What to do with the roos?

What to do with the boys?

Serama rooster

Many chicken keepers have faced the surprise extra boy that comes in a box of mail-order chicks. What do you do with him when he gets noisy at 4 am (and the rest of the day!)? What do you do when he terrorizes you, your dog, the neighbor’s kids, or your toddler?

There is a natural surplus of male chickens. Fifty percent of the chickens that hatch are male, but chickens do not pair bond. One rooster has a harem of 4 to 8 hens. So what happens with the extra boys? They naturally fight to the death or are killed by predators. On small-scale farms, roosters become Sunday dinner. However, many people find these options to be distasteful.

An increasing number of roosters are turning up at Chicago Animal Care and Control and rescue organizations. The chicken-keeping community needs to remember that rescues and animal control folks are people, too. They do great services for our city, and many spend their own time and money on these birds. Consider giving a donation, volunteering, adopting, or acting as a foster home. Contact Chicago chicken rescue organization to see how you can help. Roo Crew’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoRooCrew/ and Chicago Chicken Rescue’s website: https://chicagochickenrescue.org/store/.

It’s really difficult to rehome roosters, so to avoid overwhelming rescues with roosters and respect their time and efforts, here are a few tips.

If you’re an urban chicken owner, think ahead to the question of “What if I get a rooster?” Help us keep down the rooster population in urban areas:

  • Purchase sexed or sex-linked chicks only! Sexed chicks are almost 100% guaranteed to be hens.
  • Do not purchase straight-run chicks. Fifty percent will be male. If you do purchase straight run, plan out what you are going to do with the boys. Half of them will most likely be roosters. You can figure out sex at around 3 months, if not before.
  • DO NOT HATCH CHICKS unless you know what you are going to do with the boys. Fifty percent of the hatch will be male, and farmers will not want the roosters.
    • If you’re a teacher and want to give your students an experience with embryology, think about a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.
    • Do not take and hatch eggs from wildlife, such as ducks or geese. It is illegal to take eggs from native birds. They will imprint on humans and will not be able to live in the wild.
    • If you must hatch chicks, get your eggs from a source that will take back ALL of the chicks that hatch. Make sure you have a solution in place BEFORE setting eggs.
  • This option is not for everyone, but you can take roosters to a licensed slaughtering facilityand process them quickly and conveniently for meat. If you are amenable to this option, you can go from live bird to dressed bird for about $4. Some people then donate the meat to a soup kitchen or give it to a neighbor. Some chicken keepers view the birds as livestock rather than companion animals.  
  • If you do have a rooster, please do not release him! Chickens are not wildlife. They cannot survive without humans. Find a more humane alternative. Contact farms in rural areas (perhaps those that have stands at farmers markets). Check with other chicken owners to see if they would like a rooster. Ask feed stores if they can resell him.
  • Keep him. Roosters make a lovely, protective addition to a flock. If you can get past the crowing, the rooster will keep a protective eye on your girls. And there is no harm in eating fertilized (unincubated) eggs!

Thanks, everyone! Let’s remember the rescue organizations and lend a hand where we’re able. 


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