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Help for Aggressive Roosters

4/9/2010 11:45:44 AM

Tags: Robert Plamondon, roosters, baby chicks, keeping poultry, raising poultry

fighting roosters

People often ask me how to handle difficult roosters. They tell me, “I went out to the chicken yard to collect eggs, and the rooster attacked me. Of course, I had to show him who’s boss, so we had a fight and I won!”
And I assure them, “Sure, I can show you how to fix this, and it’s worth it. Imagine how much more pleasant your life will be when you never have to worry about a rooster again. But first, I want more detail. So you’re out in the chicken yard, and there he is. He acts in a threatening manner. You act in a threatening manner back. He acts even more threatening, and before you know it, the two of you are fighting, right?”

“Sure.”

Then I ask, “But did I just describe what happened from the rooster’s point of view, or from yours?”

Maybe you’ve heard that a stage hypnotist can make you think you’re a chicken. That’s nothing! Even a chicken can make you think you’re a chicken! In these barnyard fight scenes, the rooster is in charge from start to finish. First, he decides what’s going to happen: a fight, right here, right now. Then he gets you to join the fight. How does this happen? And how do you make it stop?

But let’s not give too much credit to the rooster. The issue isn’t that the rooster is powerful, but that the human automatically accepts whatever role is thrust on him, and that means that even a chicken can redefine who you are! … at least for a minute or two.

Of course, everyone makes mistakes, and the first time a rooster attacks you it’s a big surprise. You can’t expect to do your best decision-making when startled, so the first time doesn’t count as far as I’m concerned. We’ve all been there. But what’s the long-term solution?

Don’t forget, a rooster who thinks that you’re a fellow rooster is mistaken! And by fighting him, you are not only participating in his delusion, you’re reinforcing it. First he was convincing you, and now you’re convincing him.

Suppose you win. What’s the payoff? The glory of vanquishing an eight-pound bird? Sort of a foregone conclusion, wasn’t it? And what is all this fighting going to look like to the neighbors? Are you sure you can explain it to your kids … or the cops?

Desensitizing an Aggressive Rooster

It’s not hard to desensitize an aggressive rooster. The first step is to desensitize yourself. Look deep into my eyes: You’re not a chicken. Rooster rules don’t apply to you, and this means that you are free to act in an un-rooster-like manner. You have options, and the most important option is to reject the roles that others project onto you.

I use only three techniques for desensitizing aggressive roosters:

1. Never fight them. If they attack me, I withdraw slowly, without fighting back. This is not difficult. Roosters aren’t very dangerous and this isn’t a life-or-death struggle. A chicken can’t force you to do anything; the choices are all yours.

2. Don’t scare them. Don’t walk directly towards them as if you’re going to run them down. If you watch the roosters, you’ll notice that their behavior changes before they attack. They do a little dance and give other signals that they’re feeling threatened. Don’t trigger this behavior. If you do, back off a little and they’ll forget all about you.

3. Feed them handfuls of grain. Roosters know that other roosters don’t double as feed dispensers, so when they associate you with food, it’s hard for them to think of you as a fellow rooster.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly these techniques work, how much better you feel about your chickens, and how much more confidence and control you’ve achieved. By observing your chickens’ behavior but not participating in it, you can give them what they really need, not what they think they want.

Do I Need a Rooster?

Don't forget to ask yourself, "Do I really need a rooster?" Sometimes they're nothing but a burden or a disappointment. For example, some people get a rooster to father baby chicks, but then never get around to hatching any. If offspring were the plan, but there aren’t going to be any, you’ve set your autopilot on a one-way trip to nowhere.

It’s easy to get rid of roosters if you offer them for free on Craigslist or in your local newspaper. They will probably end up in someone’s stew pot, but at least someone’s enjoying them. It’s almost impossible to get rid of roosters with a “free to good home” ad.

