- They can provide flock protection, well, they may not be able to prevent attacks, but they are the first line of defense against predators. They will also warn the flock if they notice danger.
- Secondly, they keep the flock together. If ever they see a straggler or wanderer drifting away from the group, the will go and chase it back to the others, greatly reducing the risk of a hen being singled out and picked off by a brave predator.
- With a cockerel in the flock, the eggs your hens will produce will be fertile, i.e. you can have chicks! If you are attempting to become more sustainable, then having a cockerel among the hens allows you to replenish your flock, adding more youngstock to provide eggs when the previous generation cease to. Hatching eggs is great too, and can be such a fun family activity, whether you let a broody do the work or hatch in an incubator. But make sure you know what to do with unwanted males, as it is likely that 50% of the eggs you hatch will be male.
- They can be so characterful! Often the cockerel is the most entertaining one in the flock, being far more interesting personality wise than the hens.
- Finally, they are handsome! I know it isn't the most important thing when considering adding a cockerel to the flock, but if you keep your hens mostly to look pretty over egg or meat production, then a cockerel strutting around, showing off his beautiful plumage may be for you. The male of many breeds is often the most colourful, so even if you just keep one breed, you can add diversity, colour-wise by getting a cockerel.
- One of the most obvious points is: they crow. For some the sound may be a beautiful one, that takes them back to the countryside they grew up in or makes them think bck to the 'simpler days'. However, no one enjoys your boy singing you the song of his people, from the top of his lungs, at 4 o'clock in the morning. If you have close neighbours, a cockerel is not a good idea. Although some are noisier than others, don't risk it. However nice your neighbours are, it is a rather unpleasant noise, and is testing even on the nost patient of people.
- Unwanted chicks. Is there such a thing?! Well, if like me your garden has a few sheds and good hiding places, then perhaps your fiestier hen might (particularly if she is a bantam), sneak off to make a nest. Too many times have I gone outside in the morning to be greeted by a very proud mumma with her brood of 14. Cute cute cute! But that won't be the case when half turn out to be cockerels, which then have to be rehomed or dispatched. There are lots of purebred cockerels looking for homes, and if like me you have a mixed flock, then it is likely that any babies that need to be rehomed won't be easy to move on. At all.
- They can be aggressive. I have heard many stories where people can only go into their coop when armed with a cricket bat. Having a nasty hen is bad enough, but a cockerel the size of a medium-sized dog flying at you is horrid and totally takes the fun out of keeping chooks. And that really sucks. Even if you hatched him yourself and cuddled him every day, once his hormones kick in, he sweet friendly mumma's boy will be out the window, to be replaced by a feathered fury.
But when it comes down to it, setup generally draws the line at hens. Some people would never have a cockerel, but others could not picture their flock without one. Whatever you decide, it will be the right one for you and your hens.