How Long Do chickens Live: Factors That Impact Lifespan

how long do chickens live

Chickens are peculiar creatures that are loved by many. Whether you are thinking about owning chickens or are just curious about them, you may have a few questions. One of your top questions may be, “How long does a chicken live?”. While the answer may seem cut and dry, that is not actually the case. We will dive into the chicken lifespan and some major things that can impact that lifespan.

History of a Chicken’s Life Expectancy

Chickens were not originally bred to be pets. Chickens, specifically hens, were bred so that they could help feed a family or provide a family with a source of income. These chickens were bred from wild birds.

The breeder of the wild birds would choose which birds would produce the most favorable offspring. This process would then continue. The goal was to breed out the wild behaviors of the birds and produce a bird that produced a quality food source.

What Factors Affect Life Expectancy?

chicken lifespan

Today, a backyard chicken can live anywhere from three to ten years. The chicken lifespan can vary depending on a variety of different factors. These factors can be related to breed or may be related to the level of care that the chicken receives. The top factors that affect the chicken lifespan are listed below.

Disease

One of the greatest factors influencing the chicken lifespan is disease. Flocks of chickens may succumb to parasites, including mites, lice, and worms. These parasites can cause a chicken to become uncomfortable and even fall ill. This could even lead to the death of a chicken.

While there are some diseases that cannot be prevented, advanced technology has led to many preventative options for chicken owners. These preventative measures may include frequent cleanings or inspections of the flock.

You may also perform regular preventative maintenance to individual chickens. In theory, the more closely your flock is watched, the healthier they will be.

How They Are Housed

How you plan on sheltering your chickens will make a difference in their lifespan. If they have nowhere to go or are housed with other animals, many things could happen to your chickens. This includes becoming too cold and freezing to death or being crushed by other animals.

Without proper shelter, your chickens may also be exposed to the elements or to predators, hindering the chicken lifespan. However, not every housing arrangement is an optimal one. Chickens that are kept on commercial farms generally suffer more from respiratory illness and have a limited quality of life.

It is typically recommended that chicken owners find a suitable chicken coop to help house their flock. This will provide them adequate shelter from predators and allow them access to the outdoors at their leisure for them to breathe fresh air.

Their Environment

What environment your chicken is living will affect how long they live. You could utilize a quality coop for your chickens, but if the environment containing that coop or the surrounding environment is negative then this will negatively impact your chickens.

For example, you do not want to place a chicken coop in a horse barn or a warehouse. Instead, you want to place the coop somewhere where the chicken has access to clean and fresh air that circulates. The area should also be relatively dry and be able to keep the chicken warm.

A chicken kept in dirty and unkept conditions is more susceptible to illness or medical issues. A healthy and clean environment will help the chicken lifespan last longer.

Tips for a Healthy and Happy Chicken Coop

lifespan of a chicken

Having a great chicken coop for your chickens can sound like a daunting task. However, it does not have to be challenging. With these helpful tips, you will be sure to have a healthy and happy chicken coop for years to come for your chickens to enjoy.

  • When deciding on bulbs, always choose red. This is because red bulbs will not show any bloody spots on a chicken, preventing pecks from other chickens.
  • When there are chicks present, block off any corners. This will help to prevent suffocation.
  • Chicken Waterers need to be kept shallow and clean to avoid chicks drowning.

What They Eat

Chickens have a much better diet than they did fifty to a hundred years ago. Chickens in those times lived on whatever morsels they could scrounge up, which typically was not much. Nowadays, chicken feed is manufactured. This provides chicken owners with an easy way to supply their chickens with the nutrition that they need.

Chicken food can also be found for every stage of a chicken lifespan. However, overfeeding your chicken can also cause an issue. Overweight chickens can not only cause the chicken some discomfort but can also prove to be life-threatening.

Weight issues can lead to leg problems and even respiratory issues. You will want to make sure that you are feeding your chickens the proper amount and watching their treat intake as well.

Veterinary Care

Prior to the 20th century, the welfare of the chicken was not often considered. These backyard animals were looked at as disposable and their health was not taken into account. Nowadays, advancements in poultry medicine and recognition of certain health issues have made the quality of life of the chicken better.

