As I was walking at Lake Murray during the last week, I heard something strange. A rooster began to crow right after sunrise. The only buildings nearby were condos where one can’t even keep chickens much less a rooster. Though local laws have changed to allow the keeping of backyard chickens in some areas, roosters are still outlawed. The rooster was actually crowing from some brush near the upper parking lot. I later found out that there were two roosters, at first, but one had supposedly died.
Hearing about that dumped rooster made me wonder if rooster dumping is becoming more common since the new backyard chicken laws took effect. Many people order or buy chicks from a feed store not knowing what sex they will be when they grow up. Many poultry hatcheries often mix in a couple of baby roosters as “packing peanuts” for warmth. Inexperienced chicken owners may not be prepared to know what to do if they get a rooster in their flock and abandon them in a field.
In a country flock, roosters play important roles. Not only do they fertilize eggs and are pretty to look at, they protect the flock from hawks and other hazards. Roosters have sharp spurs on the back of their feet that they use to give painful stabs at the intruder. Sometimes, their attacks are directed towards humans, which is another reason why they are a burden to chicken owners. Mostly, they’re abandoned because of their loud crowing which can be heard over long distances. Responsible rooster owners re-home or butcher their extra roosters.
I’ve heard stories of chickens and roosters dumped in various areas around San Diego before the new urban chicken craze. Not only do roosters get dumped, but hens that have stopped laying are often abandoned. It’s not a new practice, but one that has started to become more common recently. Chicken advocates suggest adopting adult hens rather than ordering chicks. If you order chicks, be prepared for possible roosters in your order.
If you find you have an unexpected rooster in your urban flock, there are a few options. The most humane thing is to find a friend with a farm or property where roosters are allowed. You can also sell or give away the rooster by putting an ad in the paper or online. Be prepared that the new owner might not have good intentions for your rooster and he could end up in cock fights. Another option is to have him butchered. Abandoning in a field or in the backcountry is not an option as not only do they usually suffer a horrible death, they can become a problem for people and animals in the area.