Topic/Question of the Week: Aggressive Roosters - What is the best way to handle them?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sumi, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Some roosters are really amazing flock members that knows their place and looks after their flocks without ever causing issues, or show signs of aggression towards his hens, or humans. But sometimes a problem rooster crops up that shows either excessive aggression to his hens, or attacks humans. In this thread, please tell me your thoughts on how to best manage an aggressive rooster, specifically:

    - What was your experience(s) with aggressive roosters and what did you try/do to remedy it?
    - Should aggressive roosters be rehabilitated, rehomed, or invited for dinner?



    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
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  2. JayBaby

    JayBaby New Egg

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    Good question! I'm 5' tall and I have a rooster that tries to get behind me, he runs after me, he stands on the porch, he stands in front of the door when I try to go inside. I don't trust the rooster and I'm afraid of him, he ruffles his neck feathers up and charges me. My husband told me not to back away from him, but to walk toward him and chase him away instead of letting him chase me away. I walk out to the chicken house with a shovel because I'm afraid of the rooster. My flock is free range and I don't feel comfortable in my own yard.
     
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  3. chuck lady

    chuck lady Just Hatched

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    i have only just last week got my first rooster.... a silkie!!!! and he is stunning and yes a very different experience as he has from no where attacked me nothing serious mind i just chased him away when he did do it... but today he ate from my hand so hoping a way forward ... now if i could get him to look after the 4 girls i had first be good. i got him with 2 girl silkies so far they stick together while the other 4 do their own thing..... mmmmm so looking forward this thread see if a get some good advice about roosters xx
     
  4. coldfields86

    coldfields86 Just Hatched

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    Into the pot go the bad birds!
     
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  5. RedRoosterInn

    RedRoosterInn New Egg

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    We have a Rhode Island Red rooster that is appx.18 months and seems to be more aggressive every day, mean to the hens, attacks you as you cross the yard or if you go into the coop he waits outside to get you.
    I have chased him, swatted him with the broom, soaked him with the water hose nothing works.
    I hate to make him into rooster and dumplings, but am at my wit's end with him.
    My wife will not even go to the coop because of him.
    The real problem is I feel I need a rooster to help protect the hens as they free range.
    Hope someone has a solution or rooster and dumplings it is.
     
  6. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Sing Brightly Premium Member Project Manager

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    Prevention is the best cure. Bad roosters taste good.

    Edited April 2018: here's a copy paste of my management systems for bad roosters and raising the good ones, in case it's any use.

    "Here is my viewpoint on raising and training cockerels. It's served me well for about fifty of them; I have only had two human aggressive cockerels and one of those was when I decided to handle the bird and treat him nicely, as shown in the next paragraph. The other was an interesting case I will outline later under 'special exceptions'. The breed of the bird has a large role in how firm you have to be and how friendly towards them you can get without sparking aggression. In general, Mediterranean class birds or those with a sleeker, upright look are the ones to watch out for and keep at arm's length. Larger dual purpose breeds tend to be more ho-hummety and docile. Bantams have spirit but they are smart and are pretty easily instructed to not be man fighters. These are gross generalizations and many, many birds are dead opposite of their breed traits, so don't get all mad and say your Leghorn cock was the sweetest thing on two legs and how dare I lie so bold facedly. ;) These are living creatures and they vary as much as people do. Genetics within a breed has an impact on potential for aggression too, but most of us have hatchery birds which aren't selected much one way or the other.

    First off, it is my belief that there are two types of aggression: fear based and familiarity based. They need different treatments, and the fear based aggression is much harder to eliminate and may spin off from familiarity based. Sometimes—or even most times—there can be a share of both in a bird. Prevention is the best cure for these poor confused things. Fear based is characterized by the bird running away with feathers flat to body if confronted, a desperate look to them, and quick jerky movements. I'd describe the latter as how a squirrel moves. Their attacks are generally from behind and when you spin and confront him he runs away all in a tangle. My experience with it is as follows: I had a Sultan cockerel that was treated more human than chicken. He would run up to me and sit on my lap, follow me around in search of treats, and I had him trained to sit when I put gentle pressure on his back and even crawl out under the run fence when I lifted it up. He was a real sweetie. Then, as it does for all birds, maturity came. He became more distant and acted a bit off. Being a brand new chicken keeper with a year or less under my belt, I didn't do anything to correct him and gave him the same gentle treatment as always. I do not remember all the details, but I think it was at about 11 months that he snapped. He started running up to me whenever I came near and would whale and beat and do whatever he had in his little fluffy power to put bruises on me. He was quite successful at it too and managed to inflict bleeding even through a pair of stout boots. Well, unfortunately, I turned to the Internet for help, and it didn't give me much of it. I saw those that wouldn't even let the bird look at them. I tried that. He wasn't allowed to crow, mate, or come near me when I was in the coop. He was NOT injured in any way during this, really, but it sure scared him. Yeah, that backfired, and it turned into a lovely case of fear based aggression where he would sneak up on me, nail my boots, then run away in terror before I came after him. Then I saw the rooster huggers that hugged their meanies. I tried that to see if it would work even though he had been handled tons before the first incident. He was so terrified of me by that time that all that did was make him more scared. It started as a classic case of familiarity based aggression but unfortunately I did all the wrong things and it spiraled down to fear. Moral of the story? Don't copy me! If I ever had another fear based case (which shouldn't happen—this is so easy to prevent by handling them right) I would try moving calmer, slower, and be confident but avoid any strong body language. I might even spend time holding the bird. The reason why I think gentle and frequent handling might help in these cases is that these birds see us as threats, as hawks or dogs. They are being brave in their little minds and defending themselves and their beloved hens. This might have still worked for the aforementioned case if I had been willing to spend months working with him, but I was sick of not being able to enjoy the hens, and I didn't know then what I know now. So he was sold for slaughter.

