Rooster Roulette

Obvious rooster
An obvious barred plymouth rock rooster, at three to four months (this one is a keeper, known as Mr. Thomas Shelby): red comb and wattles, curved tail feathers, pointy hackle feathers, and a breed-specific lighter gray color than the hens.

Rooster Roulette is my term for culling or re-homing the excess roosters in your flock.  I am now playing Rooster Roulette because some of my cockerels began crowing at two months. I thought I had just three Mottled Java cockerels, but as it turns out, some seem to be later than the first three in developing rooster characteristics.  I may have FOUR MORE, which equals way too many for my flock.

I do not want to hear crowing throughout the day from multiple roosters, and I do not want to hear complaints about crowing throughout the day, as I do have neighbors within hearing distance, so I have a self-imposed limit on roosters: one or two.  I do want to keep one, as I believe that keeping a rooster has several advantages.

I have had some success in re-homing roosters by marketing them with two hens as a “starter flock”  (the rooster is free, the hens $10 each), thanks to a brilliant suggestion for same from a smart and sensible friend. I do prefer finding homes for them over moving on to Rooster Requiem, performed quickly and respectfully.

The “roulette” part of the rooster equation is that until I SEE a rooster crowing and can identify him from the other 24+ birds, I can’t be absolutely sure the bird is a rooster or a hen at two or three months old (before the onset of lay and before full rooster plumage).  Also, to be a little flippant, the sound of constant crowing may cloud one’s vision a bit and lead one do odd things, for example, to stare over the flock for minutes at a time in search of visual crow confirmation.

I do have some tips below so that one can be fairly reasonably maybe sure that the bird in question is a rooster without visual crow confirmation.

Signs of a cockerel/rooster:

  1. Visual confirmation of crowing (you can hear him, but do you have visual confirmation? Can you SEE him and identify him from the rest by shape of comb or coloring?  To confuse matters, I have read that hens may also crow, on occasion.
  2. Pointed hackle feathers (neck feathers, which form a raised ruff when shaken by the bird) and the beginnings of graceful arched or streaming tail feathers around the three-month mark (the ends of a hen’s feathers will tend to be more round, and a hen will not generally have fancy streaming tail feathers)
  3. Prominently red comb and wattles at three months (but this can be breed specific and a hen will also develop a red comb and wattles a bit later usually).  Look for a comb that is larger and redder than other chickens at the same age, around 2-3 months.

It’s quite common to order hens only and then find a rooster or two as they grow up, because sexing at hatch can have an error rate of about 10%.  If you order straight run (un-sexed at hatch, which in my opinion is more ethical than ordering hens only), you are likely to end up with half (or more) roosters.

If you have a preferred method to your own Rooster Roulette (or a recipe post requiem), please share below in the comments.  My number one tip for wrangling chickens (an essential part of Rooster Roulette) is to NOT chase them around, but instead to go into the coop when they have settled onto their roosts, and select those being removed from the flock quickly and quietly.

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rooster or hen?

7 thoughts on “Rooster Roulette

  1. I like your idea of offering a “starter flock.” I worried that someone would take my extra rooster and he’d end up in a pot. Fortunately, a friend had lost her old rooster and our Buster is now a loved addition to their farm and flock.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are going through the same things:-) no one around here wants roosters so we will be having them for dinner. We ordered a few because we have a pretty large flock but ended up with 10 and two are super mean so we are not keeping them

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