Do Hens Lay Eggs Without A Rooster?
For the backyard chicken farmer, few experiences are as rewarding and exciting as gathering fresh eggs. For many of us, this is one of the main benefits of raising poultry. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on how to get the best bang for your cluck when it comes to egg production. One of those tried and true pieces of folk wisdom says you must have a rooster in your flock in order to get eggs. So let’s explore. Do hens lay eggs without a rooster?
No Rooster? No Problem!
The short answer is yes. In fact, contrary to the old adage, it may actually be better NOT to have a rooster if your main concern is harvesting eggs. Here’s why:
There is NO evidence to suggest that having a rooster is a necessity for egg production.While some studies indicate that a rooster can slightly increase laying, they are not essential and have much less impact on laying than living conditions, diet, and breed selection (more about this in another blog post!)
We can also use simple observation to prove this point. If you go to a commercial egg farm, there isn’t a rooster to be seen. We all know the lengths these operations will go to wrangle eggs out of hens, so if they don’t have roosters, we don’t need to have them either.
Roosters and Egg Quality
Have you ever cracked open an egg and seen a small milky bullseye on the yolk? That’s most likely because the egg is fertilized.
How does fertilization affect egg quality? For starters, think of the aesthetic. Some people aren’t bothered by that milky bullseye in the yolk, but others are. City folks especially can be turned off by the bullseye because they don’t understand that it’s a normal phenomenon. They may think it is rotten or deformed and choose not to buy or barter from your farm in the future.
Fertilized eggs unnecessarily limit the timeframe in which you must gather eggs. Have you ever been out in the coop and you find an egg in a weird spot your hens don’t normally lay? Do you pick it up and start on your omelette?
If this egg is fertilized, you could be in for an unexpected surprise. It only takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch. If it’s fertilized, and has been sitting there for a couple of days, you may have a literal eye staring out of your frying pan. Bon Appetit!
Roosters and Hobby Farm Economics
While most backyard farmers are not in it for profit, keeping a coop of chickens does cost money, and you need to be conscientious of where you can cut spending. If you main focus is egg production, keeping a rooster may not make economical sense, as you’ll have to buy feed and care for another bird that is giving you nothing in return by way of eggs.
Gone But Not Forgotten
So, you decide a rooster doesn’t make sense on your farm. You find a wonderful new home for him at your cousin’s house and you think it’s gonna be clear eggs and smooth sailing from here. Well . . . not quite!
Over time, hens developed a way to fertilize their eggs long after a rooster is gone. When chickens mate, semen is deposited into the vaginal tube of the hen. Most of the sperm goes directly to the ovaries in an attempt to fertilize right away, but some of the sperm is caught on the way up in what are called sperm storage tubules. The sperm in these tubules can stay alive in the body of the hen and continue fertilizing eggs long after the rooster is gone. Aren’t chickens amazing!?
This means that exposure to a rooster, even if it’s for a short time, can result in fertilized eggs even in the rooster’s absence. And as we already learned, fertilization can affect aesthetics, and the shelf life of your precious eggs.
Final Thoughts…What Do You Really Want?
So, we’ve debunked the myth that you need a rooster for hens to lay eggs, but that doesn’t mean you need to make chicken soup. It really is about what you want and the goals you have for your flock.
If your goal is to sell eggs to the public, you may decide to avoid owning a rooster and the drama comes with him. If your goal is to breed or have a self-sustaining flock, then you may decide to keep a rooster. There is no one “right way” to do decide what chickens to keep. The most important thing is to align your approach to dreams and goals for your flock and farm.
What do you think? What is your experience with owning roosters and egg production? Let’s chat in the comments.