The study of issues related to chickens is ongoing, providing chicken owners with preventative measures to take proper care of their flock. If your hen is experiencing a serious health issue, you will want to bring your chicken to the vet that sees barnyard patients.

If you are planning on owning chickens, it is important to read up on issues that commonly affect them. This way, you will be able to identify a serious issue if it arises. This will also allow you the ability to provide first-aid care for your flock. Your flock may need tended to, but do not need to visit the vet.

They may need to be administered medication, have their feet cared for, or have a wound taken care of. Minor issues can be addressed at home, while serious issues will need to be addressed by a vet.

How Long do Chickens Lay Eggs?

how long do chickens live for

When a chicken starts laying eggs can varying, depending on several factors. However, chickens generally start laying eggs around the time they are 18 weeks old. Shorter windows of daylight may cause a chicken to not lay as many eggs. This is especially true when it is the winter months, as the days are usually colder and darker.

Chickens that are healthy will usually lay eggs for around two to three years. Egg laying will begin to slow down after this time frame and then taper off. During this period of less egg laying, the eggs may be larger. If you are wanting something more specific, you can read our article: How often do chicken laying eggs.

What to Do When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Once a chicken has stopped laying eggs, there are a few different options you have. Even though a chicken has stopped laying eggs, you may still use her to contribute in other ways to your flock or to keep around as a companion chicken.

A chicken that is older will still be a great bug catcher and could help control the weeds in your garden. Older chickens will also help to keep eggs warm or raise chicks, providing the flock with more experience than the younger hens may have.

You may also decide that once a hen has stopped producing eggs that it will be time to use the chicken for meat. While older chickens generally have tougher meat, the meat will still be useful for stew or other dishes. However, if it is the winter time, you may choose to wait. Generally in the spring, hens will begin laying once again.

3 Popular Breeds and Their Life Expectancy

When deciding on what chickens to have in your flock, you may have considered one of these three breeds. Listed below are three of the most popular breeds and their chicken lifespan.

Rhode Island Red

chicken life spans

Rhode Island Red are some of the most popular chickens and you have most likely seen them before. This type of chicken can live around 8 years. They are most common for beginners or those who wish to keep chickens for a long time. Read more about Rhode Island Red.

Golden Comets

how long does a chicken live

Golden Comets are most well-known for how many eggs that they produce. They typically produce an egg a day. However, these chickens are more prone to developing reproductive issues. They can live up to five years old. Read more about Golden Comet.

Easter Egger

chickens life span

Easter Egger are a hybrid type of hen and are sought after due to their eggs that are laid in a variety of colors. Since they do not lay as many eggs as the Golden Comets, they generally have a longer chicken lifespan. Easter Egger can live around 8 years old. Read more about Easter Egger.

Summary

Chickens are fascinating creatures that can make excellent backyard pets or utilized as a barnyard animal. Whichever the case, proper care of your chicken will ensure that it lives out its chicken lifespan properly.

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs

how long do chickens lay eggs

The trend of producing one’s own food has brought the farm into the city. One such area that has grown in recent years is the keeping of backyard chickens for fresh eggs. Once people have tasted just how much better “home-grown” eggs are, they never want to go back to plain old store eggs.

Like any keeping of livestock, though, people must plan ahead so that they have a steady supply of eggs, as hens have a limited working life span. How long do chickens lay eggs?

There are several factors that affect the production of eggs by a hen:

  • Breed – Varieties bred as layers will produce more consistently than meat varieties. Some varieties produce larger amounts for a shorter time, while others have a longer laying span with a lower peak production.
  • Age – Once mature, around five months of age, a hen will lay an egg roughly every day and a half until she is around two or three years old, after which production tapers off.
  • Rooster to Hen Ratio – Multiple roosters will vie for dominance, stressing the hens, making them produce less.
  • Housing – Hens kept in a safe area with adequate lighting and access to shelter will lay longer.
  • Diet – A steady supply of eggs requires a proper, balanced diet to be consistently fed.

Choosing your Breed

chicken that lays eggs

In the above list, age and breed of chicken are the top determiners of how long a hen will lay. Breed determines how long an individual chicken will produce. Large-scale producers use varieties that begin to lay at 16 to 18 weeks.

