Two chickens on a hay bale

Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs?

Does anyone really want roosters? They’re loud, aggressive, illegal in some places, can’t lay eggs, and they don’t play well with others. It seems like most people we talk to agree that roosters are too much of a hassle to bother with. So why bother?

Well, because they might be more useful than you think.

Why? Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs?


When it comes to the physical process of laying eggs, roosters are actually useless. Hens do not need a rooster in order to create and lay eggs. All they need is a safe place, time, and a healthy diet with enough protein and calcium to form healthy eggs.

Of course, any eggs laid by a hen where no rooster is present are going to be unfertilized, and therefore will never hatch.

So why do you need a rooster?

No, roosters can’t lay eggs. No, hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs. However, that doesn’t mean roosters don’t have a very important job to do. Actually, roosters have three very important jobs to do.

1. Keep the peace

Roosters keep the coop in order.

Pecking order can make or break a productive flock. If a rooster is not present, the hens will attempt to figure the pecking order out on their own—and they are not very good at this. Without a rooster to keep the peace, the most dominant hens inevitably pull the flock into a brutal civil war to establish which one sits at the top of the pecking order. The shifting power structures and general chaos of this conflict typically lead to the rest of the birds not getting as much feed as they need—especially the least dominant hens in the flock.

Remember, in order for hens to lay eggs, they need to be in a safe place where they get enough food. So if a pecking order isn’t clearly established by a rooster, expect to see decreased and otherwise inefficient egg production from the less dominant birds.

In this way, while roosters do not directly contribute to individual hens laying eggs (hens don’t need roosters for egg production), roosters do enable all of your hens to lay more eggs.

2. Grow the flock

If your goal is to grow your flock by hatching new chicks, roosters are a necessary part of the process. Without a rooster to fertilize eggs laid by the hens, baby chicks are impossible.

3. Protect the hens

If your birds are free-roaming or otherwise vulnerable to predators, roosters are useful because they protect the flock. They scout for food, give a warning when danger is near, keep the hens away from danger, and if it comes down to it, will fight back against both airborne and earth-bound predators. They are the guardians of the flock, responsible for the wellbeing of every hen under their care.

So while you do not need roosters in order for hens to lay eggs, depending on your circumstances and the location of your flock, a rooster can be a useful tool for keeping your flock safe, happy, and productive.