Aside from providing a constant flow of genetic material for the renewal of the flock, a rooster serves as more a sacrificial warning system than a true guardian of the flock. Very few predators dread a confrontation with a rooster, and even though one of these valiant warriors will die trying to defend his ladies, that’s usually what happens when push comes to shove. Some roosters are better at fighting than others are, but their true talent is for fighting other roosters. Roosters focus so intently on this that cockfighting is a bloody, illegal and in some areas very popular sport. Those of us who own farm flocks don’t need all that uproar, so usually the local population contains either one rooster or none.
Considering all the extra trouble that roosters cause, it might be difficult to understand why they strike me as so important. I suppose it’s all about quality. Roosters are fascinating birds, gaudy and bellicose and extremely bossy and loud, epitomizing all the worst male traits you can imagine. They’re always interesting to watch. A rooster’s crow also symbolizes country life, and every time I hear one announcing his kingship I feel a little closer to home.
Selecting a breed of chickens because of the crowing ability of the rooster probably sounds frivolous, but it actually makes as much sense as any other method. Chickens are chickens and you’ll find benefits and faults in all breeds. At least pick one that hits the right musical notes, because if you own a rooster you’ll hear it all the time. Roosters make noise. They don’t just crow at dawn, they crow whenever they think they’ve accomplished something, whether it’s sex with a hen or straightening out a tail feather. They’ll crow in the daytime at random, and they’ll wake up randomly at night and crow as if they’re talking in their sleep. The decibel level varies, but some crows cover miles and you can hear them just fine from way over the next hill.
The worst crowing roosters I’ve ever dealt with are the Dark Cornish. Their singing ability is just horrible, they can’t hold a tune at all and most have only one note that sounds something like a dinosaur screeching. The different breeds all sing differently, holding somewhat to the theoretical chicken standard of Cock-a-doodle-doo! but never saying that exactly. One of my Rhode Island Reds bellowed out an abbreviated version, A-doodle-Dooooo! My Silver Spangled Hamburg sang an excellent but hesitant song, something like Ah, Ah, Ah — a-Doooo! and the best singer of all, a Mottled Houdan, sang his A-doodle-eee-yah-ahhhh! any time I rolled over at night. I think he must have been psychic, there was no other way for him to know I was awake for a minute.
The tough part of owning roosters is all the tragedy that comes along so quickly to them. Either they make it for themselves or they find it locally. Since finding a replacement rooster is tough I would always try to keep several on hand, and that required special facilities. Mismatched roosters sometimes get along fairly well, because the smaller ones know they’d just get pounded severely if they challenged the boss. Two roosters of the same breed and the same size rarely do much besides try to kill each other. When I owned two Rhode Island Reds of excellent character I built a smaller coop just for one rooster, and kept one in the isolation area for a week while the other worked the flock, rotating them out on a regular schedule. The first time I tried this I only had chicken wire between them and returned in the afternoon to find one hanging upside-down, tangled in the netting, while the other one tried to beat him to death through the fence. You must have a no-chicken’s-land space in between two layers of poultry netting if you’re going to make this system work. I did manage to patch the wounded rooster up well enough. Roosters are always getting holes punched in them by something or other, and the best treatment I’ve found is a cleanup with clean water and then an application of toilet paper over the holes. It sticks well enough to help the blood clot and falls off within a few days. You’re pretty much on your own when it comes to first aid for roosters, country vets won’t get involved. Probably think you’re in the cock-fighting games, when all you’re trying to do is keep the music alive.
“…they should not be fed very abundantly; for in such a state over-feeding, especially with rich food, may cause them to accumulate too much fat. A fat hen ceases to lay, or nearly, while an over-fed cock becomes lazy and useless, and may die of apoplexy.”
Piper, Hugh (2012-01-24). Poultry A Practical Guide to the Choice, Breeding, Rearing, and Management of all Descriptions of Fowls, Turkeys, Guinea-fowls, Ducks, and Geese, for Profit and Exhibition. (Kindle Locations 583-585). . Kindle Edition.