Many homesteaders have several chickens but whether or not there’s a rooster running around depends on the desire to have fertile eggs. You may be wondering if having a single fellow is going to be enough for the number of ladies that are available to him. The big question then is, how many eggs can a rooster fertilize at once?
As a general rule, a rooster can fertilize up to 10-14 eggs from one mating session.
If you’re hoping to score plenty of fertilized eggs from your hens and their eager rooster, then rest assured he will probably get the job done. However, one male can only handle so much, so let’s talk more about roosters and their fertilizing abilities.
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Roosters can fertilize up to 10-14 days in one mating, but this isn’t necessarily all thanks to the male.
The hen’s body has an impressive ability to store the male’s sperm for up to two weeks. This takes place in the sperm storage tubules (SST) that are located along the part of the hen’s reproductive tract where the uterus meets the vagina.
Because of this two week storage of the rooster’s sperm, this means that you can expect about 14 fertilized eggs from a mature, egg-laying hen.
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Hens have the ability to be a little ‘choosy’ about their mates, so assuming that a hen approves of her rooster, you can expect a fertilized egg sometime in the next 2-3 days.
If a hen wants to have a rooster’s offspring, she can store her sperm in the sperm storage tubules (SST) and periodically release it each time that she lays an egg.
It takes a mature hen approximately 25 hours to create and lay an egg, so because of this schedule, it is not possible for an egg laid on the day of mating to be fertilized. An egg laid the next day could be fertilized and the one laid after that will most certainly be fertilized.
Thanks to the hen’s sperm storage tubules, it is possible for a female to stay fertile for anywhere from 2-3 weeks with a single male’s sperm. There have been reports of some hens staying fertile with one rooster’s sperm for over almost 3 ½ weeks, but that is a rare incident.
If you are looking to separate your flock and dedicate certain hens to certain roosters but you aren’t sure of their current fertility situation, then giving it about 3 weeks before introducing her to her new mate should suffice.
In some situations you may not know if a hen is going to produce fertilized eggs, or maybe you received a batch of eggs through the mail and you want to see how many are fertile and which ones are duds.
There are two ways to check your young egg’s fertility, by either cracking it open and looking for a white ‘bullseye’, or by the candling method.
Most backyard chicken raisers are looking to keep their eggs intact, so candling is the typical method of choice. Before there were flashlights, farmers would use candles to illuminate the large part of the egg, looking for the signature dark spot in the middle with spider-like veins. This means there’s a fertile egg and hopefully a healthy chick will come next!
Usually around day 4 you can candle your egg and look for that same dark middle that indicates that it’s been successfully fertilized.
The process of incubation is extremely important, as a hen can lay a fertilized egg, but unless it is properly taken care of afterwards, it will be unviable.
Many backyard chicken raisers have a common debate about whehter or not it’s better to incubate your eggs in a machine or let mother nature run it’s course with a broody hen.
The truth is, you can’t go wrong with either process. However, if you like to watch over the eggs and be involved in the 21 days of gestation, it would be better for your to purchase an incubator. If you choose to hatch your eggs yourself, you will also need to have a brooder box set up to keep the chicks in afterward.
Typically, it’s best to have one rooster per every 5-6 hens. This is so you can avoid overbreeding and hence stop unnecessary stress with your hens.
If a rooster had access to a larger flock, it is possible for the male to fertilize about 10-12 hens before he starts struggling to keep up. If you are wanting a larger yield of fertilized eggs, you can have more roosters. You can have up to 3 roosters for 20 hens.
Related: Can Two Roosters Live Together?
The appropriate ratio of rooster to hens also depends on the breed of chicken. For example, a Leghorn breed can happily fertilize the eggs of close to a dozen hens at once and have no issues. However, a breed like a Rhode Island Red would do better with about 6 hens.
Because of the hen’s sperm storage tubules, it’s possible that every two weeks of mating would be sufficient. However, many chicken farmers suggest weekly mating in order to ensure the constant flow of fertilized eggs.
It is also possible for hens to store more than one rooster’s sperm at a time in their numerous SST’s. So, needless to say, she can pick and choose the male that she decides she wants at that time.
It is important to keep in mind that a hen also has the ability to not only store the sperm of several different males at once, but she can also reject the sperm of a male that she doesn’t find fit enough for her offspring.
The physical capability to reproduce is a delicate one, and the female body needs to be in shape in order to have healthy offspring. If you’re wanting to ensure the most ideal environment and diet for your hens to improve fertility, here is what you can do.
One of the first things you need is a proper and balanced diet for your hens. The most ideal ratio is:
- ⅓ protein
- ⅓ fat
- ⅓ water
The next most important part of a having a happy hen is to provide them with clean and healthy environment. Their coop should be cleaned regularly of feces and urine, their nesting boxes should be freshened up with new bedding, and it should be safe and free of pests and predators.
When you have a young rooster, it takes some time for him to mature sexually and start fertilizing eggs. Typically, a rooster will be ready for reproduction by the time that they are 6 months old.
One rooster can even mate up to thirty times in a single day. This is why it is so important to have the appropriate ratio of hens to roosters so you can avoid overbreeding and unneeded stress on your females.
While many flocks can sustain having one rooster for close to ten hens, it is most ideal to have about a 1:6 ratio.
A busy-body rooster can mate up to thirty times a day and their sperm can stay viable inside a hen’s sperm storage tubules for up to 2 weeks. If you’re wanting to have a steady flow of fertilized eggs, you can expect at least 10-14 eggs from one rooster and hen mating session.
Just ensure that you have an appropriate ratio of males to females and provide a healthy, balanced diet and clean habitat.
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