Cockerel behaviour towards child

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
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southern Michigan
Over many years, we have had a couple of previously polite roosters decide to attack humans when the birds were two years of age. Most often, it's about cockerels turning into 'man fighters', but it can also happen when they are mature. either way, never good.
It is more difficult with children, who will run around out there, scream and wave their arms, and chase birds, all behaviors that can trigger some cockerels or cock birds to behave badly.
It's true that children need to learn how to behave out there, but still, a bird who attacks is not worth any child's eyeballs, and they are definitely at risk.
Mary
 

SueT

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
May 27, 2015
8,753
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but it can also happen when they are mature.
oh, well, good to know. I have a 1 yr old rooster who is very polite and respectful. So far. I guess one can never assume anything (and that goes for life in general too). Having had a rooster that considered humans a threat, I am always watchful.
 

Geena

Songster
6 Years
Aug 17, 2014
245
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Maryland
I've had a couple of bad'uns. It wasn't their fault. They couldn't help it they had testicles as big EACH as their heads. I learned this by inspection. They made very good chicken & rice.
LOL, We too have had cockerels who's testicles were the size of golf balls and even bigger. One memorable cockerel, that was literally a complete psycho, had testicles nearly the size of tennis balls! Wish I had taken a picture of that, but I forgot.

Here's a photo of your average adult male quail, eviscerated. One can see that his testicles are bigger than either his heart or liver. Roosters are pretty difficult to negotiate with since there's usually only three things they ever really think or care about 1. hens, hens, and more hens, 2. fighting - other roosters and perceived threats, 3. food and water when necessary

quail - adult male.jpg
 

Chicalina

Songster
Aug 1, 2020
1,052
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UK
FYI-PSA.....semantics, maybe, but can be important communication terms when discussing chicken behavior.
Female chickens are called pullets until one year of age, then they are called hens.
Male chickens are called cockerels until one year of age, then they are called cocks(or cockbirds or roosters).
Age in weeks or months is always a good thing to note.
I've just learned something. You are correct. In the English dictionary, it says male birds are cocks when they are mature, and cockerels are juveniles. But...in the UK we rarely call them cocks in conversation, because it probably has other connotations! We generally always say cockerel, regardless of age, though I can't speak for serious breeders and showers because I don't move in those circles. Here, we never use rooster at all, that is most definitely American.

I should perhaps remember the audience here because this is a US site, and use rooster to avoid confusion. Though I do like our little Britishisms here :D
 

nao57

Songster
Mar 28, 2020
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It's the child's behavior that needs to be changed here....
....pretty hard for one so young to understand how to behave around livestock.
I have to support this comment.

Its right that you shouldn't punish the livestock for what the kid did. If you do, the kid won't learn. And it brings more trouble in other ways.

An example is my town has tons of people who have had relatives kicked by horses. (Really this is awful.) But the whole thing is mitigated by telling kids, 'don't walk behind the horse. Don't spook them', etc. This is why they should learn very early to be careful around animals; because animals can cause injuries. I've heard people have to be careful around rams for example, even though sheep and lambs are really sweet animals.

To be fair, also I've had my brother chase my ducks around. He is over 20 years old and knows better. And it kind of ticked me off. At the time they were 4 week old ducklings, and its the brother that doesn't like me. So I think he maybe had some mayhem factor in it. But I'll never know really.

It worried me a lot though, because they were small.

People with respect for themselves and others you will see will almost always take a minute and coach their kids how to act around animals. So I do think this can be fixed. And I think the poster is someone with self respect and family values also or they wouldn't have asked this.

SO here's what you can do...

You could have the 6 year old future chicken abuser try feeding treats to both the rooster and the hens. This should help him get their trust back. But the first few times doing it, I'd take it slow and chaperone him. (Have him do it out of whatever container the chickens AND rooster normally see you giving their food in. This will help.) Do treats they like. Peas work well with ducks. Some are going to say mealworms. Oatmeal makes poultry crazy, especially cooked. You could try those, and you don't have to buy anything special.

