Why Do Chickens Lay Unfertilized Eggs

One of the fascinating things about chickens is that they will continue laying eggs even if they don’t have roosters around. However, hens usually lay unfertilized eggs if they don’t mate with roosters.

Chickens lay unfertilized eggs for many reasons other than failure to mate with roosters. Hens, for instance, lay infertile eggs because of diet-related factors, hormonal imbalances, and age.

Reasons for Unfertilized Chicken Eggs

Chickens lay infertile eggs for many reasons. For instance, your hens can lay infertile eggs because of dietary issues or reproductive problems. These are some reasons chickens lay infertile eggs.

Seasonality of Hen’s Reproductive Cycle

The seasonality of a hen’s reproductive cycle can affect egg fertilization. Maximum egg fertilization in hens is likely to occur during summer days. Egg fertilization can continue during fall, spring, and winter days.

However, hens’ reproductive cycles are lowest during such days, so your hens are likely to lay infertile eggs during the fall, winter, and spring.

Diet-Related Factors

Nutritional-related factors can also affect egg fertilization. For instance, hens need a diet with adequate selenium to produce fertile eggs. While your hens will continue laying without physically mating with roosters, their chances of laying infertile eggs are pretty high if they don’t consume a diet with adequate selenium.

Breeding hens also need a diet with around 20 mg of vitamin E to maintain high fertilization rates. Increased protein consumption can boost fertility in roosters, increasing the number of fertile eggs you get from your layers. Iron deficiency in chickens can also lead to poor egg fertilization rates.

Diets high in whole grains, unsaturated fats, protein, and vegetables can help improve egg fertilization in hens. Some foods, such as processed foods and high-fat dairy products, can lower sperm health and rooster fertility, prompting hens to lay infertile eggs.

Giving vitamin E supplements to your hens can help improve egg fertilization and hatchability rates. Overall, poor nutrition can affect egg quality, hatchability, and fertilization. A high-quality diet is the surest way to ensure your layers lay fertile eggs, provided they are mating with the cockerels in your flock.

Genetic and Breed-Related Factors

Genetic limitations in chickens can result in low egg fertilization rates. Some gene mutations and chromosomal abnormalities can cause infertility. Furthermore, gene mutations can also cause roosters’ infertility. Hens with genetic abnormalities are likely to produce infertile eggs because such abnormalities can lead to infertility and ovulation disruptions.

Hens with gene disorders usually experience fertility problems, making them likely to produce infertile eggs even after mating with roosters countless times. Hens and roosters with genetic abnormalities risk passing these abnormalities to their offspring, consequently increasing the likelihood of their offspring laying infertile eggs.

The breed can also affect egg fertilization in chickens. The more productive a chicken is, the more likely the bird will lay fertile eggs. Some species, like Silkies and Japanese bantams, are among the least productive breeds.

These chickens have poor egg fertilization rates, unlike terrific layers like Leghorns and Australorp. There is a relationship between breed and egg production and fertilization. Productive breeds have high egg fertilization rates, unlike unproductive breeds.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalances can make a hen lay infertile eggs. Irregular hormonal imbalances can make egg production and egg fertilization difficult. Hormonal imbalances are the major cause of chicken infertility. Some hormones that regulate egg fertilization in chickens include Prolactin, FSH(follicle-stimulating hormone), and LH(Luteinising hormone).

Some factors like genetic dispositions and environment can suppress these reproductive hormones, causing hormonal imbalances that make chickens unable to produce fertile eggs. Chickens with insufficient levels of LH and FSH are at risk of laying infertile eggs.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are significant contributors to infertility in chickens. Weather is among the many environmental factors that make chickens lay infertile eggs. Hens, for instance, are likely to produce unfertilized eggs during winter because of a decrease in daylight hours.

The reduction of daylight hours doesn’t only affect egg production, but it also affects egg fertilization. That’s why hens have poor egg fertilization rates during wintertime.

Certain environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals can contribute to infertility in both hens and roosters. For instance, chickens vulnerable to lead poisoning are at risk of infertility. These chickens also lay infertile eggs due to environmental pollutants.

Noise is another environmental factor that affects the egg formation and development process. Furthermore, noise can affect egg production and egg fertilization. Hens living in noise-prone areas are likely to produce infertile eggs.

