Do Roosters Have a Penis? (No, and Here’s Why)

Rooster without a penis

Rooster penises have long been a topic of debate. After all, many creatures in the animal kingdom exhibit a vast array of reproductive organs. Yet, roosters, surprisingly, don’t fit the mold that most people expect.

Roosters do not have a penis; instead, roosters possess a papilla. It is a small internal nub inside their cloaca, which connects directly to their testes. This absence is due to certain components being shut down in their development.

In this article, you will find the scientific reasons behind the lack of a penis in roosters, how they mate without one, and the specifics of their reproductive system. Let’s get started!

Why Don’t Roosters Have a Penis?

Rooster's body in a museum

During the early stages inside the egg, male chicken embryos exhibit an external structure that hints at the potential for penis growth. Yet, this structure mysteriously disappears before they hatch.

Research points towards a mutation involving the bone morphogenetic protein 4 (Bmp4). It is a component that wears many hats in developmental biology.

Primarily, it plays a role in shaping cartilage and bone in embryos. This is not limited to chickens; Bmp4 is essential for the growth of specific appendages in all animals, including humans.

However, note that it’s also linked to a phenomenon known as programmed cell death (PCD) or cellular suicide. This may be what ultimately causes the disappearance of rooster penises.

To be specific, by the ninth day of a rooster’s maturation, Bmp4 activates. This action leads to the external structure, which could have been a penis, regressing and reducing to what becomes the papilla.

The Rooster Reproductive System Explained

Like all living beings, roosters have evolved a reproductive system to ensure the continuity of their species. Below are some of the most important parts of this system:


The epididymis stands as the foundation of rooster reproduction. Here, multiple functions critical to maintaining fertility occur, such as fluid and calcium reabsorption. It’s also where sperm undergo certain modifications.


Testes are the sperm-producing glands of roosters and are located in their abdomens near their kidneys. Yet, note that there’s a fascinating fact about this particular organ that you probably don’t know.

Interestingly, roosters with oversized testes tend to be more aggressive. This has led some farmers to caponize their male chickens and just use them for meat instead of breeding.

Vas Deferens

After the testes have done their part, the journey isn’t over for the sperm and semen. They travel through ducts known as the vas deferens.

These channels efficiently move sperms from the testes to make sure they reach the cloaca when it’s time for mating.


The cloaca plays dual roles in the life of roosters. Positioned at the end of both their digestive and urinary tracts, it’s responsible for excretion. However, during mating, this same opening facilitates reproduction.

When a rooster mates, his cloaca aligns with the hen’s, which permits a seamless transfer of sperm.


Nestled just inside the cloaca is a tiny protrusion called the papilla. It might seem insignificant given its small size, but it’s the final gatekeeper for the rooster’s sperm and semen.

Basically, before the sperm exits the male chicken and enters the hen, it flows beyond this tiny bump on the cloaca’s wall. Then, at last, it passes through to fertilize eggs.

How Do Roosters Mate Without a Penis?

Rooster and hen mating without penis

Roosters have a unique mating process that doesn’t involve an external reproductive organ. Instead, it’s a series of behaviors that ensure the successful transfer of sperm. Here’s a breakdown of their mating steps:


Roosters don’t simply plunge into mating. They begin by initiating courtship manners. These actions include puffing out their feathers, dancing, offering food, and vocalizing their intentions.

Their primary goal is to catch the hen’s eye and earn her favor. Depending on her mood, a hen might either ignore these advances or display her own set of receptive behaviors.


When a hen decides she’s interested, her response is noticeable. She’ll crouch down, signaling her readiness for the next step. Grabbing this opportunity, the rooster will take his position and mount her from behind.

Cloacal Kiss

Once in position, the essential phase of sperm transfer takes place. This is known as the “cloacal kiss.” During this act, the cloacas of both the male and female chickens touch.

The following video shows how hens and roosters go about this task:

As a poultry farmer, I have observed the cloacal kiss many times. This brief interaction usually lasts five seconds or less. However, I noticed that it often takes a couple of attempts to ensure success.

What Are the Advantages of Not Having a Penis for Roosters?

When thinking about roosters, it may be surprising to learn that they lack penises. Yet, this absence offers some advantages that are not often considered.

The following are some of the benefits male chickens enjoy as a result of not having a penis:

  • Simplified anatomy: Roosters don’t have the complexities associated with penises. This simplicity reduces potential risks and allows them to function more effortlessly in their environment.
  • Less vulnerable to predators: The lack of a penis in roosters means they have one less weak point. In particular, predators can’t easily target or grab them, which increases their chances of escape and survival.
  • Quick mating: The rapid cloacal kiss ensures that roosters can mate effectively without prolonged exposure.
  • Better temperature regulation: Generally, a penis can be influenced by external temperatures. Roosters, which do not have to worry about this factor, are capable of regulating their body heat more efficiently.
  • Reduced weight: Lacking a penis means less body weight to carry around. This slight weight reduction can aid roosters in faster movements.
  • Hygiene and health: Because of their lack of external genitalia, roosters are less likely to be affected by infections or diseases.

As you can see, even though roosters may seem unusual because they do not carry a penis, this is actually beneficial for their health. Plus, about 97% of all male birds share this characteristic.

Are There Any Birds That Do Have Penises?

Geese mating on the lake

Among the 10,000 known avian species, a mere three percent possess penises. It’s a surprisingly small group. Specifically, this group includes ducks, geese, swans, emus, rheas, cassowaries, tinamous, and ostriches.

This is because when the Bmp4 activates in these birds, it doesn’t lead to phallus regression, unlike in roosters.

Final Thoughts

As established, roosters stand out for an odd reason: they lack penises. This absence is rooted in their genetic makeup.

Specifically, it’s the action of the Bmp4 that’s causing male chickens to develop a papilla instead of a phallus. Yet, bear in mind that they’re not alone in this situation — many other birds also don’t have penises.

Given this, you can anticipate that they’ve evolved to have a different means of reproduction. They do so through what’s known as the cloacal kiss.

Additionally, while it may seem like a disadvantage for roosters to lack penises, it most certainly isn’t. In truth, they are less likely to get infections and diseases associated with their genitalia.

Did you find this article about male chicken reproductive anatomy interesting? If so, please share your thoughts below. Comments about rooster penises, or the absence thereof, are welcome!

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