The chickens produce large amounts of eggs for a year and a half or two before laying drops dramatically. Examples of this kind of chicken are Lohmann Brown, Black Star, and Freedom Ranger.

On the other hand, heritage breeds mature more slowly, beginning to lay at 20 weeks. These chickens produce fewer eggs, but they do so longer than production breeds. Thus they are a good choice for backyard egg production.

Varieties in this category include Rhode Island Red, Fayoumi, Barnevelder, and Barred Rock. These breeds lay consistently for three to four years on average, but Rhode Island Red chickens have been strong producers even at 5 or 6 years, with some still laying at 7 or 8 when living in optimal conditions.

Some breeds are known for particularly high disease resistance, which has a positive effect on their laying lifespan. Please note that there are variations in egg production among breeds in this category. Read up on average egg production for any breed that interests you so that you are not mistakenly disappointed by a low yield.

Put a lot of work into planning for your flock. If possible, buy chickens from different breeds and both categories to ensure that you have a steady supply of eggs as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Mix Black Star, for example, with Rhode Island Reds and Australorps so that you are not stuck waiting for a new shipment of chicks to mature and start laying eggs.

Provide a Comfortable Coop

chicken that lays eggs

A good chicken coop is necessary for chicken safety; after all, if a predator grabs one, it will not be laying for you. The predators also stress chickens, causing them to lay less.

This coop also makes gathering eggs much easier and is considered necessary for flightier breeds, such as Fayoumi, that would otherwise leave eggs in random spots in your yard for an unpleasant surprise later. There are many ways to build coops, but there are foundational features that you need to include for a productive flock:

  • Enough space, 5-8 square feet per bird if fully confined
  • Light to stimulate egg production, around 16 hours a day
  • Insulation for cold weather, if needed
  • Adequate ventilation to prevent ammonia buildup and its nasty consequences
  • Proper flooring that is easily washed, such as plywood covered with Tyvek
  • Nest boxes, which should have an opening of 10 by 10 inches and be easily accessible
  • Roosting perches, so they can sleep safely

When you see to the comfort of your chickens in their coop, they will lay for years, going to the end of the range with ease.

Above all, make sure you keep the coop clean and in good repair. A clean, safe environment takes much stress from your chickens’ lives so that their energy is directed in a useful way, that is to say, egg laying.

Ensure that your chickens have as much space as possible to roam. After all, the term “cooped up” has negative connotations. If you have the space, let your chickens run free during the day.

Some people who a raising chickens in a more suburban or urban environment confine chickens to a fenced-in spot or use a chicken tractor or portable run so that they know where their chickens are at all times.

The recommended wire mesh size is a half inch square, as that will keep out most predators, even smaller snakes. If desired, you can add roofing to keep your chickens out of talon’s reach.

Chickens require food to make eggs, but what should it be? A laying diet needs large amounts of protein and calcium, much of which comes from commercial poultry pellets. These pellets have a grain and seed base and should comprise around 16 percent of the diet.

The rule of thumb is that four pounds of feed will be needed for one dozen eggs. The calcium comes from a supplemental source supplied separately. If your chickens have little room to peck and roam, it is particularly important to ensure their food has everything they need.

Even with free-range chickens, there are a number of things you can add to their diet to ensure a productive working life. Most fruit and vegetable scraps are a dandy way to get your birds more minerals.

The only forbidden ones are raw green peels, such as those from potatoes, and citrus fruits. Processed whole grains, such as pastas, are also part of a healthy diet. Make sure you use high-quality feed that, if possible, is organic, as certain hazardous chemicals have a negative effect on health and egg production.

Chickens also enjoy a treat now and then. Foods that are often used as such range from what you’d consider eating, like apples, broccoli, and pumpkin, to downright gross, like worms.

Feeding to lay strong

chicken eggs production

In general, your chicken can eat what you do, but there are exceptions. Never give anything fatty, sugary, or salty, such as highly processed snack foods. Rhubarb, avocado, and garlic are not good for them and should never be put in the feed trough. If you do, your bird will not lay eggs for long.

Food should be presented in a proper fashion. Although the image of scattering grain on the ground is popular, it is not always a good way to feed chickens. If your chickens are confined for some reason, invest in a feeding trough to dispense their food.

