The Definite Guide to Handling Roosters
This is my original thread, which got closed, turned into a BYC page. I hope it helps anyone with a rooster issue! If you have a question for me, I'm not sure where to ask it.....I'll look into that, and also may work on creating a website just about this topic and more. :)
Ambassadors Chip and Tamer
"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you
and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them
you will not know them, and what you do not know
you will fear. What one fears one destroys."
— Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation
(Note: this article was written a few years ago, and I have been meaning to update it for some time now. This message will be deleted once new info is added and amended)
Wow, can you believe how many people seem to think the only 'cure' for a 'bad' rooster is the stew pot?!
Honestly, I thought the good people of BYC would know all there is to know about this, but it seems to be a little-known/talked about subject.....well, I can happily and earnestly say, even though there are many things I may not know much or anything about, this is something that I actually know a LOT about.....I've reached a sort of 'rooster-realization", for lack of a better phrase, and am here to spread what I know with you all. Take it as you will, but it has all worked for me and everyone I know better than you can imagine.
I have the most insanely tame roosters ever....some are GIANT Australorps who are the sweetest boys ever: they'll sit on your lap and come up to you for food. Plus, an Easter Egger, barred rock, and Lakenvelders. Several of these boys could probably be very mean, with someone else.
Not to sound 'cocky' (groan), but so far, there has not been one of the many, many roosters I've come across so far that I wasn't able to deal with, NONE that had to go in the stew pot.
Sure there have been a couple roosters that don't seem to learn nearly as easily, but even they can be trained. My brother used to be afraid of them, till I taught him. I to, used to be way overly wary of roosters until a few years ago! Now, I can't even imagine being afraid of them ever again. Now, enough about me.....
Bekissed and GwenDellAnno wrote:
Treat them like a male animal that can inflict harm. Never assume that , since you have fed him and held him since he was a chick, that he will not harm you. It is best to treat roosters with a level of respect and keep him knowing you are boss roo or a potential predator.
Don't let him eat while you are there, don't let him breed while you are there, don't let him get too comfortable around you. Some roos don't need too much of this type of training, some do.
If you want a pet, get a dog or cat. If you want a flock master who is every vigilant, treat him like one.
I agree, but I also say that you CAN have a very nice rooster....it's not necessary to treat him just as 'the rooster' and never interact with him. A rooster that does not interact with people can often be a mean rooster. If you just want a protector of your flock, NOT a pet in any way, that's fine, but you should know how to deal with him, without resorting to killing him. My roosters always eat and breed in front of me (although I usually interrupt them when they breed: "NOT here, in front of me!!"), but they still totally respect me: I make sure of that, WITHOUT EVER hurting them. My mom used to throw rocks, buckets, and various other items at them, but that just made them mean, and she eventually listened to me, and stopped. Well, sort of. Sometimes a rooster will be 'annoying' to her (meaning getting in the garden or something), and she'll throw a rock at him, but because I spend time with them, none of them are mean even then, although they usually steer clear of her!
Some folks can get by with petting and coddling a roo and never have a moment of trouble...but most of the posts on here complaining about aggressive roos start out "he was so sweet when he was little and would let me hold him and pet him" or " I have always fed him treats out of my hand, but now...."
That's because they are usually AFRAID of the rooster....they treat him like he's still a baby. He's not a human: chickens have different rules of behavior, but that doesn't mean you can't have a nice rooster, or even a pet rooster!!
Pet your hens but keep your roo at a distance and never let him approach you boldly and directly. I know there are exceptions to every rule but you only have to read the inordinate amount of posts regarding aggressive roo behaviour to realize that these are not cats, bunnies, dogs or any other pet animals.
Also, totally agree: you shouldn't treat your roo like he's just an innocent, bunny, or human or something: he'll almost certainly be mean if you do that, so treat him with respect, but there's no need to keep your distance from him if you want a tame rooster. You can certainly pet him! Don't let him approach you in a dominating or aggressive way though. That behavior must be corrected immediately, usually by just picking him up, or 'dominating' him by circling him, making rooster noises, or even walking briskly at him.
Anyways, I wrote a whole long answer on Answers.com, so this is my answer from there, until I have time to edit it more, and add more to it:
Let me just say first that I am speaking from years of experience. I have about a dozen roosters right now, am not afraid of any of them, they are all tame, and even the one "mean" (meaning overly macho) rooster is easy to deal with. I even know toddlers that have been taught "the ways of the rooster", and are totally unafraid of them! (Although really little kids shouldn't be left unsupervised with a rooster, unless your roosters are as docile and nice as some of mine).
It's actually much easier than most people think. There are very, very few roosters that can't be taught to respect you, but even those rare few truly mean ones can be dealt with easily, even the 'meaner' breeds, such as barred rocks.
