Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What happens to roosters?

Have you ever wondered about that?

Those of us who would like to see urban chickens legalized in Windsor, are talking about hens only.  We don't want roosters.

This is what Gord Henderson had to say on the matter in last week's column in the Windsor Star:

Chickens are quiet as long as you ban roosters? And that last bit, by the way, could be the subject of a charter challenge, given the blatant sexism.

Well, Gord, I don't think the Chicken Farmers of Canada want to hear about a charter challenge.  They don't need too many roosters and they certainly don't want you thinking about them.  If you think this is blatant sexism in backyard operations, how does that make the poultry industry look?

You see, they kill them.

Most roosters today have little chance to act out, service a harem or crow. On modern commercial egg farms, which produce 98 percent of the eggs Americans consume, roosters are killed at birth. If a chick is male, it’s immediately dispatched.
Yes, baby roosters are disposed of.  Culled.  Killed.  Call it what you like, but they don't survive.  Since roosters don't grow up with big juicy breasts, they aren't needed for their meat, and it's more efficient to dispose of them soon after birth.  The odd one slips through and might end up as broiler meat, and of course a couple are needed for breeding.  But the vast majority of roosters do not survive infancy.

How do they do it?  Well in Canada, they are usually gassed.  The book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs (available at Windsor Public Library) describes even less savoury (but highly efficient) dispatching practices like chucking the chicks into a chipper.  

No, this isn't a bizarre porn ad (though be warned if you decide to google the topic). It's a real job opening for the expert who can identify the male chicks.
And if you were wondering about the average ratio of hens to roosters, it is about 50:50.

How does that fit in with urban chickens?  Well here is my take.  The average life of a commercial egg laying hen is about 1 1/2 years.  After that, she gets slaughtered and ends up on somebody's plate.  Compare that to the normal lifespan of a chicken, which is 5 to 6 years.  Let's be conservative and say that's about 3 times longer.  That's how long you can expect to keep your urban chicken.

So if you keep a hen for your own egg consumption, that's at least 2 commercial hens' lives saved.  But, again, keeping it conservative, another 2 to 3 unnecessary roosters weren't  dispatched.

Charter challenge and glib comments about sexism aside, preventing 4 to 5 animal deaths is something to think about.


  1. when it comes to Gordo, lower your expectations and you'll never be disappointed!

  2. There are so many unwanted roosters in the world :(

    I'm glad you're sticking up for yours. They do play an important protective role in the coop, and it is unfortunate that so many of them don't enjoy the privilege of growing up to do what they were intended to do.


Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.