Rooster behavior quirk or illness - please advise

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Silvester, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Silvester

    Silvester Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 10, 2012
    Milton, PA
    For some time now one of my roosters has been sporadically wagging his head back and forth almost like he is trying to shake water out of his ears. I'm new to chickens and don't know if this is normal or a sign of a serious illness...

    A few days ago I saw a second rooster do a similar head wagging move and now I'm really not sure if I should be concerned or if this is a normal rooster thing...

    Can anyone advise me to why my boys are doing this?
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2013
    Possibly an infectious disease that afflicts the sinuses or ear canals. Possibly parasites. Possibly spasms from toxicity, neural damage, disease, bad genes, or whatever. Could be a lot of things. Could be Marek's too so worth looking up some info on that.

    Best wishes.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I've read that roosters wag their wattles to impress the hens, part of the mating dance.

    Look for any other signs of illness...discharge from eyes or nose, not eating, not active; check head, under wings, around vent for any parasites that may be bothering them....before jumping on the worst case scenario bandwagon.
  4. lbrykowski2011

    lbrykowski2011 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 6, 2013
    Capac, Mi
    I have a RIR rooster that does that. At 1st I thought something was wrong with him and was so upset. I kept an eye on him for other symptoms and never got any. I notice he does do this alot in the morning and that's when he is also the most flirtatious. I agree, watch for any other symptoms, just in case, but with mine, it seems to be part of a new dance for the ladies. Gl [​IMG]
  5. Silvester

    Silvester Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 10, 2012
    Milton, PA
    I hate to say it, but I don't spend as much time watching the flock as I probably should...

    I don't see any obvious signs of infections like snots or eye boogers...
    And I haven't noticed any signs of respiratory issues like labored breathing.

    I get paid on Wednesday; the plan is to get a big bag of DE, rub all of the birds down, spread some where they typically roost at night, put in some new/additional roosting bars and get a tub for a dust bath in the coop area.

    I try to not be an alarmist if I can help it, if it turns out to be something major I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

    Thanks for the advice!
  6. MoreHens

    MoreHens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 14, 2012
    Peidmont NC
    If it is the very exaggerated wattle waggle it is perfectly normal rooster behavior. It is done to impress the ladies, like the wing dragging stumble dance.
    Some may also use it as a warning or display towards people, similar to raising their hackles.
    I'm always surprised there isn't more mention of this behavior online. It took me a long time watching rooster behavior to understand what this was about.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2014
  7. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 11, 2011
    My Silkie rooster wobbles. He has a vaulted skull (a soft spot, like a baby) and I'm guessing he got pecked or hit his head. So, now he wobbles. Alot. Usually its when he's trying to look or peck at something on the ground or jump down from something. Other than looking strange, it doesn't seem to hinder him in any way.

    I've been raising chickens for nearly 10 years now, and I've never had another rooster do it. *I* don't think its normal behavior, but probably indicates a neurological problem.

    Poly-vi-sol (without iron) helps my Early. I give it to him when he seems to wobble more than normal. I also keep vitamins in the drinker. Perhaps that's an option for you.

    Good luck, like others said- don't worry about it [​IMG]
  8. rojororeo

    rojororeo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2013
    A totally different take on the problem:
    What if he just has cold wattles?
    I am a chicken newbie, since spring last year but...
    My almost year old Polish crested rooster has never made weird movements, and then when it got pretty darn cold (below freezing), started doing a massive head shake like you describe.. I mean he would almost fall over.
    So I would check him over in the evenings and mornings when I applied Blu-Kote to his naked head (whole 'nother issue, dang hens! lol)... his wattles had been getting wet in the water bowl, and then were freezing and it hurt him. They would actually swell up as well. I started putting Vaseline on them on super cold mornings before I let him out.
    I don't heat/light my coop, and the water stays out, so it is pretty cold too and he was just suffering the cold. He has quit since I started Vaseline'ing him and also that it warmed up a bit.
    He never does much dancing to impress the ladies. Mostly chasing and 'hey, here is the food, now you must submit to me, oh beautiful lady!'
    Good luck!
  9. Silvester

    Silvester Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 10, 2012
    Milton, PA
    I first noticed the wagging in my Brown Leghorn, who also shakes his head hard from time to time slapping his wattles about - this I interpreted as him showing off for the ladies.

    One of my Wyandotte roosters has also done the head wagging a bit lately, so I'm guessing it actually is a mite issue.

    Tomorrow is payday and I'll be making a trip to Tractor Supply for DE and some mite spray.

    Getting to watch nature in action is just amazing!

    The two Wyandotte roos do the strutting, feather raising, wing dipping, head bowing and jumping & kicking that you would expect to see while they determine who is top bird. But after a few minutes of them making a ruckus, the Leghorn will just step in between them, stare down the "winner" down to the ground, then just turn and walk away like nothing happened...

    I'm loving raising chickens!!
  10. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 11, 2011
    rojororeo- I would suspect your Polish rooster took a peck to the head. You already know the hens were pecking his feathers out there and under that crest is a vaulted skull.

    Sylvester- great point! I didn't even think of that earlier, but chickens do get ear mites and the main symptom is head shaking. Crested breeds also get them in their crest which will cause them to shake and scratch.

    And, I know this isn't funny because my poor rooster obviously has a problem, but I looked out the window into the chicken run and my Silkie rooster was banging his head like a rock star. He's got a big crest, so he had the "80s hair" to compliment it. It made me giggle :gig Poor guy!

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