Approved by Dr. Luqman Javed

Roosters, also known as cockerels, are beautiful birds that take their job as a procreator and guide of the flock seriously. There are many different breeds of a rooster, and all of them have one goal: mate with the hens in their territory.

Roosters come in different sizes and an array of vibrant colors. They watch out for any predators and are perhaps best known for their crows. They even fertilize the hens’ eggs. But can roosters lay eggs?

With roosters being male, they cannot lay eggs because they simply do not have the anatomy to do so. Only hens have the reproductive system to lay eggs, but the rooster’s job is to fertilize the eggs.

new chicken divider Do You Need a Rooster?

Roosters usually take the role of a sentry in a flock and will raise the alarm whenever they think they’ve perceived a threat. However, flocks without a rooster will also do this, and while a rooster may help by serving the role of an additional lookout, they are not without their downsides.

  • If you are rearing chickens for profit, the rooster is an additional animal you have to feed.
  • Roosters crow, and this might contribute to noise pollution where you stay. In some areas, roosters aren’t allowed to be kept as backyard pets for this reason.
  • Roosters may mate with hens, and the eggs that your hens produce will be fertilized (this is usually not desired when chickens are reared for egg production).
  • In mixed flocks, roosters will fight with other roosters and bully juvenile roosters to establish dominance over them.

If you’re raising chickens as pets and noise isn’t an issue where you reside, then adding a rooster to your flock is a perfectly reasonable option and the presence of a rooster will definitely assist in flock dynamics. A rooster is required if you wish to sell fertilized eggs or if you wish to hatch your pet chicks within your flock.

However, if you’re raising chickens for a profit, a rooster might not be a good fit for your flock for the reasons mentioned above.

rooster crowing close up
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Does a Fertilized Egg Mean?

In simplistic terms, a fertilized egg has the ability to give rise to an embryo when incubated at the requirements of the species that laid the egg (in this case, a chicken). This is because the rooster mated with the hen before the hen laid the eggs.

Fertilized eggs need not be incubated; however, an egg that you wish to incubate (either with a hen or an incubator) must be fertilized.

How Does the Fertilization Process Work?

An egg will form inside the hen’s body every time she ovulates. The cloaca serves as the only opening for digestive, reproduction, and urinary purposes. It also serves as the way chickens reproduce.

Roosters do not have a penis but rather a bump inside the cloaca (known as a papilla). The hen has a cloaca too, and this is where the magic happens. Don’t worry, though; the hen’s oviduct turns inside out when an egg passes through this orifice, so no feces will get on the egg upon passing through. The rooster then mounts the hen, and the female spreads her feathers to expose the cloaca, also known as the “cloacal kiss.” This is when the rooster deposits his sperm from his cloaca into the hen’s cloaca. From there, the sperm travels up the chamber and is stored by the female’s body. From then on, sperm can fertilize every egg the female’s ovary releases.

Chicken laying eggs in a nest
Image Credit: Andy M, Pixabay

How Do You Know if a Rooster Is Fertilizing Eggs?

The safest way to check if an incubating egg is fertilized is via a process known as candling. In a dark room, take the egg in question and hold a light underneath. If you see a dark spot in the middle with veins around it, you have yourself a fertilized egg. Candling can be done after 5 days of incubation.

Another less popular way to tell if an egg is fertilized is by just letting them incubate for their full duration (21 days). If no chick emerges from the egg at this point, it’s safe to assume that the egg isn’t fertilized. However, this isn’t recommended because an egg that rots or one that starts incubating an embryo but then stops at any point can spoil and affect nearby fertilized, viable eggs as well. This is because the shell of an egg is in fact porous, and eggs can get contaminated. Therefore, it’s best to candle your eggs.

Can You Eat a Fertilized Egg?

It may seem unsettling to think about eating an embryo, especially now that we’ve learned about the “laying the egg” process. To breathe a sigh of relief, the eggs you buy in the grocery stores are not fertilized. Remember that hens can lay eggs and don’t need a rooster to do so. Farmers that sell eggs to grocery stores do not have roosters for this purpose.

We want to point out that if you eat a fertilized egg, it will cause you no harm. In addition, a fertilized egg does not begin forming an embryo unless it is incubated at the appropriate temperature and humidity required by the species that laid the eggs. A fertilized egg collected the day it was laid will remain viable for a period of about 24 days in ideal conditions. That means it can be eaten without fear of eating a chicken embryo if the incubation process hasn’t commenced.

The 24-day grace period also allows a hen the option to lay a clutch of eggs and then incubate an entire clutch at once. This adaptation also allows her chicks to hatch at around the same time, regardless of what order their eggs were laid in.

new chicken divider Final Thoughts

The reproduction process in chickens is an interesting one. Now that you know roosters can’t lay eggs doesn’t mean they have no purpose; they have an important role in the scheme of things. Without roosters, there’d be no fertilized eggs; without fertilized eggs, there’d be no baby chicks. In a nutshell (or eggshell if you please), roosters make the egg world go round.

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Featured Image Credit: Kurt Bouda, Pixabay