Behavior Modifications for Aggressive Roosters

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If you ordered eggs or purchased un-sexed chicks this spring, now is about the time you may be realizing that you have a rooster on your hands. What to do with that bird is up to you; he can be kept as a part of the flock or found a home, which is easier said than done. If you choose to keep a rooster, it is possible that he might become aggressive upon reaching sexual maturity. This is not only at times a hassle to deal with, but can also be dangerous as his sharp spurs grow out. If you have a rooster in your flock that turns out to be aggressive, how will you handle it?

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to roosters is that they are never truly tamed by our actions. We can desensitize them and refocus their energy, but they are ultimately still a rooster behaving as a rooster does. Because of this, rather than trying to train your rooster like you would a dog, you need to appeal to his natural behaviors. The first action you should take along these lines is to stay calm and not engage a rooster who wishes to fight.

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Photo: Ramblings of a Country Woman

When an aggressive rooster comes at you in a threatening manner, many people will advise you to shoo him away. While this is a great idea in concept, you have to think about what is going through the mind of that rooster. In coming at you, he wants to fight. By reacting to his actions, you are accepting the challenge in his eyes. Whatever you to do combat him does not constitute training as in his mind you have accepted his challenge to fight. When you fight, a pecking order is established and that pecking order must be maintained, so repeat fights will occur. Regardless of who 'wins' or 'loses' the rooster will come back for more.

In order to avoid having repeated conflicts with your rooster, it is beneficial if you can avoid triggering them in the first place. This is not to say you need to walk on egg shells around him, but you should not inadvertently challenge him. Avoid directly and purposefully approaching roosters as this can be interpreted as a confrontation. Instead of an approach that might inspire fear or fight, take your time approaching and avoid striding straight for your rooster. Pay attention to his behavioral signals; if he starts to dance around, this is a sign that he feels threatened and is preparing to engage you. If push comes to shove and a fight ensues, do not respond in kind to your rooster's attack. Instead back away slowly. This may sound easier said than done but if you can resist responding to your rooster, then he will usually drop the matter as well, forgetting about you soon after.

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Photo: Backyard Chickens

Remember as well that food is a powerful motivator. If you are a constant source of food and treats, that makes you a good thing in the eyes of your rooster. It is also true that a rooster associating you with food will prevent them from thinking of you as another rooster with which they must fight, because other roosters do not dispense tasty snacks. Do be careful to avoid obesity, but always having a little something in your pocket to get you out of a tight spot may prove extremely handy.

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Photo: Crooked Coop Farm

Ultimately you may run across a rooster who simply does not adapt to logic and has the potential for being a long term problem. Some will advise you to pick this type of rooster up and hold him upside down, but in truth that is a good way to kill a rooster as being held upside down puts potentially fatal pressure on their lungs, inhibiting breathing. Instead of doing this, reevaluate whether or not you actually need that rooster. If so, consider giving him a larger flock of hens to occupy more of his energy. If not, consider your dinner plans and perhaps put rooster on the menu.

Learning behaviors is a good way to maintain balance amongst the animal kingdom, but when all of the normally effective options have failed and continued to do so, sometimes the stew-pot is the only choice that remains.

Do you have any tricks that work to help keep your own pushy yard-bird in line that we haven't covered? Drop them in the comments below.

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February 22, 2015  •  03:18 PM
We have been really lucky and have not had an aggressive one in many years. The info above is really handy and validating. I have naturally just done what is mentioned above... I am seen as their food source and while they approach they do not become aggressive. In addition I have become pretty good at determining which are roosters and handle them on a daily basis from when they are little. I don't chase or engage. From when they are little I sit and let them come to me. Once close enough I quickly pick them up and hold them for several minutes. Because I start early I rarely have to send them to the stew pot. I have a three year old rooster now that is fabulous... he disciplines the dogs and cats but does not attack them... if I could clone him I would!!
August 5, 2015  •  02:53 AM
Does anyone have any tips on stopping a rooster attacking one hen out of the flock, he doesn't try to mate with her just seems to hate her!
November 17, 2015  •  01:43 PM
We have a mildly aggressive Buff Orpington but he does a great job of keeping his ladies safe, so we tiptoe around him. We've lost a chicken to a coyote and having an aggressive rooster is probably a good thing.

The main thing is to wear jeans when you go to the henhouse, and keep an eye on him. He may attack you, but if you are wearing thick leggings then you'll be fine.

I like to sit down with my chickens and let them come around me. Some will even sit on my lap. That's not a good position for me to be in if the rooster decides to attack, so I always make sure he is segregated away before I'll sit down.

When I go out to the henhouse and see that the rooster is feeling particularly randy, then I'll carry a rake or broom with me and keep it between him and me. That generally throws him for a loop, enough that he won't attack. Sometimes however, it provokes him and he'll flare and attack.

eh... whattaya gonna do? The chickens are better off with him so he continues to live.

Update: We ended up graduating him to the freezer. It got to the point that my daughters were scared to go out to the henhouse. Can't have that.

Since then we acquired a Rhode Island Red roo from some friends who eneded up with an unwanted cockerel in their spring flock. So far he's been great. While not friendly and curious, he keeps his distance from us and has never showed an inclination to attack.

From my limited experience, it's best to cull a problem roo than try to tame, or rehabilitate him. After all they're just little dinosaurs running on pure instinct for the most part. Once they turn aggressive they won't change.
July 16, 2016  •  12:56 AM
Super-soaker squirt gun works pretty well. After a while, all you have to do is draw your weapon and he'll think again.