A Rooster – An Optional Extra
You don’t need a rooster (male chicken) in your flock. Your hens (females) will live happily without a rooster. Sometimes, a rooster is handy to guard the flock and help solve problems. But when the claws are out, a rooster is no real protection against predators like wild dogs, quolls, wild cats and foxes.
A rooster can be a gentle leader. A good rooster helps finds food and he eats after the hens have eaten. A kind rooster will check out the nests for suitability and he sometimes pretends to lay in his efforts to assure the hens. Some roosters may be brave and put themselves in danger to protect his flock.
But beware, many roosters are simply mean and selfish.
Breeding Your Own Chickens
If you wish to breed your own chickens, you can get a rooster or you can buy fertile eggs. The main strategy of a breeding program should be to keep the loyal and gentle roosters. Don’t judge a rooster on looks alone. Even if you choose a quiet one, his gentle nature can change if he gets stressed. Watch for aggression and be prepared to cull.
Roosters and hens have very complicated relationships. A rooster will sometimes lie to his hens, clucking the signal “I’ve found food” when actually, he has not found any food and is just drawing them nearer. In these moments the rooster takes advantage of the temporarily puzzled and distracted hen and will mate with her. The amazing flip-side of this is that the hens nearly always know they are being lied to but choose to play along.
If you are keeping hens in a protected space, safe from dogs and foxes, you don’t need a rooster. Hens are very happy to lay eggs without having the complication of a rooster.
If you have a rooster, it can be harder to find their hens nests. The hens can go broody often, loose weight and lay less eggs. All the eggs will need careful monitoring for freshness. Be careful, fertile eggs can be laid weeks after a rooster is gone.
World Peace Starts at Home
Few people enjoy the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning. There are laws against these pesky noise disturbances. Find out the laws. If you can’t have a rooster, support a local breeder instead. There are lots of conscientious breeders like Avonstour in New Zealand who would love your support. If you want to breed quiet poultry, breed quail instead.
The Permaculture Rooster Works Hard
The Permaculture Rooster has many functions. He keeps alert for dogs, cats, snakes and eagles. He searches for new foods and suitable dust-bathing places. He is hot on the heels of the keeper each morning. He pays attention to where the weed-clearing is to be conducted and will return during the day in case he missed something. [The keeper is careful to define the work-space by throwing some seed or food-scraps]. The keeper can call the rooster when he is needed and the brood will follow.
The permaculture rooster works hard in the garden with the flock. He also listens and responds to distress calls from laying hens. He enjoys hiding in the bushes when the flock are resting or taking a bath. The permaculture rooster is camouflaged and on guard in the bushes. He is agile, fit and trim (not so great for eating) and smart.
A happy rooster can live a full 8 or 10 years. The rooster maintains his dignity yet lets the keeper attend to him if he gets sick or injured. But like all great gurus, he will slow down, and eventually hand over the reins to a younger guy. When his time is up, his body will make great fertiliser for a young tree. He needs to buried deep so the fox can’t find him.
Gentle Genes Live On
The chicken is one of the most well-traveled, cuddly and functional companions of the human race. The beauty of the chicken in a garden system is it will eat stuff we can’t and shouldn’t eat [like maggots and centipedes]. Chickens can turn also pests into eggs.