When Chickens Attack


In the Brooder
8 Years
Dec 19, 2011
Bernalillo, NM
Red is the survivor. The only one of my first three chickens to live past chick-hood. Red has become more than just a chicken. Red is a pet. Red is my friend. Even with best friends, there will be misunderstandings. Now I'm trying to understand why my Red Survivor attacked my leg.

Red has been kind of special. Red is the tamest of the bunch. You could pick Red up and pet her. She will fly up and perch on my shoulder. I can run around the yard, and red will chase after me. When I pet her, she makes soft chicken sounds as if she enjoys the attention.

Something unexpected happened yesterday with Red. I was spreading around some feed for them and, as usual, Red was following my every move. Then Red started giving my leg a peck or two. Then, to my surprise, Red jumped up and attacked my leg as if it was another chicken. When Red did that, I grabbed her, held her to the ground. When she was held to the ground, the big red rooster came over and scolded her. I then picked Red up by the legs and walked around with her hanging upside down for a minuet or two. Doing that seemed to calm her down.

I'm pretty new to chickens. This is my first season raising them. I watched a bunch of video educate myself some about chicken behavior. I figured that if I want to control my chickens, I need to understand their behavior. This approach has worked well for me in the past. Like with dogs, cats, horses, cows and other animals. One thing in their behavior I paid special attention to was hierarchy. I learned that some animals will try to dominate you, like dogs. With my dogs, I always was the leader of the pack. That is the only way it can be.

One of the videos I watched was of a man being attacked by a rooster. After seeing that, I figured I didn't want to be attacked by my rooster with its big ol spurs. So I went out side, caught my big red rooster and sat there petting and talking to it for a while. It would try to bolt when it thought it had half a chance to get away. I would just tighten up a little so it couldn't get free. Now after doing that, big red rooster knows I am the head chicken. Big red rooster runs to me when I come out. He isn't scared of me. He does get out of the way, and no longer makes threat moves when I am around.

Now back to Red Survivor. I'm still thinking about what caused Red to attack my leg. I'm figuring it is one of these following reasons:

1. Red, being the lowest of the flock, wants to dominate something. Like my leg, or me.
2. Red was jealous.
3. Red was ticked off cause I wasn't paying it enough attention.
4. Red was stressed because of being picked on by the others.

If Red does attack my leg again, it will get the same treatment. Held to the ground, held upside down. It will not be held and petted when it attacks. It likes petting to much, and that would only re-enforce the attack behavior.

I've always had a way with animals. I seem to be able to befriend them and control them easily. One thing about animals and me, that is very true, I don't know everything about them. So give me what you got.

Why do you think Red Survivor attacked my leg?
How do you handle an unruly chicken?
Are you the head chicken?
Could it simply have been what you were wearing? I've heard some people's chickens will attack their legs depending on what they are wearing. Just a thought.....
I never thought of that. I'll see what happens today as I'll be wearing something different. Then I'll go back out with the same as I had on before.

The time of day maybe had something to do with it too. I had the same pants on all day, and Red attacked in the late afternoon.
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Do you have any new chicks or chickens that you have added recently? Just curious. My normally very docile polish hens decide I was a big bad guy recently. Three of them fluffed up their neck feathers and took turns attacking my leg. I was like....what the heck? They were keeping me away from the little silkie chick that my silkie pair hatched. Go figure? Not even their chick.
The pecking order is a constant balance in a flock. They are always testing each other. This could have been what happened to you.

I also agree with the poster who asked if you are sure red is a female. Its rare I come across a female that will peck like that unless they are broody. How old is red?
I think that Red regards you as an equal and is trying to subordinate you in the pecking order. You did exactly the right things with her and should repeat them if she attacks again. Force her to the ground and hold her there until she stops struggling - then carry her around. It's generally easier giving an 'attitude adjustment' to a hen rather than a rooster. Good luck.

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