like the lottery when we get our chicks in June…

  3. I have cornish super giant meatbirds, free range, and found out a few weeks ago I have 4 roosters out of the 12. I guess yours must be laying chickens, but I was told by someone else who raises these birds that she prefers roosters. Since I get mine at the feed store you get what is there, hen or rooster and who knows which is which at 3 days old. I’ll take the roosters since they seem to grow bigger faster, (albeit a slim margin), and at 8 to 10 weeks when they are processed, there are no rooster issues.

  4. Hey there!

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I love my chickens. The court is still out on whether or not Melvin is a boy, but since everything else around here seems to be male, I went ahead and named him Melvin. Last season, I named all of the babies girls name (only 2) and wound up with a boy named Hazel. I’m hoping for a girl named Melvin. My chickens are coachins! Love the feathers on their feet. Melvin already has lots of pin feathers on his feet, too!

    We’ve managed to find homes for the boys or found folks who would take them to eat. I just can’t kill them myself. If they go off with another family, even though I know what their fate is, I can convince myself that the roosters will be loved so much, they won’t be able to eat them!

    Good luck with your brood!

  5. Thank you for your comment on my blog! It seems that our attitudes are very similar. I want to write more about vegetarianism (I’m not anymore), butchering, honoring life, etc. I just need a muse to inspire me, I guess. 🙂

    Anyway, I really like what you say here. We have too many roosters at the moment and I know what we need to do, it’s just a matter of deciding to do it, if that makes sense? I feel bad, but I also feel bad for the hens who have no feathers because there are 4 roosters and 16 hens! I think feeling bad (though maybe that’s not the right word, which is why I haven’t written about it yet) is normal and necessary. I mean, we shouldn’t cry each time we take the life of an animal, but we should feel something. If not, then I think something is wrong.

    I hope that makes sense. I’m afraid my writing doesn’t convey all my thoughts at the moment, which is part of why I haven’t been blogging much.

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