I remember an old farmer telling me once that, with livestock, the important thing is to think through the relationship. You’re supposed to be building a pleasant present and a better future. Unless that’s where things are headed, it’s time to make changes. He expressed this as, “There’s a livestock auction every Thursday.” What he meant was that we can end an unsuccessful relationship quickly — and we should, because when things go sour, everyone's a loser. It's time for someone else to give it a try. As for me, I like having them around, and my farm is a good place for them. Your situation may be different, though.

If you fight the rooster, he’s going to come back for a rematch. In a pecking order, victory is always temporary; every fight is just the warm-up act for the next fight. And if the rooster starts attacking one human, he tends to attack others too. Don’t you just hate it when roosters attack little kids? I sure do! These problems don’t go away by themselves; you have to resolve them.

Putting on your human hat puts you in control of your livestock and your life. It’s like the Kung Fu master said, “If you can make it across the chicken yard, Grasshopper, you will become a master.”

Sometimes, though, people who ask me for rooster advice reject the whole concept. I don't know why, but some of them walk away still believing they have no choice but to keep kicking around their roosters. It’s sad. Hard on the roosters, too.


Robert Plamondon has lots of great advice about poultry on the Poultry Pages of his website.


iStockPhoto/Keiichi Hiki



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Bunny
6/8/2014 6:26:53 PM
I recently got silkie chicks and one is a boy and one is a girl. This is my first time ever having chickens anyways my boy silkie keeps pecking the female on the back and sometimes the head mostly on the back and i also have ducks who live with them in the same pen house thingie (we are separating them soon) anyways what im trying to say is why does this happen? And should i separate the rooster and Hen?

Lisa
4/2/2014 4:09:23 PM
I solved my problem with a squirt bottle. I have a very aggressive 12pnd rooster whom I have seen almost kill a red tailed hawk. Unfortunately after that he also got cocky with me. He went so far as to send me to the hospital for stitches and antibiotics. We need the rooster because of the hawks I do not need the attitude. After reading all these posts I adopted a new attitude. He gets the repect and room he needs, Im careful not to come straight at him or his hens, so he is not threatened. I also carry a spray bottle set to stream with water and enough vinegar in it to make it smelly. When he gets that look in his eye and I know hes coming after me I spray the hell out of him in the chest and neck (no eyes). He doesnt seem to know what to do with that so he just stops and walks away. Its been three days and he doesnt seem to come at me half as much and has not actually attacked at all. There may be a peace treaty yet.

Marten
2/8/2014 12:05:21 AM
Try Catching fighting rooster is quite dangerous. We come to see it many places. There a lot of information hides in this blog about rooster. When they dance how they look? I think it was nice. I had never seen such a fighting. I like dance very much. I am a bar dancer and prefer to dance in a good dance floor. Many people take dance floor in rental basis for dance and enhance the value of that party. Dance in case of rooster is different and interesting to see. http://bostonloungedecor.com/wordpress/gallery/dance-floor-lighting-rentals/

ivalue
6/29/2013 11:16:41 AM
Fighting back only made our rooster want to fight more. Finally, I began catching him, petting him and bringing him in the house with us every time he was aggressive. It only took a few times. I can't tell you how sad and humiliated Mr. Big Bad Rooster lookeed when he was being firmly held and petted, then sulking in our kitchen with no one to boss around.

Carol Mace
4/4/2013 2:59:08 PM
I was married and left home my Mom raised some chickens. One turned out to be a rooster. Every time I came to her house he would wait under the car and come out from under the car and attack me. One day he scared me so bad I kicked him as hard as I could. I was wearing cowboy boots at the time and he went flying thru the air. This worked to make him more sceptical but he never really stopped attacking.

Dana Burton
4/4/2013 12:28:19 PM
Thank you!!

Hotshot Mcd
8/16/2012 5:00:59 AM
Nice writing.