Simple steps are: Don't ever be afraid of him, make sure he knows who's boss (without hurting him), and tame him down.
First off, the # 1 step, and the VERY MOST IMPORTANT STEP, is to NOT be afraid of the rooster: if you are, many roosters will simply take advantage of what they see as a weakness. This applies to many different animals too. And as they say with dogs, you don't have to train the dog, just the human. As I said, there are almost no roosters that can't be taught to at least respect you. There are very few feisty ones that will continue to attack, but you should easily be able to deal with them.
Even if you're still afraid of him, don't act like it: DO NOT back off, do NOT run away, don't throw things at him, as that will make him even more mean. It may take some getting used to, but once you really get to know the rooster, you won't be afraid of him anymore.
Step #2 and #3 is to tame your rooster as much as possible. This serves the dual purpose of making him 'know who's boss'. This is much easier when he's very young, and gets harder the older (and more stuck in his ways) he gets, but it's usually doable. Pick him up whenever you can. Then, pet him, rub his wattles, carry him around, etc. It seems to 'humble' them (or just humiliate them!) and show them who the 'bigger rooster' is. It also shows him you're not afraid of him. Feeding him a treat here and there does a TON to make him tamer. Just don't make the mistake of treating him like a total baby: many people do this with their dogs, then are afraid of them. They simply have different 'rules' of behaving, so treating them TOO much like humans usually doesn't work well. Once you're used to him and would never be afraid of him though, you can treat him like as much of a baby as you want!
Whenever a rooster is acting like a bit of a smart-alec, or even makes the slightest move to attack, I pick him up, make a bit of a fool out of him in front of the hens, and sometimes shake him up a bit if he's being a bit mean (without hurting him of course).
If I DO encounter a mean rooster, I have a bit of a 'matador session' with him, sidestepping whenever he tries to attack, then grabbing him. Not saying you have to do this, but once you're used to roosters, it's quite useful, as, again, it makes the rooster respect you, (and is actually quite fun .
Also, ACT CALM around him. If you're exited, scared, or unstable around an animal, they will usually pick up on that and respond in a way that isn't always good. This is KEY to catching chickens, and to calming them when you're holding them. Calm begets calm.
Some people have trouble just catching the rooster, or getting him to come to them.....that means he's probably scared of you, and a scared rooster is quite often a mean rooster, so how do you deal with this? Well, for some of you, it may just work out that way: maybe you don't WANT a tame rooster, or maybe you want him to be scared of you, but honestly, I really wouldn't recommend this, especially if you have kids around. I've seen this happen too much: the human thinks that they have him under their 'command', because he's scared of them, and then the next day he goes and attacks them. Next thing you know, the rooster is dead, just because he was scared and trying to protect himself and his flock. Does that make any sense? Is that fair? Some people will then say, 'Well, my rooster attacked me, but he wasn't scared, he was just a macho show off', but some roosters won't act scared, when in reality, they are, or they just see you as a threat and as something that should be chased away for the safty of the flock. Some roosters, especially certain breeds, will be quite aggressive even if they don't seem that scared of you, because they may still see you as a threat, or even as a challenger. These roosters require the most work, and have to be 'dominated', in other words, you have to show them you're the head rooster, but without hurting them. That would be counter-productive, as it would help to make them scared of you, and see you as an even bigger threat. Violence creates 'hard feelings', and more violence, so it's best to do it in a non-violent way, even if the rooster can be quite frustrating to work with.
Remember: a scared rooster is also an unstable rooster much of the time. Some roosters will take any chance to attack if they see an opportunity. Even though he may be scared of you, and never attack you because he's just that scared, if he sees someone different, or someone smaller, he will often take that opportunity to attack THEM. It's just him protecting his territory from what he sees as a threat.
So what if you DON'T want him to see humans as a threat? What do you do? Well, biggest thing is to NOT hurt him: hurting him repeatedly will just make him scared and on the offensive. I know a lot of people like to use brooms, sticks, etc, to 'dominate' him and scare him off (usually because they're scared of him), but that ends up almost always being counter-productive.
Getting him tame if he's so scared though is a bit more of a challenge, and is easiest if you start when he's a chick. Best thing to do is simply offer him something to eat. Sit somewhere close, and don't make eye contact with him or make any sudden moves that will scare him. If your hens are tame, that makes it a LOT easier. If you have them come up to you, the rooster will see there's probably no danger and come closer. The problem with a "moon (lead) rooster" though, is that he usually has a thing about getting caught while in front of the hens. The tame roosters I have are the subordinates: the lead rooster is always tame for me, but doesn't always act it as long as he is the lead rooster. Sure, I can catch him, but he doesn't always like it. He sees ME as the boss, and as a rooster, so he's really proud about taking food from my hand, especially in front of the hens. This is actually a good thing though, because, as I said, he sees me as the alpha rooster, which is just how I want it. Still, he WILL eat from out of my hand. The rooster I have now is so, so tame that even though he's proud, he'll let me come right up to him and pet, feed, or hold him.
