Do you see my cockerel`s behavior as aggression or attack?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by birdfreak1831, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. birdfreak1831

    birdfreak1831 In the Brooder

    Apr 6, 2013
    I have read tons here about aggressive roosters and roosters attacking human people.
    Prefer to piggyback on an existing thread but cannot find one appropriate for my inquiry.

    The number one recommended response to rooster misbehavior [of any kind] seems to be killing them.
    I am curious what all those fond of "culling" here think of my situation.
    For the last six weeks I have had two old lady hens and an energetic cockerel living with me.
    From my point of view we are living peacefully together.
    The chickens like it in their coop and large covered run. All are fairly tame, eating out of my hands and jumping onto my legs or lap. I can carefully touch the hens but not the cockerel [10 months old].
    He is very sweet with the hens, always letting them have most of the treats, preening them and being gentle with them.
    I would like to eventually be able to hold them all, starting with the hens.
    He doesn`t like me picking up the hens - I have picked one up for just a few seconds and he scolded me.
    A few days ago I picked up the second hen, again just for a few seconds before setting her down.
    While I held her he flew up on my shoulder, hollered at me but hopped down [seemingly spooked of his own courage] before I put the hen down.
    No, he did not peck me, spur me, beat me with his wings or show any other kind of physical aggression. And he came right back to eat out of my hand again - all seemed forgiven.
    But I am also certain that he knows I am no threat to him and the hens.

    I am guessing that the folks in here who like to get onto the "kill-the-rotten-blanketyblank-rooster" kick see the cockerel/rooster behavior I have described as aggression/attack on me, or at a minimum the beginning of aggressive/attack behavior which will set a continuing pattern of bad behavior.
    THAT is what I`ve been reading about.
    Those of you whose belief that is will probably also recommend to me to have no contact with a rooster [except showing a him a human is boss], certainly not a caring relationship with one.

    Am truly curious about feedback!

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Well, it appears as if you have already reached your own conclusions. By handling the hens you are arousing his instincts to protect them - he is genetically programmed to do this. No, he does not know that you are not a danger - to a prey animal anything might be a danger. Yes, his protection of the hens may escalate if you continue to handle them. There are methods of curbing his aggression that may or may not work. Be careful of the flying on your shoulder bit - that puts him in close proximity to your eyes. If he starts flogging or pecking at you, you can spray him with a spray bottle or water pistol. If the behavior continues to escalate you can subordinate him by firmly forcing him to the ground and holding him there until he stops resisting. Netting a rooster in a short handled fishing net is another form of subordination that sometimes works.

    Anyone who has any experience in poultry sees the potential for your cockerels behavior to escalate not only the "kill the blanket blank rooster folks." It's really your choice. Try to curb the behavior before it escalates or deal with it later. Good luck.
    1 person likes this.
  3. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Songster

    Jul 18, 2013
    X2 I'm someone who loves and respects my roosters and I see this as a case of the human causing escalation of the problem by not comprehending the flock dynamics. To me, there's nothing better than a good flock rooster. He has an important job and it's not just the creation of chicks.
    I know with big parrots it's not a good idea to let them get higher than you and I suspect the same could be said of roosters.
    My roosters eat treats from my hands but unless it is necessary, I don't make a habit of picking them up. Usually if I want them to go somewhere I call them and they follow me.
    The rooster has no idea of your reason for picking up the hens. I do pick up my little bantams. They're small and better than stepping on them, plus they will jump on my lap or hop on an arm, both hens and roosters and no one objects, but I respect the big roosters' care of their hens.
    Perhaps if you stepped back and didn't insert yourself to the point you have been you can have a relationship without aggression with all your birds.
    1 person likes this.
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I am with Sourland and Dekel. It's hard to know where the behaviors will lead, but I certainly wouldn't continue picking up the hens with him present. If you feel the need to pick up your hens, maybe you can lock him up first. (That doesn't mean he won't come after you when you let him out. You just never know.) I would also discourage him from flying up onto your shoulder. There is no way to predict what an animal is going to do - especially a male that is designed to protect his females. (The same could be said for bulls, stallions, rams, billy goats....) He may never get more aggressive, or he could get to the point where you're carrying a broom out with every time you go out to "enjoy" your chickens. (I would not enjoy my chickens if I had to ward off an aggressive rooster every time I went out there.) It's your decision what to do with him if he gets to that point. You are the only one to know how much you're willing to put up with in regards to his behavior.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    His jumping on you and "hollering" at you was a sign or aggression/dominance. He controlled the entire interaction. He initiated the contact, he chose where he was going to perch on you, he vocalized, he chose when to leave. The entire thing was under his control, not yours. In his mind, this puts him as the boss of you. This is not a good thing. Humans are the boss, birds are not.

    I would advise not allowing him to jump on you in any way. If you want to hold him, you call the shots. You're the one to initiate contact, you're the one to pick him up, you're the one to decide when he gets down.

    Have some training sessions with holding the hens. He's not allowed to be aggressive to you for any reason. His job is not to protect the hens from you, and he can be trained to understand that.

    If the hens aren't good with being held, you might want to work with them first. Put him in a different area, and work with getting the hens to accept being handled. This shouldn't take more than a few sessions, birds are very, very food motivated [​IMG].

    Once the hens accept handling without much fuss, start handling them in his presence. If he make any movement toward you that is at all aggressive or dominant, (these being charging you, flapping, trying to fly up toward you, dropping his wing and walking sideways, crowing, other excessive vocalizations) do not put the hen down. Continue to hold her, calmly, but make the rooster move away from you. Forcefully if needed. Walk toward him, stomp at him, boot him with your foot. I'm not talking kicking, I'm talking using your foot to push him away.Yell at him when you do this. I'm not into hurting animals, but I am definitely into gaining their respect. This way you can train him to move away from you when you pick up one of those hens. And don't let him just move away one step, he has to clearly yield to you, getting out of your space entirely.

