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Do I Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs?

Do I Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs Blog Cover

I am always surprised when I’m asked this question. I suppose it’s a logical question for those not too familiar with poultry.
Do I need a Rooster for hens to lay eggs?
A rooster does serve a couple of useful purposes to the flock which can be a good thing for the hens and keeper alike.
However, egg laying is not one of them!
He can be a magnificent site with his full plumage glistening in the sun! Of course, he knows how stunning he is and just has to convince the ladies that he is the ‘best in the coop’!
So let’s take a look at what uses a rooster does in fact supply!

Eggs Laying and Fertility

First in answer to the original question – no, you don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. Your hens’ will lay an egg roughly every twenty five hours with or without a rooster.
However, if you wish to have fertilized eggs, followed by chicks you do need a rooster!
Many folks keep roosters for this sole purpose. If you have a good rooster that has a good temperament, it’s is likely that his offspring will be the same way. This is not written in stone, but it is usual.
To watch a rooster with the chicks is quite a sight, many roosters will help with ‘tidbitting’ the young and tolerating all sorts of precocious chick behavior! In fact, Barnevelder roosters are supposedly very good with chick care, but again, this is probably an individual thing.
Tidbitting is when a rooster finds a special treat or curious item and begins picking it up, showing it off, and dropping it again hoping the hens (or chicks) come running over. He will cluck, a very distinctive, tidbitting cluck, to alert those he loves. If you watch closely, he probably won’t partake in the feast, as he feels it is his job to give the goodies to the ladies.
Aside from tidbitting, roosters will allow their ladies to eat, forage, hunt, and peck while he busily watches for predators. He is very diligent about protecting his ladies.
So – why have a rooster in the first place? Roosters come in handy for a few things, so read on!

Flock Security

If you have a contained, secure flock, rooster security is not needed obviously. If your flock free ranges over a wide area, having a rooster (or two) is good, extra security.
Roosters will alert the hens to any perceived threat – in fact he has different vocalizations for aerial threat or ground threat. He will be alert at all times, it’s his job to ‘protect and serve’ and he takes it very seriously.
His little brain is wired to ‘spread his seed’ and protect and provide for his flock and a good rooster will do this to the best of his ability. If your rooster runs the other way, it’s time for a replacement!

Flock Balance

Many folks think it’s important to maintain a ‘natural’ balance in a flock by keeping a rooster. It certainly does provide for a more natural state of affairs, but really I don’t think the hens mind one way or the other.
A rooster can cover around fifteen or more hens, so a larger flock can tolerate more than one rooster. There will definitely be one ‘alpha’ male with subordinate males.
The dominant rooster gets all the girls he wants, when he wants. He may chase off another rooster who is showing too much attention to one of the hens.
The subordinate rooster can be quite devious in wooing and winning over some of the hens. His behaviors and character will be assessed by the hens and if they like what they see they will likely mate with him.
Roosters are happy to stop a hen fight in its tracks. The pecking order is a delicate balance and sometimes there’s a hen amongst the flock that’s a bit more aggressive (or a bully).
When your rooster hears a valid hen fight, he will run to intervene and stop the girls from going overboard.


Compared to the majority of hens, rooster plumage is gorgeous and colorful. The plumage is so designed to be attractive to the females when mating season rolls around.
Rooster PlumageRoosters have long, pointed neck feathers, referred to as hackles. They cascade down onto his back and sides adding another dimension to the existing feathers. He will also have long, flowing tail feathers called sickles.
His comb will of course be larger as will the wattles he sports. It will depend on the breed as to what sort of comb he has, but they are always much more noticeable than the hens with few exceptions.

Good and Bad Roosters

Now you know why to keep a rooster, let’s look at the characteristics of good and bad roosters. Good roosters are seemingly hard to come by. They should exhibit the following traits:

  • He will guard his flock. He’ll be out with them keeping lookout for predators. If a predator should be spotted, he will sound the alarm and if necessary may offer up his life so the girls can get to safety.
  • He will find tasty morsels for them. He’ll call them over to see what he has found with a series of ‘tuk,tuk,tuk’ calls. This is called ‘tidbitting’ and is also part of the mating game.
  • He will have a good temperament and not be mean or aggressive with the ladies.
  • He will respect you. He won’t challenge you and will keep a respectful distance and tend to his ladies. He should also not challenge small children who may be around the hens.
  • If you have a particular breed and wish to continue breeding, he must conform to the breeds’ standard. Information on breed standard can be found in American Poultry Association – Standard of Perfection.

A ‘bad’ rooster will:

  • Challenge you every chance he can get. He may ‘flog’ you with his wings or try to rake you with his spurs. This must never be tolerated, no matter how cute it may seem the first time or how big the rooster is.
  • If he is rough with the ladies you will see evidence in the form of broken feathers, bald spots and possibly lacerations to her head or back. The damage can be mitigated by using ‘saddles’ on the hens.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell a roosters’ disposition until he starts to exhibit those behaviors. If you know his ‘parents’ it may be possible to gauge how he is going to turn out, but really it’s a waiting game.