I can tell you one thing: chasing your rooster is NOT going to make him tame. I find it pretty funny that whenever I take my chickens to the school for a visit (sort of an 'end of year' program), whenever one of them gets loose, the kids chase after it like maniacs. They would catch the chicken so much easier if they would simply squat down, slowly approach, and better yet, offer them some food. Even if my chickens weren't tame, that would be easier than running after them. (And yeah, I admit it, I just let them chase after the chicken, because it was just so darn funny! ).
So yeah, taming your rooster is going to take some time, if he's not a chick, but you CAN still just catch him, then hold him for a while. Show him that it's not a bad thing: feed him something. Then, just let him go slowly (when he's not struggling) and let him walk away. Don't make a move towards him: he might take it as a threat and become that much more apprehensive. Best thing though is, like I said, to just slowly tame him by sitting near him, and getting closer and closer to him. It takes time, but it's worth it. Just make sure your hens are getting tame too: he's probably not going to get tame if his hens aren't.
And just think: don't you WANT to have a tame rooster, who you don't have to be paranoid about all the time, who you can actually pick up and pet? He doesn't have to be a pet, but he at least has to respect you, and be a stable rooster. Plus, having a tame rooster is so much more rewarding: they are extremely fun to have around when they're tame.
Another thing is that even if you DO tame your chickens from the time they're babies, almost all of them go through a sort of 'rebellious' stage, almost exactly like a human teenager! One week, they will be so tame they'll come running to you when you come out the door, the next, they won't want to be picked up, and shy away if you try to catch them. I amazes me just how much this parallels how many human teenagers act: it's not that they aren't tame, it's just like they're 'too cool' for you now (not that I treat my chickens like they're my kids or something, lol....it's just something they do). I'm not exactly sure why they do this, and not all of them do, but just continue to be nice to them, don't try TOO hard pick them up. They will still come if you have food, so that's a good thing to do to keep them tame. Eventually, the stage will pass, and if you did keep them tame, then they should come up to you like usual. It seems that only the super, super tame chicks don't do this, and the ones who have their hen mother to go to, if she's also tame. On a separate note, it's worth mentioning that if you tame your chickens, each generation will get tamer. The hen will literally teach her chicks to be tame.
Honestly, I never used to pet my chickens until a year or two ago....they never seemed to like it. If you do it when they're chicks though, they get used to it and seem to really like it. Also, they like it when you 'preen' them, which is, in a way, weird, because chickens are such social, and yet anti-social birds....they like to be with other chickens, and yet they aren't affectionate towards each other....it's interesting. Course, you obviously don't have to spoil your chickens or anything (mine don't get special feed....just leftovers/compost sometimes and treats sometimes, plus a lot of attention).
It's very important to teach (in other words, show by example) little kids how to at least not be afraid of chickens, if you can, and they'll take over the rest, if they like spending time with them (of course, you should supervise with most roosters). If the kid is big enough, you may even want to teach them how to dodge and grab the rooster if he attacks, and, again, supervise. An unstable rooster who's not used to people will attack when he gets the chance, while a well-adjusted rooster will not. Even the well adjusted rooster will sometimes attack if someone is afraid of him, such as if someone runs whenever he makes what they consider to be 'a move to attack them'. Small children often make more jerky movements, that can alarm a rooster. That's why it's good to have the rooster with kids when he's a chick, so he gets used to it.
Most people seem to be afraid that even nice chickens will peck them - I have a friend that was afraid of baby pigeons! ). Of course, don't ever leave a little kid unsupervised with the rooster.
A few people who don't know better might say this is the 'wimps' way to go about it: taming your rooster down and even treating him like a pet, but it's NOT. It's even recommended by so called "chicken experts" (who, you say? I recall something along these lines being in Backyard Poultry mag). Sure, you don't have to treat him like a pet, but if he's at least tame, or if he at least respects you, without fearing you too much, you'll BOTH benefit from it. If your rooster is afraid of you and you're not afraid of him, that can work, but he'll be scared of you and take any opportunity to attack you when your back is turned. It's much better to get him to actually be tame and even, dare I say it, like you. Most of the roosters I have are so tame I can simply walk up to them, pick them up, and pet them, all without ever getting attacked, even when you walk away, even if you're a little kid.
As I said, it's much easier than most people think, and if you try, you can have quite a nice rooster, and maybe even a nice pet.
Yes....I know, I know, you may say "but MY rooster is way beyond hope!". I don't think there is ANY rooster beyond hope. Even if he can't be tamed down much, I certainly think that almost every single rooster CAN be made at least manageable. As I said, it's not the rooster, it's the person. Now that I'm no longer afraid of any rooster, I think "why the HECK was I ever afraid of something that tiny?!?!?!!?"
