Taming a rooster

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by EllieS, Jan 29, 2015.

  1. EllieS

    EllieS Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 29, 2015
    Hello :)

    I am new to this forum, I hope this is in the right section.

    We have 4 lovely extremely tame ISA brown chickens. Theyre just fantastic. They have a coop and big run, and when we are in the garden they have full range of the entire garden (which is basically a field) and will come running as soon as we call them.

    We have recently acquired a rooster from my landlady. He is part Orpington, New Hampshire and Swedish Flower. He is youngish, one from a brood she had last year, (around summer?)

    He has been with our girls for about a week. He gets on with them, I havent noticed much courting behaviour but they all stick around together.

    The issue lies with how wild he is, and how we are finding it very difficult to tame him. To fit in with the lifestyle of our hens, he needs to be tame. I cant risk letting him out in the garden if he doesnt want to come near me when I call them with tasty seeds etc, or if i cant even get near him to pick him up and put him back in the coop area.

    If you go near him, and by near I mean within about 5 metres, he completely freaks out, runs about all over the place, doesnt know which way to turn, squarks his head off and is just really really stressed.

    Is there any way to tame him??

    With the girls we just gave them some seeds, and they soon learnt that if they come near us they get tasty things. But he wont even come near me, even when I am scattering meal worms on the floor!!

    If it doesnt work out with him my landlady has said she will take him back, but I want to give him a chance first. He is very handsome and it would be great if he could fit in and be friendly towards us. But he has had no handling his entire life, I wonder if it is too late and he will always shy away from any contact?

    Thanks very much and I look forward to exploring this forum more!

    Ellie
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,706
    2,333
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Get some live mealworms, book and a lawn chair. In quitly in chair reading and toss an occasional mealworm out to him. Each time make him come closer. Otherwise concentrate on the book. Will take a few efforts to get him i close but do not over manage him.
     
  3. Bufster2

    Bufster2 Out Of The Brooder

    37
    1
    24
    Jan 28, 2015
    MO
    It depends in how the lady treated him too.

    Chase him,then grab him.Let him eat over your hand,but talk gently and pet him.This routine should really help.
     
  4. EllieS

    EllieS Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 29, 2015
    She basically just left them to it. She obviously goes into the coop to clean and feed them etc, but they just keep out of the way and I dont think she made any effort at all in handling or trying to get closer. So the opposite of what we did with ours when we got them.

    I have got some meal worms so I will try and tempt him. It is a bit too cold to sit out reading a book at the moment though! :p

    Is this possible? To bring such an untamed bird into tameness? I do not mind putting in the time as long as I know it will work eventually and my efforts will not be in complete vein.
     
  5. Bufster2

    Bufster2 Out Of The Brooder

    37
    1
    24
    Jan 28, 2015
    MO
    He is tamed.He's domestic.
    He just is frighten to death of humans.
     
  6. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,570
    533
    179
    Dec 15, 2014
    Massachusetts
    I am currently working on the same issue with two pullets that I recently purchased at a show. They came from a large flock situation, have not been handled much, and what handling they did receive probably gave them a pretty crappy opinion of being handled. I have a background in behavior modification of fearful dogs so this work comes naturally to me and I like the challenge.

    My goal is for them to want follow me around in anticipation of getting food treats. That's it. I just want to be able to move them around if I need to. Anything more will be a bonus. I would like this to happen in the fastest time possible since the quicker I reach my goal, the sooner I can increase their quality of life while still ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Since the girls have been in quarantine in a dog crate in my garage for 10 days anyway, it's going rather easy. When I first got them they would huddle in the back of the dog crate whenever I entered the garage. If I attempted to reach in the crate, even just to change out the food and water, they would pile on each other in the corner, clucking nervously.

    My first step was to desensitize them to my presence--just basically getting them used to me and my movements gradually. I did a whole lot of entering the garage without interacting with them. I just puttered around without even going to the cage. This was to convince them that, 9 times out of 10, me being in there and moving around will have absolutely nothing to do with them. There were a few times when I just went down, opened the crate and sat in a lawn chair reading a book and they would venture out to explore on their own. Now when I go in they watch me, but they no longer give that nervous clucking they used to and they stay on their roost or continue to preen or eat, even when I am close to the crate. When an animal does not alter its response or behavior in response to a stimuli, you know it feels safe around that stimuli. Fear is a powerful thing so you have to get an animal feeling neutrally about you first before you can get them feeling positive about you.

    I have found that they love BOSS so I am using it to counter condition their reaction to me reaching toward them. I opened the crate door, tossed a few seeds, shut the door, repeat, repeat, repeat. Then opened the door, reached in and fiddle with something, tossed a few seeds, shut the door, repeat, repeat, repeat. I opened the door, reached toward them, dropped a few seeds, shut the door, repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually they stopped shying away from my hand and instead stuck around waiting for the seeds to fall. Then I stopped dropping the seeds and just offered them from my hand. While reluctant at first, they now readily approach my outstretched hand and eat from it. One will even climb on my outstretched forearm to reach BOSS offered in my other hand. They don't get BOSS any other time except when I'm interacting with them. I HAVE NOT tried to hold or pick up these birds yet. That would only convince them that their fear is valid and would undo all my progress.

