When should I replace my rooster?

Photo: Simon Griffiths

Readers seem to be really enjoying our Organic Gardener Essential Guide: Backyard Chickens, but Angela Weber, from Redbank, Victoria, has pointed out a topic that we didn’t cover.

Angela rang the ABC to say we hadn’t mentioned how often breeders should change their roosters. She believes roosters should be replaced every three or four years to avoid inbreeding and eggs becoming smaller.

We asked Backyard Chickens poultry consultant, Megg Miller, to give us her opinion. She agrees it’s a good idea to change roosters regularly, mostly because their ability to reproduce worsens as they get older.

“It is sensible to replace roosters every couple of years because their sperm quality drops off considerably as they age,” Megg says. This leads to fewer chicks and chicks dead in their shells. External parasites, protein in excess of the bird’s needs and high temperatures can also adversely affect sperm quality, Megg says.

“Inbreeding is less of a consideration provided birds are healthy, but any shortcomings or defects will become exaggerated with close or inbreeding.”

Small eggs are unlikely to be the fault of an older rooster, Megg says. While egg size can be an inherited trait, “generally reduced egg size is due to insufficient linoleic acid in the diet from feeding table scraps and wheat, rather a balanced ration”.

Megg keeps her roosters until they are four years old because they only have two or three hens to service, which isn’t too demanding. If there were more hens, roosters would need to be replaced sooner.

By: Simon Webster

First published: July 2013

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