Why Do Roosters Crow? 10 Riveting Facts About Roosters!

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All About the Regal Rooster and the Captivating Cock

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Cock-a-doodle-doo! Why do roosters crow? Do they crow only in the morning? Do we really need roosters for chicken eggs? How do roosters fertilize an egg? And why are roosters often on weathervanes? Here are 10 riveting facts about the regal rooster! 

Below are 10 of your most frequently asked questions about our ferocious friend, the rooster.

1. Are Roosters Chickens?

This may sound like a silly question, but it’s a common one! Yes, a rooster or cock is the term for an adult male chicken. An adult female bird is called a hen. Now, what’s a pullet? Here’s our glossary of chicken terms to see how many you know.

Like many males of different animal species, roosters are more visually distinct than the females and are dressed to impress with brightly colored plumage and ornate tail feathers. A rooster is a handsome bird and the big man on campus—or rather, the farm. He even struts differently than the hen.

Males have long tail feathers, a larger comb and wattles, and pointed feathers down their necks, while females have rounded feathers. Males also have large spurs on the backs of their legs.

A rooster protecting his flock of hens.
Photo courtesy of chickensandyou.com

2. Do Chickens Need a Rooster to Lay Eggs?

No. Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs.  Chickens happily lay eggs whether there is a rooster or not. If there isn’t a rooster around, the eggs are simply unfertilized, like the ones we gather up and eat. They look and taste the same.

You only need a rooster if you want to hatch new chicks. Despite some myths, the eggs that hens lay without a rooster are not fertilized and will never develop into baby chicks. If there’s no rooster, there are no chicks! 

3. How Do Roosters Fertilize an Egg?

First, the rooster does a mating dance, circling the hen. This is her cue to crouch down so the rooster can mount on top of her. Then, the tail feathers are lifted, and their cloaca (posterior orifice) touch so the sperm can enter. That’s it!

4. Do Roosters Have a Penis?

This is an awkward one, but it’s also one of your most common questions. No, the rooster does not have a penis. The rooster does not impregnate a hen and does not “get pregnant.”

After their cloaca (posterior orifice) touch, the female stores the sperm in an area of her body called the “oviduct.” As her egg leaves the ovary, the sperm joins with the egg, and it is fertilized. The sperm she stores lasts a couple of weeks, and then she needs to mate again to fertilize more eggs, or the eggs will be unfertilized.

5. Why Do Roosters Crow?

Ah, the #1 question! Love it or hate it, roosters have a loud crow that will wake the dead (i.e., sound sleepers!).

Roosters’ main role, besides making baby chicks, is to protect the flock. They really work hard in this role, constantly roaming the perimeters of a free-range territory to guard their hens. They will crow to indicate safety for their flock, to communicate their dominance, and to warn of danger.

Some of us like the “cock-a-doodle-doo” of a cheerful rooster. But the loud and incessant crowing is also why many urban neighborhoods prohibit roosters.

6. Do Roosters Crow in the Morning or All Day?

Both! Roosters crow all the time—morning, afternoon, and evening! They’ll crow to greet the day, to lead their flocks to forage, to cue a boundary, and to alert about predators. 

We’re not clear how roosters got to be synonymous with the break of day and a symbol of the morning sun; however, they do usually START crowing just before sunrise. So, perhaps it’s just more noticeable.

How loud is a rooster? The crow is, on average, about 80 to 90 decibels (and 142 decibels right next to their head). For perspective, a chainsaw produces about 120 decibels. It’s truly a deafening level at prolonged exposure, but chickens have a special way to protect their hearing to avoid going deaf: When a rooster opens its beak fully to crow, its ear canals are partially closed off and protected from the sound.

7. What Do Roosters Do?

Most folks who raise chickens don’t have roosters if all they want are eggs. When you have an enclosed pen, there’s really no reason to have a rooster. They’re not needed for (unfertilized) eggs; many places do not even allow roosters (due to loud crowing); they are often aggressive to humans who enter their territory. Find out what to do about an aggressive rooster.

That said, if you end up with a rooster, he can be helpful. The rooster will help watch for predators and alert you if there’s danger. What is endearing is that a rooster will put his hens’ lives before his own, allowing the girls to run for cover first. A rooster also helps prevent drama among the hens, breaks up fights, and protects the weaker, smaller hens as they grow up. He’ll even pick up treats and bring them to hens as gifts!

So, if you have the space (and no neighbors to be bothered by the crowing!), a rooster is just such a quintessential symbol of the family farm. Also, there are more docile breeds that are less aggressive to hens and humans, including Orpingtons, Australorps, Faverolles, or a bantam breed.

8. Can You Eat a Rooster?

Yes, roosters are eaten in many countries. They’re just less common in America because the majority of chickens raised are hens for egg-laying and roasters, and it’s less economical to raise roosters than hens (since hens lay eggs, too).

9. What Do Roosters Eat?

Roosters eat less food than hens because they don’t expend the energy to lay eggs. Hens need extra calcium. If you have a rooster, be sure to put the calcium in a separate bowl for the hens instead of mixing it into the feed. The roosters won’t want to eat it, and, in fact, it’s not good for them to ingest too much calcium, or they’ll get kidney stones and other problems.

10. Can Roosters Fly?

It’s rare for a rooster to fly. They will jump, hop, and perhaps fly over a short fence at most, but roosters are largely flightless birds. They can not fly long distances or even short distances without a running start. Roosters do use their wings for communicating, such as warning chickens of a predator or fighting with other roosters.

Bonus: Why are Roosters on Weathervanes?

“The first known weather vane sat on top of the Tower of the Winds in Athens during the first century BC. The rooster weather vane, or weathercock, appeared a thousand years later when a papal edict announced that every church must carry the symbol of a rooster. This was to remind the faithful of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, who said that the cock would not crow until Peter had denied him three times. In the nineteenth century, people made weather vanes showing everyday activities. Horses represented transportation, sport, and social status, and many craftsmen made weather vanes of record-winning racehorses.” (Charles Klamkin, Weather Vanes, 1973)

Wind from the east — bad for man and beast;
Wind from the south is too hot for them both;
Wind from the north is of very little worth;
Wind from the west is the softest and the best.
–The 1851 Old Farmer’s Almanac

See folklore of Cocks, Cockcrows, and Weathercocks.

What questions do you have about roosters? Leave them in the comments below, and we will do our best to answer!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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