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Something to crow about

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It's the Year of the Rooster. Clearly there’s no better time to discuss the king of the fowl yard, says JESSAMY MILLER.

I was delighted to hear that 2017 is the Chinese horoscope’s year of the rooster. Clearly there’s no better time to discuss the king of the fowl yard.

Big Daddy

If you only want eggs, you don’t need a rooster. Hens lay just as well without a fella around. However, if you want to breed from your chooks, a rooster is required to fertilise the eggs. Roosters also have other roles: they protect the flock by keeping an eye out for danger and warning the hens, and may even attack a predator. Roosters also maintain the pecking order in the flock, so hens often get along more harmoniously with a rooster present.

Rooster rituals

Roosters have a number of courtship behaviours. They ‘tidbit’ to the hens, calling them over to tasty treats with a special voice. When signalling their intention to mate, roosters drop one wing and sidestep around the hen. The presence of another rooster in the vicinity will cause frequent crowing competitions. A number of roosters housed with hens will fight for dominance, but usually sort out who is boss quickly. They can also live together in large bachelor groupings.

Feisty fellows

Roosters can be aggressive, especially in mating season, or due to a perceived threat. For this reason, always supervise children near roosters, and get rid of any with an aggressive nature, as disposition is hereditary.

If you must approach a feisty rooster, wear gumboots and carry a stick. Protect yourself from attack by saying ‘No’ firmly and thumping the stick on the ground. A garbage bin lid shield may also be helpful. Do not hurt the rooster as this will only exacerbate the problem. I’ve never had any luck carrying a rooster around to ‘shame’ him out of aggressive behavior, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Council guidelines

Most residential councils do not allow roosters because they will crow at car lights and noises overnight, vociferously at dawn, and at trigger noises throughout the day. If you are rural and can keep a rooster, but do not wish for an early alarm clock, it’s common to bed Chanticleer down somewhere well-ventilated but lightproof and soundproof, such as a box in the laundry or garage. There are also no-crow collars you can buy online and test out.

Fit for the job

If your rooster is part of a breeding program, you’ll want him in top-notch health. Feed a quality breeder ration, but make sure he doesn’t get chubby, as this is a leading cause of infertility. Check for external parasites such as lice and mites regularly and dust with sulphur if found. His horn-like spurs, at the back of his feet, may need to be filed down so he doesn’t injure the ladies when mating.

It’s a rooster’s life

How many wives does the stud of the henhouse require? A light-breed rooster will cover six to 12 girls and enjoy the work. A heavy breed is best suited to two to five hens and will tend to be slower to get going.

The best roosters are nature’s gentlemen, protective and considerate to the hens, and a glorious sight, with their long tail feathers and impressive combs and wattles. They are great characters too; you can be sure the cheekiest chicks will always turn out to be roosters.