What do we do with the Roosters?

What do we do with the Roosters?

If you are a stanch supporter of PETA or a vegetarian, please skip this post.

Over the last two weeks, I have been asked multiple times what I do with the roosters that we raise when we have straight run bantam chicks.  What happens to roosters can be a touchy subject with new comers to keeping backyard chickens, but it is something most folks that raise chicks, not just people like me that like to raise bantams chicks, will probably be faced with at one time or another.

When buying day old large breed pullet chicks, occasionally a few will still end up being roosters because professional sexers in the hatcheries are only about 90% to 95% accurate.   I had to find homes for two large fowl cockerels in the past few years that were sold as pullets, one was from a feed store and one we hatched as part of the trader joes grocery store egg project.  Had I not been through it with those two cockerels, I might have been more apprehensive about ordering straight run bantam chicks the first time.  Before owning chickens, I worried “What will I do with the roosters I can’t legally keep?”

The only way to avoid the chance of ever having a worry about what to do with an unwanted cockerel is to buy mature pullets.  The major down side of buying mature birds is running the risk of possibly bringing in outside diseases or parasites from someone else’s flock.  For people considering getting adult birds, I always recommend they verify that the owners practice good biosecurity and check out the facilities carefully, and then quarantine any newcomers for 30 days, just in case.  Another downside of buying adult chickens is sometimes birds raised in large flocks aren’t socialized to be gentle and friendly around kids.  For people just looking for an egg machine, purchasing pullets from someone that raises them for a profit might be the easiest option.  I like to make sure my birds are 100% organically raised as well as really calm and friendly around my active household.  I prefer to do it myself where outside disease is never brought in from other people’s adult chickens.  Therefore, we raise our own chicks straight from the hatchery, sell any extra pullets at about what it cost us to raise them, and then deal with the roosters when we have them.  I have never had a problem finding someone willing to take a cockerel, and usually I get multiple responses to my social media posts. 

A 6 week old Easter Egger cockerel at my neighbors house. It was purchased along with her other chickens at a feed store that only orders pullets from the hatchery they use.  He turned out to be a really pretty Partridge patterned fellow.  He ended up at a farm outside of Barstow.

I do not wait until the cockerel is a problem or is disturbing neighbors.  As soon as I know it is a boy, I list it in the farm and garden section on craigslist so I will have enough time to find the right person to take them.  One batch of boys went to a H.S. Agricultural dept. along with a few of the girls I sold them.   Roosters also get listed at BYC or MeetUp all the time. Those sites don’t have a lot of folks locally that need roosters around the urban or suburban parts of Southern California, unless they are from breeder or show quality lines.

Most roosters around L.A. and Orange County either sell for between $5 to $10 (if the sellers are lucky,) and more typically go to someone for free.  I am very careful about not letting the cockerels go to folks that I think might use them for fighting, and with the bantam cochins, it has not been much of an issue.

I have kept chickens long enough to understand that it is the lot in life of most roosters to end up on the table at some point, and I am okay with that.  While they are alive, they are happy and well cared for at my house.  Our roosters will have lived significantly better than the majority of chickens purchased for meat in the grocery store or restaurants, or left unsold by hatcheries.  I am not a vegetarian, although I don’t eat a lot of meat.  I am not bothered if someone else is willing to take the time to humanely prepare a rooster for a chicken dinner for their family.

I have a next door neighbor that has told me, more than once, if one day I have a rooster that I can’t find a home for, she would love to have a free organic fryer.  She grew up on a farm in rural Mexico where they always ate their extra roosters, and she has offered to teach me how to humanely dispatch and dress them.  Since I hope to instill an appreciation in my children where food comes from, the labor, the life, and not to waste it, I might take her up on her offer one of these days when the kids are a little older.

For anyone curious about what happens to the all the cockerel chicks left behind at the hatcheries because of all the pullet only orders, it really depends on the hatchery and the breed of chicken.

  • “Packing Peanuts.”  They are added to shipments of purchased chicks when there are too few to survive without more shared body heat.  I like this one because I hear many rural folks keep and grow out the packing peanuts to maturity.  Usually at least one or two end up being layers, not roosters.
  • Dog or Cat food.  Males are used at a day old for pet food.  I am sorry, I know this sounds gruesome.  But most chickens are used for food.  These chickens were just used for pet food at day old instead of people food at 7 weeks.  This is typically generally done by the hatcheries that raise chicks for the commercial egg industry ( suppliers of grocery store eggs.)
  • “Fryer Specials.”  Heavy Breed males are sold at steep discounts to small farms.
  • Light breeds are sold for food for reptiles and zoos.
  • McMurray puts one “Free exotic Chick” in every order of chicks.  People on BYC report they usually do get rare breeds, but always cockerels.

Bottom Line:  Roosters are almost always used for food at some point in their lives by someone.  A rooster that gets to be in charge of his own flock of hens, probably one day will be displaced by a younger stronger rooster in an awful fight or by the owner needing a more virile stud for his hens.  It is only the rare rooster that lives to old age.

One thought on “What do we do with the Roosters?

  1. Nice post, sensitively put. I was struck after reading it, that roosters are a bit like my hyacinth… we are graced with their beauty and magesty for a short time. A neighbor, who has no chickens just bought a light Brahma, he lives with my hens now and covered a few this morning. As this is my first experience with fertilized eggs I’ll be exploring your blog and the net for answers to thousands of questions, thanks.

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