Cathy Brown
7/10/2012 1:28:53 PM
We have a rooster that sometimes will never shut up! He also used to attack ME terribly for talking to his girls. We live in the city and have a small back yard. I put a harness on my rooster and a leash. He is only outside when we are home and he sleeps inside at night. What was once a real stinker...he is totally controllable. Too much crowing and in he comes. Stopped attacking the minute the harness went on. Of course we are always checking his harness for rubbing and occasionally he might wrap himself around a rock, but, we are always looking out for our rooster like he looks out for his girls. Raised as a chick, we only wanted pullets. Sophie quickly became Robert and so it goes.....he is 2.5 years now and we wish only that he would just BE QUIET and outgrow that obnoxious crowing! A couple crows fine! We love him anyways.....

Kym Roberts-Hardesty
4/18/2012 9:30:42 PM
We are going to be buying some cornish chickens for butchering. Would it be alright to buy all roosters since they are larger and they will only be together for eight weeks?

Madelyn Rosenberg
7/26/2011 10:04:52 AM
Have a chicken ,received two baby chicks(polish chickens) they are about 3 months old,come to find out one of Polish chicks is a rooster,he gets aggressive with my other non-polish chicken and she just lays in the corner of the coop until I pick her up to free range but I noticed the rooster is attacking her outside (not good) he is great with his female polish chicken,any suggestions,I am a novice chicken person ,do have fun with them

Mother Hen
4/2/2011 9:31:13 AM
A rooster will also know that another rooster does not carry a spray bottle full of water either. It works better than a stick which was my first weapon of choice. Give it a try.

John D_1
3/30/2011 12:16:40 PM
Things have certainly changed in the last 20 years! Any time growing up we had a problem with an agressive Rooster...we VERY shortly thereafter enjoyed a nice chicken dinner...just sayin'

kelebekji
3/26/2011 3:17:22 AM
i've got a rooster, i can tell ya! Last year he pierced my hand back to the front, all the way through! And dammit, he just did it again. He's a good protector though and my birds run free all day. i don't know what i'm gonna do with the old boy.

Pat
9/30/2010 11:30:20 AM
Our Brewster died this past summer of his 8th year. A large Buff Orpington, he was a great sparring partner and if I didn't have time to spar with him, I just picked him up and held him for a few minutes. Always seemed to humiliate him to the nth degree. He was a great child sitter too. Kept all young children within dashing distance of a life saving adult so we never had to worry about youngsters getting into some trouble unseen. I suspect happily owning an aggressive roo requires a different outlook.

Myra_4
8/10/2010 5:19:05 PM
It is unlikely that I will be raising any chickens, but Mr. Plamondon has a great sense of humor. I laughed all the way through the story and now I am forwarding it to all my non-chicken raising friends. Ask Mr. Plamondon to write more stories. He's got a new career! Thanks from a 73 year old MEN lover. I have the original issue that was published in 1970. I read MEN as an inexpensive form of escapism which lets me deal with this city life for a while more.

Terri_2
8/8/2010 8:27:57 AM
I have only been raising poultry for 8 years. I think some of the problem is the breed involved. I had an aggressive Americana bantam one (killed by a predator) But all of my roosters now are either Silkie or of Silkie blood. They do the dominance thing. But other than one or two "teenagers" getting a little rambuctious I have never had one attack a human. Barney (oldest rooster) sometimes does his courting dance and then pull my shoelaces. When he bit me as a cockerel I would snatch him up and hold him petting him until he calmed down. Now I don't know if it really calmed him or let him know I was bigger and he wasn't in charge. I also hand feed on occasion and all of my birds know I am the food dispenser. I am working now to gentle down an adult Royal Palm Tom. He has a hate towards my 5 year old niece (who teased him as a poult) He took to me within a week of having him (as an adult)and is getting better with all adults. I sit on the ground holding him and petting him and then have my niece come up and gently stroke his head and talk to him. We are also having her toss him bread. (the young teenagers mob him if she tries to feed him directly) Now if I could only get the half grown poults to take turns eating goodies!!!!

