If you’ve ever lived on a farm you might know the answer to this next question (or you might not); do chickens get pregnant? It’s a question that many have pondered for a very long time because, if you look at most animals, they do get pregnant and they do have babies. But chickens lay eggs all the time that don’t turn into baby chicks, which leaves many a person confused, especially people who want to purchase chickens to keep at home and lay eggs for them as food.
In this article, Do Chickens Get Pregnant? we’ll take a look at this conundrum and try to answer that question along with several others. We might not be able to tell you which came first, the chicken or the egg, but we will definitely tell you how hens make eggs, and how roosters are involved in the process, so read on and enjoy!
I know chickens don’t get pregnant in the true meaning of the word. Pregnant means “baring a life offspring to term in the whom.”
Chickens lay eggs and are therefore not “pregnant”.
They get fertilized and may lay fertilized eggs. But I still know what you mean, and pregnant is what you’ve searched for, so that’s what I’ll use in this text.
How do chickens get pregnant with eggs? Do chickens, in fact, get pregnant?
The answer to this question is a definitive ‘no’. At least not in the traditional sense of pregnancy, where a sperm and an egg are brought together to make a baby animal. The fact is, a hen will produce eggs with or without a rooster around and keep producing them nearly every day all year long.
Yes, certain factors like the specific breed of the chicken, the amount of light or darkness they are exposed to, their nutritional intake and the temperature where they live all play a role, but for the most part, a chicken will keep laying eggs their entire life.
But they don’t get pregnant, even if there’s a rooster around.
How Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
Like a human female, chickens have thousands of potential eggs already inside their body, which are called ovum. They are able to start laying eggs at about 5 to 6 months of age, give or take a few days depending on the breed of chicken. At this time, several of the ova (plural for ovum) start to mature into what we humans call an egg yolk, and each yolk is protected by a follicle.
The yolks, one at a time, are then released by their follicle and go down the oviduct or reproductive tract of the chicken. It is here where, if a rooster is present, the yolk will be fertilized. In point of fact, the blastodisc is fertilized by the rooster’s sperm and, when that happens, embryo and cell development begins and turns the blastodisc into a blastoderm.
By the way, the tiny white spot that can be seen on all egg yolks that you cook and eat at home is the blastodisc. It is not the rooster’s sperm, a misconception many have, and is 100% safe to eat.
Now, here’s the thing; whether a rooster is present or not this entire process still happens and leads to the next step, the yolk travelling down further through the oviduct., where the albumen or egg white begins to form. A thin outer layer begins to form also and, if you were to see the entirety of what is now there inside the chicken, it would have the appearance of an egg even though the actual shell hasn’t completely formed yet.
Shell formation happens in the uterus of the chicken, including the pigmentation of the shell that turns it either white or brown and sometimes blue and green too, depending again on the breed. Last but not least a protective layer on the outside of the shell forms called the bloom (or cuticle), which is anti-microbial to protect the chick inside (even if no chick is present).
Finally, the fully formed egg is ready to be laid, which happens through the chicken’s cloaca. This is the same part of the chicken where it also excretes waste. But fear not, the uterus actually extends outward with the egg, inside-out, which keeps the egg quite safe and, along with the bloom, leaves a very clean egg in the nest when the chicken is finished laying it.
Do roosters get chickens pregnant?
No, they don’t. Roosters do help fertilize chicken eggs so that they form into baby chicks but, since they don’t have penises and chickens don’t have vaginas, at least not in the traditional sense, there is no actual ‘sex’ that is performed and no pregnancy to speak of. Remember that chickens will lay eggs whether there is a rooster present or not, which is one of the most fascinating facts about these important animals.
How do roosters get chickens pregnant? How does a rooster fertilize an egg?
Again, keep in mind that hens and roosters don’t have the traditional sex organs that mammals have. Instead, they both have a cloaca (mentioned already, above). The cloaca is used by both the hen and the rooster for excreting body waste, for mating and, with hens, to pass the egg from their body when it’s time to be laid.
If a rooster is present he will initiate mating with as many hens as possible, circling around one with one of his wings dropped down low to the ground. If the hen is willing she will then crouch down low herself and also make her back as flat as possible, as well as holding as still as she can.
Next, while holding tight to the feathers on her head for balance, the rooster will mount the hen. She will then lift her tail while he lowers his in order to be able to touch cloacas in what is called the ‘cloacal kiss’. (It’s not nearly as romantic as it sounds.) When their cloacas are touching the rooster then passes his sperm to the hen, which takes a few scant seconds.
