Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do you do with the roosters?

I thought it was a legitimate question so I sent an email to the hatchery where we got our first ever batch of laying hens. When some of the "girls" started crowing I wanted to know, "What do you do with the roosters?"

Fred, I loved him. I hated him. I loved to hate him. I hated to love him. RIP, good sir.

I really didn't know and I also never really thought about it. If you are new to chickens, have you thought about it?

I'm sure the folks at the hatchery had a good laugh at my question and no, I never heard back from them. So if you hadn't thought about it yet let's talk about it.

To be sure no one was more surprised when I actually got a few roosters in that order of laying hens. But it happens - sexing chicks is not an exact science and sometimes mistakes happen. And, of course, you also get roosters if your own hens hatch their clutches. But what do you do with them? You should have a plan so you won't be surprised when you first hear that horrible, wretched, strangling, struggling first-crow that your little should-be-a-hen first belts out.

As we say around here, "When you start to crow you got to go!"  And by "go" I mean directly into a pot of noodles. Do we butcher our extra roosters? Yes, we do.

Having too many roosters just annoys your hens and makes for a dangerous barnyard. About this time of year they all start fighting so if you think you can keep as many roosters that life gives you - you might be surprised when you go out to find a sad heap of feathers and the new top roo strutting his stuff.

We've found that too many roos just creates gangs of goons who terrorize everyone. We had a gang of three one time.. geez. They were really something. So we sent those tree amigos to the block and all of the hens stood around cheering as that last one got the axe. 

The Big Man was defeated by this little rooster. Until the tables turned. 

And sometimes little roosters are just plain mean.

If butchering chickens isn't your thing then you can always send extra laying breed roos with your meat birds to the processor. You won't get the big meaty grocery store carcasses when they are dressed... but good is good and you can always make stew.

Or you can try and pawn them off on suckers. However, I should warn you that most folks are wise to that game. We have had luck giving or selling roosters to folks for $5. But most times it's more hassle then it's worth. 

Some folks try and sell roosters with "not to be butchered" conditions. That sounds like a risky proposition. I've heard of crazy people showing up at people's farms demanding to see their previously owned stock. That is just weird. I would urge you not to show up here demanding to see the duck you sold me 4 years ago.

And some naive folks are happy to answer ads asking for extra roos thinking that maybe they will go and live on a farm for the rest their natural lives.... when maybe they are being used for fighting. Or to feed someone's snakes or what not.

Nope. There is just too much opportunity for weirdness. We just prefer to solve our own rooster problems.

And least you think you are safely up on your moral high horse - horrified by backyard butchering - and will only ever have laying hens because you only ever order female-only chicks. You might want to think about what happens to those extra male chicks. I say no more on this. Other than we usually order straight runs and are glad for the valuable lesson that you should take the hand that life gives you and make the best of it. While a laying hen is more valuable to us over the long run, a nice chicken stew is just fine also.

Happy Monday everyone! What do you do with your extra roos?


Annie said...

I know there's a huge moral dilemma surrounding caponing a rooster, so I'm curious about your thoughts on that. I read one of the links you posted and the author said it pretty much the same way I think of it: what's worse, the momentary stress of castration or, you know, death?

I suppose in death, the rooster is blissfully unaware of his circumstance, though I'm not certain that he's really strutting around post-snipping thinking "wow, this is great and look at all this food I'm getting, but man, I really wish I had my extra rooster bits. I feel so emasculated..."

I will say that I find capons to be one of the more delicious things I've ever eaten, and they make way better stock than your average hen. I have no comparison for non-castrated roosters, mind you. The perils of the big city are unending. ;)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Annie! I don't know if if I have a strong position on it. I had a funny talk with my vet one time - he was all shocked that we butchered at home...and we are all shocked that he does surgery on a live, albeit, unconscious animal. It was one of those weird moments. We don't capon, tho, I think it's probably more trouble than it's worth....but then we've never tried it. I certainly don't look down on folks who do. So I'll got with the position of, "do what works best for you" - how's that?
ps I love the dialog you gave that rooster... I'm still laughing.

Quail said...


I got in to butchering my own after hatching quail. The first batch was all female. Giddy with the thrill of collecting tiny eggs from my very own birds, I ordered more. The second hatch was 90% males. Those dang things fought and crowed like mad. I tried separating them but the calls buzzed through the open windows like jack hammers ALL night long. They tried, and in a few cases succeeded, killing each other. I was able to sell a few, but was stuck with about 20 evil, hormonal teenage birds in separate boxes all over the yard.

Finally, the loppers and I made a visit to the boxes. Those boys were delicious.

Our latest noisy male is a chicken. Gladys, son of Gladys, wears a rooster collar so the neighbors can't hear him crow. He gats one night a week uncollared in the garage so he can preen. His dastardly gang of brothers all fit nicely into canning jars after they started hopping the fence to eat the neighbor's flowers.

Annie, I hadn't thought of caponizing them. I don't know if I could cut open a living roo but given the alternative I think I could guess which way the roo would vote.

Vintage Maison said...

We put them in the pot, or swap with friends for other stuff. I am tempted to capon - the French go for capons and big enough/good enough for the Christmas Day meal, and I can vouch for that - yum! Just not sure I could do the 'capon' bit or not.

David said...

so...the table that turned was in fact.... the DINNER table?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

indeed, Good Sir! ha! Dave - thanks for getting my stupid jokes!

Lizzie @ Strayed from the Table said...

We too cull our roosters once they find their lungs. Our last batch of chicks seemed to be 80% roosters, so we have ten to kill this week. Great for the freezer and our fruit trees.

deb harvey said...

you have given me an idea! [congratulations! they are few indeed.]
if there is an expert caponizer out there living in a chicken-rich area he could make a bit of $$ doing the deed for the squeamish.
caponized birds make excellent eating.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Vintage - how funny, I was thinking about your yesterday. Ah yes... the rooster swap. We've done that a time or too.

Way to process those quail, Quail!

Lizzie, nothing but deliciousness is waiting. Let us know how the butchering goes!

I bet, Deborah, but depending on where you live you might have to do that on the downlow. Ohio came up with a bunch of new animal care standards that having a caponing biz might run up against.

Vera said...

We put up with our extra cockerels until they start gang raping the hens, and then they are put into the freezer....and always the hens seem relieved!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

the hens always cheer when we get rid of the roos, Vera!

Kev Alviti said...

Great post
Yep - we eat ours! I think if you can't be responsible with what you hatch then don;t hatch any! I've heard of people letting them go free in the woods! Peoples ideas around animals astound me, I'm glad your of the same thinking as me. Now where's my duck?

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