Zoelle
8/6/2010 4:09:56 PM
I had a Black Australorp rooster who was given to me by friends of friends. He was afraid of people and if he felt threatened (someone walking straight toward him), he would fluff up and "dance". If you kept going, he would try to spur you. I felt bad that he was this afraid and I didn't like having to constantly keep an eye on him when in the chicken yard (didn't trust him to have my back to him). What brought us closer was an injury. He cut his foot and the hens were pecking his wound making it worse. I had to wait until he was roosting that night and I grabbed him. I brought him into the house and put him in a dog kennel in the basement. The next morning I got him from the kennel, held him tightly under my arm and brought him upstairs. My husband helped me clean his injury and put medicine on it. Then I just held him. I sat on the couch with a towel in my lap and pet his comb and wattles. Eventually, he fell asleep (until I had to move or something made a noise). After days of this, he settled down faster and when I returned him back to the flock, I never had to worry about him. He would watch me, but never fluffed up or "danced" at me again. Every night, I would make sure I gave him a few pats before I locked up the chickens for the night. Now, I always make sure I pay special attention to my roosters. Most run from me during the day, but I get to hold them and pet them when they are calm and roosting at night.

Holly Jones_4
8/4/2010 11:36:55 PM
I am an urban chicken keeper. Early this year I had to give up my rooster because he crowed incessantly. But he was the sweetest bird i ever raised. He was 8 months old when I gave him to a friend with room. My roo would stand still and let me pick him up. I'd put him in the dirt room for the night and let him out in the morning. He was so much fun to watch as he took care of his girls. I still miss him. I realize that he might be different by now, but it was fun having him. He was big, solemn, dignified and so beautiful. He definitely associated me with food and shelter, and I NEVER treated him with disrespect. Other roosters I've had have either avoided me or bitten me soundly, so I know this fellow was unusual. I researched "decrowing" and found no good news there. Wish there was a breed with a quiet rooster!

john m_3
8/4/2010 7:35:30 PM
i have raised chicken for 40 yrs. you do not tame a rooster. they will fight for dominance and there is nothing you can do about it. the rooster that attack people are usually the not dominant male. he gets beat up by the alpha male so he takes his aggression out on other members of the animal world. i have seen a rooster attack a horse, he lost of course. you need about one rooster for 10-15 hens. and even then you may have to make seperate pins. roosters fight for dominance. that is what they do. you cannot change their genetic inheritance. in the real world you eat them, sell them, give them away.

ginger71
8/4/2010 4:49:54 PM
I had a 45 lb. Bronze-breasted turkey that turned aggressive on us. The fellow that gave the bird to us said it had been aggressive to his wife, who was pretty tiny. I had two very young boys at the time and kept an eye on the whole merry troop at all times. No one under 5 was outside alone with 'P-3' and all was peace, for a time. Actually about six months. 'P-3' was a great watchdog. At his size, strangers didn't even bother getting out of their cars when this huge bird walked up on them. He wasn't bothered by the pig or the dogs, and stayed near the house (where the food was!). He would gently peck at the shoestrings on my older boys tennys and could be petted easily. Then the younger boy began walking farther and farther out into the yard by himself and that was when it all went south. 'P-3' was bigger than the three year old and that seemed to be the difference. He would fly at the boy and knock him down. The dogs would make him back off until I could get to the now screaming kid and scoop him up to check for holes and scratches. That was a couple times a week for about two weeks, then 'P' would be waiting at the back door in the morning to surprise me. The broom was used, I must say, more than once. One day of not being able to get out of the house without an attack was one day too many, so 'p' became a nice cooked pot of dogfood. He was too stringy and tough for us. Also, it was impossible to find a vet that could give any advice or care for him.

Charlene_12
8/4/2010 1:57:48 PM
The author's ideas might work sometimes, but roosters, like people are all individual. Please do not assume you are doing something wrong if the handfeeding and backing away methods don't work. We have been fortunate in that most of our roosters have been wonderful, but we have had roosters who needed training, who needed another home and who responded well to our showing him who was boss. Just like with life, there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to rooster behavior. It's just silly to assume otherwise.

