Rooster

Gallus domesticus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
iStock.com/IsaacRuiz

Will mate with the entire flock!


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Rooster Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phaisianidae
Genus
Gallus
Scientific Name
Gallus domesticus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Rooster Conservation Status


Rooster Facts

Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chick
Group Behavior
  • Sociable
Fun Fact
Will mate with the entire flock!
Estimated Population Size
23 billion
Biggest Threat
Humans, predators
Most Distinctive Feature
Bushy tailfeathers
Other Name(s)
Cock, cockerel, capon
Gestation Period
21 days
Litter Size
2 to 4
Habitat
Farms
Predators
Foxes, coyotes, raccoons
Diet
Omnivore
Type
Bird
Common Name
Rooster
Number Of Species
1
Location
Worldwide
Group
Flock

Rooster Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Green
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
9 mph
Lifespan
8 to 15 years
Height
2 to 3 feet tall
Length
10 to 16 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
16 to 26 weeks
Age of Weaning
2 months

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The rooster is a barnyard animal that often appears on wind vanes and country-themed home decor.

A rooster is an adult male chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), which is the domesticated subspecies of the red jungle fowl. A rooster might also be called a cock (or if castrated, a capon), while a young male is a cockerel. A hen is an adult female chicken, while a pullet is a young, sexually immature female. Some roosters who are bred for fighting are known as gamecocks.

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5 Amazing Rooster Facts

  • Roosters make sure their hens eat before they do.
  • A rooster protects his flock and will warn the other chickens if he senses danger.
  • Hens and roosters look identical as chicks.
  • If there is no rooster in a flock, a hen will step up to take charge.
  • A hen may choose to mate with a rooster if she finds his comb attractive.

Scientific Name and History

The rooster’s scientific name, like that of all chickens, is Gallus gallus domesticus. The chicken is a member of the Order Galliformes, which is the order of ground-feeding birds like turkeys and quail. Chickens are descended from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus).

Chickens are thought to have been domesticated about 8,000 years ago in Southeast Asia, probably Vietnam or Thailand. There is a long history of their spread from there to the rest of the world,

Appearance

A Black Australorp rooster walking along eating in a field of grass and clover.
This Black Australorp rooster

comes in classic black with the curving tail feathers that are a distinctive mark of roosters.



Roosters have a strutting attitude to go with their feathers that are ususally in brighter colors than their companion hens, but not in every breed. Rooster feathers come in many colors including white, brown, black, and red. Some roosters are speckled or spotted. A rooster typically has large wattles and a comb. The bird’s stand-out tail is often large and colorful and continue to grow and get more colorful as the rooster gets older.

Health and Entertainment for your Rooster

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A rooster’s body looks very much like that of a chicken, and it can be hard to tell them apart when they’re young. The adult rooster, however, has these significant differences:

  • More muscular build
  • Larger comb that sits high on his head
  • Large wattles under his beak
  • Hackles on his shoulders. (Hackles are long, pointed neck feathers that run along the rooster’s back. Hens have shorter, more rounded hackles.)
  • Tail feathers: Curving tail feathers are a distinctive mark of roosters.
  • Spurs: A rooster has spurs on his legs, and these grow throughout their lives.

Roosters in Culture

Roosters are important symbols in many cultures. A sailing tradition holds that a rooster tattoo brings good luck to sailors.

The rooster is the 10th sign of the Chinese Zodiac, and people born in this year are said to be polite, punctual, and faithful.

In Celtic and Norse mythology, roosters are messengers of the underworld. They believe these birds call out the names of those who have fallen in battle.

In Greek mythology, the god Ares asked a soldier named Alectryon (Greek for rooster) to guard the room where he was meeting the goddess Aphrodite in secret. Alectryon fell asleep, and the god turned him into a red rooster as punishment. According to the myth, this is the reason the rooster never fails to wake up at dawn.

The rooster is the national animal of France. A rooster is a classic emblem used when decorating in a country or French country style.

Foghorn Leghorn, a cartoon character, was a white rooster with a red head and tail. He appeared in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons and films from Warner Brothers Studios and had his own TV show.