    If you set up a few sessions where your mindset isn't just to play with or hold your birds, but actual training sessions, I think you'll have a decent outcome. You just need to recognize that what he's been doing is indeed a sign of dominance in the animal world and nip it in the bud.
    2 people like this.
  6. birdfreak1831

    birdfreak1831 In the Brooder

    Apr 6, 2013
    Thanks everyone for your replies.
    I appreciate your taking the time, regardless of whether I agree with you or not. And it is a mixed bag.

    Sourland, dekel and bobbi-j :
    I can see where you`re coming from.
    Decided at least for now to not pick up the hens any longer. Simply because Phoenix [the cockerel] doesn`t like it.
    I loathe forcing anyone to do anything, humans or non-humans. Although still not convinced at all that Phoenix perceives me as a threat to the hens, I dislike him being stressed and aggravated about it, which he clearly was.
    My view on all living creatures does not harmonize with yours` and that is okay - it doesn`t have to.
    From my way of seeing, most human people greatly underestimate and misunderstand non-humans` perceptions and knowledge.

    Granted, you are more experienced with chickens than I am. But I am a good observer and able to learn from them.
    There is a very good reason I took in my three little chickens to live with me. But that is not a topic I would discuss on an online forum for reasons that became bloody obvious to me after doing much reading here. That`s okay too, though.
    There are lots of things here I am learning from, and that`s primarily what I come here for.

    I am not into the American majority culture`s obsession with dominion/domination, vindictiveness, punishing those who are an "other" and bossing them around to keep them in "their place". It is really eerie how much humans who do this to animals also do it to other humans!
    Okay, okay, way off topic, I know.

    I am intrigued with donrae`s opinion because it contradicts you other three responders.
    Am talking about his instructions to me on how to dominate Phoenix by showing him I am his boss.
    By doing the opposite of the other recommendations, flaunting it to pick up the hens.

    Think I will now retreat to go back to reading - there is more good stuff for me to catch up on, before I go out and share another treat with my little chickens....

  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    You can be a dominant leader without dominating with force. Chickens speak their own language made of of sounds and body language. I can dominate my rooster merely by being confident and correcting poor behavior. I have grown up on a farm, male animals are dangerous, you need to know how to behave and interact with them in a way they understand. You haven't received an actual flogging yet, but you will if you continue down the road you are on.

    Never give the rooster your back, that's submissive and will often cause an attack, especially if you are also bent over, never stand squarely facing a rooster while making eye contact, you are looking to fight with him, never show fear, never run screaming. My roosters grow up knowing that all the older roosters are above him and that I am too merely by the way we move and interact.

    I believe chickens have thoughts and emotions and I respect life. Respecting life means understanding death and that it's a part of it too.

    Hopefully your chickens teach you well.
    2 people like this.
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    First, I"m a she, not a he [​IMG]. But that's understandable.

    Second, when you talk about the American culture of dominance, you're kind of missing the whole point of animal behavior. In the animal world, every animal is either dominant or submissive to each other animal in the group. Watch any group of animals--dogs, cows, horses, chickens, mice, whatever. The beta animal can be eating, and a dominant animal walks over. The submissive animal yields to the dominant, usually with no resistance or fuss. Their "pecking order" has already been established. Lower ranked animals always yield to the higher ranked animal. Failure to yield is seen as a direct challenge to the higher animal's standing and is usually met with a escalating behaviors to establish/re-affirm dominance. Dogs might bare teeth or growl, horses pin their ears and swing their heads, chickens growl, walk sideways, come at the lesser head on.

    Dominance isn't a bad thing. It's totally natural, and not equated with vindictiveness, punishment or bossing. It's simply a social ranking so everyone knows where they stand. Humans are pretty much the only ones with the concept of "lets all be friends" and "everyone is equal". In the animal world, even when animals are buddies, there's always an alpha and a beta.

    Personally, I agree with not handling the hens, but that's my own preference coming through. And not because it may upset the rooster, but because I don't think the birds like it that much, and to me they're not pets. I fully accept other folks feel differently, that's why I responded as I did, thinking holding/handling them was important to you. If that's something you can bypass, it will likely make things easier interacting with your flock. Just be aware of these behaviors from your rooster, that they are signs of aggression and establishing dominance over you. Have a plan in place if the behaviors continue even when you're not handling hens.

    I hope you really enjoy your little flock. Just spending time watching them (we call it chicken TV) will teach you so, so much about animal behavior.
    4 people like this.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Handling a bird can be a the whole flock needs to know that can happen and they won't die or be harmed.
    I try to handle all the birds when very young, just to get them used to it. I do not allow any bird to fly up and perch on me, no way.

    I stop handling the males as much at about 2-3-4 months, but continue to handle the females more......
    .....not a lot, but just enough to let them know I'm in charge and won't hurt them by handling them.
    Pick them up with wings held to body with both hands so they can't struggle, hold bird until it calms and accepts being held(should only take 10 seconds),
    touch birds body in several places for 10-30 seconds, put birds feet back on ground but with wings still restrained,
    do not release bird until it is fairly calm, then slowly release wings.

    The male(only one by 4-5 months) need to understand that this will happen and tho they can be 'concerned' they cannot act physically with me.
    Any handling should be done with confidence, calm, and soft soothing vocals... if the keeper is anxious the birds will be anxious/fearful and more likely to 'act out'.
    Have had male birds react to females vocalizations while being handled and come over to see what's going on, tell him it's ok, finish your inspection of female and release her.
    Doing this quickly and calmly shows all of them it's no big deal, just part of living with me-the food bringer.

    Maybe I've just been lucky, but this has worked well for me.

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