Search: Advanced search
Please enter a keyword or ID
Do I need to keep a rooster with my backyard hens?
Hens don’t need a rooster in order to lay eggs. Without a rooster, the eggs are infertile, so won’t develop into young chicks. Of course, if you are interested in breeding your own hens, then you will need a rooster - but before you go down this path there are several things to consider.
First, check with your local council about rules for backyard hens. Some councils don’t allow roosters in suburban areas because of noise issues. Roosters will crow throughout the day but complaints are usually received due to early morning crowing which disturbs people in the neighbourhood.
To restrict early morning crowing, some people place roosters in small ‘night boxes’ which do not allow light to penetrate and restrict the rooster’s movement, in particular its ability to fully stretch its neck. Roosters are then meant to be released from the ‘night box’ throughout the day. However, there is no evidence that restricting the rooster’s ability to stretch its neck will prevent crowing. Also, in order to provide a fully dark environment within the ‘night box’, ventilation may be compromised. Any housing designed to reduce noise and restrict light will inevitably impact the ability to naturally ventilate that space.
So-called 'rooster collars' are another alternative to reduce the noise made by crowing roosters. These collars fit snugly around the rooster's neck and prevent the air sac from expanding fully. This, in turn, significantly reduces the volume of the crow. However, roosters that have such collars fitted must be monitored closely for signs of distress or breathing difficulty. The collar should be removed immediately if the rooster is not adjusting to or coping with the collar.
In the end, housing roosters in cramped and confined conditions or preventing them from expressing natural behaviours – including crowing – is not good animal welfare. Roosters are therefore best kept in areas where the risk of neighbourhood complaints due to excessive noise is negligible.
Roosters should be provided with an environment that protects them from wind, rain, cold and heat. They need perches and they need to be able to scratch in the dirt, dust bathe and forage for food.
Allowing your hen to sit and raise chicks means that you are likely to end up with several more roosters - so you will need to decide what you will do with these birds. Roosters can be kept together when they are young, but as they mature they will eventually fight which can lead to serious injuries. If you are intending on killing male birds for meat then you need to know how to do this humanely.
If you want to increase your backyard flock, then the best thing to do is to source chicks or young hens (poults) from a reliable breeder. Or you could consider getting some ‘rescue hens’ from a local cage-egg farm or rescue organisation.
This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.