And kids like doing stuff like this. So its a win win situation. Kids like to be helpful at that age also, and its a great time when they haven't learned to resent authority or chores yet. And they want to prove themselves to an adult that is showing them a bit of attention.

So this can be a great opportunity. It could also be an opportunity to get them interested in future agriculture projects and teach them where the food and the feed comes from. And how their food gets on the breakfast table.

I believe it can be turned into a really great opportunity for you.
 

nao57

Songster
Mar 28, 2020
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Well, I have an update. Cockerel lifted up his feet to me today, when one of the skittish hens squawked next to me as I was giving them mealworms. I quickly pinned him down on the ground for a minute and told him off - this was an instinctive reaction on my part. I also had a week old chick in my other hand, so couldn't do any more. Then a few minutes after I had released him, and had time to think about it, I grabbed him and picked him up. He squawked and protested at being grabbed. I walked round with him in my arms for a good half hour. Talked to him and stroked him, as did my son. He was calm as anything and even dozed off for a bit. Then when I put him down, he was Mr Chilled.

I shall be keeping a close eye on him from now on, and perhaps doing the grabbing and carrying thing every other day for a while. He cannot be allowed to challenge my authority and get away with it. I shall involve my son in this too, so the cockerel is in no doubt where we are in the hierarchy. A couple of my hens are a bit nervous (and pecky with lower ranking hens) and he needs to chill out and not be on high alert to their antics. I can see that he gets wound up when there is a kerfuffle.

I may have to pen them up if this doesn't work, but that would be a bit sad for them because they love the space I have (and keep the grass down).

It is weird because in 2 years, he has never done this. I wonder if the brooding of eggs and chicks going on recently has affected his behaviour, because there is definitely some changes going on in the pecking order. Dominant hens on eggs are suddenly being picked on when they are let out for food/drink/exercise each day. Then they have to reintegrate back into the flock. Its all upside down right now.

I appreciate all of the advice I have had here, thank you.
Hang on a sec.

Actually I thought of something else that may be something to consider. And this fits in with the rooster acting out.

Its possible the rooster may be overly nervous if other predators have been around at night. And this might have made it a bit less calm and without intending to act out around others.

Its normal for example for animals to be stressed out for a few days after animal attacks, or sightings of hostiles, or if they lose one of their number in such attacks. (Or near misses.)

Have you considered this?
 

Ruthster55

Songster
6 Years
Nov 23, 2013
769
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Northern South America
Well, I have an update. Cockerel lifted up his feet to me today, when one of the skittish hens squawked next to me as I was giving them mealworms. I quickly pinned him down on the ground for a minute and told him off - this was an instinctive reaction on my part. I also had a week old chick in my other hand, so couldn't do any more. Then a few minutes after I had released him, and had time to think about it, I grabbed him and picked him up. He squawked and protested at being grabbed. I walked round with him in my arms for a good half hour. Talked to him and stroked him, as did my son. He was calm as anything and even dozed off for a bit. Then when I put him down, he was Mr Chilled.

I shall be keeping a close eye on him from now on, and perhaps doing the grabbing and carrying thing every other day for a while. He cannot be allowed to challenge my authority and get away with it. I shall involve my son in this too, so the cockerel is in no doubt where we are in the hierarchy. A couple of my hens are a bit nervous (and pecky with lower ranking hens) and he needs to chill out and not be on high alert to their antics. I can see that he gets wound up when there is a kerfuffle.

I may have to pen them up if this doesn't work, but that would be a bit sad for them because they love the space I have (and keep the grass down).

It is weird because in 2 years, he has never done this. I wonder if the brooding of eggs and chicks going on recently has affected his behaviour, because there is definitely some changes going on in the pecking order. Dominant hens on eggs are suddenly being picked on when they are let out for food/drink/exercise each day. Then they have to reintegrate back into the flock. Its all upside down right now.