    Now for familiarity based. These are characterized by the males that stare you right in the face, that give you the figurative middle finger when you ask them to move out of the way, and attack you right from the front without any hesitation. Many times these are the hand raised brooder babies that were just darling as chicks. They have no respect for humans and a potty mouth like any Ottawanian. Like fear based, these are best off de-fused early before they attack, but if you are reading this in desperation for your little Fluffy, there are a few things to try. Change your body language to confident. This is especially helpful if the bird attacks only one member of the family or all but one member. Those are tip-offs that it's a body language issue. Keep your shoulders back but slightly relaxed, feet straight, and a soft but steady eye contact on an object that is not the cockerel. If you are a horse person, think of it as riding—look where you want to go, not where you're going. Make him move out of your way, never move out of his. Still, challenging the cock or cockerel at this point is a bad idea—don't do that! Ignore him in general, don't give your attention to him, and move briskly, but in a predictable manner. If he attacks again, immediately chase/kick/get him running and out of your space. I push them to about a metre and a half away, depending on how bad the bird is. After that, drop the aggression instantly. Watch your birds when they are not paying attention to you; if you have two cocks or cockerels you will see this method is how the dominant corrects the upstart. Short, forceful, and not sustained. That is a key point right there. Do not let him get within a metre and a half (or whatever distance you chose) of you, ever; chase him out the same as before. Even if he's coming to get food in the mornings he should still not be allowed closer than that. Be consistent. I have tried long and hard to decipher what I do with aggressive cocks and I think after a rush at the bird I copy to some extent the quarter turn/side exposed move the winning cock does to a lesser. I think it tells them "You have a choice. Come at me again, I'm still ready; or drop the matter now and I won't continue." Often they pause and then scurry away. All of the above should be done too if you have a bird showing warnings of aggression that I will detail later. It is better to prevent than to cure.

    As a side note on interaction between cocks, have you ever noticed that sometimes the winning bird will chase and chase and chase the loser? That bird is then terrified of the winner and will nearly kill themselves trying to get away. They are de-throned sniveling wussies and that is why I think as humans that trying to take the 'rooster' role is a bad idea. We are not the rooster, we are a separate critter that demands respect. We are not present enough to keep the role of flock leader. When humans try this, I think that the cockerels are alone with the flock enough that they still think they control the flock yet they're scared out of their minds at the same time. If you're present enough that chasing the bird around all the time works, I'd suggest not bothering to own a rooster since you're probably roosting in the coop with the chooks at that point. :lol: What I am trying to say is speak their language, but don't try to be a chicken—they have a job to do, and for goodness' sakes, let them do it.

    If you can identify early signs of aggression you can start correction early and save yourself much hassle. Birds that seem dangerous and possibly aggressive as cockerels can be trained up as lovely flock roosters with a bit of care and watching. Some of the most common pre-attack signs are as follows:
    —The bird gets uncomfortably close, like your uncle Red asking you after a drunken Thanksgiving dinner if it was you that stole his watch last year.
    —The bird stares at you from a distance and tries to get higher than you on objects.
    —The bird drops one shoulder and shuffles at you in a sort of dance. Some times they pick up and drop rocks or items with their beak. When directed towards the ladies, this means he's trying to woo them, but it means aggression when directed at people. They'll seek out eye contact and have a rather villainous look on their faces.
    —The bird takes to crowing pointedly in your direction when you enter or leave the area. I wouldn't really recommend this as something for a newbie to look for in terms of aggression as it's too easy to mistake regular crowing for aggressive. Nevertheless, I included it as it is something I have noted.
    —His clucks take on sort of a low minor tone that swing up at the end. They're often chopped in sound and may be directed to hens, which is innocuous, so see the warning on the last item and apply it to this too.
    —The bird moves his head around a lot and flips his wattles about like a girl playing with her hair. Weird analogy, I know, but for some reason I see excess movement of wattles as a big sign of what's going on in their brain. Learn 'normal' and then you can note these things.

