How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

Mean chickens occasionally appear in nearly any breed, more commonly among roosters than among hens. The first thing to do is try to figure out what triggers an attack. Sometimes it’s something as simple as he doesn’t like your new chore boots, your favorite floppy pants, or the way you swing the feed bucket. Making a simple change in how you do things often can stop the problem before it gets out of control.


Pay Attention

Once you get over the shock of that first attack, start paying attention to the rooster’s body language, which will give you a pre-attack warning. Usually the rooster will sidle up to you and start skittering sideways as he gets closer. He’s thinking of attacking, but he also has one eye toward an escape route in case the attack goes wrong. As he launches the attack he’ll spread his wings and puff out his hackles to make himself look big and fierce.

During your initial assessment phase, protect yourself by wearing long pants and boots. Since most attack roosters will aim at your lower legs, they can easily draw blood on bare legs. If you have to protect yourself by holding up a foot, a boot will deflect the brunt of the attack.

Not all roosters mount a direct attack. Sometimes a rooster will lay low until he thinks you aren’t looking, then run up behind you and launch an attack on the back of your legs. In this case, if you are paying attention and notice he has begun to charge, and you turn around before he reaches you, he may abandon the plan. And if not, you will be in a better position to hold up your booted foot to prevent an attack on your legs.

Try Appeasement

An attack rooster needs assurance that you are not a threat. One way to reassure him is to appease him with judicious stroking. First you have to catch him, for which you’d be wise to wear long sleeve and gloves. Once you have the rooster cradled in one arm, and with good grip on both his legs, use the other hand to gently stroke his throat and wattles while you talk to him in a soothing and reassuring voice. Note the puzzled look on his face as he realizes how good that feels.

Continuing to hold him and talk to him, sit down or walk around until the rooster seems fully relaxed. When you’re ready to release him, set him down gently. If he walks calmly away, fine. If he turns and tries again to attack, catch him and start over. This procedure may need to be repeated for several days, or even weeks, until the rooster finally figures out you aren’t there for a fight.

Some chicken keepers feel the way to a rooster’s heart is through his stomach, believing he is unlikely to attack a person who brings scratch and other tasty treats. It’s true that a rooster can’t eat and attack at the same time. But if you throw the treat at him, he could take your arm motion and being pelted with grain as an act of aggression. Divert the rooster’s attention by throwing scratch near, but not directly at, him.

What Not to Do

Whatever you do, don’t attack a mean rooster, which only eggs him on. Such tactics as kicking him, hitting him with a stick or broom, or squirting him with a water pistol will only make him feel even more threatened than he already feels.

To remove yourself as a tempting target, walk away, with haste if necessary. But don’t run, which invites an aggressive rooster to give chase. On the other hand, don’t turn the tables and chase the rooster. He may run and hide now, but invariably will come back later for a rematch.

Don’t try to stare him down. Face-to-face conflict is a typical attack stance between two roosters, and the last thing you want is for the mean rooster to believe you are a meaner rooster for him to conquer so he can move up in the pecking order. Besides, if he decides to launch an attack at your face you could be in a world of hurt.

If you can’t tame him with kindness, maybe he’s a hopeless case. Some roosters are just plain ornery. Others turn mean as they age. A rooster is nice to have as part of the home flock, but you don’t really need a rooster. If the rooster maintains attack mode no matter what you do, get rid of him before you or someone else gets seriously injured.

And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.

Gail Damerow, author, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Written by Gail Damerow

12 Responses to How to Deal with a Mean Rooster

  1. We also rescue roosters people claim are mean and we do just what you say, my daughter call it the cuddle treatment, and I don’t tolerate the attacking, I stand my ground and once I pick him up we talk and he likely gets a burrito wrap in a towel and the talking and cuddling. Longest we have had to break bad behavior is 2 weeks. And some breeds are harder than others. But all have come around and even re-homed after rehab 🙂

  2. I have a gorgeous rooster that has begun to attack. I can’t keep him because I have two grandaughters 5 and 7 that he has chased and I’m afraid they are going to get hurt. I need to find him a good home.

  3. I get that this would teach the rooster that I’m not a threat, but do I still have to worry he might attack my children?

  4. How can you stop an attack that is rooster to rooster or rooster to hen? They are fine with us and each other most of the time but it is like they get a stick up their butts every once in a while and end up chasing each other around attacking multiple times…I do not want any to get hurt and the main one if he is separated gets severely anxious and then i’m worried about that cause he works himself to such a frenzy looking for the others…and the others crow looking for him…they have been together being hatched and all seem very close.

  5. I have a Rooster who’s been pretty docile, but tonight he took a nice chunk out of my arm; when I wasn’t looking. I’ve tried all the suggestions above, bet they seem not to have worked. Needless to say. I almost ended his existence tonight. I’d like to keep him, but if this continues. I’ll give him away.

  6. I hatched my breeding pair of Ayam Cemani in an incubator and hand raised them to be human friendly. As soon as the rooster was able to crow, it’s like instinct took over & his past was forgotten. He bows up to me anytime he sees me and does that side stepping thing. I just pick him up and pet him, but he seems to hate that. I’m afraid that I might be making things worse by doing that because I might be embarrassing him in front of his gal. I don’t hold him long enough I guess. I need to try to pet the wattle and throat as you mentioned. It’s just so strange how they go from being handled every day growing up to not liking to be touched at all.

  7. I’m kind of curious about what breeds are less likely to have an ornery rooster with the given that all breeds have them. I’m wondering how Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Australorps, and Barred Rocks fit in or are they just about the same as the rest? I know all to well about ornery RIR’s! Which is why I am leery of Black Sex Links.

    • I wouldn’t go with the Barred Rock rooster…we’ve had luck with Orpington and Australorp roos. Possibly the Brahma and Sussex are good choices as well.

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