In doing so, rather than simply scattering seed, you will not mix feed and droppings. This prevents nasty parasitic infections, such as coccidiosis, from starting, spreading, and eventually killing your chickens by malnutrition.

Chickens need a lot of water to produce eggs. Make sure that they have access to a steady supply of clean water. If neglected, you will have to wait around a week for them to begin laying again.

Protect hens

Hens will lay eggs without the presence of a rooster; one is needed certainly if you plan on breeding your hens. However, their presence can sometimes cause problems. In fact, too many roosters increase the stress of the flock by their fights for dominance, stressing the chickens and decreasing the amount of eggs they lay.

The optimal ratio is one rooster per six to nine hens. If you keep around a single rooster for six to nine hens, he will warn the flock when predators come, giving them time to find cover. They will also take on predators occasionally, keeping your chickens from an untimely demise.

YouTube comments are replete with stories of roosters who died to protect their flock from hawks and the like. Having a rooster or two is having a built-in warning system and guard.

Summary

Many people enjoy chickens in their yard. The thought of enjoying fresh, tasty eggs makes the work worthwhile for many. How long do chickens lay eggs that owners can enjoy? In general, it is around two to three years before production tapers off.

However, by seeing to the cleanliness and comfort of the chickens’ surroundings, you can make the most of those years and possibly extend them. Some breeds lay more than others, but a clean, low-stress environment will do any chicken good, regardless of age or breed.

What Do Baby Chicks Eat?

what does chicks eat

Raising chickens from hatchlings to adult hens provides numerous benefits; chickens provide pest-control and weed-control, offer a means for easily disposing of kitchen scraps, produce natural fertilizer that is great for gardens and flowerbeds, and, of course, can offer a ready supply of fresh, tasty eggs and nutritious, all-natural meat.

But to get those benefits, you need to start them off the right way with the proper diet that they need as chicks.

Chicks grow rapidly in their first few weeks and so require correctly formulated food to ensure healthy development. So what do baby chicks eat? And why is the right diet important for them? These guidelines can help make sure that you are feeding them what they need when they need it.

Feeding Newly Hatched Chicks

What do chicks eat when they first come out of their shells? The answer might surprise you: nothing. For the first 48 hours after they hatch, baby chickens require no food or water. They are still being sustained by the nutrients from the egg yolk, which their body has absorbed and is still processing up until they break out of the shell.

After the chick has hatched, it should be allowed to rest and dry out in the incubator for six to 12 hours before being moved into the brooder, where food and drink are first introduced.

Beginning with Starter Feed

what do baby chicks eat

Baby chicks should not be fed adult chicken food: adult food lacks sufficient protein to help the chicks grow and remain healthy in their critical, vulnerable early weeks. Adult food is also too high in calcium for baby chicks; consuming too much calcium can lead to serious medical complications in young chickens, including an untreatable and potentially fatal form of kidney damage.

Baby chicks should be started on what is known as “starter feed” or, sometimes, “chick crumb”.

This commercially available chicken feed is designed to balance precisely the nutrients that baby chicks require, including an optimal range of between 15% and 20% protein, as well as amino acids for development, prebiotics and probiotics for immune health, and vitamins and minerals for bone health.

The best brands of starter feed are organic and non-GMO, containing only natural ingredients and no artificial fillers, preservatives, or chemicals. Most are available from a local feed or farm store, or they can be ordered online from specialty retailers.

Ideally, the starter feed that you use for your baby chicks should contain only unprocessed whole grains. Avoid the products that are filled out with soy and corn, which can provide a great deal of starch but very little nutritional benefit to your chicks.

You might be tempted to try making your own starter feed at home, but the risks of doing this are high. Baby chicks require a very precisely balanced diet to ensure their proper development, and their young digestive systems are not tolerant of much deviation from that diet.

If you mix the feed incorrectly, you could seriously harm your chick or cause long-term developmental damage. Malnourished baby chicks seldom grow into productive egg-layers or bulk up enough to be suitable as meat sources.

First Days in the Brooder

what can baby chicks eat

When you move the baby chicks into the brooder, you should already have a container with fresh, clean water for them. In some cases, sugar, vitamins, or mineral supplements might be added to the chick’s water for the first day or two.

