Roosters v Coyotes January 10, 2014

This morning I could hear the yipping and howling of coyotes down in our holler. Even so, I’m not too worried; I have roosters to help keep a look out. But how can roosters hope to deal with coyotes? Let me explain!

Coyotes are in my area year-round, but we tend to be aware of them more during the winter. At this time of year, coyotes have to look harder and range further for the small animals they prey upon . In addition, we have 45 acres set  in the middle of many different parcels of hunting land. Deer season—usually late in the year—is practically the only time we ever see vehicles on the road, in  fact. The hunting cabins light up, bonfires burn, and there’s generally a friendly and celebratory atmosphere. Who wouldn’t be celebratory when you get to see things like this every morning?

decembersunrise - roosters crowing

This December sunrise was captured just a few weeks ago from my backyard. Imagine you can also hear the roosters singing…

However, it also seems to herald the coyotes. The reason why may require an explanation if you’re not familiar with hunting. the basic process after shooting the deer is to field dress it before you take it home or to your hunting cabin to hang.  Without being too graphic, this means you remove its entrails, which are left where the deer was felled. Because of this field dressing, you’d think there would be, well, a huge stink just waiting to happen once there’s a thaw.  However, that just doesn’t happen. Other wildlife take care of this issue–and pretty efficiently, too. The leavings are a feast to coyotes, among other creatures. But because of this, during and after hunting season, coyotes are not only roaming wider to look for small prey, but anecdotally, they seem to be drawn a little closer to us, because there’s so much “free food” around hunting grounds.

nohunting

It’s as if the coyotes just don’t bother to read the signs!

Hunting grounds–that’s where we live. This is glorious for many, many reasons: venison chili, venison jerky, venison lasagna, venison ramp burgers, to name a few.

West Virginia venison ramp burger with rosemary fries

West Virginia venison ramp burger—there isn’t a better burger in the spring!

Even so, I do dread the feasting coyote.

While my roosters can’t exactly fight off a coyote (although in certain circumstances I suppose they could scare one away!), one of the benefits of keeping roosters is that they keep an eye out and warn the flock to safety if they spot any danger. I worry about the danger, but I have to admit that my worry is tempered by my admiration of their diligence. In town, where roosters are often prohibited, a hen often takes on the rooster’s social role and serves as the guardian of her flock. 

DSC_4304

Hens can keep a good eye out, too, if they have to!

However, we have roosters. Situated as we are on a ridge top, the roosters keep the hens herded toward the coop and the house, while they patrol the perimeter. They march the edges of the ridge, then on guard with steely-eyed gazes they peer through the woods on the slopes. The hens forage–they need to eat more than roosters since they need those calories to produce eggs–and they listen intently for any warning.  I’m nerve-wracked and impressed by the whole process. Roosters often seem like the poultry version of police officers whose duty is to protect and serve. The best roosters are gentlemen (gentlechickens?) who are generous and tolerant  with the flock, and react not only courageously, but also wisely, in the face of danger.

Roosters keeping a lookout

Keep to one side, ladies!

In the comments, please share how your rooster—or your dominant hen—manages your flock. Do you see any of the “protector” behavior in your flock? What predators are you most worried about in your area?

 

14 Comments
Brandy January 10th, 2014

I have two roosters, one is the valiant protector & the other runs away and hides with the hens. I don’t free range unless I am out to make sure everything is okay, but they do have access to a spacious enclosed run. We have a lot of hawks in the area that could easily scoop up some of my tiny bantams, so I’d rather know they are safe. My valiant rooster is really the ideal rooster, nice to his hens but protects them when it is needed.

James Okey Caynor January 10th, 2014

I tend to keep more roosters than I should, but it seems to work out. Although the fuss occasionally, they tend to collect their own harem and stay protectively close to their group. I think my African geese (10) who share the coop along with the twenty or so Guineas also help to keep the predation down as well.

