Do Hens Need A Rooster To Lay Eggs? (Explained!)

I have been keeping and breeding chickens for more than two decades, and over that time I have been lucky enough to keep hundreds of chickens.

Adding chickens to any home is often the first step toward becoming self-sufficient, but for many, it is a big first step that brings lots of questions. I spend much of my time these days giving talks about keeping and breeding chickens.

One question that frequently gets asked by those who are new to chicken keeping is ‘Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs?’.

No, hens do not need a rooster to be present to be able to lay eggs. Chickens will lay eggs even if they are kept in a group solely made up of hens (female chickens), those eggs just won’t be fertile and would not be able to hatch out a chick.

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Do Hens Need A Rooster To Lay Eggs?

The good news is, that hens do not need a rooster to be present in the flock for them to be able to lay eggs.

The vast majority of backyard chicken keepers do not keep a rooster in their flock, and almost no commercial egg producers have one either.

Whether or not you have a rooster in your flock does not affect the number of eggs a chicken lays or the size of those eggs. Eggs laid without a rooster being present taste exactly the same as those laid with a rooster.

With that said, there are significant pros to keeping a rooster with your hens, although there are a number of downsides too.

I will take a minute or two below to share some of my experiences of why you would, and would not want to keep a rooster in with your hens.

Benefits of Keeping a rooster

I currently keep roosters with a number of my flocks. There is no doubt that having the roosters in with those flocks changes the dynamic and brings a new layer of chicken keeping to my hobby.

The roosters bring order to a flock, reducing the amount of aggression shown between the hens.

In a group of all female chickens, someone has to be top of the pecking order, and there can occasionally be serious disagreements between the hens, with them pecking one another quite viciously.

Almost 100% of the time, a rooster will sit at the top of the pecking order, and all of the hens know this. There is usually very little fighting when a rooster is present.

Roosters are also good a protecting their hens. Roosters will usually be the first to sound the alarm if predators are around, and this is especially true if hawks or eagles are circling above.

Roosters give off a distinctive crow when they sense danger, and all the hens in their flock will run towards the rooster when the alarm call goes out.

Roosters are typically bold to the point of being aggressive, and they will often tackle predators that are threatening their hens.

This also presents itself as an issue when the rooster decided the homesteader is a predator and insists on attacking them every time they enter the enclosure.

Over the years I have had a number of roosters that just attacked everyone who entered their runs. Sadly, roosters that are that aggressive can not be allowed to stay, otherwise, no one would be able to service the coop or collect the eggs.

If you hope to breed your chickens and hatch out the next generation from your own stock, then you will need a rooster. Without a rooster in the flock, no eggs will be fertile and as such, it will not be possible to hatch any chicks.

Roosters are also incredibly attractive. There is no doubt that their flamboyant plumage, bright colors, and typically long tail feathers make them significantly more attractive than the hens

Downsides of Keeping a rooster

Although there are many advantages to keeping a rooster with your flock, there are also a number of downsides, and for many people, those downsides outweigh the upsides.

The number one objection to keeping a rooster is the noise they make. There is no getting away from the fact that roosters are noisy.

They aren’t even just noisy in the mornings either. Roosters can crow at any point during the day. A roosters crow has evolved not only to be loud but to carry for long distances. You can be a significant distance from a crowing rooster, and still, hear him quite clearly.

If you live in a suburban area you may end up falling out with your neighbors if they do not appreciate the early morning wake-up call.

To my mind, a roosters call is one of the best sounds in all of nature, but non-chicken lovers will almost certainly not agree with me.

A rooster’s noise does not however have to mean you can’t keep a rooster. There are products on the market that prevent a rooster from crowing, or at least reduce the volume significantly.

So-called Rooster Collars (like this one from Amazon.com) sit around the rooster’s neck, under his feathers and they prevent the rooster from taking really deep gulps of air which he then uses to produce all that sound.

At first glance, these collars look harsh, but I have tried them in the past, and the roosters soon get used to them. They change a roosters call from that deep, far-reaching distinctive sound, to a far quieter, and more tolerable crowing.

As mentioned above, roosters can also be aggressive. Roosters have evolved the ability to fight with rival roosters for access to the best females.

Roosters can and will fight with one another, sometimes to the death. They also occasionally show aggression towards us homesteaders, which can be a real problem if your rooster is one one the larger breeds.

Many breeds of roosters have large, sharp spurs on their legs, which can cause fairly deep cuts if they catch you with them.

Roosters can also wear out your hen’s thanks to their almost constant desire to create the next generation.

One rooster can easily service 10 to 12 hens every day, and if you keep a rooster with just 4 or 5 hens, his desires may take their toll on your hens.

Roosters are fairly brutal lovers and they usually grab hold of the hens by the back of their necks. This often leads to feathers being pulled out and the hens developing bald patches.

If this happens, the hens may need to be given a break by separating the rooster from the flock for a few days.

The final reason you may not wish to keep a rooster with your hens is it may breach local rules or zoning laws. In your area there may be local ordinances that forbid you from keeping roosters, so check carefully before you bring one home.

In Conclusion

Keeping a rooster with your hens adds a whole new dynamic to chicken keeping, but having a rooster is not necessary if you are just looking for some eggs to enjoy with your family.

Hens are not reliant on the presence of a rooster to be able to lay eggs at all.

There are many benefits to keeping a single rooster with your hens, but there are also many drawbacks too, and for a lot of people, those drawbacks will out weight the benefits.

If you found this article interesting, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘How Much Space Do Chickens Need?‘.


Aaron Homewood

Aaron Homewood is HomesteadSavvy.com‘s poultry editor. Arron has spent over 20 years keeping, breeding, and showing different poultry breeds, including chickens, ducks, geese, and quail.​
Poultry Editor

Article Sources:

  1. Backyard Chickens Cornell Cooperative Extension