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Got roosters? Now what?

Here's the scenario, it's spring time and you see an ad for cute little fuzzy chicks for sale. They are the breed you want, they are a good price, they are the cutest damn babies you've ever seen! You decide that you MUST have them! But here's the catch, they are unsexed chicks. No big deal you think, I can deal with a few roosters. I'll find them homes or something. Bah, I'll deal with all that later. So, you go and get your beautiful fuzzies and set up your brooder. A few months down the road and you come to realize that your lovely chicks are now turning out to be lovely roosters. Maybe you can't have roosters where you live. Or maybe you simply despise the sound of them, they are harassing your hens and you want them gone. The question I have for you is, now what?

These past couple months, I've seen way too many online posts about people finding abandoned roosters in the bush. Some up the mountain, some up a logging road, some dumped off at a park. The common denominator is, that they are all roosters.

Just recently, a small flock was found at a park, cold, wet, hungry and terrified. Help was found for this bunch and they are safe now, but what about the ones that are not found?

Comments were made blaming poultry breeders for selling unsexed chicks to the public. This must be the reason for the abandoned roosters! I get it. I get that finding any abandoned animal brings up so many emotions, none of them good ones. But like anything you buy, once those babies leave the farm, the breeder has no control what happens to them as they grow. The best I can do, is educate possible poultry parents as to what their options are if they can't keep roosters.

When I have people show concern about buying unsexed chicks, the first question I ask is "what is your rooster plan?" I usually get a stunned look followed by "Umm?".

I have a very frank conversation with the possible chick buyer about the fact that you WILL get roosters out of the bunch. If you somehow get all hens, then please go buy a lottery ticket and share it with me, because it's a pretty rare occurrence and you have some major luck on your side.

Here's a list of what options we discuss as to what could be their "Rooster plan":

  • Raise them to eating size and then process them. Filling your freezer with your own home raised poultry is an economical, healthy way to avoid rooster build up. There are many abattoirs out there that will do all the dirty work for you. Drop them off in the morning and pick up your finished products in the evening.

  • List them on your local sales sites. There may be someone in need of a rooster for their flock or perhaps someone else is willing to take them to process if you can't bring yourself to do it. But beware, have a plan b, as this is not a sure fire way to get rid of your roosters.

  • Talk to your local raptor or wildlife rehabilitation centers. Many of them will take roosters to feed their patients. I know this sounds terrible, but they humanly cull them before they are fed to animals in need. And at least they are not going to waste.

If none of these options are available to my chick buyers, then I refer them to hatcheries that sell sexed chicks.

The fact of the matter is, if you are going to take on unsexed chicks, you are responsible for them all. Roosters included. It's a very hard thing to grow an animal, name it and then have to re-home or cull it. I know this personally, but this is just yet another part of owning poultry. Now, you may think that if you take your roosters in to a beautiful forest and release them there, that you are doing them a favor by sparing their life and giving them their freedom. That they will be fine and that they can find food and water. They will start their own bush chicken colony and live out their days like their wild fore fathers. They'll be a chicken Tarzan! Unfortunately, chickens today cannot fend for themselves outside of a domestic setting. They have been cultivated to the point that most survival instincts are gone and they simply won't make it.

You aren't helping them or sparing them at all. You are leaving them to a very sad and cruel fate indeed.

At the end of the day, if you are not prepared to make your roosters in to a hearty meal or find them a suitable home, then please buy sexed chicks from a large hatchery, buy full grown hens or keep getting your eggs from the grocery store.

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