Use a container that cannot be knocked over and has an opening designed to prevent waste from getting in and contaminating the water supply, and that will keep chicks from falling in and drowning. Make sure that it stays filled at all times and that the water remains clean.

Both chicks and adult chickens will drink twice as much water as the amount of food that they eat, so having a ready water source is essential.

Water should be at room temperature (so do not place it under heat lamps in the brooder) and should be supplied at a rate of two quarts per every 10 chicks, separated into containers no larger than one quart each. On a daily basis, empty, wash, and refill the water containers.

Towards the end of their first day in the brooder, or early on the second day, sprinkle some grains of feed into the brooder. Some chicks may not show an interest at first—baby chicks spend most of their first few days sleeping and building up energy after the exhausting process of breaking out of their shells.

Eventually, however, they will become curious about the sound of the feed being dropped in and will investigate it.

Once they have taken to the feed—usually by their third day in the brooder—set out low-lying or trough feeders for easy access (clean egg cartons, cut in two, work well), providing four linear inches of space in the chicken feeder per baby chick.

Do not place them under the heat lamps in the brooder. Empty, clean, and refill the feeder daily, and keep a close eye on it to make sure that it stays supplied and does not become contaminated by waste or water. As the chicks grow, raise the level of the feeders so they are even with the bird’s backs.

Moving Beyond Starter Feed

what to feed baby chicks

Avoid giving baby chicks any special treats in their first two weeks in the brooder. It is essential during this period that they mainly eat the nutritionally balanced starter feed. Introducing treats too early will make them less likely to desire the starter feed and may even confuse them about what the taste and smell of food should be.

If you do introduce treats, remember that the baby chick’s digestive system is still very delicate and prone to disruption. Start with mild and healthy snacks, like a lettuce leaf hung up in the brooder, some oatmeal scattered in the brooder, or some corn kernels chopped up very small.

When you do introduce snacks, it is also essential that you provide the baby chicks with a ready supply of grit in a separate container inside the brooder. This fine granular substance is swallowed into the chicken’s gizzard, where it works with the power of the organ’s muscle contractions to mash up food into a digestible slurry.

Commercially produced grit made of sand, granite, or parakeet can be obtained and is specially formulated in size and composition for baby chicks. Do not give grit formulated for adult birds to baby chicks. Never feed ground up oyster shells to baby chicks; the high levels of calcium in the shells will result in potentially deadly damage to the bird’s kidneys.

At eight weeks of age, baby chicks should be shifted off the starter feed and in its place, they should be given “grower feed” (at this age, they can also explore more complex snacks, like worms, bugs and chicken scratch).

To help chicks make this transition, mix starter feed and grower feed together, gradually shifting the proportion of the combination towards more and more grower feed over a couple of weeks.

Grower feed provides less protein than starter feed (typically about 16%). Chickens should continue on the grower feed until they reach the start of their laying age, which is usually around 18 to 21 weeks of age, depending on the breed.

Whether or Not to Use Medicated Food

what do you feed baby chickens

Medicated feed is fortified with a medication—usually amprolium—that helps chickens combat the common, and potentially deadly, parasitic intestinal disease coccidiosis.

Baby chicks that have been vaccinated against coccidiosis already, either by a veterinarian or by a commercial hatchery, must not be fed medicated feed as it will kill off the coccidiosis strain in the vaccine and render the bird susceptible to the disease.

Baby chicks who are kept in a clean brooder that is regularly emptied of waste and provides plenty of space are less likely to contract coccidiosis and so generally do not require medicated feed.

Chicks who are raised in cramped conditions, such as factory farms or in household settings that involve more than 50 chicks in one space, are likely to contract the disease and thus should be given medicated feed. Some medicated feeds contain antibiotics, but these should only be used under instructions from a livestock veterinarian.

Feeding Sick Baby Chicks

Ensuring that sick, malnourished, or underdeveloped baby chicks are properly hydrated is the first priority. Use a dropper or a spoon and, if necessary, water fortified with electrolytes.

The finely chopped-up hard-boiled egg can provide sick baby chicks with a boost of protein and many of the nutrients that their body needed to absorb when it was inside the egg. These can help it start to recover its stamina and eventually shift to starter feed.

