Do you need a cockerel for a chicken to lay eggs?
The answer is no, you don’t need a cockerel. Chickens will lay eggs naturally even when there is no cockerel in the flock. Take a look at this short, ninety-second video to find out exactly how eggs develop over a 24 hour period inside the hen. For those of you who have hens but don’t understand how eggs are made it’s quite a fascinating process.
Are eggs different if there is no cockerel?
If there isn’t a cockerel, none of the eggs that the chickens produce will be fertilised. This means that you won’t be able to use the eggs for rearing chicks. Putting unfertilised eggs in an incubator or under a broody hen will result in zero chicks.
As for the suitability of the eggs for eating, it makes no difference whether they are fertilised or not. They will taste exactly the same. If you do have a cockerel, you don’t need to worry about cracking an egg and finding a half formed chick inside either. Although fertilised, a chick won’t start to develop unless it is at the right temperature – that being the temperature of the incubator or the external body temperature of the hen sitting on it. So unless you have a broody hen who has been sitting on the egg for quite a few days, the egg will be fine to eat. If you collect your eggs every day this will never be an issue.
If I don’t need a cockerel to get eggs should I get one anyway?
Well, that depends. Cockerels are an extra mouth to feed and if all you want are eggs a cockerel is not going to pay his way. However, they are not exactly free loaders. Cockerels are very protective of the females and should a predator get in, it’s likely that they will be have-a-go heroes. They can also be great fun, though some can be a bit over protective and occasionally aggressive. It’s where the term ‘cocky’ comes from. They will also have an impact on the group dynamics of the flock and may influence the pecking order.
If you have kids, you might have some explaining to do when they ask you why he keeps jumping on top of the hens – a good way to introduce the birds and the bees (especially if you keep bees as well!)
For a bit more bird biology, you can find out exactly how eggs are made by reading this illustrated, scientific article from The Poultry Club of Great Britain.