Missi January 10th, 2014

The predators I worry about (which I have seen on &/or around my property are FL black bear, bobcats, foxes, eagles, large hawk species, raccoon, stray dogs.
I have a salmon Faverolles rooster who will be 1 in February. I love to sit & observe my flock’s behaviors! I hear him make a noise, look at him to see if he’s looking into the woods or the sky. He herds the girls under a bush or into the pen when danger soars overhead (somehow he knows the difference between a harmless vulture or an eagle way far up in the sky where it takes me moving around until I get into a certain light to tell the difference. When it comes to treat time, he is also the absolute perfect gentleman (gentleroo) & will not eat a bit until his girls are satisfied! He even lets them take it straight from his beak before he’s had a chance to start tidbitting! He’s very tolerant of my presence unless I’m picking up one of the girls. Then he’s a bit of a challenge! I love my roo! He’s such a good flock guardian!

Sally January 10th, 2014

We are new to country living and having chickens. My daughter got 8 chicks in the spring. Due to predators, coyotes and raccoons, we only have three left. One chicken was ostracized by the others and forced out of the hen house. She didn’t survive long. We plan to increase our flock and I’m happy to learn that roosters can help. We might get a few guineas too. I love those fresh eggs! And it’s so sad to lose a pretty hen that, of course, we named.

Vonda Johnson January 10th, 2014

My dogs understand the danger cries of the guinneas and chickens. I heard them making a ruckus the other day and they all headed under cover of the cedar tree. Just then one of my dogs came around the corner of the house at a run. He stopped and was looking up. I looked and spotted a hawk in a nearby tree. My dog kept watching it until it finally flew away. This is not the first time I have seen this understanding between the fowl and the dogs.

barb lathrop January 11th, 2014

I have had lots of predators over the years with my free range chickens. Fox are the sneekiest and most successful. The roosters do look about & ” guard ” but the hens are the ones that let me know something is up, as they stand up and stare in the direction of the fox. Trouble is, the fox waits til I am not around, and he nails a HEN, always a hen! What are the roosters doing that they never get nailed??!?!?! And its not a matter of chance because in Fall, I have almost as many roosters as hens == still only the hens disappear. Hate this.

Kathy January 14th, 2014

We live near St Louis MO on a wooded ridge top with a deer trail within sight. I worry more about raccoon and opossum which have both gotten to the chickens until we improved their run. Hawks are a problem too so we had to wire the roof of the chicken run. We do have coyote which run the trail and at times come near the house now we no longer have dogs. During the blizzard we looked out the window and there was a coyote walking the deer trail. It stopped briefly but moved on. The rooster does a good job calling out anything unusual.

Diane Goodman January 15th, 2014

I am curious about this cat this hangs around my hen house. Would it attack one of my 13 hens, would the hens gang up on it?? They are big and I would think that with their strong beaks they could do some damage to that darn cat?!?!

Lissa January 27th, 2014

Cats don’t usually bother full grown chickens (unless they are small bantams). They are more of a danger to chicks. My own cats are terrified of the chickens, however the occasional cat has been known to stalk a chicken. By nature, though, cats tend to hunt smaller prey. Read more about domestic cats as chicken predators on our website.

Devyn February 2nd, 2014

In Florida we worry about mostly coyotes, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. Of course, we have the luck to live by a HUGE park, 163 acres, with giant pine trees, meaning there are 2 osprey nests and an eagle. And two blocks away is a cemetery with a pack of coyotes. Our hen Wolf is very predator-aware, and if a large red shouldered hawk that lives near us lands in our oak she promptly ushers everyone into the coop and run or the small separate coops that we built when they were plucking each others feathers.
So far no coyotes have come near us, but we still lock them in the coop at night and let them out only once the sun is fully up.

Kristen E. Martin June 8th, 2014

I had to get rid of my rooster, and now, my hens don’t appear to have a clue who’s in charge. They fight, bicker, chase…nobody keeps watch very well.

Lissa June 9th, 2014

Yes, it can take some time for things to settle down again when someone has been moved in or out of the flock, especially when that someone had been toward the top of the pecking order, like roosters usually are.

Lyn December 5th, 2014

I haven’t seen my rooster fight off coyotes but he has chased the cats! What he does do is be too aggressive with the hens (mating). He’s so rough the hens are afraid to come out of the henhouse. Any thoughts? They all are better behaved when they can come out of their pen but sometimes I have to leave them in when I go to work. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

Lissa December 6th, 2014

It’s difficult to say without knowing more detail–but courting behavior for chickens sometimes seems rough to humans! You might read this information on our website about aggressive maters and see if it sheds any light on your personal situation.

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