I appreciate all of the advice I have had here, thank you.
Even if you have brought a chick in from the HOUSE to a broody hen, the rooster may think that you’re “stealing baby chicks!!” (the horror!)

When a protective rooster knows there are hens with chicks, he may be especially vigilant about anything involving chicks. That is part of the way they protect broods against predators like hawks when a broody hen is free-ranging with her chicks.

Last night and a few days ago, I introduced two baby chicks to a hen with a brood. Everything went fine because I did it after dark. Checked this morning, and everything was fine.

Yes, I have been beaked by a rooster when I was “stealing babies” to put them in a cage with their mama that was so much more secure than a nesting box 4 feet off the ground! The rooster involved is for breeding stock of a local breed, so he’s going in a breeding coop with HIS hens rather than the overall flock and the egg-layers.
 

Ruthster55

Songster
6 Years
Nov 23, 2013
769
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Northern South America
Thats what we struggle with here! Sometimes a good day... sometimes it seems Im on my daughter CONSTANTLY about calming down! UGH!
You gotta be kind but strict with the child about do NOT chase the chickens! Teach the child to offer feed, scrambled eggs, or mealworms or something like that.
 

Chicalina

Songster
Aug 1, 2020
1,052
1,439
163
UK
I have to support this comment.

Its right that you shouldn't punish the livestock for what the kid did. If you do, the kid won't learn. And it brings more trouble in other ways.

An example is my town has tons of people who have had relatives kicked by horses. (Really this is awful.) But the whole thing is mitigated by telling kids, 'don't walk behind the horse. Don't spook them', etc. This is why they should learn very early to be careful around animals; because animals can cause injuries. I've heard people have to be careful around rams for example, even though sheep and lambs are really sweet animals.

To be fair, also I've had my brother chase my ducks around. He is over 20 years old and knows better. And it kind of ticked me off. At the time they were 4 week old ducklings, and its the brother that doesn't like me. So I think he maybe had some mayhem factor in it. But I'll never know really.

It worried me a lot though, because they were small.

People with respect for themselves and others you will see will almost always take a minute and coach their kids how to act around animals. So I do think this can be fixed. And I think the poster is someone with self respect and family values also or they wouldn't have asked this.

SO here's what you can do...

You could have the 6 year old future chicken abuser try feeding treats to both the rooster and the hens. This should help him get their trust back. But the first few times doing it, I'd take it slow and chaperone him. (Have him do it out of whatever container the chickens AND rooster normally see you giving their food in. This will help.) Do treats they like. Peas work well with ducks. Some are going to say mealworms. Oatmeal makes poultry crazy, especially cooked. You could try those, and you don't have to buy anything special.

And kids like doing stuff like this. So its a win win situation. Kids like to be helpful at that age also, and its a great time when they haven't learned to resent authority or chores yet. And they want to prove themselves to an adult that is showing them a bit of attention.

So this can be a great opportunity. It could also be an opportunity to get them interested in future agriculture projects and teach them where the food and the feed comes from. And how their food gets on the breakfast table.

I believe it can be turned into a really great opportunity for you.
Thanks for your input. I absolutely don't blame the bird. He is just *being* what he is. I'm going to work on him and my son having the relationship I want them to have: mutual respect, and on the bird's part, deference.
 

Chicalina

Songster
Aug 1, 2020
1,052
1,439
163
UK
Hang on a sec.

Actually I thought of something else that may be something to consider. And this fits in with the rooster acting out.

Its possible the rooster may be overly nervous if other predators have been around at night. And this might have made it a bit less calm and without intending to act out around others.

Its normal for example for animals to be stressed out for a few days after animal attacks, or sightings of hostiles, or if they lose one of their number in such attacks. (Or near misses.)

Have you considered this?
The only predators we have in the UK where i live are buzzards and red kites, and foxes. Those birds of prey don't hunt at night and we haven't had any attempted attacks during the day. Foxes don't come into my fenced garden where the chickens are. I don't think it is this. I think another poster was right about the disruption caused by broodies and babies and the flock hierarchy changing
 

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