In much of the animal kingdom, males cannot lay eggs or carry fetuses, as they do not have the anatomy for it. But if eggs come from chickens, do roosters lay eggs? Are they built for that kind of thing? While the answer to that is no, there are some things you should know about egg-laying and fertilization, especially if you are hoping to young a few chicks to add to your flock.
What is a Rooster?
To begin answering the question of whether roosters lay eggs, you must first know a little bit about chicken biology. Understanding the basics will help you to better comprehend the answer.
For starters, a chicken is a kind of bird and is the gender neutral term for both males and females of the species. Female chickens are known as hens, and their population in a flock is usually far greater than the male population. Roosters are the males, and they are usually few in number. Roosters, like most male birds, are brightly colored and stand taller than hens.
An egg comes from a female chicken. From that egg comes the chick, which becomes either a pullet or cockerel during adolescence. Upon reaching full maturity, a pullet becomes a hen, and a cockerel becomes a rooster.
Of course, if you incorrectly sex a chicken, you may end up thinking that a cockerel is a pullet or vice versa, which would account for some people thinking that their rooster has laid an egg. This happens often, and there was even a famous case for it in 1474, when a hen passing for a rooster laid an egg and was prosecuted for fowl play.
The Role of the Rooster
If you are hoping to gather up some eggs and incubate them to increase the number of your flock, the best way to do that is to use your own chickens. Of course, only the hen has the parts for that. The rooster, being male, is without the egg-laying oviduct. Instead, the primary role of the rooster is to fertilize the eggs once the hen has laid them.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to provide your rooster with enough hens for him to mate with. Otherwise, he may become aggressive. A decent ratio is 10 hens for every 1 rooster. So if you have a flock of 30 hens, you could potentially have 3 roosters, depending on their breed.
Roosters are not solely around to bring more fluffy chicks into the world. They are also the protectors of the flock. Roosters are incredibly vigilant around their hens, particularly when the group is free ranging. Forever alert, the rooster will sound the alarm whenever they sense danger. Should that threat get too close, the rooster will do his best to defend the hens.
Roosters are also key in maintaining a pecking order throughout the flock. Without a rooster to be the pinnacle of the pyramid, your hens may start fighting and bullying one another. Hens are naturally calmer when there is a rooster around, which is exactly what you need when raising egg-laying chickens.
Do Hens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs?
You now know that no, roosters do not lay eggs. It would make sense that your next question would be, “Are roosters required for a hen to lay eggs?” That, too, is no. Hens will lay unfertilized eggs. Without a rooster present, those eggs will not house an embryo that becomes a baby chick. Unfertilized eggs are most often the eggs you pick up from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Sometimes a fertilized egg finds its way into the mix, but that is rare.
In short, an unfertilized egg that is laid in a nesting box is forever an egg unless a male comes along and spices things up a bit.
Also, there is a myth that having a rooster around will increase your hens’ egg output. This is false. Hens are not dependent on the presence of a rooster. They will lay the same amount of unfertilized eggs as fertilized ones.
Where Did The Term ‘Fairy Eggs’ Come From Then?
Fairy eggs, also once known as cock eggs (which may be where the misconception that roosters can lay eggs comes from), are a very rare occurrence. Once in a while, a hen who is either thought to be too young or too old to lay eggs will. These eggs tend to be very small, as if they were laid by something other than a chicken.
Fairy eggs are not laid by roosters, though the size may make you think they were. Instead, the eggs are so tiny because they do not contain any yolk!
How Do Roosters Fertilize Eggs?
So if roosters do not lay eggs and hens can lay unfertilized eggs, how and when does fertilization happen? Roosters can mate with their hens throughout the year, but they are far more active during the spring. You may even notice that they take on a courting behavior. This will be more visible than the actual mating process, which takes about 30 seconds from start to finish.
Should a hen be willing to mate with the rooster, she will drop her body and head towards the ground. The rooster will get onto her back, and once they are lined up, your rooster performs the cloacal kiss. That is when the rooster’s papilla brushes against the female cloaca. Sperm from the papilla travels up the cloaca to the eggs. Fertilization is not always successful on the first round, but since roosters can mate between 10-30 times a day, there is no need to worry.
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Should the mating be successful, the sperm will remain within the hen and then penetrate the yolk of the egg in the infundibulum.
Wondering how to tell if an egg you have cracked open for your omelet was fertilized? Look for a white ring around the yolk.
Roosters are ready to mate from around 16 to 20 weeks of age. As they get older, sperm production slows. Hens, on the other hand, start laying eggs around 18 weeks old. However, this depends on the hen’s health, nutrition, and environment.
Will Hens Stop Laying Eggs?
Hens will eventually stop laying unfertilized or fertilized eggs in the same way roosters stop producing sperm. There are many reasons why a hen may stop laying eggs, but the main reason is age. Around 2-3 years old, egg production begins to lessen, and your hens will lay less and less until they die. When they truly stop laying eggs depends on their breed, nutrition, environment, and stress levels.
Molting may also keep hens from laying eggs. Around 18 months old, hens experience their first round of molting, when they lose all their feathers to grow newer ones. Since the body is focused on growing feathers, other less important processes are switched off. One of those happens to be egg laying.
A sick hen may also cease laying eggs. Usually, with the right amount of care, your hen can get better and will start laying eggs once again.
Sudden changes in environment or routine, as well as a lack of sunlight, can also impact a hen’s health. In the winter, hens will lay far less eggs than they do in the summer, because they cannot get enough sunlight.
Hopefully, you now know the answer to “do roosters lay eggs?”. Because roosters are males, they do not have the organs required for egg-laying. They have other important roles in the flock, however, including fertilizing those eggs so you can hatch incredibly cute chicks. So while you won’t be getting any eggs from your handsome rooster, you should still consider having one around the yard for your hens.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.