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If you have not been around chickens at all, or you are not from the country you probably have some questions that might feel silly and you could be afraid to ask them to a real person.
When it comes to female chickens and egg production questions I’ve got you covered in this post.
To answer your question: do chickens mate to lay eggs?
The short answer is no.
Hens will lay eggs regardless of there being a rooster around. You don’t even have to keep a rooster if you don’t want to. More on the purpose of roosters in a second.
A hen may even try to “set” on a clutch even if it is full of infertile eggs. The reason you don’t want to let her do that is because most hens don’t get off the nest to eat very often. They lose weight and stop laying as well. On top of that, you will just have a pile of rotten eggs after she sits on them for a while. Collect the eggs every day and pull her off the nest.
Learning about a hen’s laying cycle is important for those who keep backyard chickens. It’s helpful to understand the process and can help ensure healthy and consistent egg production.
In this blog post, we will dive into the depths of a hen’s reproductive system, exploring her laying cycle and shedding light on the captivating process she goes through to produce those precious eggs.
Understanding the Hen’s Laying Cycle
Ok so how does this whole egg-laying thing work? First don’t expect eggs from your hens until they are at least 5 months of age. It can be easy to feel like they should be laying sooner but the hen’s body just isn’t there yet.
The laying cycle of a hen is a biological process governed by hormonal changes within her body. These changes occur in response to a combination of factors such as daylight duration, age, nutrition, and overall health. Let’s break down the hen’s laying cycle into its key stages:
Juvenile Stage: During the first few months of a chick’s life, her reproductive system remains dormant. But once the young hen gets to the age she can start laying her first eggs you may find some odd shapes or really small eggs while her body is figuring this whole process out.
Sexual Maturity: Around the age of 4-5 months, depending on the breed, hens reach sexual maturity. At this point, the reproductive system becomes fully functional, and the hen is capable of laying eggs. — Notice I said capable. I didn’t say laying at full capacity. More on that in a bit.
Egg Formation: A hen will create an egg every 25 hours or so. Whether or not it has been fertilized. A hen ovulates an egg yolk and goes to work creating the egg shell and adding the egg white to the eggs. When the egg is ready to be laid, the hen experiences muscular contractions that aid in pushing the egg through the hen’s oviduct and out of the vent. The entire process of egg-laying usually takes 20-30 minutes. Once laid, the cycle begins the whole process again with the development of a new follicle.
What Can Cause A Hen To Lay Less Often
The Breed Is The First Factor – What new chicken owners may not realize is that not all breeds lay the same amount in a year AND some chicken breeds take longer to get to laying age. Popular breeds like silkie chickens or polish chickens will lay about half the eggs that breeds like Leghorns or Rhode Island Reds will do. — Read this post to help you find the right chicken breed for you if you want to make sure you get lots of chicken eggs on your homestead.
If you are completely new to raising chickens I HIGHLY recommend you get this super affordable beginner’s guide to raising chickens. Its easy to get through and will give you a clear and wholistic view of what it takes to raise chickens.
Lighting – Chickens need 14hrs of daylight to trigger their body into laying eggs. Here is why that is. The daylight hours are one factor that tells the hen’s body what time of year it is. In her mind laying eggs means having babies and raising chicks whether she lays unfertilized eggs or not. She’s not laying eggs for human consumption.
Animals in general have babies when the seasons are right for the baby chicks to be fed well. NOT in the dead of winter. So it only makes sense that they slow down or completely stop laying eggs through the winter.
If you want your chickens to keep laying through the winter one thing you can do to help with this is add artificial light to the chicken coop.
Poor Nutrition – It can be tempting to want to feed your chickens on kitchen scraps and scratch gains or corn but that is going to come back to bite you in the butt. The number of eggs you get will significantly reduce and potentially the quality of eggs could diminish as well. You will get a weaker eggshell and your hens harmed because the egg can’t handle the laying process because the shell is too weak and it could break inside the hen and cause her to get egg bound.
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Why Have A Rooster
There are two main purposes of roosters and that is to fertilize the eggs.
And second, a good rooster will watch out for predators and alert the rest of the flock to any danger that is nearby. This is typically done by the dominant rooster but once one chicken sounds off a warning the rest of the flock will follow suit.
The interesting thing is that you can have secondary roosters and one may do most of the mating with your backyard hens. But the other is the protector of the flock. We have three roosters right now and two standard roosters tend to do most of the matings. But the one bantam rooster is the most watchful.
However, if you don’t have a rooster present in your flock there will be a hen that steps up and will be the lead hen if needed. Typically she would need to be a bit bolder though.
How Many Roosters Can You Have
This is going to depend if you have an aggressive rooster already but typically if you have 5 hens for every rooster in your chicken flock they should be fine.
Just keep in mind that if you do have more than a single rooster you may see them fuss at each other every now and then. There is going to be a pecking order and if you have had one rooster for a while and you bring in a new rooster they are going to have to work out whose boss. You won’t be able to stop it. Unless they are all out killing each other let them fight it out. Or you will have to make the choice to sell one or add the rooster you don’t want to the freezer.
People are not going to buy a mean rooster or one that is mean to other animals even if they aren’t attacking humans.
To wrap up the mating process is not required for you to get lots of farm-fresh eggs on your homestead. But if you want your egg-laying hens to free range and have protection its a good idea to have at least one young rooster in your backyard flock. However, make sure you are allowed to have them if you live in a city. Most urban areas don’t allow roosters because of the noise.
Pro Tip: smaller breeds of chickens will have a much higher pitch crow so if you don’t want a super obnoxious rooster then a larger more heavy bodied rooster should be much quieter. We had a few phoenix roosters for a bit and lord have mercy those boys were loud. But all of our larger breeds have been much more tolerable.
What Chickens Mating Ritual Look Like
The rooster will try to get the hen’s attention by doing what looks like a chicken mating dance by dropping his outer wing and circling around her. He will claim onto the hen saddle and hold onto the neck feathers behind her comb. The deed is typically done really quickly and the rooster hops off.
Occasional mating isn’t a big deal but if you have a favorite hen of the roosters or you simply have too many over mating can cause stress on the hen’s body and cause her to slow down egg laying or even stop.
You don’t need a rooster to get fresh eggs and having one or two is a good idea if they behave themselves. But don’t get too many roosters or you will have problems.
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