If things didn’t go as planned and the hen didn’t lower herself down the rooster will oftentimes mount her anyway. This can and often does happen several times in a single day. Once the sperm is inside the hen, her body will hold it in the oviduct. It is here where, when a yolk passes into the oviduct, that fertilization occurs as the rooster’s sperm and the hen’s ova come together.
How long until a fertilized ova becomes an egg?
To answer the question: How long does it take for a chicken to get pregnant? or How long do chickens get pregnant? I’ll need you to clarify something for me. Do you mean the time from when the rooster has visited the chicken to the egg is laid? Or the time from when the egg is laid to the new baby chick comes out?
Here’s the answer to both:
Technically speaking it takes between 24 to 26 hours for an ova to actually become an egg and be laid by a hen, following the precise set of sequences that we discussed above.
How Long Before An Egg Hatches into a Chick?
If everything goes according to plan and the hen’s ova is introduced to a rooster’s sperm, it will usually take from 21 to 23 days to hatch into a happy, healthy chick. Do keep in mind that, in some cases, you might have what’s known as a ‘homicidal hen’ who either abandons her nest and leaves the eggs to die or, after they hatch, kills the chicks.
The reason for this behaviour is unknown and only happens occasionally. If everything goes normally, however, which is most often the case, in about 3 weeks you will have a bunch of baby chicks running around the yard!
How often can chickens get pregnant? How often can a hen’s eggs be fertilized?
Assuming that a hen has mated successfully with a rooster and has his sperm inside her, they can lay fertilized eggs for up to 2 weeks. This number can change however depending on several factors like timing, age and so forth. In most cases, it goes lower, not higher, but 2 weeks is a good average to use if you’re making calculations.
Once a hen has reached an age where she can mate with a rooster, about 5 to 6 months, she can mate often and, if a rooster is around, every day until she becomes ‘broody’ and starts to stay on her eggs to keep them warm. Once this happens it will be 21 days, give or take a day, until the eggs she is protecting hatch, at which point she can mate again but likely won’t as she now has chicks to protect.
How often can a chicken lay eggs?
If conditions are perfect a healthy chicken can lay an egg once every 1 and a half to 2 days. Usually, the chickens that can lay at this frequency are older, more mature chickens that are more than one year old. There are younger chickens however called pullets which are less than 1 year and will lay eggs less frequently. Their eggs are usually a bit smaller also. As they age however pullets then become full, adult chickens and begin to lay at the same frequency as the older chickens.
Some will say that it is possible for a chicken to lay more than 1 egg per day but, anatomically and physically speaking, that is impossible, as it takes between 24 and 26 hours for an egg to actually form inside their body. One thing that is not impossible however is for a chicken to lay an egg with more than one yolk. Usually, they are 2-yolk eggs but, on rare occasions, a 3-yolk egg can also be laid.
How to know if your chicken is pregnant
Wondering, how to know if your chicken is pregnant? Here are some ways through which you can get signals that eggs are on the way.
- REDDENING OF WATTLES AND COMBS – When younger chickens mature, you can find their wattles and combs become immensely large. If it happens too early, say within 8 weeks’ age, this could indicate that your chicken has become a young rooster.
However, female chickens develop wattles and combs slowly. When she is ready to lay eggs, her wattles, combs, and face change from pink to bright red. Also, they swell and grow in size.
- LOUDER VOICE – You may notice that crowing roosters are almost banned in many urban areas. But, hens are not that far behind when it comes to sharing vocals. Many people find the crowing of a rooster irritating and jarring compared to the hens.
Chickens tend to squawk and sing for many hours after and before laying eggs. So, when you hear your chickens becoming more talkative, they are about to lay eggs soon.
- INCREASED APPETITE – When young hens are starting to lay eggs, their body undergoes different changes both inside out. The whole process consumes a lot of energy. So, notice when they are beginning to eat more.
Hens that are about to lay eggs have separate nutritional needs compared to the younger chicks. While younger chickens should have feeds containing high protein levels, laying chickens should have extra calcium needed for the proper formation of eggshells.
- SQUATTING BEHAVIOR – Apart from these signs of a chicken laying eggs, the squatting behaviour tells you much about the current scenario. When you walk by your chicken or try to reach her, she might squat and put her wings to her sides.
