By: Mackenzie Reiss
Nothing says "farm" quite like the quintessential crow of a rooster in the early morning. These stunning creatures are not only visually appealing with their gorgeous feathering, but also act as the first line of defense between predators and the rest of your flock. A rooster is essential if you're planning on hatching chicks; but even if that is not the case, these birds provide a range of benefits to almost any flock:
Food Call: When a rooster happens upon a tasty morsel, such as a table scrap or something found while foraging, he will alert the rest of the flock with a repetitive call or even pick up the food and offer it to a nearby hen. This behavior, known as tid-bitting, is a manifestation of the rooster's natural protective instinct to put his hen's welfare before his own.
Protection: Roosters will alert the flock to airborne or land-based predators and fend them off if necessary. When the end of the day draws near, a rooster will also help corral the hens back towards the coop. Rooster owner, Matthew of Virginia posted the following testimony to his rooster's usefulness on the forums at BackyardChickens.com
Without my roo I would be out several hens even with two border collies and two guard geese roaming. When a hawk swoops I hear him give his warning and the hens scatter. The geese and the dogs don't look up! I haven't lost any chickens to a hawk and I think it has a lot to do with the rooster.Social Hierarchy: It is a natural behavior for social birds like chickens to establish a social hierarchy to help maintain order within the flock. This pecking order dictates many behaviors such as who mates with who and which hens get the best roosting spots and scraps of food. Because of his strength and masculine authority, it is natural for a rooster to take on the alpha role. This helps prevent disruption in the flock by establishing a firm pecking order. Without a rooster, hens will compete amongst themselves for the alpha spot which diminishes peace and stability within the flock. (The Field Guide to Chickens, Pam Percy)
Hatching Eggs: If you are looking to hatch chicks of your own, you will need a rooster to fertilize the eggs. Chicks will hatch after approximately 21 days of incubation. Conversely, you may also choose to sell your fertilized eggs which can fetch twice the price of regular eggs. Roosters are sexually mature at 25 weeks and will mate throughout the year anywhere from 10-30 times per day. To avoid excessive mating and stress on your hens, it is recommended that you have 8-10 hens per rooster.