rooster close upWhen raising a flock of chickens, you know a few basic things you’ll need. For starters, you’ll need a coop, as well as a feeder and plenty of space. You’ll probably want a fence and maybe some extra nesting spots. And of course, you’ll want to get a handful of hens so that you’ll always have a steady supply of eggs. Then comes the bigger question: Do you need a rooster? Most of the time you’ll just instantly assume that every good chicken flock needs a cock since it even rhymes so easily, but is that really the case? Do you in fact need a rooster? Let’s take a look and find out.

Take a quick look at the usefulness of a rooster when compared to a hen. A hen can lay eggs, be used as meat, and raise chicks. A rooster can be used as meat. Pound for pound, hens are most useful. The big assumption is that roosters are needed for egg production, and that’s simply not the case. Roosters, if anything, only serve to complicated egg production. A hen will lay with or without a rooster, but if a rooster has managed to fertilize the egg then you have a much smaller window to collect the egg. If you’re in the habit of leaving eggs alone for a bit with the chickens, a fertilized egg can start growing an embryo in as quick as four days, leading to a very awkward breakfast one morning.

Oddly enough, the thought that a flock needs a rooster to lead them happens to be completely untrue. In most cases, the flock will just go about its business without a second thought to leadership, or a hen will step up and become the dominant “rooster” so to speak. You can sometimes even find these hens attempting a sort of crow in the morning, just as a rooster would do to signal daybreak.

Removing the male from the ranks not only leaves more room for hens and reduces the amount of fertilized eggs, it also reduces the general feelings of stress around the flock. Without a male, the hens are free to do their thing unhindered. Fights are much rarer between hens than with roosters, so eliminating that potential stress just lets egg production go into full swing uninterrupted.

Deciding to keep a rooster isn’t a bad thing though. They are generally more decorative in shows and competitions, and the classic cock-a-doodle-doo is just one of those nostalgic staples of the farm. Plus, if you do intend to breed your chicks, you will certainly need a rooster. But if you’re just keeping a male chicken around out of a sense of responsibility, please do reconsider that. They’re fun, but they’re certainly not required for a happy, healthy flock of chickens.

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