Do Hens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?

how do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Chickens make great backyard pets and the fact that they give back by delivering fresh, delicious eggs only adds to the allure of keeping them.

When you are looking forward to the moment when your chickens begin laying eggs it can be anxiety-inducing wondering when that moment is going to come and what specific requirements are needed to get things going.

Do hens lay eggs without a rooster? This all depends on what you intend to accomplish with your egg-laying. There are a few factors to consider.

General Expectations in Egg Laying

There are a few different elements that can play a role in whether your chickens will come “of age,” allowing them to lay eggs. Nutrition, environment, breed, and age can all help determine when your chickens will begin laying eggs. You will not require the assistance of a rooster for your chickens to produce eggs unless you specifically want to fertilize and hatch your eggs.

If you are looking to hatch eggs and produce more chickens, then you will require the assistance of a rooster. Otherwise, your eggs will never be fertilized.

However, the best setup is always one single solitary rooster and if you begin hatching your own eggs there is a chance you will hatch more roosters which may eventually grow up and fight with one another. The best reason to hatch eggs is for sustenance. Since the eggs we eat are not fertilized a rooster is not actually required.

There are a number of more essential factors when it comes to egg-laying beyond simply the presence of a rooster. While the presence of a rooster in the flock may help to encourage egg-laying, it is certainly not a determinate factor.

As noted above, the elements of a healthy egg-laying operation that you should certainly put stock into include good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Nutrition

chickens lay eggs without rooster

Egg laying chickens have specific nutrition requirements as opposed to younger chickens or chickens perhaps not intended for laying eggs. In order to promote egg laying it is important for your chickens to have sufficient food provided to them as well as to have high-quality food provided to them.

During the growing period, chicks should receive a diet promoting their rapid growth and development of feathers. Chickens reaching the laying stage do best on a “pre-lay” diet intended to increase the calcium and other nutrients in their diet.

Comparison shop different diets available to you to determine which is most suitable for your purposes. A diet with the right nutrients for egg-laying purposes will supply your hens with what they need to produce big, nutritious eggs.

A balanced diet is primarily important. If the chickens are not receiving adequate nutrition, then one of two things could happen. Either (1) your hens may experience delay in their egg-laying, or (2) they may stop laying eggs even once they’ve started.

Environment

An adequate environment is also essential to promoting laying in your chickens. This includes providing ample lighting, comfortable temperatures, adequate food, and ample water for the hens at all times.

  • If the hens run out of food for a substantial period of time it can impact their laying schedule and may delay how soon they begin laying. You should take care to ensure your hens always have fresh food available.
  • The same is true for water, which is one of the most essential nutrients for optimum poultry health. Fresh, clean water should always be available to your hens. Make sure that you keep the water clean and fresh on a daily basis as dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to health issues for your poultry.
  • In order to maintain healthy egg production, hens should receive around 14 hours’ worth of day length each day. The lighting intensity should be such that a person could read newsprint at the eye level of the birds. Because the length of the day naturally decreases in the fall and winter, this can have a profound impact on egg laying ability. One way that you can prevent this from being a problem is to install a light in the coop to artificially increase daylight hours.
  • Chickens do not do well in high environmental temperatures. They will succumb quickly to severe heat stress if you do not provide them with proper shade, ample water, and adequate ventilation. You can reduce the adverse effects that come with heat stress by providing enough ventilation and shade as chickens naturally do better in a cooler environment. As a result, it is likely that your hens will lay more effectively in a cooler, more comfortable environment.
  • The breeding box or coop should be kept as clean as possible in order to promote healthy egg-laying. It may be difficult to keep things clean during the laying season but it is important to try because a dirty coop can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other diseases and chickens can be prone to illness when improperly cared for.
do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Age

Generally speaking, hens will begin to enter their egg-laying period around 18 weeks of age, however, as noted above this can vary somewhat depending on the breed of the chicken. The peak age for egg-laying comes at around 32 weeks of age and continues at this level until around 65 to 68 weeks of age.

There are breeds of chicken that will not begin laying eggs until a little later and so it is normal not to see egg-laying behavior begin until around six months. This will be discussed more fully in the “breed-specific” section below.

Hens Behavior During Laying

The behavior of your pullets will begin to change when they are nearing their initial lay, and so it is normal to get a feel for when this is going to happen. They may begin to investigate the nesting area, spend more time hanging around the rooster, or their typical behavior may simply deviate in other ways.

