Until this last spring, we’d never had roosters at Curbstone Valley, and our intent was to keep it that way, but our last order of chicks resulted in not one, but TWO resident roosters.
There are pros and cons to having roosters around. Most people are usually concerned about the noise, as roosters crow, often. We’re used to the crowing, and actually I rather like listening to them both crow during the day, but there’s more to consider with roosters than how much noise they make.
Our two roosters seem to be at opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Every rooster is different, and even hand-raising them was no guarantee of ending up with docile, friendly roosters. For us, one is aggressive, the other isn’t. One enjoys having people in his midst, the other can’t stand to be near us. It’s difficult to believe that 29 weeks ago, they were just little chicks, difficult to tell apart from each other. Now there’s no question who is who.
Frodo, our Dark Brahma rooster, is docile, and very easy to handle.
However, as a Brahma, knowing that once full grown he would become a very large force to be reckoned with, we went out of our way to handle Frodo every day.
The idea of having a large breed rooster around with an attitude, wasn’t very appealing, so the extra handling has definitely paid off.
I won’t romanticize it though, Frodo is still a rooster, and does demand a certain level of respect when being handled, but he’s not out to start a fight unprovoked.
Thankfully Frodo hasn’t (yet) taken to challenging me, or anyone else, head on, and is usually content to just mind his own business, or will follow us around in the hopes of scoring a snack (he has a real penchant for the crusts from homemade bread).
He’s actually a lot of fun to have around, and now that his tail has grown back in, he’s also very handsome too.
If all roosters were like Frodo, I wouldn’t mind having two around. But then there’s…
After Frodo was removed from the main flock, Siegfried quickly asserted himself, and staked his claim to the fiefdom.
As the weeks progress, Siegfried is becoming significantly more aggressive. We have bad days, and days that weren’t quite as bad as the day before, but it’s getting to the point that opening the coop each morning is not something I greatly look forward to. He’s now the first out of the door in the morning, and immediately locks his sights on me. This morning he wouldn’t even let me out of the run.
It starts with a stare-down, followed by some puffing up, and a bluff, and ultimately, a head-on challenge.
He’s making it clear that I’m not welcome near his hens. We’ll have to see about that.
Except for a few small bruises on my ankles, the damage thus far has been minor, but Siegfried’s spurs aren’t grown in yet, and too blunt to cause any significant injury. He doesn’t seem to know that though, and each day he acts like he’s sure that today is the day he’ll finally see me off. I always keep one eye on him when feeding the hens, and am now careful to never to turn my back on him, as he will, and has, seized such opportunities to instigate an attack.
Siegfried has been difficult to handle for months, and as a result, we don’t pick him up at all unless absolutely necessary. That’s where we would do things differently if another rooster ever takes residence on the farm. The extra handling Frodo has received seems to have made an enormous difference. Catching Siegfried now is simply not fun. I can catch him if I need to, and a few weeks ago I needed to after he managed to cut his comb in the run. He was bleeding, and the pullets were too interested, so I cornered him, grabbed his feet right as they flew toward my face, and pulled him out. I don’t recommend this method of catching a rooster, and next time for my own safety, I’ll resort to using a hook.
It’s clear that for Siegfried, being picked up and handled is a very stressful, and no doubt humiliating experience, but with a firm grip, he did calm down long enough to let me clean him up. If you’ve never picked up a rooster that doesn’t want to be handled, I can tell you from experience that they’re remarkably strong for their size.
In the ‘pro’ column for Siegfried though, he’s tough, watchful, and willing to stand his ground when necessary, whereas Frodo, in the presence of danger, is more likely to hide in the shrubbery. Siegfried is very attentive to the pullets, and is frequently seen directing them all back into the coop if a raptor flies overhead, or a mysterious mammal is heard crashing around in the bushes. He’s like a feathered watchdog, an extra pair of eyes to help keep the rest of the flock safe, and he’s fearless.
However, when children are on the farm, Siegfried is secured in the run, and that’s now non-negotiable. He seems especially interested in challenging visitors, especially our shortest ones. Siegfried has come dangerously close to my face with his feet on more than one occasion, but I can hold my own. Around children, he’s simply a liability.
The older he gets, the more aggressive he is becoming, despite our best efforts to keep him (and ourselves) calm. Bribery doesn’t work with Siegfried, he seems too obsessed with proving who’s boss. Ultimately however, we have the final say as to whether Siegfried remains king of his domain, and at the moment his reign here is tenuous at best.
Perhaps the biggest downside to having a rooster, at least one turned out with the hens here, is they can be particularly hard on the girls.
Recommendations are usually to have at least 10 hens per rooster. Siegfried has 15 pullets with him at all times, but unfortunately, despite having plenty to choose from, he seems to have two favorites that he’s obsessing on. A small Buff Orpington, and a once beautiful Black Australorp, who are both now starting to show significant signs of wear-and-tear.
Some of the pullets have become very adept at running away from Siegfried, and one Golden Laced Wyandotte often attacks him if he gets too close, but these two are quite docile, and Siegfried clearly takes advantage.
For us, we have to decide whether keeping Siegfried is worth it. We’d like to keep a closed system on the farm, as much as possible, and like the idea of rearing our own replacement pullets. However, it’s not worth personal injury, or excess stress and injury to the girls.
We don’t regret having had both Siegfried and Frodo here. If we’d only had Siegfried, we might have sworn off roosters for life. If we’d only had Frodo, we’d have been under the impression that roosters aren’t nearly as bad to have around as some of the horror stories we’ve heard.
It’s clear that Frodo, who had a lot more attention from us after all the drama in his early life, has turned out to be significantly more manageable than Siegfried, but in fairness that’s not Siegfried’s fault. It also seems apparent that the attitude of a rooster in the presence of pullets or hens is quite different, as he has something in his domain worth defending, and so he will defend it, even against us.
Regardless, having roosters on the farm does significantly alter the coop dynamic, and sometimes we miss the days of only having the girls around. Life was so much simpler then…