I love my boys. Every one is a complete momma’s boy and will sit in my lap to be pet. We have four roosters now, three of which live together with a flock of hens (Praise the Lord!). The other one is a house rooster, which is another story. Since we started keeping chickens about eight years ago, we have had seven roosters in total. Only one was really mean. Although many roosters do have the unbreakable aggressive streak, it is possible to have a lovable pet rooster. An important thing to keep in mind, though, is that roosters should not be mishandled. Don’t let young children loose around a rooster, no matter how much you trust him. It’s not the rooster’s fault; any animal will protect itself from what it perceives as a threat. To raise a loving rooster, it is important to work with their instincts and imitate what the rooster can recognize as nurturing but dominant behavior.
Six out of the seven boys we have had over the years were meant to be girls. A few of them were easy to spot early on (two of them the day they were hatched!). Some of them were of the please-please-please-be-a-hen variety, and we found them out for certain a little later. The ones that we knew for certain from day one displayed very rooster-like behavior toward each other hours after they hatched, while ignoring the one pullet in the bunch. From day one, though, all our roosters were handled extensively. We never did a brooder hatching; our chicks were raised by hens that trusted me as the primary caretaker. Since momma hen trusted the giant hand that picked them up, the babies all learned much more easily to enjoy being held, and we held them a lot.
Babies are cute and easy to pay attention to, but as they get older, they continue to need the same amount of attention. Roosters will be roosters. It is impossible to separate the animal from its natural instincts, so to get a lovable rooster, you have to work with those instincts. Our roosters never really lost the chick mentality. When momma hen kicked them out, we continued to hold them and cuddle them. It’s a good idea to set aside an hour or more sometimes to hold a young cockerel in your lap and pet him until he falls asleep. Once he falls asleep, you know that you have his trust. Nurture this!
Never forget that you are the boss! Cockerels will go through a “teenage” phase where they seem to exist just to cause trouble. They will cockfight with each other, with their siblings (male or female), with the old head rooster (if you have one), and with you. Make sure they know that you won’t stand for that. Don’t resort to fighting back; you don’t have to stoop to the rooster’s level for him to understand. Pick his little butt up and shove him outside (close the flap, he’ll come back in) or anywhere where he is out of your sight and he can’t continue to try to antagonize you.
Even if he’s not bothering you, if he is running up against a fence and acting aggressive toward you, make him regret it! When inside the coop, make him go out! When outside the coop or separated by a fence, get a bucket of water or a hose and let him have it (even if you don’t want to get the coop wet – it is worth it, just clean up afterwards)! Don’t cockfight him, use your size. Afterward, when he’s gotten the point, pick him up and try to cuddle him. He may try to peck you some more or continue his aggressive behavior. At this point, I’ve either forced my boys to sit down and be cuddled or just shoved them outside again if I’m tired of dealing with their attitude. Act like a momma hen. She will peck the chicks to make them stay under her feathers just as much as she pecks them to discipline them. It’s also a good idea to sometimes just ignore him. Although this seems to run counter to disciplining him, it is alright to do if you are just trying to get your work done. This also lets him know that you don’t even consider him a threat. Don’t stuff him in a cage to get him away from you. This just lets him stew; he needs other distractions to calm down. Put him where he can cool down and go about his chicken business. As far as clothing protection goes, wear jeans and boots in the coop, but don’t let him intimidate you. Remember! He’s a foot and a half tall! You are much bigger than he is!
Eventually, they will settle down. Once the “teenage” stage passes, they will mellow a little. It is important, though to keep one rooster in with some hens. It is very unusual to be able to mix roosters in a small flock unless they get along very well. That’s just instinct; it’s not something that is separable from a rooster. However, if you’ve continued the cuddling and nurturing into this stage, it is possible that your boy will come to expect it. He may see you as a momma hen rather than a head rooster, which means he may love to still sit in your lap and fall asleep. This isn’t always possible. Roosters can, for many reasons, retain their aggressiveness and just not cooperate. That’s ok. It’s how they were made, and you can’t rewire them to be any other way. Just make sure they respect you. If, however, you get a young rooster who is inclined to respond to nurturing, this may help you keep your rooster family-friendly.