May 6, 2013

Sometimes arooster can turn ornery, and the best way to tame its temper will depend on your comfort level and family safety requirements. Photo by Rachael Brugger (
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Sometimes arooster can turn ornery, and the best way to tame its temper will depend on your comfort level and family safety requirements.

Our rooster all of sudden turned on us and keeps going after us every chance he gets. He was never this way before. How come? —Gayle

That’s a good question, Gayle! A few years ago, Mom added Buckeye chickens to our farm. One of the reasons she wanted Buckeyes was because they’re such a friendly breed. Our chicks arrived and grew quickly, but when Mom put her hand in the brooder to feed them, one of the chicks would rush up and peck her hand. It turned out he was one of two cockerels (a cockerel is an immature rooster) in our batch of 10 chicks. He was aggressive from the start. Mom named him Rasputin.

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Rasputin wasn’t too bad until the chicks matured. Then when they were 7 months old, Rasputin turned ornery. He’d race across the yard and attack Mom or Dad when their backs were turned. Soon the other cockerel, Carl, started doing it, too. As they grew older, Rasputin and Carl grew spurs. Spurs are long, curved, pointy growths on the back of roosters’ legs. They use them for fighting with other roosters or attacking an enemy of any kind. One day when Dad was wearing shorts, Rasputin attacked him from behind and used his sharp spurs to rip a gash down the back of Dad’s leg. That was enough! Mom gave both roosters to a man who said he didn’t mind dealing with aggressive roosters. She misses their crowing but not being spurred!

Some roosters, like Rasputin, are naturally aggressive even as little chicks. Others, like Carl, are fine until they reach puberty at 6 to 8 months old. Some breeds are more aggressive than others but even roosters from extra-gentle breeds, like Buckeyes, become feisty sometimes.
Usually, roosters that don’t attack people until they reach puberty perceive the humans they attack as a threat. Roosters are wired to protect hens. If you pick up a hen and she squawks, a rooster might leap to her defense. Over time, he might decide humans are the enemy. Then watch out! You can, however, sometimes teach a feisty rooster to behave. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Roosters usually warn before they attack. If your rooster lowers his head and dances when he’s looking at you or he runs up on your heels as you’re walking away, consider these early signs of aggression.
  2. Don’t walk straight toward a rooster or stare at him. He might think you’re issuing a challenge if you do. And don’t creep around trying to avoid him; this tells him you’re scared.
  3. Some experts say to never fight with an ornery rooster. Instead, wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and boots for protection, then disarm an attacking rooster by crouching down and feeding him treats out of your hand. If you do this every time, pretty soon he’ll start thinking of you as the Treat Fairy instead of a bad guy, and he’ll stop wanting to fight. This only works if you aren’t afraid of the rooster. Be careful and don’t let him fly up in your face. Mom says people that do this are a lot braver than she is!
  4. Other experts say that because roosters fight with their legs, you should wear boots, and when he attacks, roll him over with your foot. When he gets up and attacks again, roll him over, repeating this until he decides you’re the top rooster and walks away. This didn’t work with Rasputin and Carl.
  5. Still other experts say you must show an ornery rooster that you’re higher in the pecking order than he is. When he attacks, scoop him up and hold him against your side, clamped under your arm, no matter how much he squawks and flops. Then go about your chores, holding him for 15 to 30 minutes until he’s calm. Set him down. If he squawks or kicks as you release him, pick him up again and repeat the cycle until he walks away peacefully when you set him down.

However, you might want to re-home or eat your aggressive rooster if small children interact with your flock. Roosters can hurt little folks when they attack—they can even put out a child’s eye. And if you’re genuinely afraid of your rooster, replace him with one you needn’t fear. Like Mom says, life is too short to be afraid to walk among your chickens or cross your yard.

Ask Martok!
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