If your hens are starting to spend a lot of time with the rooster because they are nearing laying-age, you may need to make sure to separate the rooster from the nesting boxes

If your hens seem unsure about the nesting boxes one way that you can encourage their use is to place “decoy eggs” in the boxes in order to show the hens what they are meant for. If you do not have actual decoy eggs you can use golf balls or similarly sized balls to serve this purpose.

There are a lot of great resources available for building and setting up nesting boxes that will accommodate your chickens. There are also nesting boxes that will provide your hens with access to the rooster without compromising the eggs.

If your goal is to have your hens lay eggs, then it is important to motivate your chickens to lay by allowing them access to a rooster without necessarily allowing the rooster to fertilize the eggs.

In fact, once your hens begin laying you may find that having a rooster around does not motivate your hens to lay one way or another. You will not find that you can increase your hen egg production simply by exposing your hens to a rooster. You can have a perfectly healthy flock of egg-laying chickens all on their own without having any roosters around.

Do You Need a Rooster For Egg Production?

can a chicken lay eggs without a rooster

The ultimate answer is no, you do not need a rooster in order to raise egg-laying chickens. You will not notice an impact in egg production by adding a rooster to your flock of chickens, however, there are obviously other benefits of having a rooster around if you enjoy their presence. As noted above, however, it is important to only keep one adult rooster around at a time to prevent fighting from occurring.

Making the Decision to Get a Rooster

As noted above, when you fertilize your eggs and allow them to hatch into new chickens you run the risk of adding additional roosters to your flock.

When roosters are young it is possible for you to keep them together, however as they get older, they will begin to fight to the point where injuries are inevitable. The male birds can be beneficial for meat however you will need to know how to house them separately and how to handle them humanely if this is the route you take.

If you are interested in expanding your flock, there are other options available to you. Consider sourcing local chicks and hens for example rather than attempting to breed your own.

If you do decide to breed your own chickens then it will benefit you to do some additional research on what this entails and to find an outlet to sell or give away any additional male chicks before they come of age.

How Do Chickens Mate?

Roosters are generally bigger with more colorful plumage than hens, but that is not always the case. You will know that you have a rooster when the rooster crows, and by the larger comb and wattle he sports. (By the way, roosters will crow all day long, not just at sunrise. Take this into consideration for your neighbors’ sake if you are going to attempt to breed chickens.)

When a rooster is ready to mate (and they are essentially ready to mate three or four months after they have lost their fluffy chick plumes!), the rooster does posturing and dancing. Part of the posturing is strutting.

He will lift his chest, neck and head high and begin to slowly strut near your hens. Not only is this posture supposed to impress the hens, but it is also supposed to alert them to the fact that the rooster is looking for a good time and about to pick a mate.

Next, the rooster will choose a hen. He will turn sideways so that his chosen hen will see how magnificent he is and get her “in the mood.” If the hen acquiesces willingly, she will then crouch low to the ground to wait for the rooster’s next actions.

There are “brute” roosters in chicken coops too. These roosters will take a hen by extreme force (i.e., the chicken equivalent of rape and assault!). In this instance, the rooster does not care about showing the hen anything.

He selects a hen, brutally pounces on her with his sharp talons, grabs her head, comb, and neck in his sharp beak, and has his way with the hen. It is a good idea to watch what kind of mating behavior your rooster has because the violent roosters can and will kill hens that try to refuse the rooster’s “advances.”

how do chickens mate

How Do Chickens Mate?

Chickens are birds, which means that fertilization occurs inside the female’s body before she lays the eggs. Many animals have a life cycle that begins with eggs, including humans. However, in the animal world, fertilization of eggs often occurs outside of the body, as is the case with fish or insects. This is not the case with most birds.

To make fertilization occur, birds have cloacas. This is a set of organs that includes their bladders, their reproductive organs, and their anuses. Essentially, there is one entrance and exit hole through which birds and chickens urinate, defecate and reproduce.

In order for chickens to mate, their cloacas have to be in direct contact with each other. In short, they have to be anal opening to anal opening.

