If you keep chickens, it might be beneficial to add a rooster to your flock. The rooster will loudly warn the flock when he perceives danger nearby that could be a predator such as a fox. Of course, this isn’t the only role roosters play in a flock’s dynamics. They’re also able to mate with hens, resulting in fertile eggs. If you want to get a rooster to produce chicks, you may want to know a little bit about the mating and breeding process.
Roosters and hens mate often, and we mean a lot! You may be surprised to learn that the typical rooster is very interested in mating. In fact, he will mate anywhere between 10 and 30 times a day. Whew!
It’s not uncommon for a rooster to partake in excessive mating wherein he stresses the hens and even makes them lose their physical conditioning! That is why experts recommend having the correct rooster-to-hen ratio, which is one rooster to every seven to 10 hens. This way, the rooster can divide his time without putting the hens through so much stress.
How a Rooster Mates
Roosters are physically interesting when it comes to copulation because their male reproductive parts are inside their bodies. It takes some real physical agility for a rooster to mate with a hen and it’s not always a pretty picture to watch. However, the mating process occurs quickly and usually only takes a few seconds, once the rooster figures it all out.
To do the deed, the rooster positions himself behind the hen. He then stands on her back and steadies himself with his feet. As the hen crouches down and spreads her wings for balance, the rooster’s sex organ called a papilla touches the hen’s cloaca (known as a cloacal kiss) wherein sperm is transferred from his body to hers. And that’s about it!
Once the mating is over, the rooster gets off the hen and goes about his business which usually includes looking for his next mating partner. Yes, a rooster spends most of his waking hours going from hen to hen in his never-ending quest for love!
Hens Don’t Need a Rooster to Produce Eggs
If you’re a newbie to the chicken world, you may not know that hens don’t need roosters to produce eggs. In the absence of a rooster, hens produce infertile eggs instead. The main benefit of adding a rooster to your flock is to get fertilized eggs that will hatch into chicks about three weeks after they’re incubated.
Roosters and Hens Start Mating When They’re Young
Now that you have an idea about the high sex drive of roosters, it may not surprise you to learn that roosters start mating when they’re young. A rooster is sexually mature at about 4 to 5 months of age when they’re producing sperm.
Hens reach sexual maturity at around 5 months of age. As soon as a hen can lay eggs, she’s ready to mate with a rooster. However, the trigger to lay eggs requires more than just physical maturity in hens; they need to be exposed to sufficient amounts of sunlight to start a reproductive cycle.
If a hen successfully mates with a rooster, she can store viable sperm inside her body to produce fertile eggs for a period of about 2 to 3 weeks; however, in many cases, the pair may re-mate once again before this time frame. This means that a hen adopted from a flock with a rooster might continue to lay fertilized eggs for a period of time even in his absence.
Problems Can Occur During the Mating Process
It’s not always all wine and roses in the rooster and hen mating process as sometimes things go wrong. For example, if a rooster isn’t dominant over a hen, she may give him the cold shoulder and refuse to mate. This can be seen when a young, new rooster is introduced to the flock. The older hens may fight him off to send a clear message that they’re simply not interested.
Another problem that can disrupt the mating process is too many fluffy feathers at the business end of a hen. To make insemination possible, you can trim the feathers around the cloaca so the rooster can mate with her.
And then there’s a size difference that can get in the way. For example, if a small rooster is trying to mate with a large hen, things can get dicey. However, with sheer determination, the little guy could very well succeed, even if it takes a while!
Dealing With Aggressive Roosters
The typical rooster struts around like he’s the king of the coop. A rooster is naturally protective of the flock. However, you do not want an overly aggressive rooster in your flock. Though he should be dominant, he shouldn’t be aggressive towards the hens.
In fact, most backyard farmers refuse to allow an aggressive rooster to mate and usually designate them as table birds instead. Aggressive roosters can not only harm your hens but can also attack older individuals or children, making them undesirable for flock harmony.
If you decide to get a rooster, be sure to have the right rooster to hen ratio to keep your flock in balance. Over-mating of your hens can cause injuries, so do the math correctly or else you may have issues. A rooster will watch over your flock and warn the others of danger, that is when he’s not busy mating with all those females!
Featured Image Credit: klimkin, Pixabay