One of the primary reasons for raising backyard chickens is the fresh eggs that your feathered friends will provide. But new chicken owners often wonder if they need a rooster for egg production.
Let’s take a quick look at why you may, or may not, want to keep a rooster as part of your backyard flock!
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Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs
No, your hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. Your hens will still lay the same quantity and quality of eggs, with or without the presence of a rooster. This is good news for those of you who may live in an area that roosters aren’t allowed, but still want to enjoy fresh chicken eggs.
So now that you know that a rooster isn’t necessary for the egg-laying process, let’s look at a few more factors to determine if you want a rooster in your backyard flock or not!
What causes a chicken to lay eggs?
Eggs are laid as part of the hen’s ovulation process. Every 24-26 hours a yolk is released from the hen’s ovary, with or without fertilization.
The signal to release an egg comes from stimulation of the pituitary gland. This gland is stimulated by light.
Once a hen reaches egg laying age, she will need to receive about 14-16 hours of light per day for egg production. This is why egg production is highest in the summer months, when the daylight hours are long.
If you’re new to chickens, be sure to check out my other chicken-related posts!
Reasons You Should Keep a Rooster
If you are hoping to one day hatch baby chicks from your laying hens, you will need a rooster to fertilize those eggs.
The ability to hatch new chicks from your own eggs is one of the greatest benefits to having your own rooster. This eliminates your dependence on outside sources for a new flock of chickens.
We like to hatch our chicks for our egg-laying chickens by allowing a broody hen to sit. For our heritage breed meat production chickens, we utilize an incubator to hatch.
Regardless of the way you hatch – the fact remains that you need fertile eggs. And that means a rooster is necessary.
Protection for Hen
Fertile eggs aren’t the only reason to keep a rooster though.
Now this one isn’t a true of every rooster, however a good rooster will do it’s best to provide protection for his hens.
Does this mean that your rooster will fight large predators? No, more than likely not. But he will alert the hens of approaching danger and do his best to herd them away.
We always try to keep a good rooster with our free range hens.
Lavendar Orpington Roosters have been some of my favorite to raise! Read all about them in this Guide to Lavendar Orpingtons.
You may think that only roosters act aggressively, but that’s not the case. Chickens always establish a pecking order. In the absence of a rooster, you will often end up with a hen fight as your girls try to establish dominance.
Sometimes you’ll even end up with a hen that is a bully to your weaker hens.
A dominant rooster will usually put an end to the hen fights since there will no longer be a question of who is in charge.
But this isn’t a job for just any rooster. Replacing a bully hen with an overly aggressive rooster will just end in more stress and harm in your flock.
Reasons You May Not Want a Rooster
If you are in an urban area, or just need to keep the noise factor down, you probably should not have a rooster.
I know everyone talks about roosters crowing at the crack of dawn, but the truth is – they crow all day long.
And if you have more than one rooster, be prepared for “crow offs” where they will crow back and forth, over and over.
Now I mentioned earlier that a good rooster can provide protection for your flock of hens. But there are also aggressive roosters.
These aren’t roosters that just respond when provoked, but roosters who will attack anything and anyone that gets near.
If you have small children, you will need to pay special attention for aggressive roosters. They can be very scary and harmful. At one point, we had a rooster who would chase our children across the yard anytime he saw them.
Needless to say, he wasn’t a good fit for our free range homestead.
Overbreeding of Hens
Some roosters will also have a “favorite hen” or two that they will breed repeatedly. This can lead to your hens being hurt, stressed, or both.
These roosters aren’t always being aggressive – they’re just doing what chickens do. But in order to provide protection for the hens we notice being bred heavily, we use these chicken saddles.
The saddles go under the feathers and across the hens back. This protects her skin from the sharp nails of a rooster.
Another cause of overbreeding like this could be that you don’t have enough hens for your rooster. You generally want to keep a ratio of 10 hens to every 1 rooster.
Do Certain Breeds of Chicken Have Nice Roosters?
Orpingtons, Marans, and Delawares have all provided our homestead with friendly and protective roosters.
Other chicken breeds that tend to be homestead favorites for friendly roosters are the New Hampshire, Plymouth Rocks, and Brahmas.
Of course, you’re not guaranteed to get a friendly rooster from these breeds. These are just the breeds that tend to have a milder manner when compared against different breeds.
A good rooster can be a great addition to your chicken flock your location allows. You’ll be provided with fertile eggs for hatching and protection for your hens. However, an aggressive rooster can cause stress and harm to your hens.
When introducing a rooster, you should monitor to make sure that he isn’t being overly aggressive with your hens.