Backyard Chickens: What to Do With an Unwanted Rooster

Whether you live in the country, the suburbs, or the city, raising chickens in the backyard of your house has become a very popular addition to sustainable living. Not only are chickens chic, but backyard chickens are a wonderful way to experience some permaculture principles and greater self-sufficiency at a household level.

Chickens as pets and as organic egg producers

Chickens will add fresh and very beautiful eggs, they provide excellent pest control by eating grasshoppers and other garden bugs, and their manure provides superb fertilizer and compost activator.

One of the biggest challenges with raising chickens is determining which sex a baby chick is. Chicken sexing is one of the more difficult and specialized tasks that takes specialized training. However, once a chick is between four to six weeks old the secondary sex characteristics begin to appear such as the development of a comb on the cockerels in most breeds and change in feather coloration in some select breeds.

Of course, you will know for sure if you have a rooster if it starts crowing in the early morning waking you and your, understandably grumpy, neighbors from their slumber. It is because of these noise issues that some cities do not allow roosters in suburban or urban environments.

Roosters are beautiful and often annoying

If you do not intent to breed your hens with the rooster and you have a secure pen in which predators cannot get to your chickens, the rooster really does not have a productive role to play. They will, however try to protect the hens if any predators approach.

If you have made the decision that you do not want to keep the rooster you have a few options to pursue. If you want nothing to do with the rooster you can try to find a new home for the bird. Place an ad in a local classified or on a backyard chicken forum. It is unlikely that anyone will offer you money for a rooster unless it is a particularly rare breed. Most people will accept your unwanted roosters for the purposes of breeding with their hens, or even eating them so if you do not want the birds to end up as someone’s dinner you must specify that it is for a pet only and you do not want it eaten.

If you have no objections to eating your own home grown roosters then this is a simple and sustainable practice to feed your household. Once the rooster begins to crow he is pretty much mature and will start to toughen quickly. If you continue to raise the chicken for another year or two the meat may be tough and really only suited for very slow braising, making chicken stock, or ground chicken meat. Before butchering your rooster, make sure to learn the method that is the most humane, quick and painless as possible. Any animal that is killed for food deserves a humane death.

If you live in a rural setting, and like the idea of a regular alarm clock that is sure to wake you up at the crack of dawn, keep your rooster around. People can grow to love their roosters as much as their hens. -KATHY FAIRCHILD

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