Rooster Might Think He’s Boss but Hens Don’t Need Him

May 23, 2014

by AJ Dickenson

Locals gathered at the Hudson Police Department on May 10 to hear an informational seminar on how to properly raise backyard chickens, whether a family is planning on using the chickens as meat or eggs.  The 4-H New Hampshire “Cluckers” was the group putting on the demonstration.

It was genuinely surprising how many people showed up.  It just goes to show how more and more people are starting to make their way back to the simpler, local way of living healthy.  Having your own chickens, with a rooster or not, is a much healthier alternative to buying eggs and meat from the large industries where the chickens aren’t being treated humanely, where they have horrible living conditions, how we aren’t able to know what they are eating, and possibly injected with all sorts of vaccines that we, as consumers, are ingesting.  One of the biggest benefits of having your own chickens is knowing exactly where your meat or eggs are coming from, and what is in the food we are ingesting.  A lot of people have lost touch with how they get their food products, and how the animal goes from farm to the consumer’s table.

Now, there’s one thing a lot of people don’t know about chickens, you do not need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs.  Hens are born with their eggs, just like people, and with or without a rooster; she will lay an egg almost every day of the year, that is until she gets too old to do so.  Roosters are only necessary if you plan on breeding your birds, or use them as meat.  A rooster’s job in the flock is to protect his hens, and fertilize the eggs that they lay.  Roosters also have a tendency to be very, very loud.  The common misconception is that roosters only crow in the morning; this of course is false.  Roosters will crow all day, every day, anytime, for any reason.  And unless your neighbors either love the sound or live five miles away, they will hear him.

Roosters can also be aggressive, even the smaller breeds.  Their job is to protect their hens, and, yes, that means even from the hand that feeds them.  When males reach maturity they grow what is called spurs on their legs; they use these when they attack a predator or another rooster, or in some cases you.  From experience, being attacked by those little buggers is not on my “to do list” every morning.  Lastly, hens really are happier without a rooster in the flock.  They like being around their sisters and not having a male constantly bullying them around telling them what to do and when to breed with him.  So, overall, if you’re going to start raising chickens, it is recommended to not have a rooster in your flock.

Chickens are super easy to take care of.  For the most part they’re happy in their coop with an enclosed pen area just clucking the day away, telling each other when they lay an egg or if they see a strange animal lurking about.  They are inexpensive to house and maintain, and they provide you and your neighbors with fresh eggs for breakfast.  A bag of chicken feed can cost anywhere from $10-$25 and a bag, depending on the number of hens you have, and can last a month or more.  The wood chips used to line the coop’s floor are only $5-$10 a bag.  The chickens themselves can vary in costs, if you buy them from a hatchery or farm, or fair.  The coop is the most expensive piece of starting your own hen house.  Coops can vary depending on the size, whether you build it yourself or buy one.  Chickens are hearty little things that do well in most climates given that they have proper living conditions, the necessary food and water, and a roof over their heads.

It is important to do your homework on owning chickens before you bring them home.  Different breeds provide your family with different needs.  There are breeds that are designed for laying eggs, some that are used for meat, and some that are used for show purposes.  All this and more is what kids in the NH Cluckers group learn in their monthly meetings.  They go to fairs and put up displays educating the public on raising chickens, have award ceremonies, and volunteer at different organizations.  .  If there are any questions about raising your own flock, or about the 4-H group contact http://extensions.unh.edu/4-H-Youth-Family/4-H-Youth-Development or call 595-4828.