Nowadays, you can start your own chicken farm within one weekend. Once you set up your chickens home, you might also want to start breeding your own chickens and wonder: what to do with male chicks ? They obviously won’t lay any eggs!
I worked on a lot of Hobby farms and got some different perspectives on this topic. I want to share with you not only, what to do with these male chicks, but also why you maybe should consider keeping them!
There are essentially 3 possible uses for male chicks. You can either raise them for meat, here you have to consider castrating them to improve meat quality and make them less aggressive. Otherwise, you can simply give them away, or sell them if you are lucky. Lastly, you can consider keeping them for their natural role within your chicken flock.
Which of these options you choose greatly depends on your situation, and if you already have an established flock rooster.
What should you do with your male chicks now ? Is it better to keep them or give them away ? What is their natural role within the flock ?
Uses for male chicks on your small farm
Most people, who raise chickens for eggs don’t think there is any use for male chicks whatsoever. This is not true, keeping at least one rooster in your flock has a lot of advantages.
Why is that ? Well, a rooster will serve as sentry. He will spend most of the time, watching the area and scanning for possible dangers and even protect your hens if necessary. There is nothing more effective for your flocks protection, than a rooster, who knows what he is doing.
Don’t get me wrong, against most predators a rooster is completely powerless, but he’ll give your hens another couple seconds to reach shelter and save them from being a hawk snack.
Additionally he will also maintain the natural social order within your flock, break up fights between hens and give orders. He functions as the center of your flock, for example his crowing is a signal to keep your Chickens together and let the hens know, your rooster is doing his job, calming them down.
Obviously your rooster will also take care of egg fertilization, if you want to use your own eggs to breed new chicks.
About one Rooster for every 7-10 Hens was perfect for the flocks I worked with. This number mostly depends on the size of your property, the total amount of Hens you own (one Rooster shouldn’t cover more than 12 Hens) and his experience.
Bigger flocks will split up in smaller sup-groups around their respective rooster and therefore dividing the responsibilities.
Depending on your roosters personality he will probably wear of some feather’s of your hens back, especially in his “teenage” years, but this will improve rapidly and usually stops within the first couple years.
Once your Roo is more mature and experienced he’s able to share his knowledge with younger male chickens, which at one one point will take over his duties.
Introducing younger male chickens to your existing flock
This can sometimes prove to be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to help introducing younger males to your existing flock:
You definitely want to have your new roosters to be in top condition, they should be vaccinated and older than 14 weeks (approximately the same size).
Once these conditions are met, you can slowly start to introduce them to your existing flock. Do not just throw them together, chickens take time to get to know each other and extend their family. You can help your Rooster to get used to your main flock by placing him in a pen within your flocks territory.
Keeping them close to each other with some kind of barrier helps speeding up the process, in the initial phase. Changing the environment will affect some chickens more and some less, so be sure to observe them, to prevent pecking and serious fighting.
Rooster are normally on top of the pecking order, if you keep multiple rooster you have to be extra careful during the introduction phase. Once your new rooster became reasonably acclimated you can remove the pen and allow him into the main coop.
What to do if you don’t need any more roosters
On the other hand, if you decide you do not need (another) rooster for your flock, you can also raise them for meat. They will however not yield much meat and it will be less tender.
Some farmers improve the quality by castrating the male chicks and making them a capon, they are less aggressive and the meat tends to be of better as well.
This process has to be done before the roosters mature, either by removing their testicles or giving them estrogen to cancel the male hormones. Most of the time you do not want to raise Layer-Chickens for meat, though. This is also only really suited for your own consumption and not for selling meat.
If you decide to raise your male chicks as capons, you also cannot introduce them to your flock for normal duties. Therefore you have to keep them in a separate area.
What to do if you don’t want to keep your male Chicks
In some cases it doesn’t make sense to keep male chicks, especially if you either know they are not useful to you in any way, you expect some complications if you would keep them or there simply isn’t enough space for them.
In this case, your best option would be to give them away or sell them. I personally would start by asking around in your neighborhood, and offering them for free maybe with some advise of why you should keep a rooster in your flock.
Another option would be to offer them online via craigslist or facebook (etc.). Sometimes you can get very lucky and find someone, who is not only willing to take care of your little chicks but even pay you to do so !
This is however, rarely the case, as there is just a much smaller need for male chicks in comparison to female ones.
What to watch out for when keeping (multiple) roosters
Keeping you male chicks might be your best bet, but there are some things you should keep in mind before you start to raise them. Especially if you never raised a rooster beforehand.
- First off, roosters are in general more aggressive, they behave differently in comparison to hens some roos even attack you, if you turn your back to them.
- Secondly, there are a lot of places (especially cities), which prohibit Rooster, inform yourself beforehand, if you are allowed to keep these loudly companions in your area.
- Some roosters are simply to aggressive to be raised with other chickens, you should try to avoid some breeds if you want to keep multiple rooster.
- Raising multiple roosters in one flock is also possible by not introducing any hens, without any competition, they will live together peacefully most of the time.
- Enough Space is another really important factor to keep your flock happy, especially if you have more than one rooster, try to aim for at least 8 sq feet per chicken or more.
- Not only enough space but also enough Hens is important to ensure the well being of you birds, there should be around 10 Hens for each rooster in your flock.
Are there better breeds to use for both eggs and meat
Hybrid chickens, are both good egg and meat producers and therefore fit perfectly if you want to breed them. These bird will not only give you a good amount of eggs, but also given enough time provide you with some meat.
A couple good breeds include:
Hy-line Browns, Golden Comets, ISA Browns, Cinnamon Queens and Brown Sex Links
Good heritage breeds are:
Rhode Island Red (tend to be more aggressive), Australorps, Rhode Island Whites and Plymouth Rocks
All these breeds provide different advantages and disadvantages over each other, but all of them are suited to provide both eggs and meat on an adequate level for your farm.