It looks more like a submissive squat. Give your chick a good pat on the back. Because of biological reasons, this kind of behaviour is normal.
- EXPLORE THE NESTING AREA – When younger hens show more interest in their nesting area than ever before, it means they are about to lay eggs. She might not even come outside and sit inside for a longer duration even if she hasn’t laid eggs then.
There is a good way to encourage younger chicks to lay eggs in the right place inside the nesting box. Place a couple of false eggs inside the box. Chickens tend to lay eggs where they find the other ones. Golf balls might work as well.
Can male chickens lay eggs?
Many people wonder that whether male chickens are capable of laying eggs. Commonly, males of every species can’t lay eggs. But, given the fact that chickens are a kind of bizarre creature, it isn’t a big question to ask if they lay eggs. So, do male chickens lay eggs?
The simple answer to this question is, no. There is no way that male chickens could lay eggs. When it comes to laying eggs, the presence of ovaries is a must. And, only female chickens can have them, not the males.
However, a weird fact about female chickens is that they have one working ovary instead of having two ovaries since birth. Right after they are born, one ovary starts to develop whereas the other one stops functioning. One good reason why they have one working ovary is to avoid the unnecessary bulk of producing eggs.
Can you hatch supermarket eggs?
It is impossible for you to hatch eggs brought from a supermarket or shop store. Most of the egg farms consist of only female flocks. That’s because, for producing eggs, male chickens aren’t required. As a result, there won’t be fertilized eggs where the chicken embryo can develop.
However, even if you want to know whether it is a fertilized egg or not, you have to incubate and candle it for a few days. The whole process might take about 22 days. If the egg is fertilized and the process of incubation started, you can observe a beating heart or even the development of veins.
So, it is evident that even if the egg you bought from the supermarket is a fertilized one, it is quite challenging to find out the reality. While there have been cases where supermarket eggs have been incubated successfully, in most situations it is impossible to hatch one.
Are freshly laid eggs safe to eat?
Yes, they are. First, remember that even though they are laid through the same tube, if you will, that a chicken uses to excrete their body waste, the cloaca turns inside out and protects the egg from any of the nasty stuff in there. Also, the bloom, the outer, anti-bacterial layer on the egg, keep the inner egg safe and clean.
A freshly laid egg can be stored at room temperature for up to a month with no problems, after which you should probably consider moving it to the refrigerator. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you should not wash an egg that you don’t plan to eat right away. Doing this will wash away the protective bloom and allow the egg inside to possibly become contaminated by bacteria and germs. So keep them on the counter in a safe spot and, if you want to clean them, do it with a dry, coarse sponge or rag, not water.
Is it possible to tell if an egg has been contaminated with Salmonella?
Many people fear that they will become sick eating eggs that are contaminated with salmonella and, frankly, that is a healthy fear if you purchase your eggs from a regular grocery store. The fact is, by the time they get to the store, many eggs are already 3 to 4 weeks old and some have been cleaned with water which destroys their bloom.
Can you tell if an egg has salmonella by looking at it or testing it somehow? No, unfortunately, but if you cook it completely the Salmonella will be killed off and the egg will be safe to eat. Keep in mind that ‘sunny-side up’ eggs or ‘runny’ eggs that aren’t completely cooked can give you salmonella poisoning if they were contaminated and so you should always cook eggs thoroughly.
Still, if you have your own chickens the chance that your eggs will be contaminated with salmonella is incredibly small. Should you use them raw, like in a Ceasar salad dressing? Well, that’s up to you but, in the vast majority of the cases, it won’t cause a problem, especially if you’re a good chicken owner who takes very good care of their chickens and keeps their henhouse clean and tidy.
At what time of day do chickens normally lay their eggs?
While a hen can lay her egg at any time of the day she pleases, most do it in the first 5 to 6 hours after sunrise. This is the reason that some people believe that hens can lay more than 1 egg per day, because they check the henhouse at different times on different days and, on occasion, miss one from the day before. When they see 2 eggs they think their hen has laid them both that day when, in fact, they were laid on different days.
As we said earlier, this article didn’t tell you which came first, the chicken or the egg. We hope that it did tell you everything else you wanted to know and answered your question, Do Chickens Get Pregnant? If you have more questions or would like to leave a comment, please do so in the space provided, and best of luck with both your chickens and eggs!