My grandfather used to swear everyone who had chickens, needed a rooster. He would say things like, “a rooster keeps all the hens in line,” or “the hens need a protector.” Today we know that although those statements are partially true, roosters are not a necessary part of your backyard flock.
You do not need a rooster to get eggs from your hens. A hen will continue to lay eggs without the presence of a rooster. The eggs will be unfertilized, so you will not be able to hatch them. The eggs will be “blanks.”
Currently on our little homestead, we have a flock of around 25-30 hens. The hens all get along fine without a rooster. If a rooster is not present, sometimes something strange can happen within the flock. A lead female can start taking on the characteristics of a male. Although she never goes through a full gender change, she may slowly become more and more dominant. She may peck the others, and they will submit by squatting on the ground as they might do for a real rooster. I have even heard of some very rare cases where a hen will stop laying eggs, grow long spurs, and even attempt to crow.
These cases are rare, and 99% of the time, your hens will be productive and happy without a guy around.
You do not NEED a rooster, so the question now becomes, “Do you WANT a rooster?”
• Beautiful- Seeing a glossy rooster strut across the yard can really make your homestead feel like a real farm! Roosters can be the eye candy of your flock and come on an array of different colors and patterns.
• Protective- Roosters always have an eye to the sky, watching for danger. They immediately warn hens of any predators and can sometimes fend off attackers such as hawks and small foxes. If they see a threat, they will let out a warning call and all the hens run for cover!
• Fertile- If you plan on breeding and hatching your own chickens, then you must have a rooster. To ensure the most fertile eggs, try to have a ratio of 1 rooster to about 6 hens. Roosters will mate daily with the hens, so eggs for consumption need to be collected every day.
• Sharing and Caring- MOST roosters are true gentlemen. They will find food and call the girls over with a special sound and share. He may even pick the food pieces up and drop them right in front of the hen! Aww!
• Noisy- Roosters crow at all times of the day and night. Please consider your sanity and the sanity of your neighbors.
• Aggressive- Some roosters are gentle, but others can become ruthlessly mean. No one knows for sure what makes certain roosters mean, but rooster chicks who were overly friendly as chicks or very protective roosters can turn aggressive. They have no fear of humans, dogs, brooms, etc and can do some real harm! There’s only one tried and true way to deal with a mean rooster: freezer camp. -Plus, having too many roosters leads to fighting.
• Hen Harassment- If the balance of about 6 hens to 1 rooster is off, the rooster can inadvertently harm the hens by mounting them too often. Mating can be quite violent. The hens may suffer plucked head feathers and scratched backs from his spurs.
If you feel like taking the plunge, try purchasing straight run chicks next time! Straight run orders are slightly more economical and will be a mix of male and female birds (although not always perfect 50/50). If you end up with too many roosters, you could butcher or sell them. If you feel like hens are the right choice for you, make sure to purchase pullets!