Population density is a crucial environmental factor that affects egg fertility. A flock with a high population density will have a high infertility rate. For instance, a large flock with many hens and fewer roosters can record poor egg fertilization rates because not all hens will have males to mate with. Consequently, most of the hens in that flock will produce infertile eggs.

Chickens also tend to lay fewer fertile eggs during the cold season. Besides affecting egg production in chickens, colds can also reduce egg fertility and hatchability. Long-term exposure to cold temperatures can increase your hens’ possibility of producing infertile eggs.

Scorching temperatures can also affect egg fertilization rates. Chickens have a high egg fertilization rate when temperatures are around 11 to 26 degrees Celsius. Egg fertilization diminishes significantly below this ambient temperature.

Stressful Environment

A stressful environment will make your hens produce infertile eggs in the long run. Stress affects egg production, hatchability, and fertilization. Your hens will lay optimally while living in a stress-free environment. Similarly, your hens will produce many fertile eggs in a stress-free environment.

Many environmental factors can stress your birds. For instance, loud noises and predation can make your chickens’ environment quite stressful, ultimately suppressing their egg production and fertilization capabilities. Bullying and regular coop fights can create a stressful environment for your hens.

Pullets are likely to lay infertile eggs when they live together with aggressive hens that won’t let them mate with the dominant cockerels in the flock. Stress in egg layers can lead to rapid hormonal changes that affect egg fertilization rates.

chicken missing feathers back

Heat stress can make your chickens’ environment stressful. Chickens are vulnerable to extreme heat, so excess heat can be a source of stress for your layers. Your chickens’ fertility and egg fertilization rates may reduce dramatically because of stress resulting from heat stress.

Parasites contribute to a stressful environment for your chickens. Parasites will trouble and stress your chickens, making the birds incapable of laying normally and laying high-quality fertile eggs.

A stressful environment can also affect fertility rates in roosters. Juvenile roosters, for instance, are likely to develop fertility problems following long-term exposure to stressful conditions. Stress can suppress such roosters’ reproductive systems, ultimately compromising their fertility.

Overall, stressful conditions can impact your flock’s fertility, making the birds unable to produce fertile eggs.

Age of the Hen

A hen’s age can affect egg production and egg fertilization. Ideally, younger hens are more productive than older hens because their reproductive systems are at their peak. Thus, younger hens are likely to lay fertile eggs, unlike older hens.

Some younger hens may produce infertile eggs even with roosters around because their reproductive systems aren’t yet in sync with their egg fertilization capabilities. Furthermore, younger hens produce little reproductive hormones at the beginning of their laying journey, so they might have problems producing fertile eggs.

Older hens rarely lay because the older a hen grows, the more its egg production and fertilization capabilities will decline. The hormonal changes in hens due to aging can affect their fertility. Older hens also suffer from reproductive failure due to hormonal imbalances. So egg fertilization rates are lower in older hens than in younger hens.

Problem with The Rooster

Hens can lay infertile eggs not because they have a problem, but because of issues with the roosters they are mating. For instance, hens consistently lay infertile eggs if they continue breeding with infertile roosters. Infertility affects hens and roosters alike. Low sperm count is common in infertile roosters, so you shouldn’t expect fertile eggs from your hens if they mate with infertile roosters.

Fertility in roosters also decreases with age. The older the rooster, the more it’s likely to be unproductive. While older roosters are usually the dominant roosters in any flock, they have fertility problems that can make hens lay infertile eggs.

What to do with Unfertilized Eggs?

Having infertile eggs can be disappointing, particularly if you need fertile eggs for incubation. Besides eating unfertilized eggs, there are other ways of dealing with infertile eggs, including:

Checking for Fertility Before Incubation

You can use the floating test or candling technique to check the infertile eggs for fertility before incubation. Avoid incubating eggs without checking for fertility because you won’t know whether the eggs will hatch.

Use the Eggs for Cooking or Sell Them

Infertile eggs are suitable for consumption since they have a similar nutritional profile. You can use your infertile eggs for cooking because you can’t use these eggs for incubation. Alternatively, you can give away or sell infertile eggs if they are too many for your consumption.


Dealing with infertile eggs can be tricky because these eggs are only suitable for consumption. You can’t incubate unfertilized eggs and expect to have some new baby chicks in weeks. So, understand why your hens are laying infertile eggs and fix any problems that make the layers produce infertile eggs.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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