Adding a cockerel (rooster) to your existing flock of hens is one of those things where you'll find almost as many different opinions as there are chicken breeds! It's a passionate subject, and one that I had the opportunity to delve into recently.
In the fall of 2010, a post came across our local Freecycle group looking for a home for a beautiful young Buff Orpington rooster. He'd been part of a larger flock that included a number of roosters, most of whom had ended up in the stew pot - save for this guy, and his infinitely more aggressive coop-mate. At the time, I seriously considered bringing him home, to the point of contacting the owner and making arrangements to go out for an introduction.
But things just didn't gel and we never did make it out to the farm to see him.
Then a couple of months later, the post came over Freecycle again. He was still looking for a home. And my research background kicked into high gear.
I spent an entire day, maybe two, researching rooster behaviour, flock behaviour and the best way to introduce a rooster to an existing group of hens. Visited probably 20 different websites and forums - all with really valid and experienced advice on the best way to accomplish the task successfully (and safely for all involved). But the best wisdom came from our Facebook page - I can't thank everyone there enough! (If you haven't had a chance to join us there, do! We've got a fantastic group of people from all walks of life and stages of 'self-sufficiency' - newbies, will-be's, and incredibly experienced folk: facebook.com/modernhomesteading).
After a number of questions and a lot of reading, we decided to take the plunge.
I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a bit nervous. In my research, I'd come across some horror stories of roosters who were way too aggressive for the hens, and hens that literally 'hen-pecked' their new gentleman caller til he had to be removed to save his life. Life with chickens isn't always pretty. But I decided to swallow that fear and take the plunge into the world of roosters and having an intact flock of birds living as nature intended. Well, sort of like nature intended - as much as can be realistically recreated in a backyard type arrangement.
Why Have a Rooster?
There are numerous reasons to have a rooster as part of your flock. Some people thought we were crazy for wanting to bring a rooster on board, and many others were excited for us as we took this further step towards 'self-reliance'.
These are the reasons we wanted a rooster:
How We Did It
Now, after assessing all the pros and cons and determining our reasons for wanting a rooster were valid and reasonable, here are the steps we took to introduce our 'Tom Wattles' successfully to our girls:
It was quite the process, and I'm grateful to everyone who shared their expertise on the subject. Here's a video of them all together that first day:
Now, three weeks later, we've seen that Tom is quite the gentleman, collecting food for his first harem and proudly caring for them when they're free ranging. He's not overly aggressive when it comes to mating, and seems to have settled into his role as the protector of the flock. All in all, a great experience! If we hadn't done our research, the outcome could have been very different. You can check out our chicken videos for updates about Tom Wattles and his girls...
Have you ever introduced a rooster to an existing flock of chickens? How did it go? We'd love to hear any advice you have to share in the comments below.