Dealing with Roosters

The purpose of this page is to help you help yourself when faced with an aggressive rooster problem and help you decide if you want to keep a rooster in your flock.
First of all, let's identify rooster behaviors. Knowing what motivates their behavior is key to understanding why they do certain things that we, as humans, might mistakenly take as just being mean.

A rooster is born preprogrammed to do his rooster duties. At a certain age (around 4-6 months) he matures and his instincts take over, and their drive is very strong to do what nature has intended for them to do.

(1) Protect the flock from all threats at all costs including fighting to the death. A threat to a rooster may be quite different than what we perceive as a threat. We need to understand and respect this instinct. A small child could be perceived as a threat in a rooster's eyes even if you and I know the child never intends to harm anything. By placing a child in this situation you are provoking the rooster to attack, and you would only have yourself to blame if something were to go wrong. I highly recommend that if you have small children you wish to let interact with your flock, lock the rooster away in a pen before the child /children are allowed to enter the area because if the rooster perceives them as a threat, the child might be attacked.

Your kitten/puppy/cat/dog could also be perceived as a threat, and while some roosters are quite docile and will sit in your lap, please remember that being a cuddly lap baby is not in his programming, so don't expect it from him.

Also don't expect him to get along with other roosters, that is also not in the programming. Very few roosters will get along without fighting and tearing each other up, even to the point of killing each other. I personally own 3 roosters, 2 of which get along together with very little fighting, while the other one would kill the other 2 given half a chance, therefore I have to separate him from the others.

Given the choice between an aggressive rooster and a very docile lap baby rooster, I'll take the aggressive one every time to watch over my flock, because he is doing what roosters are made to do and will be the better protector for the flock. He just has to be taught that attacking humans is not acceptable.

(2) To ensure the proliferation of the species by frequently mating with the hens to provide fertile eggs to be hatched out. This is self-explanatory. To ensure that the hens are not over-mated and possibly scratched or injured in the process, you'll want to provide enough hens. Generally, a ratio of 10 hens to 1 rooster is sufficient.

(3) To provide a place in the flock for future generations by sacrificing himself if need be in the protection of the flock.
This is a continuation of #1 and is another reason why he would be motivated to fight to the death with any predator.

Dealing with aggressive roosters

One of the first things to ask yourself when faced with an aggressive rooster is "Am I overly afraid of my rooster?"
If the answer is yes, go no further, rehome your rooster. If you are not overly afraid of roosters and don't mind giving your rooster a chance by spending a little time with him, then the following may help you achieve your goal of modifying his behavior to a level you both can live with.

First of all, roosters have a kind of pecking order. The dominant or king or head rooster is referred to as the Alpha.
When a rooster acts aggressively toward you, he thinks of you as either a predator or an underling rooster.
This is the behavior you want to modify, to establish you as the Alpha.
To modify behavior you must be consistent each and every time he shows the slightest bit of aggression towards you or any human.

There are 3 ways to deal with an aggressive rooster that I personally know for a fact work:
If you are concerned about being scratched, prepare by wearing long sleeves and gloves.

(1) At the first sign of aggression grab your rooster up and hold him no matter how much he kicks, screams and protests. DO NOT PUT HIM DOWN! Walk around with him, do chores while holding him or whatever, let him calm down, and stay that way for 15-30 minutes until he has settled. Then at your discretion, you can put him down. If he kicks, screams or squawks while you are releasing him, pick him up and repeat this cycle until he submits to you, and will walk off peacefully when you let him down. Do this every time he shows aggression, repeat as needed. If after 3 weeks of doing this every day his behavior is still the same, proceed to the next level.

(2) At the first sign of aggression grab your rooster up, hold him upside down by the legs, and let him flap, scream, or whatever until he just hangs there without moving, showing his submission to you. After he submits, let him go and repeat as necessary.
WARNING: This procedure is dangerous to the rooster as his lungs are located close to his backbone and can collapse, causing suffocation. If he has food in his mouth when you turn him upside down, he can choke.

This procedure should be used as a last resort before culling or rehoming.

Some will tell you not to let a rooster mate while in your presence, but I can only tell you from my experience that interrupting mating seems to have no effect in relation to aggression toward humans. I let mine mate at will and still hold that Alpha position in their eyes.

Sometimes a rooster will bite, usually when you pick up a hen who squawks, sometimes unprovoked. I deal with this simply by grabbing him up and grabbing his beak and holding it for several seconds. A couple of times doing this will usually convince him not to do it again. A refresher course may be needed now and again.

Now go out and take your place as Alpha Roo, and enjoy your chickens.