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Can A Rooster Be Neutered? What Is A Capon? Is Castration Inhumane?

E. L. Danvers is a full-time professional writer and investigative journalist based in Southern California.

Neutering A Rooster – What Is Caponizing?

Neutering or castrating a rooster is known as “caponizing.”  This process produces what is called a “capon.”  (A castrated horse is a gelding, a castrated male cow is a steer, and a castrated rooster is a capon.)  Caponizing used to be a very common practice, back when most people raised their own chickens. 

The meat from a rooster can be very stringy and pungent, but the meat from a capon is much more tender.  Incidentally, this is the same reason that male cows are turned into steers.

Caponizing was invented by Romans, in order to get around a law regarding fattening hens.  A caponized rooster will get much fatter than an intact rooster.  Capons can be twice as plump as normal roosters. 

The practice of caponizing let farmers put their male chicks to good use.  Although each flock can only have one rooster in order to keep the peace, an unlimited number of capons can be reared together without risk of fighting.  Capons were often preferred over hens, because all hens were laying hens, and therefore tended to be quite lean.  The meat from a capon was tender and plentiful.

How Do You Caponize A Rooster?

Caponizing needs to be performed before the chicken enters puberty.  Instructions on an old Sears Roebuck caponizing tool set recommended caponizing be performed when chicks are between six weeks and three months old.

A rooster’s testicles are high up in the body, near the back.  The procedure of caponizing is a relatively minor surgical procedure.  It is traditionally performed without anesthetic. 

Large scale commercial producers of capons often choose chemical methods instead.  An estrogen implant is inserted under the skin of the male chick.  This suppresses the chick’s natural testosterone, without the need for a major surgical procedure.

It should be noted that the surgical method is considered by many to be inhumane.  Whereas the hormonal method is potentially unsafe for human consumption, due to the artificially large amount of estrogen which is present in the meat.

Why Keep A Pet Capon?

This question often comes up in late summer, when that spring’s male chicks are starting to really strut their stuff.  Even if you buy pre-sexed chicks, there is no guarantee they will all be female.  The sexing process is only between 95-98% accurate.  This means that every year, some people end up with male chicks by accident.

Male chicks are cute.  Male chickens, once they have matured into roosters, can become a real hassle.  Contrary to what the cartoons would have us believe, roosters actually crow all the time.  And it is loud!  This is why most urban areas’ laws about keeping chickens specify “Hens Only.”

Roosters are a valuable addition to the flock.  Aside from being entertaining and beautiful, a rooster will literally give his life to save his hens.  Having a rooster around can help prevent losses due to dogs, cats, snakes, hawks, and a number of other culprits. 

There are some circumstances where you would want to neuter a rooster.  As with dogs and cats, the rooster’s behavior is dictated by his hormones.  No testicles, no hormones.  No hormones, no obnoxious rooster behavior.  A neutered rooster is a much more calm and docile addition to your family.  Although he may not be as protective of the flock, he may also be much more tolerable to you!

Comments

Grace on July 03, 2020:

I have a 10 week old rooster and I want him caponised. How will it alter his personality?

Anne-Marie Kayne on May 21, 2020:

A little heads up, a cow cannot be castrated, because a COW is a female.

Steve on April 05, 2020:

Qaare,

No such thing as a male cow. Cow is female. The males are born as bulls. If they are castrated the bull becomes a steer. Cows are neither bull nor steer. Genetically not possible to be both cow and bull. I've never seen or heard of a hermaphroditic bovine.

Wendy Goddard on November 08, 2019:

Talk your avian vet into neutering your rooster under anesthesia. Mine in Mass is doing my aggressive 7 mos. Old.

Me Janelle on November 08, 2019:

For anyone following this thread, here's a non-lethal solution to When Roosters Attack:

Get a pop-open umbrella. Doesn't have to be expensive, just one of those with the button on the handle that makes the umbrella pop open when you press it. Highly contrasting color panels are a plus. Mine is a beat-up one with alternate black and bright red panels. And one broken spoke. Still works.

Anyway. Carry it with you whenever you enter your feisty Roo's domain. As soon as he starts getting ready for the attack pop that puppy open right in his face. Repeat as necessary.

Our lovely gentlemanly roo, "PepperRoo", started attacking once his hormones kicked in, first going after any male entering his yard then going after me. ME! THE ONE WHO TO THIS DAY HAND FEEDS HIM PEANUTS! It took just *two* umbrella treatments to cure him. Plus, hysterical. He just about went tail over beak in his attempts to be elsewhere faster than possible all the while yelling and flapping! The hens were completely nonplussed.

Now I carry the umbrella in about twice a week just to remind him. He squawks when he sees it and keeps his distance. I've used it once more since the first time; we got an accidental roo with an all girl order and when that roo started getting interested in Pepper's harem Pepper got (understandably) overprotective, but again, one time put paid to him pointing his Spurs at me.

Good luck, let me know how it goes if you try this!

OAP on August 07, 2019:

We are off subject. But a male bovine that is castrated is a steer , no mater if he is bred for beef or for drafting. An adult uncastrated male bovine is a Bull. A cow is a female bovine. However, I am happy to hear of ability to castrate roosters, since we have about 6 in this last hatching.

Donna Millermcnutt on February 01, 2018:

I was one of those people who ordered "sexed" pullets and still ended up with ROOSTERS!! Now I have 4 roosters and 4 hens. It has worked up until now. My NHR has attacked me MANY times, but I just swat at him and go on. A few weeks ago, he attacked my 2 yr old grandbaby!!! NOW IT IS TIME TO PULL OUT THE ARSONAL! Another beautiful "pullet" turned into a ROOSTER, he is gorgeous and other than being overly zealous about mating my hens, he is ok. However, my beautiful BRAHAMA HEN has a big hole in the back of her head (she is inside now) because of the roosters. So my idea is now to caponize the roosters. But what I read says they should be young. Mine will be 1 yr old in April 2018 and in June 2018. Is it too late to perform the procedure?? My birds are PETS and only pets, they will NOT be killed and put on any table. Please tell me that the caponizing will make them not attack or harm my hens anymore....

Many thanks!!

tamilynn on July 31, 2014:

well, my genius husband wanted chicks , so now we hav 10!! I hav nevr surrended an animal , I only rescue , I got them from my neighbor..I will NOT EAT ANY OF SHICKENS & CERTIANLY NOT ROOSTIE DOODLE ..HE IS A MULTI-SELLING CD RAPPIN RHYMYN ROOSTER AKA CRACKER D.NOR WILL I KILL OR EAT ANY OF THE BABY ROOSTERS..THE NEUTER SURG LOOKS BARBARIC..

E L Danvers (author) from Ventura, CA on April 18, 2011:

Not quite! All castrated male cattle are steers. However, a steer that is used as a draft animal is called an ox.

In other words, all oxen are steers, but not all steers are oxen.

qraare on April 17, 2011:

A castrated nale cow is an ox not a steer a steer is a male beef cow.

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