Setting up a chicken farm can be a complicated and daunting task at first. What types of chickens do you need and how many, how should you set up the chicken coop, how should you best care for your backyard flock, what are the best ways for proper egg production, and many other such questions all need to be answered before you start.
For example, one of the most common questions we get is do chickens need a rooster to lay eggs, quickly followed by – should you get a rooster for your flock? This question can seem confusing initially but it’s actually quite simple. So, let’s break it down below.
Do chickens need a rooster to lay eggs?
The short and easy answer here is – no, they don’t. Chickens do need roosters to lay fertile eggs that have the potential of hatching into baby chicks if cared for properly, however, hens are more than capable of laying infertile eggs in the absence of males to mate with.
A simple analogy with human biology that can explain this is the human woman’s menstruation cycle. Hens lie infertile eggs on a near-daily basis when they haven’t mated with a rooster for the same reason – their body is producing the egg cells regardless of whether the hens have mated or not and it then disposes of these egg cells (that grow into actual eggs in the case of chickens) regardless of whether the eggs have been fertilized or not.
So, if you have a backyard flock full of hens only and without a single rooster in sight – don’t worry, your hens will continue producing 3-6 eggs a week (depending on the breed) every week with no issue. That is, of course, if you take good care of your hens.
The next common question we see is whether the lack of a rooster results in fewer eggs or in lower-quality eggs – ones with a lower nutritional value, for example.
And the answer here is a “No” as well – not having a rooster in your flock has nothing to do with the number or nutritional value of the eggs your flock will produce. In other words – you don’t need a rooster at all for your chickens to lay eggs.
In fact, a curious point here is that, if you have a rooster, the eggs fertilized by the male are also edible just like unfertilized eggs. The only difference is that you’d want to separate the fertilized eggs from the hen as soon as possible and put them in a cool place so that chickens don’t start developing in them.
Here’s a good video showcasing the difference between a fertilized and a non-fertilized chicken egg. As you can see, it really doesn’t matter if the egg is fertilized as long as you’ve collected it soon after it’s been laid and if you’ve refrigerated it so that it hasn’t started developing into a chick.
What should you do for your hens to lay more and better eggs?
All you need to do for your egg-laying hens is give them good living conditions and high-quality feed. Having enough protein and calcium in their diet, for example, is especially important if you want your chickens to lay plenty of large eggs with a tough enough eggshell.
Other chicken-keeping tips include giving them good and hygienic places to “dust bathe” in, making sure that your birds are healthy and happy, and that they have more than enough freedom to forage and socialize – these are all things that drastically improve both the quantity and the quality of the eggs your hens will lay with or without a rooster.
Should you get a rooster for your flock?
All of the above makes it sounds like roosters are just completely unnecessary. Of course, that’s not the case. Roosters are needed if you want to use your chickens not just for eggs but also for their meat – in that case, having a rooster helps keep up the population of your flock even after processing the occasional chicken for meat.
What’s more, even if you’re looking after your chickens mainly for their eggs, chickens don’t live forever and you’ll still need to replenish your flock’s numbers every once in a while. The two main ways of doing that are by getting new chickens from somewhere or by getting a rooster to fertilize your flock’s eggs.
Both methods have their pros and cons, of course – introducing new chickens into a pre-established flock can be tricky as chickens have strong hierarchical tendencies.
On the other hand, even if you have a rooster so that you can hatch some eggs every once in a while, that’s still a bothersome way to introduce new birds into your flock – raising young chicks takes effort and time.
So, whether you should get a rooster for your flock or not depends on a few factors:
- What are you keeping chickens for? If it’s for meat, you’ll need larger numbers of chickens from somewhere which makes having a rooster a good option. If you’re only keeping chickens for their eggs, you won’t need to replenish your flock’s numbers so often and it’s less of a hassle just to get a few new chickens every once in a while.
- How big is your flock? The larger the total number of chickens you want to look after, the more new additions you’d need. If you only want to keep a small flock of egg-laying chickens, however, the need for a rooster decreased drastically.
- Do you want to breed chickens? Some farmers want to breed their chickens themselves so that they are always sure what the genetics and characteristics of their birds are.
- Are you ok getting new chickens from elsewhere – from other breeders or from a rescue, for example? Some farmers don’t trust other breeders for their birds but if you’ve found a place you trust to get healthy chickens from, this is often the easiest solution.
Things to consider before getting a rooster
To further help you arrive at a conclusion on whether or not you want to get a rooster for your flock, here are some considerations:
- Check your local state or territory regulations as roosters aren’t legally allowed for backyard chicken keepers due to noise concerns. A rooster’s crow early in the morning can be a problem for your neighbors even if there are no government regulations against it.
So, even if there are no city ordinances and city limits against it, you may have to find a way to slice the early-morning cockerel alarm somehow. Rooster night boxes are a common solution against morning crowing. These are meant for the rooster to sleep in and not be able to see the sunrise. They are seen as too confining by many people, however, as the birds often can’t sleep properly or stretch their necks.
Rooster collars are another device used to reduce crowing. – they are meant to be just loose enough for the rooster to live but too tight for the bird to be able to crow too loudly. Needless to say, the RSPCA opposes the use of such devices.
- Introducing new birds into your flock can be complicated as chickens have very structured hierarchies. The term “pecking order” comes from chickens, after all. So, chicken keepers that want to avoid a hen fight will often avoid bringing “foreign” chickens into the flock and rely on their rooster instead.
- If you want to have multiple roosters or to breed your hens – which would result in having multiple roosters eventually – you’ll need to be prepared with extra space for them.
- If you have a rooster, you’d need to take the eggs from the chicken’s nesting boxes every morning and store them in a cool place to prevent young chicks from hatching.
- Consider whether it’s worth it to bother with a rooster when you can just source more hens from a rescue if you want to increase the size of your flock.
All in all, chickens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs. In fact, having a rooster often complicates things in many ways, especially if you live in a hot climate as you need to be extra careful to stop the eggs from developing into chicks. Having a rooster is still a viable way to multiply your flock, however, so that’s always something to consider.