    It has been 10 days. During that time, we've had a blizzard so there were 2 days of intense work when I didn't have anything else to do so was in the garage a lot, but a whole lot of those days I only worked with them for about 5 minutes at a time, 3x/day (not counting the times I found reasons to just walk through the garage). They will probably never jump on my shoulder, hop on my lap or mob me for treats the way my girls that were raised in the house were, but I hope they will reach the point that they will voluntarily follow me across the yard and into the pen.

    It's true I don't have a whole lot of experience with chickens, but fear is fear so I'm hoping my strategies work as well for chickens as they can for dogs. My advice is to go slow. Bring him in the basement or garage if you can so you have more opportunity to work with him. Remember that he has to learn to not fear you before he can learn to like you, so do a whole lot of neutral stuff around him first. If you push an animal too fast, you will get the exact opposite reaction that you want.

    Good luck.
     
  7. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,570
    533
    179
    Dec 15, 2014
    Massachusetts
    You're probably right in that he's frightened of humans, but that is the very definition of untamed. A domesticated animal can still be untamed--look at feral dogs, chickens, cats, etc. Their species have been domesticated yet there are individuals that are extremely fearful of humans. Those individuals are untamed. You can have tame wild animals--just ask all the people that keep raccoons and foxes as pets or look at the wolves at Wolf Park in Indiana. They are tame but not domesticated. Domestication generally refers to selective breeding of a species over generations to alter its appearance and/or instinctive behavior so as to benefit humans. The two words are interrelated but are not synonymous.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  8. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,570
    533
    179
    Dec 15, 2014
    Massachusetts
    To the OP. By comparison, I have a bantam D'uccle roo that my sister "gifted" to us. He was young, not used to being handled, and flighty. He acted very much the same way you describe your roo and my sister cares for her chickens very much the same way your landlady does. I didn't do anything like I am doing with the pullets to get him used to handling because I don't care for him the same way I do the girls. (Yes, I know that sounds horribly callus, but it is what it is.)

    I've had him for 4 months. He still shies away from me when I approach him, jumps back if I reach out a hand to him, sticks around if the hand has food in it but won't approach or eat from it, and the only way I can hold him is if I ambush him on the roost at night but even then I have to be quick. He does however follow his girls pretty faithfully. So when they come running to me he usually isn't too far behind. He is still cautious but at least I know he'll follow them into the pen.

    If he were alone he probably would venture into the pen for scattered scratch if I left the pen door open. I'd have to wait a distance outside and shut the door behind him. I wouldn't stand a chance if I tried to catch him with my hands--he's just too fast. So it is probable that your roo will become easier to manage once he has been with your girls for a while. I'm out there with my birds in the yard and pen a lot but even so, he just has not warmed up to me or lost his wariness to the extent that I had hoped. That's why I'm taking such a different approach with the new pullets.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  9. EllieS

    EllieS Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 29, 2015
    thank you very much TalkaLittle, that makes sense as I am not new to a little dog training myself so can understand the logic.
    he was put with the girls from day one, and I have been in and out cleaning water and giving food and also opening and closing the door at morning/night, without interacting with any of them so i will obviously continue with this.

    When you say put him inside to do this, do you mean keep him there living on his own, or just bring him in for a while every day and then put him back with the girls? I can see how it would be beneficial and speed up the process but im not sure how logistically possible it will be for us as we dont have anything we can put him in.

    Also, whilst I work with him, should I separate the girls off by just putting them into the garden so we have the coop/run to ourselves? Ive done this once before and he got a bit stressed that they were away from him, but perhaps after a few mealworms he would forget.

    And yes, I do not expect him to ever get as friendly as our girls are, but I do need him to get to a position where he doesnt mind me walking past him and where he will come when called/follow me around, otherwise its not safe for him to get the free range access.
     
  10. One Chick Two

    One Chick Two Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,053
    159
    176
    Jun 13, 2013
    Perhaps try bringing him inside for a few days. We've had very fortunate taming adult roosters. Have 4 that came to us as full adults, and they have all turned out very pleasant. (Our males born here all are nice as well.)

    One nearly wild, unsocialized rooster came to us with a bad case of roundworm. Once he was wormed, he then came down with a bad case of worm overload. He was so sick, he nearly died. During his illness, we brought him inside, even though he struggled with fear. Clipped his spurs and toenails gently, and placed him on large towels (dedicated for chickens) and spread newspaper. Then, perched him on the loveseat arm at night, sat next to him, and watched TV. Put him in his cage afterward.

    We occasionally hand fed him small amounts of scrambled eggs with instant oats, and yogurt. Also offered liquids, and spoke very gently. Within 3 days he was VERY tame and friendly. After he was feeling well, we taught him to give chicken hugs. When he went to his new forever home (to father olive eggers) the first thing the lady said was she had never seen such a nice and gentlemanly rooster. She said he would walk around like a rock star, and give hugs to the family... even her husband- who always used to be leery of roosters and now loves the rooster. lol

    Always be careful and aware... but also, be calm, confident and CONSISTENT around roosters, no matter what they do.

    Speak gently. I always whisper, "Shhh, shhh, it's okay..." if anyone starts getting upset. They have to quiet down to hear what I'm saying. If any of our birds hear that, they have been conditioned to relax.

    Never put anyone down who is upset. Make sure a rooster is calm before putting them down. I want them to realize being held is pleasant...a good experience. Nothing to get upset about.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by