Introducing your Rooster to the Girls

If you have decided to get a rooster for your flock, there are a couple of things to do to help ensure success.
RoosterFirstly of course, is quarantine. Even if you know the previous owner of the rooster and the flocks are healthy, it’s always wise to isolate a new bird away from your flock for thirty days.
Once he has passed the quarantine stage, he now moves to the ‘look no touch’ introduction cage. This is to allow the hens time to assess him and get used to him being around. A flock of hens can and will kill a newcomer they see as a threat – rooster or not, so for his safety go slowly with the introductions.
It’s more than likely that the hens will be pleased to meet him especially if it’s springtime. My hens love to congregate around the bachelor pad in Spring – almost as if they are window shopping!
Bachelor Coops
If you happen to find yourself with more roosters than you want or need and can’t relocate or re-purpose them, build them a bachelor pad! Roosters can exist happily together as long as there aren’t any female distractions around!
Although it may sound unnatural, apparently in the wild, subordinate roosters will spend time together in all male groups and get along well. Of course, there is still a ‘pecking order’, but this is usually sorted out within a day or so and rarely gets challenged.
The only caveat to the above is to make sure the roosters are all added around the same time otherwise a newcomer may be harassed or even killed.


Sadly, roosters get a rough deal. They are generally unwelcome in towns and cities, although they create no more noise than the neighborhood dog. Neighbors will usually cite the noise as the reason for not having one living next door.
Many other roosters are given away ‘free to a good home’ and find themselves used as bait for cockfighting. Some are lucky and get rescued, others are not so fortunate.
Although I don’t really have a use for my boys’, they live together quite happily in a bachelor pad. They may be separate from the ladies, but they still keep their eyes open and issues warnings as necessary to the hens in the pasture.
Do you have a rooster? Tell us about him, we love your stories…
Read Delaware Chicken: Care, Egg Laying and Pictures

11 thoughts on “Do I Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs?

    I have a two part question:
    (1) In raising hens on a large scale to produce fertile eggs for hatching, can you recommend a positive hens to cocks ratio, to ensure all eggs layed will be fertile(example…1 cock to six hens, or, 1 cock to 8 hens…etc)
    (2) Which breed of cockrel can live together in groups of 2 or 3, with hens, without fighting each other….Thank You::

  2. Really learnt alot,how do I make my hens sit on their eggs?
    They are fond of abandoning them after laying

    1. As far as I know, there isn’t really a way to make your hens stay on the eggs. You just have to hope that one goes broody.

  3. good post please….i love it….i have a rooster but of good type….it is so important to know the behaviors of your rooster….thank yuh so very much for the information…..

  4. I purchased 25 RIR’s in February this year. I was told the chicks had been sex’ed and I was assured I have 25 hens. Someone was mistaken! I have 22 birds left from that initial purchase. One of them is a rooster! He seems to have a wonderful distemper and has been with the girls from day one. I plan to keep it that way.

  5. I have 60 hens and 5 roosters. I am a softy for them because they are so pretty and so interesting. The first is a grand tall Rhode Island Red. He is the king of the barnyard. He sings so on pitch and with a clear sound. I named him after the operatic tenor, Placido Domingo. He is, however, NOT peaceful, not even on Sundays. We have two little Silkie Roosters, one named Treasure which is white with a purple face, and one named Amazing Bandito, which is orange and brown with a black tail. Treasure sings a high pitched clear sound. Amazing Bandito sings a rather hoarse low pitched two syllable growly crow. I decided he looked Latino and was saying “Argh!”, which explains his name. Then a little girl could not keep her darling chick when it grew into a crowing rooster. Roosters are permitted outside of cities here, but only if no one complains. Well, someone complained. So, the little girl raised some babies under her heat lamp for me, and, in exchange I took her boy. He is pure white with what looks like yellow liquid poured over him. A kid came here and said he should be called, “Vanilla” and the name stuck. He sings all day every day, and he refuses to sleep in the coop but prefers to fly up about 40 or 50 feet into a tree. The last boy is black and small with, long waddles under his chin. He was fighting too much with the others despite being little so I put him into his own cop with two hens for company. He belonged to someone who was supposed to pay me monthly for caring for him. They had had him in an apartment in the city in the bathtub! Anyway, after the first month, they disappeared! When I found them, they said they were homeless and implied they expected me to let them live with us. When I refused, they stopped paying. I named him: San Go, which is the name of the God of Fire and Darkness in the N.W African lands such as Nigeria.

  6. We had two Sex Link roosters and 6 pullets (1 brown leghorn and 5 Sex Links). The biggest rooster was named Homer after Homer Simpson. He was fat and lazy too. The second one is Buster. We named him Buster after an incident when he was 3-4 weeks old. He was injured when the other 7 chicks we had started to experiment hopping and “flying”. He was lame and couldn’t stand. I kept him next to me in a towel for a week. He healed and I became mama for awhile. He always came to me when he felt threatened and needed assuring. Now he’s 20 weeks old and head of the coop. He still allows me to handle him. He is very calm and loves his treats. Homer started to become very aggressive towards Buster, the flock, and to my family. He is gone (we gave him away to another family). We now have a peaceful flock. We may have a broody hen. Next spring we will try to raise some of his chicks, Hopefully with the hen and not an incubator!

    1. Well done Colleen 🙂 Glad to hear your Roo is doing well now!
      Best of luck next year with your chicks,

  7. I am just getting stated with my coop and flock have 4 hens (I hope) that are not old enough to lay but is it ok to introduce a rooster to them now? Also what I am I looking for during quarantine? How long is the ‘look no touch’ introduction cage stage?
    I have two lace, two silkie, and now a bantam rooster I want to introduce.

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