There are lots of misconceptions around the purpose of a rooster in a flock of hens and whether you need one for your hens to lay eggs on a regular basis.
Roosters have a bad reputation and many are abandoned or passed for re-homing because people hatch them or re-home them without knowing the full facts on the role they play as part of a flock of chickens.
We’ve chosen to keep a rooster with our flock of hens and we’ve learned a lot about them along the way, including their good and bad sides and how they impact a flock of hens.
In short, you don’t need a rooster as part of a flock of chickens in order for them to lay eggs for human consumption. Most hens at their peak and given the right conditions will lay eggs on a daily basis with or without a rooster. If you’re looking to produce fertilized eggs for the purpose of hatching, then a rooster is needed.
Read on to find out more about the purpose of a rooster within a flock of hens along with the differences between fertilized and unfertilized eggs.
How Do Chickens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?
Most healthy chickens( given the right conditions) will lay an egg almost every day whether there’s a rooster present or not.
This is because they’re constantly ovulating and forming eggs which they usually lay and abandon in a nest without a care. These eggs are unfertilized and will never form into a chick.
Although hens who have no contact with a rooster will never lay a fertilized egg they will still choose to lay them in the comfort of a nest and will take time to sit on the nest until the egg arrives.
Once the hen has laid the egg it will abandon it in the nest and get on with their day as normal.
In some cases, a hen might become broody, which means she has an intense desire to lay and sit on a number of eggs in a nest until they hatch, which of course they never will.
The hen doesn’t know or understand that the egg is unfertilized or not and its behaviour will be the same in both situations. Luckily (unless you want to breed) most hens don’t go broody over their eggs.
Do Hens Lay Better With a Rooster Around?
Some chicken owners say that having a rooster can increase egg production while others see no difference. This really depends on certain factors such as age, the breed of the chickens and the dynamics of the flock.
I can understand why in some cases, there could be an increase in egg production because a rooster can help to bring order to an unruly or unorganised flock.
Personally, I’ve not seen much difference to laying production by introducing a rooster, but this is because we generally keep hybrids and ex-battery hens who are free-range and lay most days anyway.
When a rooster is first introduced to a flock of hens it can throw them out of regular laying for a few days while they get to know each other. A rooster will also greatly change the dynamics of a flock because in most cases it will take top spot in the pecking order.
Roosters are generally boisterous creatures and in some cases, they will make attempts towards mating with the hens throughout the day, but particularly in the morning and around the time of laying.
This doesn’t usually bother the hens too much and they’ll go straight back to what they were doing after he’s finished.
Some hens will stay by the rooster’s side most of the time and become attentive towards him. In return, he offers protection and will even help them to find morsels of food as a reward.
Our rooster is very attentive and regularly waits for his girls outside the coop while each one lays even though he could choose to be free-ranging.
How Can You Tell if Chicken Eggs Are Fertilized?
If you keep a rooster with a small flock of hens then chances are most of the eggs which you collect will be fertilized.
When the rooster mates with a hen he deposits sperm which will fertilize an egg inside the hen around 24 hours before it’s laid.
This means the egg has a chance of becoming a chick if its incubated either in an artificial incubator or kept warm by a hen for a period of 21 days.
You can identify if an egg has been fertilized by looking at the yolk of the egg. If there is a white circle which looks like a bulls-eye then it’s fertilized. This circle is called the Germinal Disc and is where cells start to multiply to form an embryo.
This circle is easy to spot with the naked eye and can be spotted in eggs where a rooster is present within the flock.
The image below shows the germinal disk inside a fertilized egg:
Can You Eat Fertilized Chicken Eggs?
Its a common misconception that a fertilized egg is forming into a chick, however, this isn’t the case.
If an egg is fertilized, it’s basically a tiny seed which has the potential to form into an embryo if the eggs are kept in the right conditions for three weeks.
This article was first published on January 26, 2021 by Pentagon-Pets.
For an egg to start forming into an embryo the optimum temperature for this to happen is around 37-38°C/100°F and without these conditions, the cells within the egg yolk will not multiply to form an embryo.
It’s perfectly safe to eat fertilized eggs which have been stored in a cool place or at room temperatures. Other than a small circle in the yolk, you won’t notice any difference when it comes to using the eggs.
Any eggs which come from a flock which has a rooster are likely to be fertilized, it’s nothing to worry about and it doesn’t mean you’re ending the life of a chick when you crack one into a pan.
Deciding Whether to Get a Rooster
Whether or not a rooster is right for you and your hens is really a decision which needs to be carefully considered, because although they’re full of personality, not everyone appreciates their behaviour.
Because roosters can be noisy and in some cases aggressive, they need to be kept in the right environment where they won’t disturb neighbours and they have enough space.
In some areas, there are also restrictions on keeping roosters and enforcements can be put into place to have them removed.
If you’re deciding if getting a rooster is right for you, take a look at my following article to find out all the pros and cons:
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Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on January 26, 2021.
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on January 26, 2021.