    If you see any of these start the same protocol as described in the familiarity based aggression section. Treat it just as severely as an actual attack. I have prevented several birds from going bad this way, including a Svarthona cockerel that was one of my best successes. He started displaying those signs above at about six months of age after admittedly being raised until then with rather lax methods. I immediately chased him two whole metres away (I didn't have enough time left to ease him into that distance gradually) and never let him get closer for months on end. No exceptions. He completely dropped all signs of aggression and became a model bird, not even looking in my direction. After several months, I gradually reduced that bubble size and let him become a bit friendlier again. Slowly is the key here, you can't just drop this one day and expect to be able to handle him easily. By the time he was a year old, I had reduced that bubble size to nearly nothing and he was perfectly behaved. He turned into one of my most respectful yet tame cocks and he was trustworthy around even children. Quite a change from a bird that acted ready to take an eye out.

    Now, after that exhaustive bit on correction, here is my method of raising the birds so you never have to go to that much bother.

    Starting from day one, I treat all the chicks the same, male or female. I don't have autosexing breeds so even if I wanted to vary treatment between the sexes I couldn't. They get cuddles, they learn humans are nice, and they get to live in the house for bit—because I can't resist how cute they are any more than you all can. I think this helps ward off later fear based aggression but I have no proof of that.

    Once the young birds have hit a few weeks of age, they will be distant, rather grumpy due to pinfeathers, and in general go through a skittish stage of a few weeks to months. Some hens won't completely settle until lay. I don't force handing then, I let them do their own thing except for checkovers now and then. The cockerels should be able to be identified around this time. I don't re-tame them... I do re-tame the hens. That's pretty much what can make or break a cockerel, at least in my own experiences and observations.

    With every cockerel that has reached that stage, I start slowly refusing to handle them even if they ask for it later. Cockerels are so friendly as juveniles (especially when compared to pullets) that it's hard not to, but you have to be tough even if he's asking nicely to get picked up. At the same time switch your body language towards him, which I hope was still fairly confident before. Do not move out of his way, make him move out of yours. Keep your shoulders square but relaxed, feet square, and move through him. Don't chase him, he's done nothing wrong, just demand respect by your stance. Don't directly challenge him; that would constitute of staring eye contact and a slightly sideways square posture. This is near exactly the instructions for aggressive cocks except it is more gentle. You don't have to make these changes suddenly, in fact, I suspect gradually is better so as not to confuse the poor hormonal thing. Have about a bubble of about a 1/3m to 2/3m radius (smaller than you would have for for prior offenders) around you and keep him out. If he walks in there, make a short lunge at him, kick if needed. No, I am not advocating throwing a rooster halfway across the yard because he walked too close to you, I mean a shove to move him away. You could do the same thing with the same intensity by bending over and giving the bird a little push with your hand, but using your feet is safer. Drop aggressive behaviour immediately after he jumps and runs away. I keep repeating this because it's important. If you watch the average cocks interacting, the dominant male keeps the lesser out of his space by short rushes. Chickens understand this sort of interaction and will quickly learn to stay out of your space.

    Probably the best thing you could possibly do for your chances of getting a respectful cockerel is to not raise one with only same age pullets. They grow up thinking they're king of the world and no chook or human can cross them. Sure, it can work if you're careful; but I don't recommend it. If you must have only same age birds try having more than one so they keep each other in check. I don't recommend purchasing adult cocks either, it takes a while to learn to read them and get them to respect you. It can be done, sure, I've done it three times and they all worked eventually... I just much prefer raising them from chicks. So, what do you do if you're starting a flock? No same age cockerels, no brought in adults? I suggest getting only hens and raising them to maturity, then getting your straight run or whatever chicks and bringing them up with the hens. They will do much of the training that a cock would and make them learn to ask permission before mating and that they're not such big stuff. I did that, it worked, a friend of mine did that, and it worked too. By now I have anywhere from 5–15 cocks/cockerels year round and the older birds train the youngers beautifully. I don't have to do much work; they grow up knowing some things just need to be respected.

    So, that is about what I do in terms of preventative behaviour. Once a cock gets to about 2 years of age (when he is truly mature IMHO) he's likely safe to tame if you still trust him then. I have a 3 year old cock that is now allowed to come up to me when I am sitting down and poke around by my feet. I pet him or mess with his wattles sometimes too, because he doesn't mind it and he's too cute to ignore. Why do I let only him do this? Because I trust him. He is the nicest testosterone filled animal I have met. I think he is truly safe in people now, and he was raised according to the above points. He has shown a slight sign of intended aggression (dropped shoulder, cocked head) once in his life, when he was little. I corrected him immediately and he's been an angel since.

