If you’re raising chickens with the intent to breed them, then knowing when they attain sexual maturity is information you need. Having hens and roosters running around the farmyard with no idea of what to do—or more importantly—when to do it, could leave you missing out on the opportunity to bring baby chicks into the world.
If you’re curious about the answer to the question of how old roosters are when they start to mate, then we have the answer for you. While a rooster isn’t required for a hen to lay eggs, a rooster is required if you wish to have fertilized eggs. Luckily, roosters reach sexual maturity around 4 to 5 months of age. Read on below to learn more about roosters, their mating habits, and their sexual maturity. This information should help you understand these creatures better and make raising them more viable and interesting.
When Are Roosters Sexually Mature?
As we mentioned above, roosters reach sexual maturity when they are around 4 to 5 months old. This is when they are able to produce sperm and pass it onto a hen via mating. Unlike humans, a rooster’s testicles are inside the body.
Roosters, like many birds, do not have a penis. This means penetration isn’t possible when they mate with a hen. Instead, they use their cloaca to deposit the sperm by pressing it against the hen’s cloaca when she is willing. The job is done in only a few seconds.
The Art of the Dance
Like most birds, when a rooster is ready to mate, a courtship dance may take place. These dances are done in hopes of the rooster using his beauty to catch the attention of his potential mate and make her willing to rub cloacas with him.
During the seductive dance of the rooster, they will drag the wing further away from the hen in a romantic gesture. This is known as wing flicking or wing drag. While displaying how handsome he is and showing off his wing skills, the rooster will also offer his hen a bit of croaking as he approaches her.
Once close to his feathered beauty, the rooster will then circle his lady with his wing held stiffly to his side. As he continues to circle his stiffened wing will quiver and shake in hopes of attracting his lady’s attention. If his quivering wing, croaking serenade, and beauty dance are enough, his hen will welcome his advances instead of running for a place to hide from his display.
The Mating Process
After all the dancing and croaking, if the hen in question likes what she sees, she’ll raise her shoulders, flattening herself out, to announce her readiness for love. This is when the rooster’s true dance takes place. He leaps onto his female’s back, not so graciously balancing on her body. This odd perch is called threading.
Once the threading is done, the rooster gets another step closer to mating by using his beak to grab the hen’s neck. This is when he lowers himself and slides his tail under his lady friend. The accepting hen then pushes her cloaca against that of her male. When the cloacas meet, without penetration, the sperm is deposited onto the female’s cloaca opening. The hen takes the sperm in so the process of fertilization can begin. After all the dancing and touching of cloacas, both the hen and rooster go on about their business while the sperm does its business.
It may sound a bit strange, but roosters take an off-season when it comes to mating. Whether it’s due to the constant dancing and cloaca touching that goes on during the warmer parts of the year, winter is when both hens and roosters take a bit of a rest. Hens stop laying eggs when it’s cold weather and the roosters, respectfully, don’t chase them as much or show off their beautiful dance during this time.
How Long Does Sexual Maturity Last?
A rooster’s fertility lasts for years. However, their fertility peaks within the first year of their life. A rooster that is 50 weeks old (2 weeks shy of a year) begins to see a decline in their reproductive prowess. Nonetheless, they are still able to successfully mate and contribute towards fertilized eggs for several years without much issue. Unlike hens that eventually stop laying eggs, roosters may not stop mating throughout their life.
While the age when roosters mate may not be the subject you enjoy discussing over dinner, it’s still important information to know. If you raise hens and roosters, knowing when you should prepare for mating can make your life easier.
In the end, you’ll have a yard full of precious chicks thanks to your handsome rooster’s ability to shake it for the hens of his dreams.
Featured Image Credit: Ihor Berkyta, Shutterstock