If you want to start raising chickens at home you probably already know hens lay eggs regardless of the presence of a rooster. You probably also know that without a rooster none of these eggs will be fertilized, and it won’t be possible to have a self-sustaining setup whereby you can hatch more baby chicks as your female chickens grow older. This can make a rooster an attractive proposition for those hoping for fertilized eggs, as well as the other benefits a rooster can provide.
However, while more and more residential and urban areas are moving-towards allowing chicken coops, having a rooster alongside hens can result in a lot more legal red tape than people realize. Whilst keeping a rooster is often legal, it isn’t safe to assume it will always be the case.
This article will look at the advantages and disadvantages that come with owning a rooster and whether it’s something you should consider.
Exercising a Common-Sense Approach
Before you even start to look at the legality of having a rooster in your residential area sit back for a moment and ask yourself if it even makes sense. There are plenty of times when having a rooster can be great (discussed below) but also times it is not a good choice.
You may want to have fertilized eggs, but if you barely have the space for a couple hens what are you going to do when the time comes to care for a whole bunch of baby chicks? Do you have a plan in place to sell them? Space to raise them?
If your neighborhood is made up of homes separated by an acre or two of land, then common-sense would suggest you might just have the space and resources for a big coop–rooster included. If you only have a backyard that is smaller than the space your house takes up on your property, you might be able to have a small henhouse, but anything larger is just not a realistic goal.
So before you even check if something is legal, consider if it even makes sense or is ethical–after all, you want happy chickens, not a whole bunch of miserable overcrowded ones!
Examining Local Laws
If having decided it’s a good idea, you want to have a rooster on your property, the next step is to make sure your plan won’t violate any laws. Doing this can mean visiting the website of your county, town, subdivision, or even calling/visiting the local courthouse.
Local chicken laws and ordinances can vary widely and breaking them all down in a single article would be impossible. Plus, even if something is legal in your county, your neighborhood may not allow it (e.g. one charter defines chickens as pets, while another does not and adds on a requirement for special permits or such). There should be rules and regulations on the books for you to draw from, so be sure to read them!
3 Big Advantages of Having a Rooster
If you’re getting into raising chickens in your backyard, you may find yourself thinking, “Do I even need a rooster? What reason is there to even have one?” There are some key elements of raising chickens that rooster can contribute to and 3 big advantages in particular:
This is without a doubt the biggest benefit to owning a rooster. While hens will lay eggs whether a rooster is around or not, having one present will make it possible for the chickens to mate and produce fertilized eggs, which can then be hatched into baby chicks (and if you were wondering; half will be roosters and half will be hens) who can be raised and allow you to expand your flock over time.
While you don’t want the day to come where a fox, coyote, snake or other predator gets into your coop, it is an inherent risk when keeping poultry. A rooster will help defend the chickens and also raise the alarm when the flock is under attack.
A flock with a rooster who helps find treats (bugs, etc.) for the hens, and who helps them feel safe and protected is a flock that has a potentially higher morale than one that is exclusively made up of hens. Further, in the absence of a rooster, there is sometimes the tendency for certain hens to get more aggressive (essentially assuming the role of a rooster), which in extreme circumstances can result in such a hen killing other hens. This is extremely unlikely in a flock where a regular rooster keeps everything balanced and in “harmony,” of sorts.
3 Possible Disadvantages to Having a Rooster
Even if keeping one is legal, and you think you have the space and capability for a rooster, there are some potential disadvantages to consider:
A flock that is simply all hens will generally be nice and quiet. Once a rooster is present however you’ll need to deal with a lot more racket. As fun as it can be on occasion to hear a rooster serve as an, “Alarm clock,” and crow loudly in the morning, the novelty may quickly wear off, and it may annoy both you and your neighbors.
Violence Towards You
While it can be wonderful that a rooster is protective of its flock of hens, that protectiveness could very well result in a rooster being aggressive towards you, and responding quite violently if you aren’t ready to handle such aggression. Should you not take the time to read-up on how to handle an aggressive rooster, if you’re ever caught off guard you may find yourself at quite the disadvantage (and bleeding and bruised)!
If you’re not prepared for just how many fertilized eggs might end-up being nurtured by your hens, which ultimately hatch into chicks, you could quickly develop a big overpopulation problem. Without a plan in place to handle more chickens being born, one rooster becomes the key contributor to a big population problem.
It’s Not Just Roosters-Laws on Hens
As covered above, roosters can be subject to a variety of laws that at times makes having them challenge for anyone who chooses to have one. With that stated, however, what kind of laws are in place for hens?
The Precedent of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
While historically humans commonly raised chickens until the rise of suburbia in the mid 1900’s, it became more and more common to see zoning laws and, “restrictive covenants,” on property deeds that prohibited keeping chickens.
In more recent times however, Rebecca Mumaw a resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, felt laws banning the raising of chickens were unfair founded the aptly named organization, CLUC, (Citizen’s for the Legislation of Urban Chickens). Munmaw and her organization petitioned the city and helped draft the Cedar Rapids’ Urban Chicken Ordinance, which was made legal in August of 2010. Since then this legislation has served as a model for other suburban and urban regions around America looking for guidance on how to consider legalizing the raising of chickens.
The Cedar Rapids’ Urban Chicken Ordinance
The ordinance itself carries the following rules and criteria:
- A single family dwelling can keep up to six hens on their property–but no roosters.
- There is an annual fee of $25 to have a permit for the hens.
- When applying for a permit neighbors (of the applicant) have to informed and a two-hour class about raising chickens in an urban environment must be taken–these classes generally cost only about 10 dollars to 12 dollars to attend.
- Chickens have to be kept in an area that is fenced or otherwise enclosed so as to protect from any possible predators at night.
- The houses for the hens themselves must have at least 4 square feet (per bird) and not violate some standard design requirements.
- The enclosure which houses the chickens has to be at least 10 feet away from any property lines of the resident and 25 feet from any neighbor’s homes.
- The chickens have to be cared for well, with regular food and water in addition to their upkeep minimizing odor, noise, or attracting pests/dangerous predators.
- Chickens can not be slaughtered.
In The End… It May Be Easier to Just Have Hens
As there is lot more legal precedence allowing simply hens to be raised in a residential, or even urban area, it may end-up being easier to just raise chickens who are entirely female and when necessary purchase more from a reputable source. It’s a lot less self-sustaining, but also a lot less tricky to navigate the (sometimes complex) legal waters of doing otherwise.
Should you find that you are well-equipped to deal with having rooster (and it is legal to do so) they make a stellar addition to any chicken coop. If, however, you find that maybe having a rooster is not the best idea, it may simply be better just to keep hens–which, make no mistake, is still a wonderful and exciting thing!
The, “Moral of the story,” is clear however–make sure wherever you live even allows roosters, and if they are allowed be sure it make sense to have one.