    Now, what about those special exceptions, those cockerels that are just the sweetest little cheese puffs and the other cockerels that are made of smouldering evil and make you taste fear in your throat when you do chores? Those exceptions are why you have to apply common sense and change your methods some times. Case one: an OEGB cockerel that was as wussy as jello and refused to stop being friendly. Even if I pushed him away he'd just look up at me with big doe eyes and wonder what he did wrong to make his mommy mad. He really seemed to be different. He was quiet, meek, and good with the hens even when he was well past the stage to have started hen-chasing. So, I let him be friendly, and I'm glad I did! He was the sweetest thing, and would come and interrupt picnics and beg for some food. He particularly liked cotton candy, the spoiled booger. He would come oversee all projects, whether it was changing the tyres or fixing the lawnmower or having a meet and greet for the foster dogs. He was a character, and children loved him. After a while he did grow a bit more distant but he was still quite respectful until he got killed by a dog at 10 months of age. :( We all miss him and I am glad I made an exception to my 'rules' for him.

    Case two: a huge, brooding Australorp that almost scared me. He was raised the same way as every other cockerel, and he had two brothers that were sweet little guys. Not him. He was a biter from week one. Correction didn't seem to have an impact on him. He would accept it then turn around and bite again. He would bite if you came close, not in an aggressive manner, just as a that's-what-you-get-for-coming-here type of thing and that is why he creeped me out. Repeated attempts to get him moving out of my space did nearly nothing. I had to shove him out of my space every time I came near—he would not move much on his own even after lots of work. I dialed up the severity of my pushes with some success. By the time he was 6 months old he'd grudgingly slurp out of my space when I approached. He stopped biting at puberty, but that eerie foreboding look still lingered. He made no outward moves to be aggressive, but I still trusted him as far as I can throw a polar bear. Which isn't far, by the way. He aged to about nine months... and then one day he finally attacked. I immediately sent him running about three metres and repeated that every single time he came near. He settled back down a bit and did not attack me again but he still felt like a bomb and a match stuck in a concrete mixer. I couldn't keep this monstrous and brooding thing around to possibly severely injure children—or me. So, after much misery and deliberation, I butchered him for the table.

    Anyway, that's a long spiel about nothing, eh? I am sure I have forgotten some points, especially since body language is mostly instinctual and hard to describe. There are probably things I do that I don't even know about. :idunno This seems an exhaustive list but it is really only describing what some people do instinctively and others have to learn. Even I am not always strict with them.... just today I picked up and carried around one of my Chantecler cockerels for a while, just because he's so big and fluffy. He disliked it, but tuff luck for him, lol. Remember too that these things are generalizations, as the last two special cases show. Some have luck with other methods, but this one works for me. You will see as many opinions as you see flock keepers and you have to find which one works for you. Some even say that treatment of the bird has no effect on their end temperament, including the famous Kathy Mormino, AKA The Chicken Chick.

    As seems to be my custom, I'll likely find some key point I missed in an hour and have to edit it in. One other thing I couldn't find where to put was that tapping on the head with a finger is a great way to correct young birds. It is exactly what an older bird would do to reprimand a younger one and they get the point instantly. It works decently on older birds as well, especially aggressive pullets/hens."
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
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  7. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

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    I make mine go in the corner until I leave the coop. I taught them by making them uncomfortable (chasing them with the net) anywhere else in the coop. I've taught some to go to the roost by using the same technique. As soon as the rooster goes where I want him, I leave him alone. The good rooster figures out right quick how to stay out of my way. If the rooster wants to constantly challenge me, they go to the man down the road who turns them into stew.
     
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  8. MultipleAnimals

    MultipleAnimals Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mine is getting invited to dinner. He keeps trying to Attack me and has injured most of my baby chicks.
     
  9. wittman

    wittman Out Of The Brooder

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    Even though I hate roosters that are aggressive, I can't bring myself to kill them, so I'll either give them to someone in the area for them to do whatever they like with him, or I'll send him to the animal auction in my area for someone else to deal with. I lose my patience with mean roosters, and normally my hatred towards them is greater than the want for them to be nice lol
     
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  10. tammy summerson

    tammy summerson Just Hatched

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    My 4 mos old RIR lowers his head and bumps my lower legs. I did a little research and one suggestion was to pick him up and walk around for about 15 mins. He stays close to me and doesn't attack but want to be prepared. My chickens free range and I keep a broom handy. If he lowers his head then I grab the broom. I've never hit him but he recognizes me as the alpha. We will see if this continues to work. He takes food from my hand and let's me get eggs so hoping for the best.
     
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