Tig _1
8/4/2010 1:52:20 PM
Wondering if someone with an impossibly aggressive rooster would try a squirt gun loaded with 90% water and 10% white vinegar. If the water is aimed at the head or neck, try not to get it in the rooster's eyes though...wondering if that will cause the rooster's one-track brain to derail away from attack? Many birds seem to hate the fast, thin stream from a child's small cheap plastic squirt gun OR a small hand held squirt bottle which most stores sell, and quite a few animals detest the smell of white vinegar, even a 10% solution. The bottle has the advantage that you can fill it and it won't leak, so it's always "armed and ready." I doubt that this would make a determinedly aggressive rooster love you, but I would like to hear results from any who might give this a try. For exampe, while most parrots love a fine stream of warm water for bathing purposes, they absolutely DETEST a squirt of pure water. Wondering if chickens or even geese might feel the same way about it.

Michele' Preston
8/4/2010 1:13:02 PM
This is a wonderful idea but I can tell you from the spur scars on my legs that no matter what you do with some roosters they never take the hint & accept you...I have done the feed in hand, which worked the 1st time....after 6 months of slowing walking backwards with feed that I was throwing on the ground I still got spurs & pecked to the point I had a bacteral infection from all the wounds. I had hand raised this Buff Orpington from an egg & he lived with us in the house until he was about 9 months old then I got enough hens that had grown for him to be with... for 7 months he became a wild man that no matter what I did...I would even pick him up & carry him while I did the run, coop chores & he still got all pissy on me....Finally had to give him away, cause I was too attached to even think about eating him....so thank you for the article but I can tell you some never change & I never faught back to encourage his bad behavior.

Auburn
8/4/2010 12:41:44 PM
We had an awesome Wyandotte roo last year. He took care of our(his?) girls when he was only 6wks and they were about 4wks. He'd snuggle them under his wings at night, find them food and guard them while they ate, the whole nine yards. After a long New England winter in an 8x8 coop/yard with six girls (three big and three banty), he became aggressive when ranging in the yard. I think he was overwhelmed with the space and the girls didn't feel like sticking close. I should have made everybody grab a handful of feed when they went out the door, thus making the humans less threatening. As it was, we ended up finding a new home for him and his big girls. This year, we've got two young banty-size roos of indeterminate parentage and I've been hand-feeding them. The only attacks so far have come from mama-hens, but they are less aggressive, too, since I made it my mission to feed them whenever I'm out and they're close by. I definitely agree with letting the bird win, as long as he doesn't hunt you up to attack you. And if that won't work, even old roosters make tasty sausage!

Lori S
8/4/2010 11:45:42 AM
I heard a hint somewhere regarding roosters. Allow a couple of roosters to mature and let the more aggressive one beat up on the other for a while, then will butcher the aggressive one. This leaves the more passive rooster who is less likely to attack people - at least in theory because I've never tried it myself. I wholeheartedly agree with Robert's points, especially backing down when a rooster is showing signs of going into attack mode.

Kat_10
8/4/2010 10:42:12 AM
I raise bantam chickens in 3 small coops although during the day they free range around my farm. I keep 1 rooster per coop-and this has worked out well...until I received a sneak attack (spurring) from behind from my youngest (and biggest) rooster. This was a surprise in that I am around my chickens quite a bit-they come running to me every evening as they know this is feeding time-all, including the other 2 roosters-are pretty laid back. Since then-I keep an eye out for this rogue rooster, and 2 or 3 other times he came at me again-but I dowsed him with water from a hose or pan of water. After that-the only thing I have to do if he is the least bit "cocky" is shake something like a stick or feed bag-what ever is handy and he turns away. Haven't seen that much aggressive behavior in a while. I agree about not fighting with a rooster-but water in the face-game over.

