Do Hens Need a Rooster To Lay Eggs?

Here's What You Need to Know About Keeping a Flock of Laying Hens

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: klimkin/Pixabay

Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs? It’s a reasonable question to ask. If fresh backyard eggs are your goal, you need to know how to make that happen. Plus, if you live in an area that doesn’t allow roosters, then you need to cover all your bases before you start a backyard flock. The simple answer to this question is no, hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. Here’s why…

No Roosters Allowed

In addition to strict home-owner association by-laws, many town and city ordinances prohibit the ownership of roosters. The most common reasoning behind this is that roosters will disturb the peace with their round-the-clock crowing.

Another consideration is that roosters are instinctively aggressive. Not all, but many will attack anybody that comes too close to them.

Regardless of whether these beliefs are fact or fiction, it’s understandable that this prohibition can cause concern. Why go to the trouble of building or buying a coop, equipping it, and raising chicks if the pullets won’t ever be able to lay an egg without a rooster’s help?

Read more: Enjoy this fun trio of true rooster tales!

How Do Chickens Mate?

Fortunately, when it comes to a hen’s production cycle, a rooster is only required if you wish to hatch chicks. A rooster will mate with a hen, inseminating her with his sperm. The sperm will penetrate the germinal disk or germ spot on the yolk, fertilizing it, as it begins to travel down the hen’s oviduct.

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A rooster’s sperm can last up to one month inside the oviduct. So a strong probability exists that more than one egg will be fertilized.

How Eggs Are Made

Whether roosters are present or not, hens will produce eggs on their own. A bird will start laying once she reaches a certain age (usually 16 to 18 weeks, depending on the breed) and if specific conditions are met.

A hen requires a minimum of 14 hours of daylight (natural or artificial) to stimulate ovulation and start laying. She also needs a daily supply of fresh water as well as nutritious layer feed, preferably one fortified with calcium to help with the production of egg shells.

If all these conditions are met, a hen will lay an egg approximately every 26 hours. A new yolk is typically released once the previous egg is laid. Eventually, she will lay too late in the day to trigger the next yolk’s release. This results in one or more days of rest before she begins to lay again.

Read more: Interested in hatching your own chicks? Here’s how!

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

Different breeds of chicken have different rates of lay. Breeds such as White Leghorns, Australorps, Ameraucanas and Polish are excellent layers. They will produce four or more eggs per week.

Breeds such as Naked Necks, Jersey Giants and New Hampshires were developed for their meat. As a result, these birds feature rapid growth but poor egg production.

Dual-purpose birds such as Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and Wyandottes lay about three to four eggs per week but can also be raised for meat.

When choosing to raise chickens, be sure to take into account the rate of lay for each breed you are considering. This will help you calculate approximately how many hens you will need to produce the quantity of eggs your family will need. Conversely, you can determine how many birds you’ll need if you plan to sell farm-fresh eggs as a homegrown business.

This article about do hens need a rooster to lay eggs was written for Chickens magazine online. Click here to subscribe.

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