How Long Are Roosters Fertile For?

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Roosters are mainly fertile during the first 3 years of their lives, with fertility levels gradually decreasing as they get older. Much like humans, their fertility can be impacted by things such as environment, diet, number of hens available, stress and climate. 

To know if your rooster is doing his job, check if the chicken eggs are fertilized by candling them.

Spring and The Mating Season

Courtship rituals and mating behavior in chickens are triggered by hormones. The hormone levels in a male chicken increase during spring when more daylight hours are available. At this time, hens will start looking for ideal mates while roosters becoming somewhat obsessed with mating.

The alpha or head rooster is the pack leader, holding the role of the best protector and provider of other flock members. He is typically the largest rooster that has the best feathers and the reddest comb and wattles.

The actual mating process is rather fast. Once they have completed their courtship rituals, the rooster hops on the mother hen’s back. The compliant hen will squat and lower his body and head down.

By spreading their wings, hens also show their readiness. The rooster then retreats to gain balance before grabbing the hen’s comb to gain even more stability.

Once the male is in a good mating position, he lowers his tail feathers and gives a cloacal kiss. Roosters do not have a penis in their reproductive system. Instead, they have a small bump known as a papilla, which is found in the cloaca.

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The female chicken extends her cloaca to help deliver sperm to the hen’s oviduct. The sperm fertilizes the egg of the day, and other sperms are stored in the sperm pocket from where they can fertilize other eggs in the next 4 or 5 days.

After the mating process is finished, the rooster normally walks away while the hen gets up and continues with her daily activities.

Courtship Rituals

During spring, roosters are very lively in their courtship and mating endeavors. During this time, they showcase courtship rituals such as tidbiting and the rooster dance.

Tidbiting is when a rooster finds tidbits and then directs the hen to eat them. The hen may not comply immediately, but she will be happy with the rooster’s gesture.

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Roosters also perform the rooster dance to impress the hens in the flock. This is where they drop one wing before dancing around it. The rooster may also try to mate as the hen approaches.

Hens show compliance to roosters by dropping their body and head down. Sometimes there is no ritual or courtship involved, and the mating process can be forceful, leaving the hen with injuries.

Dominant and Secondary Roosters

So why does the number of roosters in a flock influences their behavior? Well, chickens have a social hierarchy called the pecking order. The smartest and fittest roosters will be high in the pecking order, while the older, younger or shyer roosters will be low in the pecking order.

If the dominant rooster gets sick or grows old, he is usually challenged by younger, smarter, and fitter roosters. The winning rooster is usually the leader of the flock.

After 3 years of age when their fertility wanes, the dominant rooster will have to pave way for the younger, smarter, and fitter roosters and he will be the secondary rooster. He will remain somewhat sexually active but is unlikely to fertilize an egg.

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The hen examines roosters based in their ability to provide food, protect the clock, and prevent other roosters from invading his territory. Additionally, large and beautiful combs and wattles are attractive to hens.

The dominant rooster will do everything in his power to prevent any secondary roosters from mating. The secondary rooster may be unable to mate with any birds or he may mate with just a few hens. Secondary roosters still use tidbiting and other tricks to attract hens.

How Do Roosters Fertilize Eggs?

A baby chick attains sexual maturity several months after hatching, and it’s the rooster’s responsibility to ensure the continuity of the flock by fertilizing the hens’ eggs.

Roosters perform courtship rituals like dancing and tidbitting to attract hens.

The rooster hops on the hen’s back and gives the cloacal kiss. At this time, the rooster ejaculates sperm into the hen’s cloaca.

A rooster ejaculates between 100 million and 5 billion sperm. This of course varies depending on the rooster’s age and the number of chickens they have mated with during the day.

Due to the number of sperms produced, it is more common for chickens to mate early in the morning and later in the evening.

The sperm reaches the vagina and then moves into the oviduct. On the other hand, the hen’s egg of the day travels from the ovary to the oviduct, where it is fertilized by the sperm.

Why Do Roosters Stop Being Fertile?

Keeping a fertile rooster will ensure the continuity of your backyard flock. You’ll be able to keep future generations of meat birds or egg layers without buying new chicks.

If you’re having issues with rooster fertility, here are several reasons why:

  • Early retirement. Unlike humans, roosters attain sexual maturity between 30 and 40 weeks of age. Their fertility starts to drop after 1 year and wanes significantly after 3 years. If you think your rooster is past his prime, you may need to get a younger rooster.
  • Inexperienced roosters. A young rooster should learn the ropes by the time he’s 6 months old or so.
  • Fluffy butts. Some breeds such as Cochins and Golden Laced Wyandottes have very fluffy butts, which prevent the successful fertilization of a hen’s eggs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to trim some of the excess feathers to ensure your rooster can do his job successfully.
  • Stressors. Stress has a huge impact on rooster fertility. For example, dehydration and heat stress can cause testicular malfunction.
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At what age do roosters start mating?

Cockerels reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5 months of age and remain sexually active for almost their entire life.

Why Do Some Chickens Run Around Before Mating?

Sometimes the hen may not want to mate, so she runs away. The male will usually chase after the hen and pin her down to mate with her.

How do I make my roosters and hens mate?

Generally, chickens usually don’t require any motivation to mate. All you need to do is to put a rooster and hens together and they will start mating in no time.

Is mating necessary for hens to lay eggs?

Egg-laying hens do not have to mate or have a rooster available to lay eggs. Hens only require a rooster if you want fertilized chicken eggs to hatch chicks after incubation. If there’s no rooster around, the hens will lay unfertilized eggs. So if you’re raising chickens solely for egg production, a rooster is unnecessary.

How often do free-range chickens mate mate?

During the mating season, a rooster can mate around 10 to 30 times a day. That may seem exhausting, but the entire process takes less than 2 minutes.

Patrick Anampiu

Patrick is an avid pet lover and passionate writer who enjoys crafting stories and feels most alive when telling stories about people whose lives have been enriched by their pets. He enjoys adding more chickens to his flock and loves sharing insights on how to take better care of pets and other animals in our lives. When not writing and raising chickens, Patrick enjoys traveling and exploring nature in all its beauty.

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