Susan Waughtal
8/4/2010 10:20:49 AM
We usually keep two or 3 of our favorite roosters with our 20-25 laying hens and have never had any roosters attack us. Could that be because they are more concerned with the pecking order among the other roosters, not the people? We harvest any roosters who become more aggressive toward each other or the hens. I am also curious about goose training tips. We finally gave away our three toulouse because they were sweet and curious one moment, aggressive and threatening the next. None of the many strategies we tried worked.

IndyMark
8/4/2010 9:08:44 AM
I've had skirmishes w/roosters, but not to the extent of my run-ins with geese! Will this same type approach work with them? A few years ago, we had 4 beautiful white geese, I'm assuming now that they were a drake & 3 geese, because 1 day when my 10 yr. old went out to check, feed & gather, I heard horrible blood-curdling screaming... went running, and here this almost full-grown bird had my son on the ground just flogging & pecking the....out of him. well, you get the idea... the other 3 were pacing around, looking all the world like cheerleaders! When I rushed in to grab my son, they ALL pounced on me, so here's this 6'4" 225# guy with these 4 birds flailing away on me. Felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie... Anyway, I got us disentangled because I smacked the drake in the head with a stick, sent him rolling, and chased off the others. Needless to say, we had goose that Sunday and goose for Thanksgiving!

Katherine Henry
8/4/2010 8:13:45 AM
The jury is still out on whether Willow is a Will, but from all indications we have a cockerel on our hands. He is a little pushy, especially when it's time to roost. He picks on Myrtle which ticks me off. As you might surmise I have a personal relationship with my chickens.... they have distinct personalities, they all have names and I can tell them apart, they run to me to be fed and to have their heads scratched, therefore, they are not food. I am looking forward to their first eggs this fall the same way one accepts the gift of a handmade vase from one's child... I don't really need it but they made it so it gets used! Reformed city girl ? - pretty much. Anyway - when we figured out that Willow was most probably a boy we thought about giving him away and it seemed like such a betrayal! He already tries to take care of the girls - rushing to be first at everything and then backing away and looking around for intruders while they eat or check out something new. He may develop unsavory behaviors, who knows, but I think I will try to let him be the rooster in the hen house approach - after all, it's his job!

Sherry_18
7/1/2010 11:51:17 AM
So what happens if you never wanted a rooster in the first place, but the place where you got some of your chickens sold you what you thought was a pullet, only it turned out to be a rooster? A month ago, we discovered we had a rooster -- he started crowing one day. I was not happy about this (as I never wanted one), but my husband was. We have about 5 acres and most of our neighbors have about the same, but we're the only ones in our neighborhood with chickens. I felt a rooster could be too disruptive to our neighbors and having heard several horror stories about roosters and children, I didn't want to have to deal with that. Well, it happened last night, the rooster attacked our 7 year old daughter. She wasn't terribly hurt (no blood), but it definitely startled her. Reviewing your comments about not fighting back and hand feeding him sounds almost like a reward, which I find hard to do. As it is, our rooster would never eat from my hand, even as a chick. He was always too skittish, compared to the other chicks we had, so I don't know how those steps you suggest will work in our situation.

Ruthy Freund
5/11/2010 6:25:50 PM
Growing up on a farm with chickens and roosters, I was always attacked by our rooster! Now as an adult with a flock of my own, of course we have a rooster to protect the flock and for breeding purposes. This rooster was so mean, he would wait for me to come out of the house. He wanted to KILL me. Really. He wanted to poke my eyes out I tell you. I had to carry a rake or a piece of cord wood around outside to Protect myself.Sometimes I wouldn't see him and drop my guard and begin doing chores.When I look up-There he is! I have no weapon in my hand to save myself! I would yell to the kids to help me and they are laughing on the porch. Finally we/I had enough and ate him. I will try another one this spring.I'm not a wimp.I'm a tough chick. really. I believe you can help a "difficult" rooster but I just don't have the guts.

DKR_4
4/13/2010 2:22:02 PM
Back home on the farm any rooster was considered Sunday dinner. I have always loved fresh eggs, fresh young chicken, and never been all that fond of chickens. Even basically good chickens can be major pains.







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