A fairly common question that I get asked is do roosters lay eggs?
The short answer is your rooster will never lay any eggs.
But to fully understand this answer you will require some knowledge of poultry biology and anatomy.
Only hens are able to lay eggs. Your roosters’ job is to fertilize these eggs. Fertilized eggs will result in chicks whereas unfertilized eggs will not.
If you are absolutely certain that one of your eggs came from your rooster, rest assured that there is an explanation and your rooster undoubtedly was not responsible.
Keep reading to learn why…
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Do Roosters Lay Eggs?
Roosters cannot lay eggs.
The reason why is actually quite straightforward
They simply do not have the same reproductive anatomy as a hen. While roosters have the ability to fertilize a hen’s egg, their lack of ovaries and oviduct along with numerous other biological features make it impossible for your rooster to ever lay an egg.
To understand this in more detail you need to understand how an egg is made.
All eggs start out as ova and develop as they pass through a hen’s oviduct. It stops at 5 different regions responsible for different parts of the egg’s formation.
- The first stop is called the infundibulum. It is here that the yolk is released and fertilized (if sperm is present).
- The second stop is termed the magnum section of the oviduct. Here the yolk is merged with the albumen (the white part) and the egg’s shape is largely determined too.
- The third stop is called the isthmus. This is where the first two shell membranes will form and loosely hold the yolk and albumin.
- You will hear the fourth stop being called either the uterus or the shell gland. They are both the same structure. Here the rest of the albumen and the shell is added. It takes about 20 hours for the shell to form in this section of the hen’s reproductive tract. The pigments responsible for colored eggs will also be deposited here.
- The fifth and final stop is termed the vagina. It is here where the protective bloom is applied to the egg shell. The hen’s now fully formed egg will exit from this fifth and final stop.
A hen’s reproductive system consists of one ovary and one oviduct. It is within this oviduct structure that all parts of an egg, excluding the egg yolk, are formed. Again, only hens have an oviduct.
Do Hens Need Roosters To Lay Eggs?
Put simply, no!
Contrary to popular belief a hen will lay eggs with or without a rooster in the flock.
Roosters are not needed if you are simply looking for your chickens to lay fresh unfertilized eggs. Your hens will lay unfertilized eggs without the presence of a rooster. To keep your hen laying eggs you just need to make sure that she has feed, a low stress and laying-friendly environment, and gets plenty of daylight.
She will take care of the rest.
The roosters’ only role with egg laying is fertilization.
So you may be wondering if a rooster can’t lay eggs then why keep them?
There are several advantages to having a rooster that go beyond just fertilizing your hen’s eggs…
Roosters Role In The Flock
One of the best and most economic ways to get more chickens is to hatch your own chicks.
To do this you will need a rooster to fertilize your eggs.
This method is free and all but guarantees that most of your hens will produce fertilized eggs.
It is important that you provide enough hens for your rooster to mate with to avoid any violence towards your hens. A good rule to follow is 10 hens for every 1 rooster. You should also provide your hens a safe space where they can nest.
Another incredibly important advantage of keeping a rooster in your flock is free security.
Roosters will protect your flock against predators and other forms of danger.
They are constantly aware of their surroundings and will not only alert their flock when they sense any close danger, but will more often than not attempt to fight off any threats.
Not only do roosters protect your hens from any potential outside threats, but your rooster will help maintain a pecking order by protecting members from each other if any aggression between hens occurs.
Your rooster will help to maintain the social hierarchy within your flock and will often rule over the whole flock.
At this point you may notice that your rooster will take on a leadership position within the flock and with that comes additional responsibilities such as foraging. Your rooster will seek out food and water for the flock and alert other members if he’s found anything of substance.
Lastly, having a rooster makes for calmer hens.
Not only will your rooster help in maintaining the pecking order, but keeping a rooster will send a signal to the ladies that fighting is not tolerated.
How Do Roosters Fertilize Eggs?
Roosters are more active in their mating pursuits during the springtime.
You can actually notice a change in their behavior during this time as they begin to court hens.
The actual process of mating is a relatively quick one and usually lasts less than 30 seconds.
When a hen is ready to mate she will drop her head and body towards the ground. Once both chickens are in position your rooster will deliver what is termed a cloacal kiss.
A cloacal kiss is where the rooster’s papilla rubs against the female’s cloaca. The papilla is located on the inside of the male cloaca which is why mating between a hen and a rooster is termed a cloacal kiss!
In order for the sperm to reach the hen’s eggs she must extend her cloaca so she can be successfully mated. Do not fret if the mating between your hen and rooster is not a success. A rooster can mate between 10 to 30 times a day so your hens have plenty of chances!
After successfully mating the sperm is stored inside the hen and added to the yolk in the infundibulum.
4 Interesting Facts To Know About Egg Laying
1. Fairy Eggs
There are a number of odd and uncommon occurrences that a flock may experience that can leave owners puzzled as to who the culprit was. One type of this situation is fairy eggs!
Sometimes hens lay very early or very late in their reproductive life. These eggs are incredibly small and are known as fairy eggs. In fact during the Middle Ages these fairy eggs were called cock eggs. This still causes some confusion to this day, and some people still think these eggs were laid by their rooster(s).
However the eggs were actually laid by hens and are small because they do not contain a yolk.
2. Having a rooster does not increase egg production
Hens will lay the same number of eggs regardless of whether you have a rooster in your flock or not.
Ovulation of the yolk from the hen’s ovary will occur every 24-26 hours and a hen’s cycle will not change and is not dependent on a rooster.
3. Hens can remain fertile for up to 3 weeks after mating with a rooster
Hens can store sperm in storage tubules and can gradually use the sperm for fertilization.
This means that hens can stay fertile for around 3 weeks after mating. However, their fertility will reduce after the first week from when your hen and rooster mated. If you are trying to hatch chicks then your eggs will be most fertile 1 to 3 days after mating.
4. Hens will become broody without a rooster.
Although it is impossible for hens to lay fertilized eggs without a rooster, hens do not know this fact and may choose to go broody over unfertilized eggs. Keep in mind though that broodiness tends to be breed specific and hens will become broody for no reason at all sometimes!
If you do have roosters in your flock they are not responsible for the broodiness of any hens. Removing roosters from the flock will not stop your hens from being broody. You will need to break them.
If there is one fact to take away from this article it is this: your rooster will never, under any circumstances, lay any eggs.
It is simply not anatomically possible.
If you are absolutely certain that they did then consider that one of your pullets may have laid a fairy egg or that your rooster may be a hen!
Although your rooster will never gift you with the same farm fresh eggs that your hens may, they do provide numerous other positive qualities that make up for their lack of egg laying abilities.
Security, flock management and mating are all in a day’s work for a rooster.
What do you love most about keeping a rooster in your flock? Let us know in the comments section below…