Reproduction - the rooster

  • Males normally reach sexual maturity between 12-16 weeks old.  This varies with management system and genetics, with the feeding and lighting regime having a major effect.
  • Crowing by the male increases greatly between 24 and 68 weeks.  Crowing is not related to the male's sex drive or ability to mate, but it does indicate a cock's general vigour of pre-mating courtship and appears to be related more to aggression than fertility.
  • Scoring males for sexual activity by counting the number of mounts in a given period does not appear to be very useful.
  • Hatchability percentage and male mating ability can be used to measure commercial success in hatcheries and these traits are critical to profit.   Hatchability has varied from 0-74% in some studies.
  • Males have a very elaborate courting ritual.  It has not changed from its Jungle Fowl ancestors.
    •    The cock approaches the hen that either run, side-steps, or crouches.
    •    This stimulates the male to waltz, trailing a wing before mounting.
    •    During mounting the cock treads with his feet on the hen's back.
    •    Then their vents (cloacas) come in contact and the male ejaculates.
    •    The cock steps off may court again or stands shakes himself and may run off.

Factors involved in success:

  • Previous mating experience by the male is important.
  • Heavy-breed males court less and have fewer matings than light-breed males, but the heavies have higher sperm numbers.
  • Females crouched more often for young males which did more mating than older males.
  • High social-rank males initially mate with more hens than low-ranked males, the advantage is short-lived.
  • In controlled environments, more matings occur 15 hours after lights are on which means a peak (80%) between 4 pm and 6 pm depending on the lighting regime.
  • Male/female ratios of 1:5, 1:10; 1:12, or 3:40 were equally successful.
  • Changes in light pattern increase or stimulate male sperm production, though normal semen production occurs with standard light levels.
  • Depriving males of water for 48 hours will reduce semen production for up to 6 weeks.
  • High levels of iodine (5000 ppm) and mouldy feeds reduce sperm quality.
  • Sperm production is improved in low temperatures.
  • In sexually active males, massage will not produce semen as it will in low-activity cocks.
  • Males will mate from 1 to 53 times a day.
  • Males kept together will mount (tread) each other.
  • Courtship.  Caged males spend more time waltzing than colony males, the latter moving up on hens from the rear rather than the side.
  • Males in floor pens did more fighting, courting, and mating than those in colony cages.  Females avoided males more in the floor pens.
  • Bouncing insecure floors upset males more than rigid floors.