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As a longtime chicken breeder, I was amused by Robert Gill's Sept. 12 letter ["Let cocks crow in already-awake Spotsylvania"]. Gill apparently heard from his grandmother that "to have hens laying eggs on a regular basis, there would need to be a rooster on
Sorry, but this is not true!
Over the years, this question about the need for a rooster has been the most frequent inquiry about chickens that I get from city folk. A rooster is necessary only if you want to have fertile eggs that can hatch into baby chicks! Much as I love my handsome, prize-winning roosters, they are not needed for the family that wants to keep some laying hens for the eggs they produce.
If you do acquire some hens, be prepared for fluctuations in egg production related to weather, seasons, the amount of light in the environment, and the age of your birds. Hens stop laying during their annual molt (the gradual replacement of old feathers with new ones). The molt can occur in summer or fall, or can be brought on by stress.
Few eggs will appear in the short days of winter. After the winter "break," hens will start laying again as the days lengthen. Poultry breeders sometimes accelerate this natural process by turning on lights in their coops to provide "daylight." As hens age, the rate of egg production will slow down.
Lifetime member of the Virginia Poultry Breeders Association.