QMy boyfriend and I keep a few Rhode Island Reds and have been thinking about breeding a few more of our own. We have been offered the odd crossbred cockerel but we really want to do a bit for the good of pure breeds. We are a little nervous because although it is exciting, we have no idea what to expect and don’t want to disrupt our flock (or the neighbours too much!).
AGrant Brereton says: You are right to be excited. Adding a cockerel to your flock brings a whole new dimension to keeping poultry. It will certainly surprise your Rhodies to suddenly have an outsider male dropped on them - especially the current boss who [if any] will be the likely candidate to attempt to fight with him until she realises it is futile. If he doesn’t overcome the dominant female, he will likely be too young, so he should look mature. He won’t need any training to go away at night; he will just follow his new wives into their house. In terms of what to expect, he will obviously crow in the morning - even as early as 4am in the summer months. He will spend much of the day scratching for food for the females and will get very excited at the slightest thing. He will use this attention to perform a courtship dance which involves walking around his females - from one side to the other - with dropped outer wing in hope of an opportunity to mate. He will also be the first to let out a high-pitched ‘warning growl’ if any above predators fly past, and some cockerels even get in the nest box as if showing their wives where to lay. He isn’t likely to be aggressive towards you, but you always get the odd exception so be careful. I wish you all the best in your breeding. You should wait at least 36 hours before expecting any fertile eggs.
A cockerel will spend much time finding morsels for his wives