A very common question I get about backyard chickens is “Can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?”
Now, if you’ve asked yourself this question, and are still confused, or if you’ve asked someone else, and they’ve laughed at you mercilessly, don’t worry.
It’s a very common question, and one that tends to confuse new owners.
Particularly since, it seems, everyone hears wonky backyard chickens advice everywhere you turn once you bring a few hens into your backyard.
In fact, I think every old time farmer who lives around our farm has stopped by and told us a few tall tales or two about chickens they raised in their childhood.
We’ve even gotten a few sprinkles of advice that have made me scratch my head and wonder where the hell they picked up that nugget of “knowledge” from.
One such bit of advice (and you’d think they would know better since they claimed to have raised “over 1,000 chickens in their day”) is that a hen won’t lay eggs unless a rooster is present.
And that’s probably why I have so many folks emailing me asking “can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?”
So what’s the answer?
Never fear – in short, yes, chickens can lay eggs without a rooster being present.
So, if you’ve been putting off getting a backyard flock because your town doesn’t allow cockerels and you think you need one to get eggs, you can breathe a bit easier.
(And if you want to see some absolutely adorable nesting boxes, check them out right here)
Yes, hens can lay eggs without a rooster, and they’ll might even lay them a bit easier and more regularly.
You only need a rooster if you want to HATCH chicken eggs. In that case, the rooster is needed to fertilize the hen’s egg, which is the equivalent to a human woman’s ovum. If you’re wondering “how does a rooster fertilize an egg?” then here’s an article about how chickens mate.
Now if you’re wondering “can male chickens lay eggs,” the answer is an emphatic NO. They don’t have the right…erm….equipment.
Why a rooster can make egg laying more difficult
So now that you know whether chickens will lay eggs without a rooster, let’s look at why it might even be to your benefit to NOT keep a rooster.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We have more than one rooster on our farm, and they’re fabulous.
BUT I’m the first to say that there are times when it’s better to not keep the masculine gender in your flock (or, in the case of husbands, in your home. Just kidding. Not really.)
Roos can be cool guys, but they can also be huge….well, since this is a G rated backyard chickens blog, we’ll just go with “pains in the butt.”
A rooster’s main job is to protect his ladies. And sometimes, he can get a bit too possessive.
What do I mean?
Well, you’ve probably read stories on Facebook of a rooster flogging his owner. And it’s not fun.
I’ve even read stories of chicken mamas who have to walk into their yards carrying sticks so they have something to distract the rooster with.
Now if you want to live your life with a flogging rooster, that’s completely up to you and your personal situation. However, if you just don’t want to live that way, know that it’s completely fine to give that rooster a new home.
No one should ever be abused by a rooster in their own backyard.
So why can a rooster start flogging? It’s usually triggered because the roo doesn’t want ANYONE (anyone meaning YOU or another rooster) messing with his harem.
A second reason they can be difficult to keep around is because they not only get possessive of their hens, but some roos can excessively mate with their hens, to the point that the ladies are suffering bodily damage.
Yes. this is a thing, and it can definitely happen. Time for a story.
A few years ago, we decided to produce pasture-raised meat roosters. We figured they would be a better bet than females because they grow larger.
All went well, until the roos were about 6 months. And the hormones started kicking in.
And all hell broke loose.
At the time, our hens were also free ranging, and let’s just say it was a bit like a prison riot in the yard for a quick minute. (Wondering how does a chicken mate?)
In other words, too many roosters per hen leads to a very bad situation. If you’re wondering about the idea hen to rooster ratio, ONE rooster per TEN hens is a good minimum.
Now, we were able to quickly resolve the issue and the ladies came out perfectly fine, but it took another quick minute for their back feathers to regrow.
While this was a situation of too many males per female, any cockerel that has a harem of hens to oversee can feel he has to mate excessively to establish dominance. And that can lead to lost feathers and eventually lower egg production.
So, in some ways, your hens might produce eggs BETTER than if there was a male present.
Now the next time you see someone ask on Facebook “Can chickens lay eggs without a rooster?” you can point them to this article for the definitive answer!