Even so though, you should always treat your rooster with the proper respect....he may not hurt adults anymore, but roosters often see small children as a threat, or a rival, so you should try to get your kids used to him, and watch him for signs of 'going over to the dark side', in which case you'll have to spend more time working with him.
If you DO have a rooster that just NEVER seems to learn....rare, but sometimes happens with the really, really macho ones - you can give him a squirt of water with a water bottle or water gun whenever he tries to attack. You don't want to make him afraid of you of course, but I had one rooster that was so super macho/spazzy that a bit of water would not scare him.....I think it would help with his macho problem though! I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you've already tried all the other techniques, and he STILL sneaks a peck at you. Roosters are all different, and some could be really scared by just a bit of water, which would set them back and possibly make them more aggressive/unstable. I occasionally do it just to a chicken (hen or rooster) that is being a bit too smart-alec-y, but not much.
Sure, I DO understand that there will probably always be an excess of roosters, and that eating your own is WAY better than buying a chicken dinner from the store. BUT, for those people who DO want to know how to deal with their roosters, for people who DON'T always want to resort to killing, then this page is for you!
Good luck, and please, if you have questions for me or anything, don't hesitate to ask. I really, REALLY hope this helps some of you, and if it does, please, tell me! My life will then be complete lol
* Sometimes a really cocky rooster (usually the younger ones) can be taught to be more submissive by being put in a pen with a dominant rooster(s). Just make sure they don't beat him up.
*If a rooster is pecking, or being overly aggressive, sometimes what I do, is I hold the roosters comb, at the base with a bit of pressure, then I push his head down. Also, you can push his head down by his beak. After a few seconds, after he's stopped struggling, I let go and pet him a bit, or do whatever makes him feel comfortable (some chickens don't like petting). If he tries it again, I just repeat the process, until he stops. Sometimes, I shake him up a bit (without hurting him), just to show him that I may be a friend, but I am not a force to tangle with. This happened with my BR rooster, Jengo: he had bald patches on his wings and feathers that were just growing in, so these spots were sensitive. Jengo also happened to be a more aggressive-prone rooster, and thus, when I touched is 'sensitive spots' he pecked me. I didn't want to hurt him by touching those spots, but that is NOT something I will stand for. In a way, he did have a reason to peck me: it was obviously irritating to him when I even touched those spots, but that is NO excuse to peck me, the 'lead rooster'.
I used this technique on him, repeatedly touching his wings lightly, then pushing his head down whenever he pecked or even tried to peck, until he totally submitted, and didn't even look at me without permission. A major part of it is simply consistency: slack off and let him peck you a couple of times, and you lose that much progress. Amazing how similar to dogs they are in that way, isn't it? Anyways, Jengo was a rooster (who went to a great home BTW) that I'm 99% sure would have been very aggressive with someone who didn't know how to handle him, but I tamed him down and made him play nice by simply working with him a bit. As with many things confidence is key!
*Some people say that acting like a chicken when you're aroung them is dumb. I totally disagree. Call me weird, but I have learned a lot of their 'language' and make chicken noises all the time when I'm with them. I make dominant rooster sounds at the roosters, and far from being dumb, it really does help. Listen to animals, learn from them as much as you can (this means that you should TRY not to anthropomorphize too much). You can't always expect them to learn our ways.
*As if I didn't say it already, I'll say it again for certain people: USE YOUR COMMON SENSE!! Don't leave a really little kid in with a rooster unsupervised.
*If certain people, like the ones who so loudly voiced their opinions on my original thread, have something to say to me about being a know-it-all, promoting stupid or dangerous ideas, or anything, just let me know in a PM. I certainly am not trying to be a know-it-all. I'm simply sharing what I know and hoping agaist hope it helps some people and their roosters (it already has!! :D). If you followed my thread, then you see how it got spammed up by certain people. I wouldn't like to see this page, or any thread I post about it get messed up by certain people in the same way. Of course everyone has their opinions, and I appreciate that, but when it gets aggressive, it doesn't help anyone. If these techniques are not for you, then by all means, you don't have to use them. They have worked perfectly for my and everyone I know. Once again, USE COMMON SENSE. Period. If anyone still thinks my ideas are 'dangerous', then fine, kick me off BYC if you want (and can). I will continue to spread these 'dangerous ideas' from my own website, because I think it's much more hazardous not to know how to deal with an aggressive rooster. If I end up in the hospital from one of my super, super tame roosters attacking me, I'll be sure to let you know. :D
Ok, yaknow how I talked about not treating them like babies? Well.....you don't always have to follow that rule. ;) (Although I was just making a total fool out of him, not a baby). *Snicker* Don't try this at home peoples. Or do.