No, chickens do not walk backward and mash their derrieres together, although that could work. Instead, after the rooster either does his strut and dance or his violent assault on a hen, he arches his back and shoves his anal opening and cloaca downward into close contact with the hen’s.

He rapidly shakes his behind for a few seconds to transmit the sperm to fertilize the eggs that are currently developing inside the hen’s ovaries.

Mating Frequency and Success Rates

Roosters will mate with intense frequency to ensure that their lineage lives on. Roosters can, and will, mate multiple times an hour, sometimes with the same hen, and sometimes with any willing hen in the coop.

Because only a small amount of sperm is transmitted at a time, and because most hens are only going to lay one egg at a time, this frequent mating is necessary to fertilize enough eggs to fill a nest.

The success rate of a rooster depends on a couple of factors. One, the age of the rooster is important. While a very old rooster can still mate, his ability to transmit sperm may be on the decline.

Additionally, an older rooster may not be able to grab and hold on to a hen during mating long enough to do the job correctly. Older roosters are also only able to manage mating with less than a dozen hens.

Two, the behavior of a rooster may terrify your hens such that they will do anything to get away from a savage rooster, and thus, mating may fail. Be sure to find a well-behaved rooster if you want several nests of chicks.

You should also know that hens will lay eggs with or without insemination, so you will have to be careful about taking eggs out of the hen house for food if you have a rooster walking about.

Hen’s Fertility

rooster and hen mating

Hens are essentially ready to mate when the rooster has wooed them. There is really nothing they need to do to physically prepare for the fertilization process because they are constantly producing eggs. If there wasn’t a rooster around, the hens would lay eggs anyway, but the eggs would never hatch into chicks.

The eggs that are unfertilized in the absence of a rooster become your breakfast. Most hens are fertile all of their lives. It is only when a hen is much older that she may slow down or stop producing as many eggs.

She could still mate and produce fertilized eggs and chicks, but typically not as many as she did when she was a younger hen. Really old hens stop producing eggs at all, and that is when they typically become Sunday dinner.

More Than One Rooster: Good or Bad Idea?

Roosters are territorial and they will round up their “harems” of hens so that other roosters cannot steal them. They will have major cockfights in the coop to gain dominance, too, with the winner getting total freedom and breeding rights. The loser, if that rooster survives the fight, should be removed for his own safety, and/or to avoid another fight he may not survive.

If you want to keep more than one rooster to have a better variety of good chicken genetics, consider swapping roosters out every couple of weeks. Another suggestion is to keep some hens in one coop with one rooster, and some hens in another coop with another rooster. Swap roosters when you want to mix up the breeding and mating a bit.

Buying a Mating Pair vs. Raising a Pair From Chicks

chicken and rooster mating

There are some pros and cons to buying an adult pair of chickens that are already well established with each other and will mate successfully versus buying a male and female chick you raise.

A mating pair is already ready to help you build a flock of chickens in your backyard chicken coop. You know that every nest of eggs will probably come from this breeding pair, but you will have to remove any male chicks from the chicken coop before the male chicks are ready to breed.

Chickens are not really susceptible to genetic deformations as a result of inbreeding, but you may want to avoid it all the same. If you are going to line-breed, watch for any abnormalities in chicks.

These abnormalities may be present as a result of a genetic defect in the line, and you will want to carefully breed your chickens to remove this defect in the line going forward. Ergo, considering purchasing a couple of different adult hens if you are going to start your flock with a breeding pair.

On the other hand, raising a mating pair of chicks, particularly if they are different subtypes of chickens and therefore not likely to be brother and sister, can work for you too. As the chicks grow, you can see the temperament in these chicks.

That is important to finding out if you have a good rooster or a violent rooster, which you would not know until the male chick(s) is/are fully grown. If you have an unpleasant rooster who behaves violently, you will not want to mate such characteristics into your chicks. Buying another rooster full-grown can help with that.

Summary

It isn’t difficult to mate chickens. They already know how purely by instinct. The problems arise when you either have violent roosters, too many roosters, or roosters and hens that are too old. Chickens will mate at the drop of a hat, and you can often catch them in the act.

Their reproductive organs are inside their bodies and stored in the same orifices as their anuses and urinary tracts, but their mating process prevents urine and feces from flowing into the reproductive organs.