Behavior

The rooster is most famous for his crow, which he uses to alert his flock to food, mark his territory, or warn the flock about potential danger. Most roosters can crow by the time they are four months old. Strange as it seems, roosters really do crow at sunrise; they seem to have an internal clock that lets them know when dawn is about to arrive.

Roosters are the leaders of their flocks. Their job is to protect the flock and mate with the hens. A rooster mates with as many hens as he can, and he also maintains the pecking order in the coop.

Chickens are sociable animals who enjoy living in groups. They share incubation and child-rearing duties, and they share food and resources.

When a rooster finds food, he calls the other chickens over to eat first. The rooster may cluck loudly or pick up the food in his feet and drop it. Mother hens engage in the same behavior trying to get their chicks to eat.

Habitat

Roosters live on farms and in suburban chicken coops. They primarily live with their flocks. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster, but a rooster is necessary to fertilize the eggs.

Some people raise roosters as a hobby. The Rhode Island red is a famous rooster breed. There are other highly prized breeds, including:

  • Chinese Silkie
  • Buff Orpington
  • Barred Plymouth Rock
  • East Frisian Gull
  • Old English Game
  • Black Australorp
  • Iowa Blue

Diet

Roosters are omnivores, and they are not fussy about what they eat. However, they have certain nutritional requirements. Most roosters prefer to be free-range and forage for their food. This is more natural for roosters and easier for people who keep them. In winter, it’s necessary to feed them a prepared diet from feeders.

Rooster diets should include the following.

  • Grit: Because there are no rooster teeth, these birds need the grit to break up their food. You can buy commercially prepared grit or grind your own from rocks and bones.
  • Calcium: Oyster shells are a good source of calcium. This is mostly necessary for laying hens.
  • Balanced diet: Roosters need the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, starches, vitamins and minerals. Many people use commercially prepared feed or supplements to ensure their roosters are getting the right balance.

Predators and Threats

Humans are the biggest predators of roosters. They regularly slaughter them for food. Some people also make them fight to the death in cockfighting matches, which are illegal in many countries.

Other predators include raccoons, coyotes, and foxes, who may try to raid chicken coops for eggs and young chicks. Roosters will protect their coops, and some roosters have been known to fight to the death trying to fend off predators.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

As the flock leader, the rooster mates with many of the hens in his harem. A rooster may use a courting dance to signal his interest in a hen. This is known as a circle dance. Once the hen responds with a cluck or call, the rooster mates with her.

The female creates or finds a nest. It is common for chickens to use nests that have been used before, and some hens lay their eggs in another hen’s nest.

Incubation lasts about 21 days. Chickens continue caring for their chicks for several weeks. At that point, they are old enough to start eating on their own.

Population and Conservation Status

Chickens and roosters live around the globe. There are over 23 billion chickens, so they are far from endangered. Instead, they are the most populous bird in the world.

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Rooster FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How do I tell a rooster from a hen?

Roosters have several distinctive features that set them apart from hens. They are larger, and they have large wattles and combs. They have large, bushy tail feathers and spurs on their feet.

How does a rooster fertilize an egg?

He does it by mating with a hen.

What is the female version of a rooster?

It is a hen or a pullet.

Is a rooster a chicken?

Yes, a rooster is a male chicken. Read more about their specific differences here!

Why is a rooster called a cock?

The word comes from the Old English word “cocc,” meaning a male bird. Because the word “cock” is considered rude, chicken enthusiasts came up with the word “rooster” to use instead. Today, the word cockerel (meaning “little cock”) refers to a young rooster who is less than a year old. In rooster breeding, however, the term “cock” is still used.

What does rooster mean?

It derives from the Old English word “hrost,” which referred to the spars on the roof of a chicken house. The rooster sits on it and “rules the roost.”

How many rooster teeth are there?

There are no rooster teeth. Chickens do not have teeth.

How long does a rooster live?

On average, roosters can live between 5-8 years. However, in captivity when they are cared for properly, their average lifespan increases to 10-15 years.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. Heritage Acres Market / Accessed December 20, 2021
  2. Backyard Poultry / Accessed December 20, 2021
  3. Stack Exchange / Accessed December 20, 2021
  4. Chickens and More / Accessed December 20, 2021