Poor roosters. They take a lot of flak - even for things they don't do. Are you guilty of believing any of these rooster-related myths?
Myth #1: Roosters always mean.
Many roosters are friendly to humans and hens, and some are downright sweet. On our homestead, our rooster, Joseph (shown in the photos for this post), is a gentleman with his ladies and would never dream of pecking or hurting any of the humans on our property. He's a little hard to catch, but once we do catch him, he submits to us completely, and never tries to fight us. In his demeanor, Joseph is not unique.
How do you choose a rooster that's friendly? Selecting a docile breed is a good idea. But chickens, like humans, are individuals, and some are just more pleasant than others.
Myth #2: When you have a rooster, your hens will lay more and bigger eggs.
Having a rooster in your flock won't change your hens' laying or eggs in any way...except that the eggs will be fertilized.
Myth #3: If you have a rooster, all your eggs will have blood spots in them.
Blood spots can occur in any chicken egg, including those that aren't
fertilized. Blood spots (also called "meat spots") occur when a blood
vessel on the yolk surface or the wall of the oviduct ruptures. They never indicate fertilization, and eggs with blood spots
are perfectly safe to eat. (Incidentally, those of us with backyard
flocks are far more likely to bump into eggs with blood spots because
commercial eggs are checked for blood spots, and those eggs that have them are discarded or put to a use other than grocery store egg cartons.
Fertilized eggs, however, do have "bullets" - a blastoderm, or the first stage of embryonic development. Most people don't even notice this bullet, because of it's subtle nature. (Click on over to The Chicken Chick to see a photo and a more detailed explanation.) In order for the blastoderm to develop into an embryo, the egg must be heated for a specific length of time, so there's no fear of finding a partially formed chick in your eggs...unless you let your hens sit on them.
Myth #4: Roosters crow only at dawn.
Nope. Roosters crow whenever they feel like it, which is usually often. This is why it's a great idea to have the chicken run far enough away from your house that crowing is a pleasant sound in the background.
Myth #5: Only get a rooster if you want chicks (or fertile eggs).
Even if you don't want fertile eggs or chicks, an excellent reason to add a rooster to your flock is that he will do everything in his power to protect your hens. Roosters are ever on alert, watching for any danger to the flock. If danger does appear, roosters will give their life to protect the hens.
Myth #6: Only roosters get spurs.
Some people think they can look at pullets (teenage hens) and determine whether they are male or female by seeing whether they have bumps on their feet that will grow into spurs. But all young chickens have these bumps, including the girls. In most hens, those bumps don't grow into spurs...but it's not uncommon for hens to develop spurs as their egg-laying slows down. In addition, some breeds of hens (like Leghorns, Polish, Ancona, and Minorca) are more likely to grow spurs. Sumatras may even develop multiple spurs on each foot!
Myth #7: Roosters kill chicks.
I heard this myth a lot after the recent loss of our chick. But the truth is, all chickens have the potential to kill chicks, and roosters are no more likely to do it than hens. Roosters do not try to kill chicks because they want to mate with the mother hen. In fact, most roosters are protective of the flock's chicks - sometimes even "mothering" the chicks the way a good hen does.
Myth #8: Roosters can't live together.
Most people believe each flock can only have one rooster, or the roosters will fight until only one lives. However, more than one rooster really can live happily in a flock, though the males will scuffle with each other to work out their pecking order (just like hens do). Eventually, the roosters will sort things out - sometimes allowing mating privileges to only one male. Only breeds raised for cockfighting will actually fight to the death.
That said, it's smart to keep your rooster to hen ratio in mind. This can vary from breed to breed, but generally you'll want rooster for every 8 - 12 hens.