Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs ~ What to Know About Egg-Laying

Do chickens need a rooster to lay eggs? No, hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. Chickens without roosters lay unfertilized eggs. If you want to hatch chicks from the eggs, the eggs need to be fertilized. That’s when you need a rooster.

While the answer is simple, many other factors come into play. Keeping a rooster adds new factors to consider: the crowing bothering neighbors, having enough hens, and depending on the breed, perhaps aggressiveness. In addition, there may be ordinances in your area about keeping chickens and roosters. 

Here’s what to know about chickens laying eggs with and without a rooster. 

Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs

No, chickens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. While numerous advantages come with keeping a rooster among your chicken flock, especially when they are of egg-laying age, the simple truth is that hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster in their chicken coop.

However, if you want your hens to lay fertilized eggs that can hatch into baby chicks, having a rooster on your farm is necessary.

egg with chicken feather
To hatch chicks from eggs, your hens need a rooster to produce fertile eggs

What to Know About the Egg Laying Process

To fully understand why chickens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs, you first must understand the egg laying process.

A hen (female chicken) is ready to start laying eggs by the time they get to their 18th week. However, the egg-laying process begins as soon as the chicken is born. Like most female creatures, hens are born with a finite number of eggs. They begin laying these eggs when they are mature enough to do so—at around 4 months or 18 weeks.

Long before the eggs are laid, they are tiny little organisms within the chicken’s body known as ova or ovum (plural). These ova are stored inside follicles which are, in turn, held inside the hen’s ovary.

As the chicken matures, the ovum will slowly develop one by one. Once an ovum is developed, it turns into an egg yolk. At this point, it’s released by the hen’s ovary into its oviduct through ovulation. 

It is in the oviduct where all the magic happens. Here, the eggs get their egg whites and shells in preparation for the egg laying process. It’s also here that it may or may not become a fertilized egg. How Do Chickens Mate

Once a hen is ready to start laying eggs, it can do so at least once every 24 hours, depending on the breed of chicken you have in your backyard flock. Some chicken breeds, such as the Cinnamon Queen chicken, are more prolific at egg laying than others.

As you can see, the egg laying process is entirely independent of a rooster, and hens can and do lay eggs with or without a rooster. 

Blue Orpington chick
Blue Orpington chick

How Often Can Chicken Lay Eggs

Even though this will depend on the chicken breed, most hens can lay at least one egg every 24 hours. However, as mentioned, every chicken has a finite number of eggs assigned to it at birth. This means that once they have laid all the eggs they can lay, there will be no more eggs for the chicken owner regardless of how much layer feed you feed your laying hens.

The good news is that, with proper management, a hen can lay up to 600 eggs in its lifetime. You will find that hens can lay at least once every day for two-thirds of the year, up until they run out of eggs.

To begin with, most chicken breeds will start by laying smaller and fewer eggs. The size and number of eggs will increase as the chicken matures into its egg-laying role. The numbers and size will slowly plummet as the hen gets older and nearer the end of her egg laying days.

When Do Hens Need Roosters

Since hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs, you might wonder why roosters are necessary, considering how many rules and guidelines you must follow to keep them.

The simple truth is that roosters are necessary if you want fertilized eggs that can turn into little chicks or baby hens with the right management. While hens can lay eggs without a rooster being present, these will be unfertilized eggs. Despite being just as delicious, these eggs can’t turn into chicks and, as such, won’t help grow your flock.

Hens also can benefit from a rooster because he will protect the flock, helping to keep them safe from predators and to alert them to threats.

eggs in tray
If you just want to eat eggs, and not hatch the eggs, you don’t need a rooster

Advantages of Keeping Hens and Roosters in Your Backyard Flock

If you keep chickens in your backyard, you have several options. You can keep all layers and farm them for their eggs and then for their meat when they stop laying. You could also keep other breeds of chicken strictly for meat production.

If you are interested in keeping chickens for their eggs or as layers, here are some of the benefits that come with that:

  • You get eggs: Of course, this has to be the number one reason you want to keep layers. Not only is egg production a potentially lucrative business venture, but eggs are an excellent source of protein and food for your family.
  • Hens lay eggs for a long time: For years to come, your backyard poultry could be providing you with fresh eggs. Each hen has the potential to give you up to 600 chicken eggs in its lifetime. Imagine how many eggs you could have if you put your chickens on a rotational basis. 
  • You get meat: As each bird ages, its egg production prowess slows down and eventually stops. At this point, this chicken will be mature enough to provide you with meat instead of eggs. Most chicken farmers who keep layers do so with the eventual plan of selling them off as meat once they are done laying eggs.
  • Fertile eggs are profitable: Some farmers have resorted to simply buying fertile eggs from farmers with roosters and hens in their flock. Fertilized chicken eggs tend to sell for more than typical eggs.
  • Roosters provide protection: Learn the pros and cons to keeping a rooster and other important information about raising roosters before adding them to your flock. 

As you can see, the benefits don’t end with getting an egg in the nest box every morning. There are a lot of benefits and profits that come with keeping backyard chickens, even if they are just layers. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few drawbacks as well.

What Are the Disadvantages of Raising Chickens With Roosters?

Although you can get eggs in the nesting boxes every morning or sell your chicken for meat, especially the roosters, some disadvantages come with raising chickens. These include:

  • Backyard chickens are noisy: Chickens tend to be noisy. It’s not just the roosters, the noisiest of them all, but all chickens. Even when chickens lay eggs, they make quite a bit of noise, and this can be problematic when you have neighbors who aren’t chicken farmers. Learn the 5 reasons why roosters crow.
  • Chickens stink: Chickens, especially when kept confined, can stink from their droppings. This is particularly true if you live in an area with lots of rain.
  • Chickens can be expensive: When chickens stop being broody or laying eggs, they can become quite expensive to maintain. The sale of eggs and meat often offsets this cost. However, if you are particular about only keeping layers until they stop laying eggs, maintaining them can be quite expensive and not cost-effective.
  • You need enough chickens: It is best to have 8 – 10 hens per rooster to keep the hens healthy.

Chickens attract predators, such as raccoons and skunks that are attracted to your backyard by the smell and sound of a chicken. The problem with this kind of problem is that it can quickly go past the backyard.

Such predators bring financial loss with them—should they attack and decimate your flock—and many also bring diseases. This can be of great concern, especially if small children like to play in the backyard.

Furthermore, from a legal standpoint, roosters are a sensitive topic in many states, such as Florida where you need a backyard chicken permit, New York, and California. These are places where chicken farmers are required to meet strict guidelines when it comes to keeping chickens and roosters in particular. 

Can Chickens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster

Do chickens need a rooster to lay eggs? No, they don’t. However, hens need roosters to lay fertilized eggs that can lead to baby chicks and the growth of your flock. If you aren’t interested in hatching chicks, you don’t need to keep a rooster. Your hens will lay eggs without them.

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