There is so much to learn when you are new to backyard chickens. Often, if you have been a city-dweller for most of your years, you will find yourself amazed at simple facts that most country folks take for granted. If you are a backyard homesteader in suburbia you may find as many opinions on roosters as ordinances against them. It all boils down to the most basic of questions, Do you need roosters for your hens?
Roosters aren’t needed for egg production.
You will find that an many city dwellers and even some country folk do not have any idea that hens don’t actually need roosters in order to lay eggs. It is funny to chicken keepers, but the general public seems to have a very loose knowledge of the biology of chickens. Chickens lay eggs regardless of whether there roosters around or not. They only need to be present for an egg to be fertilized.
Eggs that are fertilized and eggs that are not fertilized look the exact same, as long as they are collected fresh. If a fertilized egg is under a broody hen for any length of time, there is then potential to crack quite a nasty surprise into your cake batter.
Roosters are like bodyguards.
If you allow your hens to free-range, your rooster can protect them from danger. Roosters have been known to fight off aerial predators as well as four legged ones. Roosters are protective of their ladies and will often fight to the death to protect them. Roosters are also amazing alarms for the hens. If a rooster senses danger, he will alert the entire flock that will then flee at an amazing pace towards safety.
Roosters break up “cat fights."
When you have a gaggle of ladies together, be it women or hens, you are bound to have issues. There is a reason the phrase, “pecking order” came about and often, with a flock of hens, you will see some infighting. Roosters help keep the ladies in line and calm down the lovely lady filled coop.
Roosters CAN be mean.
You haven’t truly lived until you have run for your life, in the opposite direction, from a 5-6 pound flying, flogging bird. Remember the mention above that roosters are protective? That can be taken to the extreme. Not all roosters are mean, but watch out for the ones who would just as soon claw your eyes out with their spurs as look at you. Ultimately, you are the boss, so if you have a mean rooster, he can easily be turned into dinner, or sold to someone who doesn't mind that task.
Of course, before you get a flock of your own and especially a rooster, if you are living in the city limits, you definitely need to check out the city ordinances for your area. Sometimes there is a limit on the number of chickens and quite often, there is a rule against keeping roosters.
Back to our original question, do you NEED roosters for your hens? The answer is likely to be, no. You can easily raise a backyard flock of hens that will supply your family with a copious variety of food and fun. Without a rooster, you may be lighter in the entertainment department, as they really are fun to watch, and your ladies may have a bit of a tangle with predators and gossip now and again but they can work it out usually fine on their own. Either choice you make, there are more reasons for keeping chickens than not, and once you start collecting your own fresh eggs, you just may never want to stop.